We have been making some plans for the duck kids when they grow up and want to move out. From what I can gather, ducks around 4-5 weeks of age are okay to move to outdoor housing, so we are being proactive by starting to build their new duck condo, although it probably won’t be in use for a while.
The dog house I ordered online was delivered today. It is size L – 104 × 72 × 68 cm, probably large enough for a not-too-big-dog, or 5 small ducks. I have also ordered a couple of octagonal rabbit outdoor pens, the square wire sections from which I intend to build a larger rectangular pen enclosing the dog house.
All this will be reinforced around and over the top with square wire mesh (hardware cloth) to make it predator proof. Our hope is to make an outdoor area for the ducks to be penned in at night once they are old enough to sleep outside. They will be able to eat, drink and poop on the grass in the pen, and sleep inside the dog house at night, in case it rains. We will even install their little heating plate in there so they don’t have to get cold!
One issue is getting the ducks used to sleeping in the dog house. We decided to first make a door for the arched opening on the dog house so the ducks can be shut inside for the night if necessary when they first start sleeping outside. H. decided it should be made of plexiglass so they could look out. We got a sheet of 4mm thick plexiglass – the salesman at the hardware store told us it could be cut with a box cutter (not!!).
We spent several hours cutting the door to shape with a electric saw. The box cutter only made tiny scratches! We filed off the edges, attached some looking brass hinges and a latch. It’s not perfect but looks pretty cool nevertheless, especially after I cleaned and polished the door. It looks just like glass and fits fairly securely against the opening, although it’s slightly bendable if you pull at the corners, unlike glass. The latch is spring loaded, so it needs a little force to open or close – good for deterring predators like raccoons (which are very good at figuring out latches and locks).
The second thing we need to do is to predator-proof the dog house. The top can be opened and is hinged, but it’s much too heavy for any predator (except human) to lift. Its flooring, on the other hand, is made of removable thin wooden slats which can be easily pushed up from the bottom perhaps even by a rat. A rectangle of hardware cloth will have to be nailed around the bottom so that no weasels or raccoons can get in through the floor boards. It was late so we are leaving that for tomorrow.
When we finished working on the door for the dog house, it was already 8pm. The ducks were hungry and came in the house to eat. Haha! I grabbed them and got them all into their brooder. Fooled them again! H. was complaining that the ducks don’t want to cuddle with him any more. They run away when he comes near them. So I gave him the last duckling to cuddle before putting it in the brooder. The ducks instinctively run if you try to grab them, but if you cradle them in your arms, they sort of calm down and allow you to pet them for a while. Still, I don’t want them to be afraid of me so I avoid having to chase or pick them up except when necessary.
They are all growing so fast, it sometimes seems that they look different from one hour to the next. Today I noticed tail feathers beginning to grow. Also their necks look suddenly too long for their bodies. I was a little worried that we overfed them, because they look kind of overweight and fat – but then they seem to be at that awkward stage of growth where they are a little clumsy looking too. Since they aren’t their full size yet, and still need to grow bigger, I think it’s probably ok, but we’ll be watching their diet from now on.