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Winter Duck Enclosure – Functional Rustic Approach

The Muscovy Ducks of Functional Rustic have a new enclosure for the winter. Everyone is very excited.

3 Muscovy Drakes

Last year I only had a handful of ducks so one barn stall was sufficient to house them. This year though, I have 12 large ducks to care for. I could eat some of them and keep the smaller stall, but I’ve had a lot of animal deaths this year and am not keen on adding to the list.

(Did you know that Muscovy Ducks taste more like beef than typical a water fowl? Muscovy ducks spend most of their time on land eating grass – same as cows. Although Muscovy do have water proofing oils, because they do not spend as much time in the water as other water birds they produce less oil and therefor taste differently.)

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My chief complaint with the duck set up in the barn last year was the lack of proper lighting. There is a small window in the stall and a light bulb but, with the barn closed up it is very dark in the barn during the winter months. In order to keep the barn some what insulted in the cold Michigan winters I covered all of the openings with roofing paper last year. (I only used the roofing paper because I found a roll of it in the barn when we moved in. It was free and available so I made it work.) The roofing paper is black though, and blocked all of the sun light into the barn.

This year I wanted to make sure that if the ducks could not or did not want to go out in the snow they would still have lots of natural light. Added bonus, natural light in the stall means duck pictures and videos turn out better! To achieve this increased light while still keeping the barn insulated I chose to wrap the entire back of the barn with 6 mil plastic sheeting.


The back of the Functional Rustic barn is a covered area with the south and east walls open to the outdoors. I hung the 6 mil plastic across all of the openings and secured it to the walls/ground with a carpentry stapler. I chose 6 mil plastic sheets because I wanted a plastic that was durable enough to endure Michigan weather but not too heavy to hang with staples. The 6 mil plastic sheeting works perfectly. Plus, it’s clear so the sunlight pours into the enclosure.

It is my hope that the clear plastic will provide some solar heating. The idea is that the warm sun rays will come into the barn and the plastic will keep the heat inside. I don’t expect it to be warm in the winter – but if I can keep the stall above freezing I would be thrilled.

Duck Enclosure Flooring

One of the new stalls off the back has rubber mat flooring that I added straw to while the other stall off the back of the barn has only a dirt floor. Last year I used the dirt floor of the duck stall to make compost. It worked splendidly. The poop was controlled, no bad smells and the floor actually gave off some heat.

The original duck floor consisted of dirt, straw, leaves and landscaping scraps. I added new layers as needed and mixed everything together to turn it into a compost floor. The ducks helped keep it mixed up by digging around in the floor for bugs. My pile of composting material on the floor started at about six inches deep. Over the past year of adding layers and housing ducks, the floor is a beautiful, rich compost nearly one foot deep. I plan to use my duck compost in the spring to plant the Functional Rustic orchard.

The plan with this year’s new dirt stall was to repeat what I did last year in the original duck stall. That was the plan. Ha. Michigan weather decided I needed a different approach this year. Functional Rustic is lucky to have acres of fallen leaves to collect and add to the compost pile. The kicker though, is the leaves need to be dry for me to use them.

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Well, Michigan has seen a fair amount of rain and now snow. I never collected the dry leaves. That’s a big problem for my compost floor. The snowfall over the weekend melted yesterday so the plan today was to rake up the leaves and store them in a dry place until they could be used.

Two inches of snow last night. Ugh. It looks beautiful and the ducks are adorable running through it – but the snow officially ends the search for leaves. So, today I started digging up the original compost floor. You see, the ducks have three stalls they can explore now. The rubber mat area, the new dirt area and the original duck stall. Since adding the plastic though, I have yet to see the ducks spend time in the original stall beyond using it to get outdoors.

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Well, if they wont be spending much time in the old stall – I don’t need that floor to be heated by compost. So, today I started digging up the original stall and moving the compost to the new plastic enclosed dirt area off the back of the barn. It is not as visually pleasing as fresh straw, but the coverage it provides is impressive. Plus, the floor I dug up is full of bugs that the ducks are having a grand old time hunting down. I continue to add layers of straw each day to promote more composting, keep the ducks feet dry and warm and to control the poop smells.

Duck Enclosure Walls

Initially hanging the plastic only took 30 minutes. However, the next few weeks involved lots of small fixes to make it just right. First of all, Muscovy Ducks have claws. When the plastic was first installed the ducks did not know what to make of it and tried flying through it. Ha. Amusing as it was to watch – they understandably freaked out when they hit the plastic and scratched at it with their claws. Needless to say, there are more than a few gashes repaired with duct tape.

