Mother Earth News Blogs > Homesteading and Livestock

Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


Free Range or Penned: Protecting a Flock of Ducks at Night

Ancona Ducks Swimming in Lake

Keeping ducks comes with a variety of interesting obstacles — there is never a boring moment! As the proud Mama of five Ancona ducks, it is my responsibility to make sure that they are safe, happy, and taken care of.

While we have always provided them a safe home with a variety of hiding places, fresh straw, and access to food, they have been free-range on a neighborhood lake for the last 4 years. If you aren't familiar with Ancona ducks, they are basically the Holstein cow of the duck world. They all have unique patterns, usually black-and-white like ours, but can also be other colors suck as silver or chocolate.

Due to their squat stature, Ancona ducks are unable to fly and are happy in most seasonal locations year round. I did a ton of research before selecting this specific breed for us, and have not regretted it for a second.

The Confrontation

Last week, a neighbor came knocking on the door, and it wasn't good news. Turns out that the quackers had been camping out below his bedroom window at night, chattering until the wee hours, and up again at the crack of dawn to announce the new day to the world.

Apparently, this neighbor did not appreciate the melodic sounds of nature, and laid down an ultimatum: "The ducks have got to go."

The Solution

Fortunately, my husband and I are both stubborn, and not ones to blindly comply with the wishes of others. However, it is important that we keep the peace in the neighborhood. As soon as the neighbor left, we put on our thinking caps and decided that if we penned them up at night, then that would resolve the majority of his concerns.

We weren't excited about the new chores this would create for us, and dreaded attempting to round them up each night, but we were willing to make the effort if it meant we could keep our flock. We had some 3-foot fencing in the garage left over from another project, so we hauled it down and built an impromptu fence for the ducks.

I asked my husband about predators, but he assured me that if the ducks couldn't get out of the pen, then predators that could potentially harm the ducks wouldn't be able to get in either. Due to the location of their duck house, they are protected by fences on two sides and the lake on the third even without our pen, so we have never had a problem with predators in the past. But you know, I just worry about my duckers.

The first night was easy. They were already hanging around their duck house, so we simply put the fence up around them, gave them a bucket of fresh water since they wouldn't have access to the lake throughout the night, and crossed our fingers.

We got up the next morning, and they were fine. In fact, they didn't even seem that interested in leaving the penned in area, even with the gate open! We went ahead and shooed them out so that they could find the opening and understand how our new situation was intended to work.

That Night, the Craziest Thing Happened

We went down to close the ducks up, and they were already in the pen! We simply got them some fresh water, closed the gate, and we were done. We had expected to spend hours chasing them all over the lake, but they were right there, ready and waiting.

The third night we did have to round them up, but as soon as they realized where we wanted them to go, they went straight back to their house. Every night since then, they have been already in the pen, waiting for us to close the gate.

I was floored. Could it be true that the ducks actually preferred to be penned in?

As I watched them, it seemed almost as if they enjoyed the security that the pen provided. They are actually spending quite a bit more time at their house now than they ever have before. All this time, we thought we were doing what was best for them by allowing them to be relatively wild ducks who just happened to have a home if they needed it. But they were craving security, that was why they had been sleeping by his house in the first place. It provided them the best visibility of the lake and all the access points.

So now, our free range ducks have become protected ducks, and they have never been happier.

Flock of Ancona Ducks

Our ducks never cease to amaze and delight me. Keeping animals has brought so much joy to my life, that all the challenges have been worth it.

What ways have your pets/livestock surprised you? Let's talk about it in the comments!

Emily Baker launched the Incubators.org website in 2010 with her husband, Christopher. The site offers everything you need to incubate and hatch eggs. Emily has personally assisted thousands of hobbyists and breeders in selecting appropriate incubation equipment and supplies, proper use of that equipment, and providing general incubation support. She has also had multiple articles published regarding incubator selection and technique. Read all of Emily's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.