Saturday, March 17, 2012

Our first Ducklings

Check these little guys out - too cute!  They were having their first swimming lesson in the duckling wading pool AKA paint roller tray.

They were in an inch of warm water having a supervised swim.  I think Bill and I had more fun watching them than the ducks did.  After a bit of playing around in the water, I put them back on dry shavings under the 100 watt bulb that's serving as a heat source in their brooder box.

We have no idea what breed they are or whether they are male or female.  That's just how they came from the farm and ranch store, so it's anybody's guess at this point.

I spent some time looking at various chicken tractors, duck houses, etc.  I was searching for something suitable that would be fast and cheap to construct as it would be temporary housing.  I finally found a page (and closed it!!!) that had images of their straw bale chicken housing for 60 hens.  It was pretty basic and worked well for them.  When the bales started to break down, they were replaced with new bales.  The old ones were then torn apart and the hens finished ripping them to shreds, eating any seeds and doing their fertilizing thing (poop).  Later it was hauled off for compost.

So in a flash, I knew that was the thing to do here, too.  We have a totally enclosed run behind the coop that's rarely being used right now.  All I have to do is close the trap door from the coop, stack the bales, add a piece of scrap plywood for the roof, top it off with a couple cinder blocks and I'll have a bonafide redneck duck house.

Okay, there's a bit more to do, but you get the idea.  We have a leftover concrete form that would make a good base and raise the bales (and ducks) above grade in case of heavy rain.  I can tie the bales together, and probably figure out something to secure the plywood roof and the bales to the base.  A few pieces of PVC pipe scrap will create a ventilation gap at the top.  There's plenty of room for the little Rubbermaid stock tank that will be their 'pond' for the time being.  I can elevate it on blocks or a pallet, then run a piece of garden hose from the plug to outside of the run to drain and refill the little stock tank.  They can also get underneath the coop for more run around room. 

The best thing about this plan is that the young ducks will be able to get to know the other critters safely until they're big enough to free range with the hens.  I'll need to add some hardware cloth to the lower part of the enclosure so the cat paws can't reach in to snag a little duck, too.  But for now, they're house ducks.

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