Duck housing design, layout and equipment
Duck housing design
Elaborate sheds are not necessary, but you should observe the general principles of poultry house design. Breeders may be housed either intensively or semi-intensively:
- intensive housing — the birds are housed indoors for the duration of the season;
- semi-intensive housing — the birds have access to outside runs during the day, but are locked indoors at night and during adverse weather conditions.
For each type of housing:
- The housing must be clean, dry, adequately ventilated and able to keep out beating rain.
- Allow each breeder an area of at least 0.2 m2 of floor space inside the shed (i.e. 5 birds/m2).
- Cover the shed floor with litter for the comfort of the birds, to absorb moisture and to prevent egg breakage — wood shavings are probably the most suitable, but any soft absorbent material to a depth of about 7–8 cm is satisfactory.
The area selected for sheds should be gently sloping. If the site is too hilly, sheds will be difficult to build; if the site is too flat, drainage will be impeded. For siting and layout contact your local council for development advice.
The shed should face north to north-east and should be at least 2 m high at the back, to give enough head room. Since ducks are very susceptible to excessive sun, provide adequate shade.
For a systematic farm layout, first draw up a ground plan and spend some time thinking about the plan and shed design. This will enable you to make modifications. When planning the farm, allow for housing growers and adults separately, and make sure there is no drainage from the adult housing area to growers. Whatever housing is chosen, a cheap and effective type of shed is one with a skillion roof.
The ideal method of housing breeding stock is in a building which has both litter and slatted or wire floor areas. This greatly reduces the amount of wet litter and improves overall production. Feeders and waterers are placed on the slats. The litter area is used by the ducks for mating and for laying eggs. A combination of litter and slats prevents possible leg damage to heavy breeding ducks, which may occur if they are housed on slats only.
Encourage ducks to use nests because cleaner eggs result and fewer breakages occur. Furthermore, eggs laid in nests are not exposed to sun or damp. This may be difficult with breeds other than Muscovies.
Nests should be clean, dry, comfortable and only large enough to be used by one duck at a time. Build them from timber and place them in rows along the walls. A suitable size is 30 cm by 30 cm by about 40 cm deep. Nesting material should be placed in the nest to a depth of about 7 cm. Use shavings, sawdust, sand or shell grit. Broody ducks will further line their nests with their own body feathers.
If you wish to follow a system of progeny testing, use trap nests to facilitate identification of eggs laid by individual ducks. Identify and discard ducks that continually lay almond-shaped eggs or other misshapen eggs. Individual duck production can also be recorded. In intensive buildings, encourage Pekin ducks to lay in nests by providing open-framed nest boxes on the side of the walls. The nest boxes must be at floor level, as ducks will not use elevated nests.
No special feeding equipment for ducks is manufactured in this country, so equipment made for other poultry has to be used. This gives satisfactory results. As a general rule, ducks need twice as much feeding space as hens. Flock feeders are the most satisfactory types of feeders for ducks. Provide each duck with a feeding space of at least 12 cm (the equivalent of four 2 m flock feeders per 100 adults).
Swimming facilities are not essential. However, pools can be made available where outside runs are provided. Concrete ponds 1 m wide by 0.25 m deep are satisfactory. To keep litter in the shed dry, place the ponds away from the house. Alternatively, saucer-shaped pools 0.25 m deep and 2 m wide may be used. In both cases, good drainage is essential. To limit wastage of eggs, it is advisable to prevent outside swimming until about 10.00 am, when most eggs will have been laid (most ducks lay their eggs in the evening and early morning).
Although swimming water is not necessary, ducks do need plenty of clean drinking water. Birds should be able to immerse their heads completely and hence clean and prevent blockage of their nasal passages caused by food and dirt. Keep drinking containers shaded at all times. To prevent damp litter, place drinking vessels outside the shed or on a wire grid. Provide about 3 cm of drinking space for each adult bird.