Farmers considering adding ducks or geese to their flocks this spring will also need to consider housing for these birds. Waterfowl have different house requirements from other kinds of poultry such as chickens.
The main difference between waterfowl housing and a chicken coop is that ducks and geese need no roosts. Many breeds of ducks are capable of only limited flight and will ignore a roost. A few breeds will use one if it is provided, but it is not a requirement for their comfort as it is with chickens. Waterfowl are just as happy in a quiet, dark corner on the ground, crouching down out of sight if they believe danger is nearby.
Ducks and geese also do not require nesting boxes. While they might use a sectioned-off corner of the coop as a private laying area, much of the time they ignore any attempts to provide a nesting area. Ducks as well as geese lay their eggs on the ground, pulling bedding or leaves around them to hide their eggs, and selecting areas that offer privacy and security. Attempts to offer a space like this can succeed, but just as often they’ll find a low bush or corner of a barn as a suitable place.
It is possible to house ducks and gees with other fowl, they simply will not make use of the above-mentioned amenities. Ducks and chickens can coexist quite happily. More than one goose, however, can be aggressive with chickens and start bullying them, especially during mating season. However, a single goose is often a good idea to keep with chickens as he or she will help deter small predators.
As waterfowl, ducks and geese are prone to making a mess in their shelter. I offer limited access to water, and when possible provide water troughs outside the shelter instead of inside. Water provided inside should be in a poultry waterer, not just an open bowl, so they cannot try to bathe in it.
Ducks and geese do not need a lot of headspace in a living area and often a dog kennel or similar-size shelter will do. The only reason to provide extra room is for your comfort when cleaning the area. Bedding can be pine shavings, straw or peat moss, and it should be changed regularly to keep the area sanitary and free of odor.
Most importantly, a shelter should be secure. The main reason to keep birds in a shelter at night is to protect them from predators, so you want a space with a latching door and no holes that rats or weasels could slip through. Ventilation provided by windows or openings at the top of the coop can be covered with wire mesh to keep the air flowing while keeping predators out.
Ideally, ducks require 4 square feet per bird, and geese should have about 8 square feet. A smaller space is acceptable if the birds can spend most of their time in a larger run or free ranging, using the shelter only to sleep or lay eggs.
A roomy, secure space with warm dry bedding will keep your birds very happy. The process of building a waterfowl coop is much simpler than a chicken coop, without nesting boxes or roosts, and the result is a contented flock of quacking ducks or happily honking geese.