Ducks and chickens need a house where they can escape from excessive cold, the hot sun and hungry predators. Plan on installing sturdy, weather-tight windows that you can lock at night to keep out predators. You will need to build the house tightly to thwart weasels, snakes and rats, which can squeeze through amazingly small holes to get at the birds or their feed. Along with a comfortable poultry house, your chicken coop needs an outdoor run that is securely fenced to keep out predators.
The size of your poultry house needs to be in keeping with the number of birds you have or intend on having. Give them plenty of room to all fit inside and be able to move around and stretch their wings. Four square feet for each bird is a good rule of thumb. Add roosting perches 4 to 5 feet above the floor; a sturdy stick or two-by-four running from wall to wall will suffice. Allow about 10 inches of perch space per bird. Install screened windows that open and close so you can air out the building on nice days.
Ducks and chickens are happy to share a house, with a few accommodations for each species. Chickens require straw-lined nesting boxes for laying their eggs, while ducks need a ramp to enter the house, as they are not as agile on their feet as chickens.
A poultry house can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose to make it. Minimum requirements include a level foundation; waterproof flooring, walls and roof; good ventilation; and security from predators. For a small house, a foundation of level concrete blocks set into the ground is adequate. The roof can be a simple flat roof or a peaked design, but it should have enough of a pitch to shed rain and snow. Provide the roof with large overhangs to keep water and falling snow away from the walls.
Cut out a door in one of the walls that is large enough for the ducks and chickens to go through -- about 10 by 12 inches. Install a sliding door on the opening so you can shut it at night to keep birds in and predators out. Attach a rope on the sliding door and run it outside of the coop so you can operate the door without having to enter the run and risk an escape. Include a standard door on the poultry house so you can enter easily to clean out the building, provide fresh bedding and collect eggs.
Situate your poultry house so it is under the shade of trees or other buildings, otherwise it may get too hot inside. Give chickens and ducks the option of cooling off in the dark interior of the house or in shady areas of the run. Birds can die of heat stroke if they are unable to cool off, so access to water at all times is also vital.
Adequate ventilation in the house also is vital to the birds' health by reducing moisture and ammonia buildup from poultry waste. During the summer, keep the screened windows and doors open to allow fresh air to circulate. Screened vents near the roof allow air circulation in winter, but make sure the vents do not allow cold drafts or predators to enter.
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