Our ladies are finally getting their eviction notice! After about 10 weeks inside, it’s finally time for the quack pack to graduate to their coops.
Having ducks have been like being a parent in fast forward. They grow so incredibly quickly, and each week has brought a new set of learnings, challenges, and shit.
Literal shit. I’m not kidding, it’s everywhere.
In preparing to bring the girls outside, we reflected on what the last 2+ months have been like…
You can read all about our welcoming the ducklings home in my post here, but sufficed to say- it was a lot of niacin, crumbles, anxiety and poop. We worked hard to socialize the ducklings as much as possible; Khaki Campbells are a skittish breed and we wanted to try and get them used to humans. This meant a lot of me singing such classic hits as, ‘Baby Got Quack’, “Baby Duck do do do do do do’, and ‘Please Don’t Hate Me Ducklings’. We’d also try to take them out of their coop for at least 30 minutes a day to hang out with us- which was the final nail in my carpet’s coffin… There are some things you just can’t febreeze out.
To celebrate our newest additions, we did what any rational 30-something-year-old couple would do- we threw ourselves a duckling shower! Oddly enough, when you look up duckling shower you don’t get showers for ducklings which I think is utter bull. But no matter- hit up party city, grab some friends and get weird! We’re blessed to have friends as goofy as we are, and they brought us a cake and favors. Because if you’re going to do something- you gotta do it right!
At about 6 weeks, our snuggly little fluff balls seemed to realize that we might not actually be ducks. It sucked for everyone. Though they still would waddle into my lap if I sat long enough, they clearly became more skittish. If I didn’t have peas, no one wanted to be my friend. Luckily- I am in no way above buying their love.
Slowly their feathers and oils started coming in, making them both a bit more cold-hearty and buoyant. The best part was in the bath- whereas the water used to get them soaked we slowly started seeing bits of fluff that just wouldn’t get wet. After bath time, they’d spend a solid hour preening- going over each and every feather and making sure it was in place! Exhausting work, being that gorgeous.
Ducklings grow fast… Like super fast. Like, I would go to work and by the time I got home, they would be double the size. So, unsurprisingly, we quickly needed to move them into a bigger coop. We transferred them to the sunporch and connecting two brooders together- cats were pissed, but we all have to make sacrifices. They were thrilled! Twice the space for poop, peas and preening! However, they still didn’t lose their squad-vibe and still moved around in a little, waddling clump.
Between 8-10 weeks we realized we had full on DUCKS. Little teenager ducks- with feathers, oils, and attitude. The most exciting development is full on quacking! Only female ducks actually quack- like quack as if they are reading the word QUACK in a book, it’s hysterical- while male ducks do a raspy, hissing thing. For every one male, you need at least five females, so finding out we didn’t need to go find some sort of duck sorority to pick some ladies up from was a huge relief.
Though they still moved in a flock, a pecking order became clear. Even though Boomer seemed like the runt of the litter when we brought them home, she has taken over the joint. If I come in with peas, she’s first in line. I go too far away, she’s the loudest to quack. Starduck, on the other hand, has started to hang back and is a bit less aggressive.
Unfortunately, as happens with teenagers, they were susceptible to a bad influence- namely, Fishstick. We accidentally left Fishstick in the sunporch for one night and the next day all of the ducks figured out how to escape their coop! We came home and would find them waddling around the sunporch on their own. They would also just start flapping their wings and hovering, which did a great job of sending their wood shavings everywhere. The moment Garret and I stood there, watching these three ducks flapping about in our sunporch, we knew it was time to get the girls their own digs.
Actually, we were a bit concerned that it was overdue! They’ve become really comfortable in their luxurious abode, and the idea of sticking them out in the monsoon we’ve been having has been a bit of a stressor. Luckily, G has designed them a new run that’s potentially nicer than our first apartment.
Designing the Run
So run= space ducks hang out in. Coop= their little house. Got it? Good.
Ducks are pretty much walking buffets..they’re the definition of prey. Can’t fly, no teeth, no nails, waddles- their best defense is quacking loudly. Not exactly going to keep the wolves at bay. So we are not letting our ducks free range. They can range all they want, inside of a 16 foot enclosed run.
The whole structure took about a month for G to build on weekends. Starting with a base of 16ft. x 4 ft. pressure treated 2×6, he framed the rest of the run with pressure treated 2x4s. He then ran 2x4s along the tops and corners to create a box to be able to hang wire from. We built this all 6 feet high so that we could easily get in and out without giving ourselves a concussion. There’s also a swinging door on the front with two locks. The bottom of the run is bare, that way they can make as many mud puddles as they want.
We kept the coop itself off the ground; which gives them a space to stay in the shade and not become some raccoon’s midnight snack. It’s entirely enclosed, with one flap in the front that we can lock at night and another door on the side that we can use to clear out the bedding. The coop is 4ft x 4ft, framed with pressure treated 2x4s 16″ on center for the floor framing. For the flooring, he used pressure treated 1×6 deck boards (same for the siding). We left a bit of space between each board to allow for some airflow and draining so it doesn’t become a biohazard. We also built a little ladder for them to climb up and down by using leftover scrap pieces of decking with strips laid crosswise.
The roof of this luxurious palace was also framed with pressure treated 2x4s (sensing a trend?) starting at 6 feet in the front but then reduced to 5 in the back (over the coop). For the coop roof, we used a sheet of corrugated galvanized metal.
We wrapped the whole thing in 1/2″ galvanized hardware cloth like leftovers in saran wrap- attached with galvanized staples. You need to run this all the way to the base. Have you seen raccoon hands? They’re like humans- they’ll get right up in there. So you need to make sure the cloth falls far enough.
Inside we set the girls up with their water buckets, feeders and an 18″ deep pool for them to splash around in. We started with a giant galvanized one and they just couldn’t figure it out, so we went with something a bit lower. We needed to use a few bricks to make steps, but now they hop right in.
Location, Location, Location
We opted to put our coop on wheels so that we could keep moving it around the yard. Ducks like mud. Like, a lot. All they want to do is make big muck holes and stomp around, which would be adorable if it didn’t destroy your grass. By having the coop be movable, we can scoot them around the property every week; ideally saving our grass and keeping them happy!
Of course, the law of averages, as soon as we put the girls in the coop we get hit with a week’s worth of rain. In New Jersey- apparently April showers just bring May showers? So as I write this, there are three muddy heads staring at me through the window, quacking angrily. Here’s hoping that they’ll settle in over the next couple days.. just gotta give peas a chance!
Would love to hear about your coops/runs/pens- let me know in the comments!