The ducks aren’t the only ones flying into the plastic. There are a couple families of barn swallows living in there too. Despite the plastic being up for a few weeks now, the little sparrows continue to fly full speed into the plastic. It was funny at first but now I just feel bad for them. Someone is going to get hurt. I will say though, it is adorable to see 6 huge ducks on a wall with a family of tiny barn swallows perched beside them.

Fixing cuts in the plastic from sharp duck claws was the least of my problems. Wind was the bigger issue. The day we hung the plastic there was only a slight wind so everything seemed secure. Less than 24 hours later the wind was up to 40 mph gusts. Whole walls of plastic were falling off. Ugh.

When we (my husband and I) originally hung the plastic we placed the staples about 12 to 18 inches apart. Although the plastic was flat against the wall when it was stapled, the large gaps between the staples allowed wind to come in and blow the plastic around.

The bottom of the plastic sheeting was held down by stones and pavers. One big wind and the plastic slid out from underneath the stones as if they were pebbles. I found heavier items to hold down the bottom of the plastic, but since I still had the gaps in my stapling, wind was still coming in and causing the wind to whip around inside the stall – again causing the bottom to slide out and blow around.


On another particularly windy day, I went out to the barn and examined where the wind was coming in. That is when I learned that my staples were to far apart. I immediately got the stapler and started stapling everything I could reach. That plastic was secure!! Having secured the plastic to the top and sides of the openings I thought I was all set.


The plastic may be securely attached at the top, but the bottom is still loose. The stones and pavers are ok if the wind stays below 30 mph, but it’s Michigan, so that’s not going to happen. Again, I spent an hour just sitting in the duck stall trying to learn how the wind was moving around within the barn.


As it happens, the wind is not actually getting into the barn. Apparently the plastic, although securely attached, is loose instead of taut so even if the staples hold strong, the plastic flaps back and forth. The flapping is what causes the stones to slide off the sheeting.

No amount of staples and stones was going to do the trick. The openings I am covering are over 12 ft x 12 ft. I need some sort of support in the middle to provide stability to the plastic. As it happens, I have a bunch of wire around the barn. The fencing around their enclosure came bound together with long pieces metal wire. I stretched that wire across the opening and duct taped it to the plastic on both sides.

Shockingly, it worked. Now that the plastic had the stiff wire in the middle I was able to get it to lay flush against the flat surfaces so it can be attached. Now the sheeting was able to pulled taut. Before stabilizing the plastic, even a small breeze caused the plastic move in or out. Stapling the plastic while it is blowing makes the final product flappy.


No longer trusting the stones and pavers, I replace them with a wooden pallets. The pallets are heavier than the stones AND I can staple the plastic directly to it. Now the plastic is weighed down by the pallet while also being attached to it. Now when the wind blows the plastic barely moves at all.

It has been about week since I made the last repairs and I am proud to report that despite, strong winds, heavy rains and two snow falls – the enclosure is still in great shape. Also, the inside of the barn has remained consistently warmer than the outside. I am quite proud of what I accomplished.


Winter Duck Feeding Routine

Another new change is how I feed the feather babies. Normally I pour their feed into a feeder and let them gorge. Since I secured the plastic walls though, the ducks don’t seem to want to leave. Staying in the barn all day means they are not exercising as much. To help keep them active I now distribute the food everywhere and make them hunt for it.

Spreading the food out forces the ducks to move around, keeps them from standing and pooping all day in the same spot and helps the compost floor to be turned regularly. Another benefit of spreading the food out is that everyone gets to eat at the same time. There is most definitely a pecking order in my barn. With one feeder, breakfast becomes a time for ducks to get bullied. I don’t like seeing the bigger ducks be mean to Larry and the smaller lady ducks. I know that this behavior is natural and healthy for ducks, but if I can prevent it from happening I will.


I am pleased to report that since implementing this new approach Larry is looking much better as well. He was looking rough before – dirty, missing feathers and a generally an unkempt appearance. He’s a white duck that was coated brown with dirt. Poor guy looked miserable. Now, Larry is looking happy, bright and clean. He still gets picked on and chased around, but at least he has mouthfuls of food available wherever they chase him. (Interesting side note, Larry’s only son, Prodigy, is the duck that harasses him the most.)

In any case, the new enclosure has made for some happy feather babies and one very happy feather baby mama. Check out the videos below to see how the build enclosure progressed and how much the ducks love playing in it.

Written by: Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

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Ducklings Are Missing – A Functional Rustic Barn Story

I’ve lost 3 out of 4 of my ducklings.

