I have a ~10 week old flock of 11 muscovies, my first. They seem happy enough, but very skiddish.
I am fortunate enough to have a spring on my land. No ponds, though. We have seen temps into the mid teens already, and I expect to get weary of dragging fresh water to their house a couple hundred yards from the mine in the cold and snow, particularly when I know I have naturally occuring freeze-free water available.
I'd love to build predator-proof housing that doesn't rely on me letting them in and out. Some sort of elevated structure with a narrow walkway? I suspect they're too big for racoons at this point(?). They are really wimps, and I doubt I could coerce them to perch on anything. Hopefully the next generation.
and if you have not done it already, piling up leaves on the outside of the steel walls would add more insulation. You could even build a hot compost pile against the outside, but that might actually be too much
Hey, another possible idea for the ducks access into the shelter is a small pond (say 2 feet diameter?) with a solid barrier coming down to near its surface in the middle of the pond. Inside the barrier is the shelter. So the birds get in the pond and duck under the barrier to get in and out of the shelter. This excludes everything that can't swim.
I've not done this, but have heard of it working well. I would love to do it sometime but we don't really have any predator issues so its a bit redundant here.
At dark, as the beautiful full moon rose in the northeast, I walked down to close up the duck house. Every time previous, they have already been inside and I just replace the door and walk away.
Tonight, I think they hear the call of the wild or something. I absolutely cannot coerce them to go inside. They insist on sleeping right in the middle of a large clearing of mucky grass, where the coyotes like to frolick to start their night's work. I have noticed recently that they have eaten way less feed, like maybe only 10% of what they ate before I moved them. I assumed it had gradually been decreasing as they learn to forage better. In the last few days also, they haven't even gone back down to their house during the day, for neither food now water, preferring to eat snow instead.
I wonder, if they survive the night, if this is temporary or if they'll just decide to go feral.
The full moon brings out all sorts of strangeness.
When my son was little and we would incubate eggs and the ducklings would imprint on us and follow him every where. Then after a month or 2 (maybe longer) one day, they would just start being afraid of us. Just figured it was natures way of saying you can make a living for yourself now. possibly that is what is going on.
Also some nights they are just afraid to go in their enclosure for no apparent reason and have to be herded.
The 11 continued to refuse to go into their house. They slept outside, huddled up, in a large cleared. None were harmed by predators surprisingly. They got to be very proficient foragers. Perhaps as they depended on us less and less, they did fly off after about 5 days. One remained. Not sure why he didn't go. Sad... We'll try again in the spring.
Looks like you did a decent job building something economical for the housing.
Ours come back to their house every night. I think it has a lot to do with the fact we trained them to the house when they were young ducklings. As soon as they were out of the brooder, we started them in the house. We built a run on the house because we don't leave them loose constantly (the dogs aren't duck-friendly). They did increase their foraging area. They even found the neighbor's corn field, and went over there daily to eat the leftover field corn.
Occasionally we find them just outside of the house at night, when the weather is decent, but it's easy to herd them in. My only disappointment is that, because they aren't as reliable as the chickens about going to the shelter, we can't use an automated door.
I think the key to keeping Muscovies coming back, without clipping their wings, is to get them used to the house, give them plenty of space and bedding, and supply a perch. We also often gave them a treat of some sort when they went into the house at night, especially when they were younger. This didn't do any good once they discovered that corn field, but by that time they were always coming back at night anyway.
The next generation won't be handled as much, because of course Mama Duck will handle the babies instead of us. So I don't know yet if keeping them around will be more of a problem or not.