For many garden owners, ducks are a welcome solution to slug control. However, there are many factors to consider when keeping them. Here you can find out what is important – and how to build a winter-proof duck house. Since nudibranchs became a nuisance, runner ducks have been in great demand. Because the pets efficiently tackle the pests.
There are many benefits to keeping running ducks in the garden, especially when it comes to slug control. Slug pellets, snail fences and laborious collecting activities in a stooped position are a thing of the past. However, if you want to keep running ducks yourself, you should find out more about the optimal keeping conditions. How much effort is it actually to keep running ducks in your own garden? And under what conditions do the animals feel comfortable?
Running ducks need a lot of space in the garden
Running ducks place high demands on their environment. The garden must not be too small, at least 500 square meters is ideal. In addition, it should be at least partially natural and have a water point. Duck keeping is also possible in a smaller space, but then the garden quickly becomes an animal enclosure with no more space for lawns and flower beds.
Natural garden for ducks
Ducks mostly nibble on grass and clover, only occasionally on lettuce or fruit, but with their beaks they poke the earth for snails and snail eggs and with their wide webbed feet they trample the grass. This is not good for a well-tended ornamental garden. In such a garden, the dirt that they inevitably leave behind can also be a nuisance. In a natural garden, on the other hand, this should not be a problem, because here the legacies are washed away with every rain.
Never keep ducks alone
Runners are sociable animals and need at least one partner to feel comfortable. It is easiest to keep ducks in pairs or to have two ducks and a drake. If the groups are larger, there should definitely be more ducks than drakes. If the proportions shift between the sexes, strange animals can easily be added. These are quickly integrated into the group.
As affectionate as the animals are to one another, they remain shy of people. Running ducks are wild animals and – with a few exceptions – are not tame. Although they develop a certain bond with “their” person, they also sometimes accept a substitute who, for example, comes to the garden while on vacation for daily work.
Proper care of running ducks
There are a number of duties that must be fulfilled on a daily basis:
- Let the animals out of the barn into the garden in the morning and bring them back in in the evening (danger from foxes and martens)
- Feed once a day and provide fresh water
- The litter in the barn has to be changed every few days
- Replace the water in the pond basin if necessary, because it quickly becomes dirty and is then unsuitable as drinking water
Keeping ducks: It doesn’t work without water
Runners are waterfowl even if they spend most of their time on land. They love to swim, dive and play in the water. If you want to keep ducks, you need a pond in which the animals can drink, clean their plumage, swim and dig. Aquatic plants hardly stand a chance. Those who value them have to fence in at least some areas. A water garden with a stream and a large and a small pond serving as a filter and regeneration zone is ideal.
The smaller the pond, the faster the water pollutes. A body of water 2 by 3 m in area and a maximum of 75 cm deep must be pumped out and cleaned once a month. A larger pond also suits the ducks.
Hibernate ducks properly
Running ducks tolerate the cold well and roam the garden as usual, even in ice and snow. However, they like to have it a little warmer in their sleeping area, which is why it makes sense to insulate the stable from the inside. It also has to be dry because ducks are sensitive to mold, which can easily develop in damp litter. It has proven useful to first spread a layer of wood chips on the floor in winter, which can absorb moisture. Only then is straw sprinkled over it.
Even in winter the animals go swimming in the pond. In severe frost, this means that the frozen pond has to be chopped up regularly. A hole of two to three square meters is enough for the ducks to swim, drink and clean themselves.
What to do when ducks are sick?
Adult ducks rarely get sick, but if they no longer feel like eating, isolate themselves from the group or otherwise show behavioral problems, the vet has to come. Especially with young animals it can happen that snails get stuck in the throat. In such a case, it helps to massage your neck to clear the blockage.
However, prevention is better: You should never collect snails yourself and give the ducks a whole heap of them, which they then eat too much of at once. And there must always be enough fresh water available to drink.
Build a winterproof duck house: How to proceed
Running ducks are wild animals and spend most of the time outdoors, but for the night they need a place to sleep that is wind and rainproof, but above all offers protection against martens and foxes. A footprint of 60 by 120 cm is sufficient for a pair of ducks, but it is better to give the animals a little more space. So they have a little exercise on days when they prefer to stay inside.
An ideal duck house has a floor space of 100 by 120 cm, a lockable door and a barred window to protect against martens. The roof is made of chipboard and is covered with roofing felt. It is removable so that the litter can be easily exchanged.
The eaves height of 60 cm is tailored to the size of the animals – standing ducks are around 55 cm tall. It is best to build the house as a wooden post construction with walls made of 18 mm thick tongue and groove boards. Formwork panels (waterproof, glued plywood panels) are suitable as the floor. Furniture handles on the gables make the duck house mobile.
Here we have put together many more building instructions for you. With these instructions and detailed construction plans, you can easily recreate your own projects. Including houses for your ducks, of course! (Just click on the picture)