Goldie with 4 Ducklings
Goldie, Muscovy hen, with four ducklings.

A few weeks ago my Muscovy hen, Goldie, hatched out four adorable ducklings. Three yellow chicks and one brown. Goldie is a dedicated mama duck and has spent the past few weeks tentatively caring for her babies. They follow her everywhere. Such a privilege to watch her teach them how to eat, drink and be a duck.

Check out the videos below to see what I mean.


Like I said at the start of this post, I’ve lost 3 out of the 4 ducklings. By lost I do not mean they died (though they probably did); I mean that I do not know where they are.

Each morning, as the sun is rising, I head out to the barn to tend to the ducks. This routine involves opening all the doors to the barn and the doors to the stall that the ducks/ducklings stay the night in. Since their birth, each morning I open the stall Goldie and the ducklings are patiently waiting at the door. I slide the door open and they sprint to the mini pond at the back of the barn. The pitter patter of duckling feet across the floor in the morning is a divine way to start each day.

After the ducks are released I take my daily video of the sunrise over the back pastures and get started on cleaning the barn. I have 16 ducks. They are free range and can go wherever they want, but they choose to hang out in the barn. As a result of their spending all day in the barn they poop all over the barn. 16 ducks worth of poop. So, after the ducks are released from the stall I start hosing down the floors, refilling the pools and giving the ducks their food.

Well, earlier this week I opened the stall and Goldie and her 4 ducklings came running out. As I always do, I immediately filmed the sunrise and then returned to start my morning routine.

Uh oh….I only count three ducks. This happens sometimes. A duckling gets separated from the flock and cries out for mama and then Goldie tracks them down and brings them back. But I don’t hear any duckling chirps. I immediately start searching the barn. The ducklings are little so there are numerous places they could hide or get stuck. I searched them all. No duckling.

What happened to it? Where did it go? If an animal had come in I would have heard the ducks (I do have 16 after all) react in some way. I found no blood. I found no feathers. Goldie did not appear upset. What the duck?!

And then there were three.

The next few days are just like any other – I go to the barn, let the ducks out, clean everything and let them roam free. Goldie and the babies do not leave the barn. They can – but I have not seen them more than three feet away from the barn. I like that they do not wander. Hawks live in the yard and have been very visible lately. Staying near the barn will keep them safe from the flying predators.

The other night when I went to close the barn up I realized another ducklings was missing. There were three feather babies when I let them out in the morning, but as the sun is setting I only count two. Goldie is fiercely protecting the two ducklings she has. Very territorial when I come in to close the stall doors.

But where is her duckling? I search the barn again to see if the baby is stuck somewhere. I found a dead barn swallow and some huge spiders, but no duckling. What the duck?!

So, last night, I tucked Goldie and her two babies into the stall as I always do. This morning – only one duckling.

No blood. No feathers. No corpse. No indication that any predator was in the stall.

What is happening to my ducklings?

Goldie 1 duckling.JPG
Goldie, Muscovy hen, with her one remaining duckling.

What do you think happened to my feather babies?

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic


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So That Happened – A Functional Rustic Barn Story

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I live a charmed life. I am reminded of this fact every morning when I go outside. I’m surrounded by the tranquil sights and sounds of nature. After all, I basically live in the middle of the woods. Deer hang out in the yard, a Blue Heron is living in the pond and a family of Beavers call our wetlands home.

Life is a collection of moments.
Life is a collection of moments.

The cherry on top of the charmed sundae I call my life though, are my Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey. Until a year ago I didn’t even know Muscovy Ducks or Bronze Turkeys existed, much less believed I would ever call them my friends. These quirky feather friends continue to take me on new adventures each and every day.

Gladys (left), Bronze Turkey with 2 Muscovy Drakes – Brutus (top) and Larry (bottom). Some of the birds of Functional Rustic. All of the birds are about six months old in this photo.

The birds teach great life lessons and are actually wonderful role models for me.

The ducks welcoming the turkey, Gladys, into their flock reminds me of the importance of welcoming others into my circle and accepting people as they are.

Seeing Amelia Air Duck build a nest in an empty box in the barn (instead of in the nesting box I built her) teaches me to think outside of the box. (Haha…a duck in a box inspires me to think outside of the box.)

And watching Gladys stay near the barn for over a month after she was attacked (neighbor dog ripped out all her feathers on her back and breast) instead of heading to the pond with her duck friends highlighted the importance of taking care of myself.

Gladys and Sarah
Me (the human) with Gladys (the Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic). She finally got the courage to go to the pond so I did a photo shoot with her to celebrate.

The Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic teach me a lot about ducks and turkeys too. For instance, Muscovy duck eggs are twice the size of extra large chicken eggs and a bronze turkey egg is twice the size of the Muscovy egg.

Bronze Turkey Egg. Muscovy Duck Egg. Large Chicken Egg.

Today’s lesson from the Muscovy Ducks was also about eggs – making the eggs that is. That’s right folks, I’ve got duck porn for you!

The morning started out normal enough. I was filming the sunrise and decided to get some video of the birds. Usually these videos are of them wiggling their butts, eating or swimming – duck stuff. Today though, I happened upon Brutus, Goldie and Amelia Air Duck in a duck ménages à trois.

So here is how I think this all happened. Amelia Air Duck started to lay eggs in an empty box in the barn again. Yesterday I cleaned out her nest so I could eat them. Realizing that her nest is no longer safe (someone did steal all of her eggs after all!) she needed a new, safe place to lay her eggs.

Goldie, the other Muscovy Hen, is currently sitting on eggs. I theorize that Amelia Air Duck decided that laying her egg onto Goldie’s nest would keep her egg safe. The flaw in that plan though, is that Goldie is not just gonna get off her eggs because Amelia wants her to. So, again I am just theorizing, Amelia just climbs on top of Goldie and lays the egg on top of Goldie.

However, while Amelia Air Duck is trying to pop one out Brutus sees a great opportunity to pop one in – so to speak. When I walk on the scene all I see is Goldie on her eggs, Amelia Air Duck on top of Goldie and Brutus on top of Amelia – duck humping his little heart out.

I still can’t believe how fresh that egg was. It was hot, not warm, hot. And wet. So fresh it had duck juices on it. I didn’t even know that fluids were involved. Now that I think about it though, I’m quite happy to learn that my little ladies have some lubrication to get their eggs out.

To round out the morning it only seemed fitting to get at least one video that wasn’t pornographic. The video below is a typical morning in the Functional Rustic Barn – birds eating while I fill the pool and hose out the barn. Once the coffee is made I fill up my cup and head out the barn see what lessons are to be learned that day.

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

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Indoor Duckling Enclosure DIY Tutorial from Functional Rustic

Originally published April 23, 2018. Updated August 17, 2018.

Duckling season is upon us and that means people across the world are talking about how this is the year they will start raising their own ducks. Functional Rustic is here to help.

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Indoor Duckling Enclosure: DIY Tutorial from Functional Rustic.

My first introduction to raising water fowl was in high school. The biology class was hatching ducks and geese. My understanding is that the eggs are incubated in the class and then when they hatch the students can take the ducks home for the weekend. All I know for sure is that my sister came home one day with 2 snow goslings, 1 mallard duckling and 3 baby chickens.

We lived in suburbia and already had a house full of animals. My dad was not having it but, the rest of us loved them so he got out voted. Normally what dad says goes, but when it involves an animal his opinion is moot.

Long story short, we learned that the birds were not a problem to take care of when it was warm but as soon as it got cold outside our suburban yard was not going to cut it. We ended up having to give them to a farm. (We had essentially stolen them from the school so we couldn’t very well return them to the teacher.)


Getting a duck is like getting a cat or a dog. It is a commitment to years of animal care. It was wrong of us to take those birds when we were not prepared to care for them.
I learned a lot with those birds in the few months that we had them. 20 years later (oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s been 20 years!) I finally have a barn of my own and can raise ducks properly.

The Functional Rustic Barn. Home to Repurposing Projects and Muscovy Ducks.

The barn provides countless options for housing the ducks once they are bigger.

3 Muscovy Drakes
The Muscovy Ducks of Functional Rustic. 3 of our Drakes (boy ducks) hanging out together.

I have Muscovy ducks. My mom does too. Her hen has hatched out 12 ducklings so far this year. (It’s the middle of April) One of my hens is sitting on eggs that should hatch any day. Until then though, I have zero ducklings and my mom has 12 — Not Fair!

My mom’s hen, Hazel, started to attack some of her babies. She even bit a chunk out of one of their cheeks. I had been asking to take some of her ducklings since the moment they hatched and she refused to share. However, with Hazel attacking her young my mom relented and let me have three.

There are many reasons I do not have the ducklings living in the barn right now — but I am not getting into that now. All you need to know is I have 3 ducklings living inside my house.

I may work in a barn but, I don’t want to live in a barn. If I’m going to have these adorable poop machines in my house I need an enclosure that keeps them enclosed and my house clean.

Here’s what I did:

Indoor Duck Enclosure: DIY Tutorial

Step One:
Find space in your home where you can construct an enclosure approximately 2 ft x 2ft. You can make it whatever size you want but make sure it can fit the ducklings and a cookie sheet inside it.

