Muscovy Duck Forum

Muscovy Central => Fencing & Shelters => Topic started by: newchicken on February 25, 2009, 11:38:21 pm

Title: Night Cage
Post by: newchicken on February 25, 2009, 11:38:21 pm
I'm expecting new ducklings to arrive by mail any day now.  Yeah!  I've got my brooder stuff in the basement.  It's still cold here in Ohio, though today was a sunny 45 degrees.  Ok, so I've got to get their cage built.  I'm planning to build a 10 by 12 foot cage for nighttime predator protection.  They'll have fresh water, a dog house, and a nightlight to attract bugs.  I'll bury the cage wire to keep out diggers.  Here's my big question:

Is 2 by 4 inch welded wire really enough to keep out raccoons, and possum? 

I'm pretty sure 1/2" welded wire would absolutely work, but it does cost quite a bit more.  Maybe just use 1/2" on the bottom 3 feet, and 2 by 4 wire over the top?  Won't the critters just climb up the sides, and squeeze into the 2 by 4 wire?  I've never seen a weasel, but we do have black birds.  Do they cause problems for ducks?  We do have large neighborhood dogs, raccoons, possum, owls, hawks, and voles.  (I think Muscovy ducks will eat voles.)  Any help is appreciated.  Thank you.

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: Cathy on March 06, 2009, 05:08:21 am
2" x 4" is the standard fence I use in most of my pens with some 4" x 4" panels & some chain link.  If a raccoon is intent on getting in it probably won't stop him & if he can dig under he will, or he'll just shove his fat little body under it if it's not anchored.  Some people will lay some welded wire flat on the ground on the perimeter of the pen to prevent digging because most predators will dig at the fence, they won't back up to dig.  A hot wire run outside the pen might be warranted if predation is too bad.

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: fishes on March 08, 2009, 09:31:08 am
Weasels don't leave much sign so you might have them and not know it.

I'd recommend running a "hot" wire around the pen.

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: Cathy on March 11, 2009, 12:02:11 am
2"x4" welded wire won't work for weasels, either.  You'd probably have to go with a 1"x1" or smaller, possibly.  Thankfully we don't have them here!

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: newchicken on March 12, 2009, 09:43:51 am
Thank you for your answers.  What's the best "hot" wire for a small pen?

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: Cathy on March 17, 2009, 04:14:13 pm
Far as I know the thicker the wire the better current it will carry but the strength of the charge depends on the charger.  Only one I've ever used was for livestock so I couldn't tell you what would work for predators, unfortunately.

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: muskiecrazy on March 29, 2009, 11:30:33 am
we had 2" square wire fence around a 'garden' area when we had our pekin babies and they liked to sleep around the wooden sleepers by the edge - one night when they were 2 or 3 weeks old a bobcat just pulled 2 of them through the fence - we could see where the wire had bent out of shape.  So now I figure I need to get a smaller gauge.

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: charlindabob on March 29, 2009, 11:38:48 am
I use electric fencing and it works great.  A word of caution....If the ducks can reach the hot wire it could and very well may kill them! There are about three ways to use the electric wire: 1. run two wires about two inches apart low to the ground, one wire positive and the other negative, then run two more about a foot higher, again one negative and one positive, do not let them touch and also use a ground rod attached to the negative.  2. run two or more strands and hook them to the positive side and then run the negative to a ground rod only, this works well in good dirt, but not so well in sand.  3. run positive wire the same as in #2 and hook your negative to the wire on your cage or pen.  I have used all three, but make sure the ducks cannot reach the hot wire no matter which way you run the electric.  Wire, insulators and a charger can be picked up at many good all around farm supply or feed stores.  Expect to pay about $75-$100 for the works depending on the size of your pen.  You can get by cheaper if you buy only what you need for a smaller pen, ie, a smaller charger, you don't need a ten mile charger, and only the insulators you need, not a big bag of them and also only the wire you need, you may not need a thousand foot roll.  I have completey enclosed one of my Mandarin pens 25x50 with conveyor belt that is about 24" wide turned up on end and then I ran the electric using the roll of conveyor belt as a barrier so nothing inside can reach it.  I also ran the electic fence around my mother-in-laws garden and it keeps "Thunder" , half German Shepherd and half Bullmastiff from "transplanting" her plants which he is well known to do!

