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Your Winter Duck Coop: 5 Tips for Housing Ducks in Cold Weather

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When housing ducks in winter, there are some simple tactics to keep things hospitable in the duck coop. They don’t mind the cold, really.

brown and white duck on winter snow

Raising ducks on your homestead is fun. They are full of personality, enjoyable to watch, and relaxing to be around.  When the weather is warm, they are very low maintenance. Fill their pool with fresh water, add some yummy nourishing food, and collect the fresh eggs.  In warm weather, they don’t even need a duck coop. (More on getting started with ducks here.) Keeping ducks in winter weather is a bit different, but not difficult.

The big question is, do ducks get cold in the winter? The biggest concern is their feet, which can become frostbitten at very low temperatures. Ducks have a counter-current heat exchange system which prevents their feet from becoming damaged even in icy conditions. That means that the warm blood flowing in veins from their heart flows very close to the cold blood flowing from their feet. This helps normalize the temperature in their feet. [More on that here.]

Domestic ducks survive winter in gentler conditions than wild ducks, as we take a bit more care in providing a hospitable duck coop. Ducks will survive even when temperatures dip into negative numbers, but on these cold nights, take extra care to make sure you take the following into consideration.

5 Tips for keeping ducks in winter

Your ducks can be happy egg producers all year round if they have a duck coop to escape the nasty weather. Setting up a duck shelter for winter is easy, though. A winter duck house can be a productive duck house with just takes a few extra steps of care and some planning ahead. 

1. Provide extra straw in the duck coop

Since most duck breeds don’t roost like chickens do, they are on the ground all the time. Extra straw helps keep them off the cold ground. We lay a full bale of straw down two to three times throughout the winter.

We collect the old straw for our compost pile, then new straw is scattered through out the coop. The ducks will settle into the straw, and build nests to lay their eggs in. This makes it much easier to find their eggs instead of the daily hunt, too.

Related: 3 Good Duck Breeds for Beginners

wooden barn covered in snow

2. Keep duck water from freezing

Ducks LOVE water and need it to eat their food. To make sure the duck water does not freeze, I use several heated bowls and buckets around their coop so that I don’t need to worry about chipping away frozen blocks when it’s 30 degrees below.  We have to fill those buckets two to three times a day, as they seem to spill their water everywhere. (Ducks are not the neatest animals with water.)

We remove the duck’s water at night, since all they will do is play in it and make a mess. 

There’s more about keeping duck water from freezing here.

3. Consider the ice

To combat slipping and sliding all over the place, we use straw around the water buckets by basically burying the water buckets in straw two to three inches deep. The straw helps to minimize the formation of ice. We replace it often with the old straw going into the compost pile. I have also seen people place their water buckets inside old tires to help minimize the spilling and ice forming. 

Heather shared a great idea in the comments section: 

I got the long flat storage tubs that are for under your bed. I took the lids and cut 4 largish square holes in it, but left the criss cross “grid”. Its deep enough that they can get their whole head in to clean their beaks off, but cant get in to swim. I have almost no ice around their waterer. I have 2, so if ones frozen, I can swap with a fresh one. Works great!

Related: 5 Reasons to Add Ducks to Your Homestead

 

brown and white duck on winter snow

4. Keep them fed.

During mild weather, ducks forage for snails and slugs and bugs. Since ducks will not be able to forage for much food when there’s snow and ice everywhere, you need to make sure that they get enough feed. We usually plan on at least doubling their food rations each winter. That, along with fodder and added treats such as cracked corn, peanuts, or cabbage shreds will help keep them happy and healthy.

5. Do ducks need heat in winter?

Ducks do NOT need a heat lamp in their coop. Both are a terrible fire hazard, especially if the coop is not wired specifically for lighting.

The layers of fat and feathers that ducks are equipped with keep them warm, even when they are wet. Our ducks are five to seven years old, and still continue to lay five eggs a week in the winter without supplemental light

As you can see, keeping ducks in winter is pretty easy. You can keep a happy, healthy flock all winter long, even in the coldest of areas! Do you keep ducks? What are some tips you have for housing ducks in the winter?

[Information added/updated by Kris January 2019.]

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Meet the Author

Heather Harris

Heather and her family live in Northern Indiana where they work hard at raising 80% of their own food each year, including chickens, turkeys, ducks, quail, rabbits and a large garden. Join their (mis)adventures at The Homesteading Hippy or laugh with them on their new YouTube series .

