Raising Ducks: Houses and Runs; and the Appliances Necessary to Keeping Poultry With Success

by Lewis Wright (The Practical Poultry Keeper: Public Domain)

FOWLS should not be kept unless proper and regular attention can be given to them ; and we would strongly urge that this needful attention should be personal. Our own experience has taught us that domestics are rarely to be relied upon in many matters essential both to economy and the well-being of the stock; and, if any objection be made on the score of dignity, we could not only point to high-born ladies who do not think it beneath them to attend to their own fowls, but can aver that even the most menial offices can be performed in any properly-constructed fowl-house without so much as soiling the fingers. If there be children in the family old enough to undertake such matters, they will be both pleased and benefited by attending to what will soon become their pets ; if not, the owner must either attend to them himself, or take such oversight as shall be effectual in securing not only proper care of his birds, but of his own meal and grain. If he be unable or unwilling to do at least as much as this, he had far better not engage in such an undertaking at all.

The first essential requisite to success in poultry-keeping is a thoroughly good house for the birds to roost and lay in. This does not necessarily imply a large one or a costly : we once znew a young man who kept fowls most profitably, with only a house of his own construction not more than three feet square, and a run of the same width, under twelve feet long. It means simply that the fowl-house must combine two absolute essentials be both perfectly weatherproof, and well ventilated.

With regard to the first point, it is not only necessary to keep out the rain but also the wind a matter very seldom attended to as it ought to be, but which has great influence 011 the health and laying of the inmates. The cheapest material is wood, of which an inch thick will answer very well in any ordinary English climate; but if so built, the boards must either be tongued together, or all the cracks between them care- fully caulked by driving in string with a blunt chisel. Care should also be taken that the door fits well, admitting no air except under the bottom; and, in short, every precaution taken to prevent draught. The hole by which the fowls enter, even when its loose trap-door is closed, should admit enough air to supply the inmates, and the object is to have but this one source of supply, and to keep the fowls out of all direct draught from it. For the roof, tiles alone are not sufficient, and if employed at all, there should be either boarding or ceil- ing under them ; otherwise all the heat will escape through the numerous interstices, and in winter it will be impossible to keep the house warm. Planks alone make a good roofing. They may either be laid horizontally, one plank overlapping the other, and the whole well tarred two or three times first of all, and every autumn afterwards ; or perpendicularly, fitting close edge to edge, and tarred, then covered with large sheets of brown paper, which should receive two coats of tar more. This last makes a very smooth, weatherproof, and durable roofing, which throws off the water well. But, on the whole, we prefer board covered with patent felt, which should be ‘tarred once a year.


In the north of England, a house built of wood, unless arti- ficially warmed, requires some sort of lining. Matting is often used, and answers perfectly for warmth, but unfortunately makes a capital harbour for vermin. If employed at all, it should only be slightly affixed to the walls, and at frequent in- tervals be removed and well beaten. Felt is the best material, the strong smell of tar repelling most insects from taking up their residence therein.

If a tight brick shed offers, it will, of course, be secured for the poultry habitation. But let all dilapidations be well repaired.

Ventilation is scarcely ever provided for as it should be, and the want of it is a fruitful source of failure and disease. An ill-ventilated fowl-house must cause sickly inmates; and such will never repay the proprietor. This great desideratum must, however, as already observed, be secured without exposing the fowls to any direct draught; and for the ordinary detached fowl-houses, the best plan is to have an opening at the highest point of the roof, surmounted by a ” lantern ” of boards, put together in the well-known fashion of Venetian blinds.

A south or south-east aspect is desirable, where it can be had ; and to have the house at the back either of a fire-place or a stable is a great advantage in winter ; but we have proved by long experience that both can be successfully dispensed with if only the two essentials are combined, of good ventilation with perfect shelter.

“We do not approve of too large a house. For half-a-dozen fowls, a veiy good size is five feet square, and sloping from six ty> eight feet high. The nests may then be placed on the ground at the back, where any eggs can be readily seen; and one perch will roost all the birds. This perch, unless the breed kept is small, had better not be more than eighteen inches from the ground, and should be about four inches in diameter. A rough pole with the bark on answers V-est: the claws cling to it nicely, and bark is not so hard as planed wood. By far the greater number of perches are much too high and small ; the one fault causing heavy fowls to lame themselves in flying down, and the other producing deformed breastbones in the chickens an occurrence disgraceful to any poultry-yard. The air at the top of any room or house is, moreover, much more impure than that nearer the floor.

Many prefer a movable perch fixed on trestles. In large houses they are useful, but in a smaller they are needless. If the perch be placed at the height indicated, and a little in advance of the front edge of the nests, placed at the back, no hen-ladder will be required ; and the floor being left quite clear, will be cleaned with the greatest ease, while the fowls will feel no draught from the door.

Besides the house for roosting and laying, a shed is neces- sary, to which the birds may resort in rainy weather. Should the house, indeed, be very large and have a good window, this is not absolutely needed ; otherwise it must be provided, and is better separate in any case. If this shed be fenced in with wire, so that the fowls may be strictly confined during wet weather, so much the better ; for next to bad air, wet is by far the most fruitful source, not only of barrenness, but of illness and death in the poultry-yard. If the space available be very limited say five or six feet by twelve or sixteen the whole should be roofed over; when the house will occupy one end of the space, and the rest will form a covered ” run.” But in this case the shed should be so arranged that sun-light may reach the birds during some part of the day. They not only enjoy it, but without it, although adult fowls may be kept for a time in tolerable health, they droop sooner or later, and it is almost im- possible to rear healthy chickens.

Should the range be wider, a shed from six to twenty feet long and four to eight wide may be reared against the wall. Next the fowl-house will still, for obvious reasons, be the most convenient arrangement, and it is also best fenced in, as before recommended. The whole roof should be in one to look neat, and should project about a foot beyond the enclosed space, to throw the water well off. To save the roof drippings from splashing in, a gutter-shoot will of course be provided, and the wire should be boarded up a foot from the ground. All this being carried out properly, the covered “run” ought at all times to be perfectly dry.

The best flooring for the fowl-house is concrete made with strong, fresh-slaked hydraulic lime and pounded “clinkers,” put down hot, well trodden once a day for a week, and finally smoothed. The process is troublesome, but the result is a floor which is not only very clean in itself, but easily kept so. Trodden earth will also answer very well. The floor of the shed may be the same, but, on the whole, it is preferable there to leave the natural loose earth, which the fowls delight to scratch in.

Cleanliness must be attended to. In the house it is easily secured by laying a board under the perch, which can be scraped clean every morning in a moment, and the air the fowls breathe thus kept perfectly pure. Or the droppings may be taken up daily with a small hoe and a housemaid’s common dustpan, after which a handful of ashes or sand lightly sprinkled will make the house all it should be.

There is another most excellent plan for preserving clean- liness in the roosting-house, for which we are indebted to Tlie Canada Farmer, and which is shown in Fig. 1. A broad shelf (a) is fixed at the back of the house, and the perch placed four or five inches above it, a foot from the wall. The nests are conveniently placed on the ground under- neath, and need no top, whilst they are perfectly protected from defilement and are also well shaded, to the great delighi of the hen. The shelf is scraped clean every morning with the greatest ease and comfort, on account of its convenient height, and slightly sanded afterwards j whilst the floor of the house is never polluted at all by the roosting birds. The broad shelf has yet another recommendation in the perfect protection it affords from upward draughts of air.

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