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: newchicken on March 31, 2009, 08:21:44 pm
Mmmm, zap!  I'll keep that in mind. 

Well, that anxious few days came and went.  I was way wrong about our delivery date.  I guess that was a chicken date.  When I called they assured me that they have my order, and my duck delivery date is for the week of April 13th.  It's just as well that we've had more time to dance around the hardware store deciding on building materials.

I've got the 4" corrugated drain pipe trenches ready, and the "foundation" laid out.  I had wanted several inches of pea gravel, but the price has gone up.  We'll have to start with 2" or 3", and add more next spring.

I'm planning on using landscape cloth under the gravel to keep it from migrating into our clay soil.  Would the tiny holes in the landscape cloth become clogged, causing my pen to hold water rather than drain water?  Would my Muscovy dig in the gravel, or chew on the cloth?

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: Cathy on April 08, 2009, 01:51:26 pm
It's possible that they might chew on the cloth.  There's really no way to say.  They do find certain things incredibly entertaining and others not so much.  They kill for aluminum around here.  Unfortunately with brothers using aluminum cans for target practice there are far more shards of it lying around than one would think until you hear the ducks trying to eat it!  That's not a normal sound coming out of a duck's bill, to be sure!

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: Kats on June 10, 2009, 08:52:13 am
My ducklings are inside PoultryNet fencing from Premier, with a solar battery charger. ( It's pretty expensive, but it absolutely works. It's easy to set up and move. Also, it gives a pulsing shock that is shocking, but not killing. Most of the ducks and chickens, dogs and humans have been zapped by it by now and it is not nice, but not dangerous. (And we haven't had any losses, touch wood, even though this place is swarming with foxes, hawks, etc.

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: newchicken on June 15, 2009, 03:16:59 pm
Well, my babies are almost 7 weeks old now.  Some things learned:

Landscape cloth under the pea gravel was a bad idea.  For about 4 weeks, blasting the water hose to clean the pen worked beautifully.  Then, it began to drain a bit slower, then slower still.  Now, it takes about an hour to drain.  The worst part is that the poop no longer "goes away", it spreads out and makes a nice ugly poop pancake in low areas of the stones.  Lesson learned.  Poop does not ever "go away".  It builds up.  It must be removed, or at least allowed to seep into the soil.  Landscape cloth prevents this.

So, I ran to the feed store and purchased three bales of straw.  I cleaned out the pen as best I could, stirring the stones, and blasting water, then letting drain for a few hours.  I removed the kiddy pool, thinking that I now need to go "all dry".  I discovered that a single bale covers a 10 by 12 foot pen nicely.  My ducks, having not ever seen a bed of straw, returned to their cage tentatively.  Then suddenly, they all laid down where they stood, right by the door.  They love it!

I thought great, I'll just keep the pool in the yard for a daily bath when I let them out.  A few days later the weather changed.  Problem:  It's 90 degrees IN THE SHADE!  They sat in their straw pile panting, and ignoring their waterer.  They need to be able to cool off regularly.  A daily visit to the grass yard and kiddy pool wasn't enough.  So, I pulled some straw away from a corner, put their pool back in and filled it up.  They quit panting, played, splashed, and resumed happy sounds and tail wagging.

Now, I just rake and turn the straw to fluff it up, hide poop, and reduce flies.  A word on flies.  If I don't turn the straw, we get little tiny flies hovering low around the pen.  I bring my ducks their layer pellets, and salad just a bit later in the day now.  If I keep the ducks just a little hungry, most of the flies magically disappear.  I still fluff the straw with a rake to allow it to dry, and any remaing flies go away.  It still needs turned twice a day.  If I don't fluff it up and turn it, the ducks flatten everything.  They also get it wet after playing in the pool.  The water simply won't evaporate from the pen with the straw flattened.

I'm wondering how long the straw solution will work.  I have no idea how much straw I'll need to grow/buy to keep up with covering poop for the summer.  I can try the deep litter method.  But won't I still need to remove everything at least in the spring and late fall?  When I do, should I clean or treat my gravel poop?  Should I pull up everything, remove the landscape cloth, and put back the stones?  Then, at least the poop can move into the ground.  But if it doesn't decompose properly, avoiding disease, that could be a problem too.  It is 1.25 tons, literally of pea gravel.  I don't actually want to move it again.  But, I will if I have too.