49 comments… add one
  • Erica Lynn Jun 12, 2017, 3:12 pm

    Hi,

    I just want to confirm I read this right…Ducks do NOT need heat lamps? We live in New Brunswick, Canada where it can easily hit -30 Celsius, with this in mind they would still be fine with the proper amount of straw/wind coverage? Also, with the heave amounts of snow we receive what size coop should they have? as they will definitely not be willing to go play in their run. I have always raised meat ducks and am now looking into getting some runner ducks to add to our collection of 31 loving various fowls

    • [email protected] Jun 13, 2017, 11:25 pm

      I live where the winter temps get to -30F. No, not as cold as you 🙂 but, the ducks will have a layer of fat under their skin that keeps them warm. Heat lamps that would have to be close enough for them to get a benefit would be a huge fire risk with the water and straw around. If you are concerned, I would add additional straw for them to stay off the frozen ground.

    • Liza Aug 23, 2017, 12:07 am

      Erica – HI! I also live in NB, and raise ducks (Pekins, Khakis & Calls) in our freezing cold winter months.
      I just make sure they have a place out of the wind (they winter in one of our barn stalls) put lots of straw down…and on nights when I know the temps are dropping really low – I make some warm oatmeal or even quinoa for their little bellies.
      They do really well in the winter…a lot better then my chickens do!

      • Gayle Leubecker May 18, 2019, 5:29 am

        We have ducklings for the first time. Do they need a building in the winter? We considered putting them in the chicken shed, but don’t know if the girls will be mean to them.

        We plan to move them outside now (they are 5 weeks old and nights are in the 60’s or so now – we live in MD). Our winters are not usually below 18 degrees or so normally. We have a pen we can straw up for them. Need advice, please!

        • Kris Bordessa May 19, 2019, 7:29 am

          You should provide them a place to shelter in that kind of cold. By wintertime, though, your ducklings should be full sized and I think they’ll hold their own with the chickens!

        • Annette May 28, 2020, 8:10 am

          Would love a picture of the water system for winter that ducks can’t get in to and reduce ice/ slipperiness around water.

          • Barbara Borgeld Jun 13, 2020, 1:38 am

            Hi Annette. I am new to ducks too and live in the far north of Michigan…long cold winters. I read a great idea which I will incorporate for ice free water station. This gentleman cut a hole in the floor and put a grate over it for water dribbles to fall into the hole rather than freeze all around the water station. I will build on this idea. I love building and built a girly outhouse a few years ago, sky lights and everything. I will have a round hole in the floor with a fairly deep hole under it….like in an outhouse, and fit a campfire grill over it for the water to fall through before it freezes all around the floor. I have a circular water heater for my chickens that I place under their water. It works great. (I had it professionally wired for safety). I’ll do the same thing for the ducks. Look for a heavy glass baking dish with a plastic lid. They can’t tip it over. Cut a strip/hole in the middle of the lid so they can get their whole head into the water but can’t climb into it. Hope this helps to get you started on what might work for you.

      • Andrew Oct 22, 2019, 8:19 am

        One of our ducks just hatched 4 eggs. I live in New York between Albaby and NYC and our night are getting in the 40’s. We have had one frost. I have no idea if I should take the babies inside or if their mom will be back to sit on them. There are a few more eggs that could hatch. They usually hatch over 2 days. Any help would be great.

        • Kris Bordessa Oct 31, 2019, 8:11 pm

          I’m a bit behind on responding. How did this turn out?

    • Kenni Aug 24, 2017, 3:10 pm

      Just FYI runner ducks do not nest they just plop their eggs wherever and walk off.

      • Nancy Nov 13, 2018, 7:35 am

        Mine nest and I start the nests with faux eggs which most will comply with. I leave one or two in nest within their night coop. They are creatures of habit. They have a large pond and forage area and they’ve been trained to go into coop at night. A bit trickier come spring time.

    • Mike Rook May 11, 2018, 1:15 pm

      I live in upstate NY and it is quite harsh here in the winter as well. I usually don’t give my Ducks extra heat until we get that cold snap for like a week or so where it is like -20 every day. Then I do use one of those ceramic heat lamps (safer than bulbs) that I hang on a ratchet strap above where they sleep. I use the ratchet strap because it makes it easier to raise and lower the lamp. This is most handy in the early spring over the brooders during chick season. I like to think that ducks have a better down jacket than I do and are pretty hardy in the winter. Especially the heavier breed ducks such as Pekins. As far as how big should thier coop be. I use a shed but at least 3 square feet per duck is a good rule of thumb

    • Sage Skjellum Aug 21, 2018, 4:47 pm

      I had ducks that wouldn’t even use the coop I tried to provide for them. I wrangled them into it bunches of times, but they weren’t having it. They slept in the snow, didn’t eat the feed I gave them. They mostly dug around the edges of our grain bins where the stray corn piled up. That flock of birds was quite independent, I can tell ya that much, lol. I live on the mid-eastern edge of South Dakota, where we get -30 degree weather for weeks at a time, so you can imagine how worried my duckies had me! But they survived, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about the cold for your ducks, as long as you provide enough straw and water. Don’t be scared to let them roam during the day! They know where they can come back to if they need to 🙂

  • Jessica Aug 11, 2017, 3:23 am

    What about their pond? We were thinking of draining it and leaving it empty for the winter. Any thoughts/advice in that area?

