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Tom7227

Wood Duck houses

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Yesterday a friend and I cleaned out the 15 wood duck houses (yes, we were late). Only two had evidence of current attempts to nest and only one other had been used last year.

We have a variety of styles. Three are the "Duckman" design made of cedar. Six are made out of shiplap and painted brown and are abaout 10 inches inside width. The rest are made out of 8, 10 or 12 inch sewer pipe and painted camo. All are mounted on sign posts. There's plenty of water, oak trees, and undeveloped ground where they are.

I have thought that temperature may be an issue with the sewer pipe models, and the lack of racoon guards also could be a problem. Thing is, only 3 of the houses had any evidence of even attempts at usage.

Does anyone have any thoughts on what the

problem(s) could be?

Thanks for any suggestions.

Tom

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I am no expert by any means but just going by experience, I would put them in a variety of habitat. It might just be they don't like where the house is located and therefore decide not to nest. Once you find a location with success, stick to that area.

Sorry for not being much help.

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i would say your assumptions about the temps could be right, especially if they are in full sunlight.

from the wood duck society webpage...

"Heat: Pole-mounted boxes are seldom in complete shade. Temperature studies have shown that boxes made of metal, plastic, and even plywood, when exposed to direct sunlight on hot days, can become too hot for egg survival (107 degrees F.). The hen may abandon well before that point. Studies done here (Newsgram # 16, Dec. 1995), found that metal and plastic boxes reached 118 degrees F. on a 94 degree June day in Minnesota. White paint and vent holes help, but it’s better to choose boxes built with natural, 7/8” thick boards. Such boxes resist heat build-up on sunny, hot days."

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i checked my houses over the weekend. three were incubating. one was still laying. one had a kestrel nesting in it, and three were empty.

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I have about 40 wood duck houses out, all on wood poles with predator guards. I took all the originals our of the trees when every one was getting visited by coons. In this coon infested state, you really need to install coon guards. And the pole mounted houses are nice, you can check them periodically and no ladder hauling. End of speech smile

Back to your question. I don't think heat is your problem, they're not even starting to nest. The best locations are in the woods within 200 yards of ponds, problem is that you need to find gaps where squirrels can't jump to the predator guarded houses. I would say I get 95% oocupancy in the woody area houses.

Houses at the edge of ponds work too, but its more hit or miss, its more 50% occupancy. Its strange, one house might be used 3 years in a row and then none for a couple of years.

Don't put your houses too close together, the ducks are territorial and won't allow another one too close by. Back when I started I built a 'wood duck condo' with 8 houses on it and very rarely do I get more than one nest - someday I need to take those other nests down - but it 'looks cool'. Also when I started I put them out in pairs on posts 10 feet apart because then I would put bluebird houses on the back side of the pole, bluebirds need the two house 10 feet apart, one for a tree swallow and one for a bluebird, but on the paired wood duck houses, I never got more than one nest, they're too territorial.

Try a few wood houses, get the ducks started in your area, then try some of the alternative housing for the offspring that come back. Find a sawmill and see if you can get some rough sawed cotton wood, its cheaper, and will work. I've been using it and the ducks like it just fine.

Make sure that the hole sizes are big enough. A couple years ago a guy gave me a house, never had a duck in it. Then I looked it over and realized that it was too small, enlarged it and bingo, a duck has used it every year since. Standard size is a 3x4 inch hole, I've actually started going a little bigger with the theory don't make it so tough for Mrs. Duck, and with the predator guard on, the bigger hole will work.

Same with too small of a house, I think your 8 inch tube is too small. With the rough sawn lumber I get, I just go with whatever size it is rather than ripping down to the standard size in the standard wood duck plans, and it seems like the bigger houses with bigger holes have a higher occupancy.

Feel free to ask more questions. As you can see, I love building and putting out wood duck houses, it gives you lots of satisfaction to go by and see a duck in them. Three weeks ago I would go out and check lots of them for eggs but now that they are setting I don't like to distrub them but you can tell they're occupied by the down feathers that are peeking ut the cracks and entry hole.

Good luck!

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I have about 40 wood duck houses out, all on wood poles with predator guards. I took all the originals our of the trees when every one was getting visited by coons. In this coon infested state, you really need to install coon guards. And the pole mounted houses are nice, you can check them periodically and no ladder hauling. End of speech smile

wow, that's impressive. i applaud you for putting them all on poles with gaurds. it's a lot of extra work up front, but it sure is nice to check them without climbing a tree or using a ladder. and they should last longer on poles than in trees. mine are just high enough so i can check them by standing on the four wheeler.

what percentage of usage do you get?

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thanks BLACKJACK for your efforts! Looking forward to building some wood duck boxes and hen houses for next year! It is about time I brought that project to fruition.

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Blackjack,

Thanks for your detailed response.

The houses sit on an 80 acre piece that has four wetlands. It's about 40% hardwood (lots of oak), 40 open grass, the rest water. As indicated we have 3 of the cedar houses using the "Duckman" design, 5 or so that are scrap shiplap siding painted dark brown, and the mishmash of plastic pipe.

The only thing we don't have are the racoon guards. My problem with them is finding the material - 30 inch diameter sheet metal isn't that easy to find, and probably darn expensive when you do.

I was going to buy some wood to build a few more cedar houses but the $28 a piece for the cedar put me off - at least for the rest of this month anyway.

Thoughts on something else for the coonguards?

Thanks again.

Tom

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On the 14 houses I helped put out this year we used pvc pipe as the predator guard. We used about a 3 foot long piece that starts a couple inches above the base of the house. Then we used a piece of wire mesh to close the end to keep critters from climbing inside the pvc.

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I've also heard of plastic sheets to use as predator guards. I imaging thats cheaper then sheet metal. Take a piece cut it in a circle then cut out a pie shaped wedge, you can then wrap that around the pole and staple together.

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I don't have predator guards on the houses I put out, but out of the 6 I checked (didn't want to disturb them all), 5 had ducks in them.

One appeared to have throw her eggs out and relaid.

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Blackjack,

As indicated we have 3 of the cedar houses using the "Duckman" design,

Thoughts on something else for the coonguards?

Tom

Tom, what is this 'duckman' design? The one I use I got out of the Outdoor News, side entry.

You're right the coon guards do get spendy when you goto a sheet metal place, the guards and brackets can run up to $10, but look at it this way, they'll last for 20+ years, thats not much per year.

I have come up with an alternative that works, they're 15 gallon plastic barrels, I cut the bung end off, cut a hole in the other end the size of the post, put two lag bolts into the post about three foot up, and then slip the barrel over the post before I put up the house. The coon can't get around it because its slippery and it sways becasue its only held up by two bolts. I've never had a coon get around one.

My source for the barrels is dairy farmers, they get their soaps and pipeline cleaners in them. Hospitals also have them. If you're in the Willmar area I'd be willing to part with a few.

I don't think 5 gallon pails would be big enough, too small. Or if you could find 30 or 55 gallon plastic barrels, you could cut them in half and have two coon guards.

I have some pictures, if I find them, can someone post them for me?

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The design that I called "Duckman" is the one that was printed in ON. I think I have my friend convinced that we need to get the tin cones. I appreciate your offer but I'm over in the East Metro. I would spend more on gas to get to your place for the barrels than the tin guards are likely to cost.

We need to do a lot of work - make sure the houses are tilted properly, have the right size hole, paint them white to get rid of the heat issues, and then put on the coon guards. My friend has easy access to the sewer pipe scraps and he's convinced he can make them work. Given that a piece of cedar is now at $28 the wooden ones seem out of reach.

Again, thanks for your help.

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