July, 2008: The Duckburg Biosphere Reserve (as we like to call it) is a much better home for ducks. The shelter in the middle of the photo is a kennel that used to belong to my late giant-breed dog Molly. The old grapevine provides shade in the summer. That metal thing to the left of the dog kennel is part of an old antenna. I thought the ducks might like to perch on it (Muscovies are perching ducks) but they don't use it. On the other hand, the grapevine is using it, which creates more shade. Not shown in the photo is a child's swimming pool, which is their pond. This year I'm planning to replace it with a similar-sized stock-watering tank, having discovered that I can buy such a thing at the local feed store.
As the hoop house is open to the elements, when winter arrived I took the old dog kennel you see in the photo above, and separated the two halves. Each half is now a low-ceilinged duck house big enough to hold several ducks. I used scraps of plywood, paneling, insulation, styrofoam, and old cardboard to insulate these shelters, and (weather permitting) try to keep the floor well covered with wood chips and hay. When temperatures are below freezing, I check the ducks 2-3 times a day depending on the weather, taking a bucket of warm water with me every time. I don't mind doing this, as I like the ducks and enjoy visiting them.
As you can see, keeping poultry can be a good deal of work. But if you are not trying to do it on the ultra-cheap, as I am, you could make it a lot easier by starting out with a well-designed, well-built shelter. Otherwise be prepared for a lot of comedy -- and occasional tragedy -- while you figure out an affordable way to shelter and protect your birds.