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 11, 2017, 2:30 pm

      They do need access to water, though it doesn’t have to be a pond. Maybe a heated waterer? (They’ll try to swim in it if they can!)

    • Heather Feb 12, 2018, 5:08 pm

      We have Welsh Harlequins, and ours still roam our 1/2 acre micro farm in the winter. They sure let me know if they dont get outa the barn every day! We’re in the Pacific NW, so it gets chilly here in the winter. I only keep them in during the day if its going to stay below freezing all day. For a waterer, i got the long flat storage tubs that are for under your bed. I took the lids and cut 4 largish square holes in it, but left the criss cross “grid”. Its deep enough that they can get their whole head in to clean their beaks off, but cant get in to swim. I have almost no ice around their waterer. I have 2, so if ones frozen, i can swap with a fresh one. Works great!

      • Megan Pollock Nov 28, 2018, 7:59 pm

        Wonderful idea!!! Also here in PNW and ducks, geese, turkeys n chickens share big coop at night after free range days. Going to Home Depot and buying 2 tomorrow.

      • Bonnie Mechelke Sep 1, 2019, 12:29 pm

        How do these boxes not freeze

        • Sarah Sep 20, 2019, 3:22 am

          I think they do…she just swaps out the frozen ones for thawed ones. Her tip was to reduce the amount of ice, not to prevent freezing. 🙂

  • Kenni Aug 24, 2017, 3:07 pm

    We live in NC where weather during winter rarely stays below freezing during the day but can dip to the single digits sometimes at night. Aside from maintaining drinking water would it be necessary to do anything else. We have 5 runner ducks which their breed does not make nests.

  • Laurie Nov 9, 2017, 2:57 pm

    How cold is it where you live? I’m in Maine and nights are in the 20’s already . I worry that it will be to cold for them.

  • Paula Nov 19, 2017, 4:36 am

    Have you heard of people raising ducks in a waste lagoon? Ive seen this done but wonder about the health of t animals

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 2, 2017, 5:05 pm

      I haven’t, sorry.

  • Jamie ziegler Dec 8, 2017, 6:03 pm

    This will be my first winter with my Ducks, I have Two, I love them, I’m scarred but I can see I seem to be doing things right hey get locked up every night even in summer, I heard a high carb diet helps, so I tried boiling spaghetti for them they love it, I think they think it’s worms LOL, I go thru a pound a week, they also get dog food mixed with peanut butter oats cracked corn, frozen peas, and lettuce twice a day, no eggs yet, just started to notice them together in pool, so I’m excited for the outcome, they also get along wth 2 dogs, a cat, I call it my own little farm

  • Kelli B Dec 14, 2017, 1:15 pm

    Hi, I live in lower Michigan near the indiana/Ohio border and I have 10 ducks. This is my first winter with them in a very long time and mine seem to get water everywhere! Any tips on trying to keep the pens somewhat dry during the cold months? I take food and water out over night but they still make a huge mess during the day and the water is outside in their run. Any advice is much appreciated!!

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 15, 2017, 9:05 am

      This is pure speculation, but I wonder if it would help if you surrounded the water with sand?

    • Emily Sep 16, 2018, 4:30 am

      YouTube the duck man. He has a duck shield around water.

    • Erika Oct 5, 2019, 3:04 pm

      I keep my duck water over a patch of recycled bricks set with pea gravel. Cheap, Beautiful, and amazing drainage.

  • Bruce bartolowits Jan 24, 2018, 11:27 pm

    We have mice in duck condo..any ideas to get them out?? Is a grandfather feeder ok for ducks??

  • Marisa Jul 28, 2018, 8:32 am

    I currently have 3 Pekin ducks. I got them a small low (3in off ground) coop. The all fit but refuse to sleep in it at night. They do know how to go in but would rather sleep in the grass under the sunflowers. We have a fairly secure back yard fence. Is this normal. We are in Maine so winter we will have to enforce sleeping in the coop.

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 29, 2018, 1:36 pm

      Mine prefer to sleep under bushes – totally normal. They’ll need warmth come winter, though.

  • Cortney Oct 4, 2018, 12:00 pm

    Does anyone have a major coyote problem. I lost a whole flock of guinea hens (22 of them) to coyotes. I worry about my 5 ducks and 10 chickens so I try to keep them in when I am not home, but I feel bad locking them u in the pen. Its a 25×15 pen so its not small but still it isn’t freedom. Any advice???