Should I just cover my stones as they are with a concrete bottom?  Then keep it covered in straw?  That way, when I remove poopy straw, I can actually clean.  Or, can I?  Concrete has issues too, like absorbing odors.  If I did concrete, should I make curved spots for drains, or just all flat and level.  If it's flat, I can just push/spray the water through the wire cage sides.  If I used a vinegar wash, that would be bad for the plants around the pen.  Of course I could limit the vinegar wash to just early spring, before things are really growing, and late fall, when the daisies are dormant.  My pen is entirely cage wire arched above, and mounted on a pvc hoop, greenhouse style.  More cage fencing covers the bottom, under the stones, and extends 2 feet out around the outside base under adjacent grass and plants.  I've got 2 by 6's framing the base inside the cage wire.  I could just fill it flush with concrete to the top of the 2 by 6's.  They'll rot away eventually, but the sides of the pen are anchored with rebar into the ground, not to the 2 by 6's.  

Giving myself a headache with "what ifs"...

Can anyone recommend concrete sealants safe for poultry?

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: Cathy on June 23, 2009, 03:05:34 am
Sounds like you have quite a predicament on your hands!  I'm not certain, but I've only ever heard of the deep litter method being used in winter because it creates warmth - not sure how that would work in the summer if it'd add heat to an already hot situation or what?  Of course, 'you gotta do what you gotta do'! 

I'm not sure what to tell you really as I've never had to deal with what you're going through.  Would it be possible to just pull that Landscape cloth from underneath the gravel and see if drainage doesn't improve?  I personally wouldn't put down concrete for a duck pen, but if I had to I definitely would add an angle to it so that if/when I sprayed it down or they splashed water out the water would run off easily. 

I hope that you can find something that helps correct your dilemma!  It doesn't sound pleasant, that's for sure! 

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: newchicken on June 23, 2009, 11:16:20 am
It's on a natural slope.  The front is almost 4 inches lower than the back.  If I did concrete, I think flat at an angle would be rather simple.

Newest thing learned:  Deep litter is BAD in the summer.  By turning it everyday, I was able to evaluate the condition of the straw.  Fluffing it helps it dry.  The problem occurs when the next bale is added in.  It becomes heavy, squashing the lower layers, and causing mold.  I removed all the straw when I saw that.  I then put down a very light, "see through" layer of straw.  This allowed enough air to get the stones below to dry.  I found that another thin scattering of straw over the new poop spots allows the poop to dry.  It also makes a nice mat that is easy to fork up into the compost. 

This will work while I research concrete.

So far, all my ducks appear happy and healthy.

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: Kats on August 16, 2009, 10:14:34 am
I've got deep litter in the duck barn. (Concrete floor.) Hasn't been changed since April. It doesn't seem to overheat. I just stir it up and throw more straw on it when it gets nasty. It smells sweet most of the time. When the area outside the duck barn gets a bit mucky, I throw straw down there too.

You are bound to get mold in the litter. All those decomposer organisms are breaking down the organic material. It doesn't bother the ducks.

Title: Re: Night Cage
Post by: newchicken on October 15, 2009, 10:26:43 am
Thanks, I started building up to deeper litter for the winter.  It's about 4 to 6 inches deep now.  Also, I pick up the nest boxes and add straw under them to raise them up a little too.  My hoophouse duck cage is draped with tarps.  I've finally worked out the best amount of coverage vs openings for airflow.  It doesn't smell now.  Before, my tarps weren't heavy enough to be completely waterproof in a heavy rain.  I now have heavy duty tarps with a layer of plastic between them.  If that isn't warm enough, I can hang a heat lamp.  In the hardware store, I saw 4 foot wide metallic bubblewrap for waterheaters.  It comes in 25 foot roles.  Seems like a bit much for a waterheater, but it would make a great layer between tarps!  I'm anxious to see how my straw floor freezes.  Everyday, I fluff and cover the old straw with fresh straw.