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 17, 2018, 9:36 am

      Predators are a problem, for sure. Keeping them locked in a large, safe space to keep them secure when you’re not around seems like a good compromise.

    • BlakeW5 Jan 6, 2019, 4:38 am

      Use electric net fencing, that’s what I use. Not cheap, but easy setup, and the mesh gradually gets closer together towards the ground. Not to mention it’s easy to move to fresh areas for foraging. I’ve yet to have a bird get out, or a predator get in. I used electric tape before, and chickens would slip through the wires, and headstrong ducks would stampede through it.

      My ducks WON’T use their coop, except to lay eggs in. Last batch wouldn’t even do that. They prefer to sleep out in the grass rain, shine, or snow.

      Not having to wrangle birds into a coop before I go to work, which is also before sunset, made the purchase worth it’s weight in gold. Birds stay safe, and they can go about the backyard as they please, and bed down when they want to.

      It runs $1.5-2 a foot for the stuff. If you do get it buy it with the posts spaced as close together as you can afford, keeps it from sagging.

      • Mary Frazier Dec 3, 2019, 2:11 pm

        Where do you get the electric net fencing? I live in Kansas and it can get pretty cold. We have our duck near a pond but need some way to keep him in .

        • Linda K. Best Jul 1, 2020, 3:27 am

          Premier1 Fencing products are the best choice if you want to electrify your poultry run or have portable foraging options.

  • David Hansmeyer Dec 27, 2018, 7:40 am

    I would like to know if geese can use the same watering system, low storage containers with holes cut into the lid, that you describe for ducks. I have one ready to use.
    Please respond to my email address.

  • Gramma Peachy Jul 26, 2019, 11:48 am

    I very much enjoyed reading this article and the comments that followed.
    I have chickens ducks and pheasants all living together nicely.
    Ducks hold their own when it comes to a bully chickens and so do pheasants.
    I have read several articles that state you cannot raise pheasants with chickens but I am not having any issues with it. My pheasants are happy and healthy. last week one got out and was gone for about four days and I thought I would never see it again but it returned home and was circling the chicken’s coop and yard until I open the gate and it walked right in. It was very happy to be home. I think my pheasant think they are chickens LOL

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 28, 2019, 7:54 am

      I’ve never raised pheasants!

  • Karen Carpenter Aug 13, 2019, 9:43 am

    The above article said
    “Our ducks are five to seven years old, and still continue to lay five eggs a week in the winter without supplemental light. ”
    So are you saying even in winter each of your laying ducks still drop an egg nearly every day? If not how many layers do you have to get about 5 eggs a day in winter?
    I am trying to supplement my dog food since it seems there are new issues every year with kibble.

    • Kris Bordessa Aug 28, 2019, 11:50 am

      I’ll see if Heather can answer this (my climate is quite different from hers) but I can tell you that my ducks are much more productive than the chickens, year round. My *guess would be that to get 5 eggs a day, 7-8 ducks would be a good number. (Great idea to supplement the dog feed, too!)

  • Alexis Aug 19, 2019, 9:05 am

    Thank you for such an informative article and comments!
    We have five ducks – this will be their first winter so we are getting things together.
    I love these ducks – they are such a joy to watch and listen to them all talking to each other.
    Sometimes I quack quack quack at them and they all fall silent looking at me like I’m from another planet! hahaha

  • Sarah Sep 20, 2019, 3:30 am

    We live in Northern Indiana too! This will be our first winter with ducks. After reading all the comments/problems about water…would keeping one of our pond aerators on this winter be a better idea for our ¾ acre pond? Or does swimming in super cold water damage their feet?

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 20, 2019, 12:42 pm

      Ducks seem to be pretty impervious to cold!

  • Mike Nagy Nov 20, 2019, 10:39 am

    After reading the comments from northern states and Canada I’m taking it that I realy dont need to worry about the cold (to me) here in northern Arizona where the temperature does drop to the mid to lower teens for a couple of weeks at a time and we can get as much as 16 inche to two feet of snow at a time. My 8 ducks live in a predator proof large pend off area that has one duck hut, a wind break and a large dog crate that three of the hens like to lay thier eggs in. I also dug a good size mud hole that they absolutely love even more then thier pools. My biggest question is will do the ducks have the intelligence to know when they need to get out of the weather or do I need to intervene and make them go inside out of the weather

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 30, 2019, 8:06 am

      I would *think so, but you know. Ducks. 😉

  • Eva Jul 1, 2020, 9:40 am

    I’m thinking about getting ducks but during the winter it gets pretty cold and I’m worried about there water freezing up what would be a good solution for that?

    • Kris Bordessa Jul 4, 2020, 10:29 am

      They make special waterers with a heat element to prevent this.

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