Step Two:
Find two trash bags and cut down the seams on each side. Cutting the sides is easy when you do it before you open the bag. I use 13 gallon trash bags so I needed two — but one large bag could do the trick.

Cut the seams off of the garbage bag.

Step Three:
Open the trash bags and lay them flat on the floor where you want your enclosure. This will be the floor of the enclosure.

Open the garbage bags you just cut and lay them flat on the floor. Blog Posts

Step Four:
Put a layer of newspaper on top of the trash bags. Wood chips could be put in place of or in addition to the newspaper. You want an absorbent surface. The ducklings will poop — all day, everywhere. It is a very wet poop and needs something to soak it up. Without an absorbent bottom you are just making a duck poop slip-n-slide.

Put a layer of newspaper on top of the garbage bags. Add wood chips now too if you are using them

Step Five:
Find walls for your enclosure. Use whatever you have around the house. I recommend the wall be at least one foot high. Make sure your wall stays in place — that is to say, unmovable by ducklings.

The first enclosure I made used an empty pop can box as one of the walls. Those little duckers pushed through it within minutes. Make sure your wall cannot be pushed by the ducks; they’re stronger than they look.

(NOTE: My enclosure will have no roof on it. I am next to the enclosure while they are in it so I can keep the cats and dog away. Also, these Muscovy ducklings are learning to jump and try to fly. Escapes could happen even with 1 foot walls. At night they sleep in a brooder box with a lid. It is fine for overnight but too small for my growing birds during the day.)

Find something that you can use for a wall that is at least 12 inches tall and heavy enough a duck cannot move it.

I had to play around with a few different items before I found walls that would work. The size of my enclosure ended up being around 2 ft x 2 ft because that is the size of my pallet storage shelves.

Find something that you can use for a wall that is at least 12 inches tall and heavy enough a duck cannot move it.

For this enclosure I used what I had laying around — pallet projects. Specifically, I am using a small book case/storage shelf I built. It is heavy and a good height and shape for the project. (The ducklings can still escape through the cracks so I had to add boxes as a deterrent.)

I also used a mirror for one of my walls. The ducks get such a kick out of staring at and talking to themselves. It will get duck poo on it. Assume anything you put in the enclosure will get dirty.

Step Six:
Put all of your walls in place. Make sure to put your wall on top of the news paper. I initially had my wall outside the paper so I could fold the edges of the paper up along the inside of the enclosure. I thought it would protect the walls from duck presents.

Put your walls into place. Be sure to completely enclose the space and put the walls on top of the newspaper.

Not only did it not protect the wall — it actually made it worse. They grab the edges of the paper and try to pull it up. Once they find the carpet they see there is no food and just hang out there. Pooping. For hours.

VIDEO of ducklings eating the enclosure.

Step Seven:
Add food and water. Put a cookie sheet underneath the water dish to catch spills. There will be spills. Ducks are messy.

Add food and water to the enclosure. My ducks are starting to get too big for their bottle water dispenser so I have added a small bowl. They splash everywhere while they eat so the cookie sheet is essential

NEVER give medicated chick feed to ducks. But, do make sure that you are giving your ducklings food intended for babies. The main difference between adult and chick food is the size of the food. Chick food is very crumbly, almost powder like. The adult food comes in pellets or large crumbles. Little birds need little foods.

Ducks need water to eat. A duck can choke on their food if they do not have water near by to help them swallow. If you have food out for the ducks you MUST HAVE WATER out too.

The water should be deep enough for the duckling to submerge their bill.
Ducks are water fowl and love the water. New ducklings are not born waterproof though and need to be kept dry and warm. For this reason, small ducklings should not be given a pool to swim in — just a dish to drink from.

When the duckling is a few weeks old it will develop its waterproofing oils and can safely go in the pool. Even then, keep an eye on your duck to make sure it doesn’t stay too wet for too long.

VIDEO of the ducklings exploring the enclosure.

Step Eight:
Put your ducks into your enclosure and enjoy!

Add your ducklings to the enclosure. Watch for any small areas they may be able to squeeze into.

VIDEO of the Ducklings in the enclosure.

VIDEO of the great duckling escape.

VIDEO of the great duckling escape 2.

Step Nine:
Take pictures of your creation and your adorable feather babies and share it with Functional Rustic on Social Media.

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than just tutorials? Find out what others already know by shopping in the Functional Rustic Store.

Below are just a few of the handcrafted items available.

3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder – Silver

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Turkey Stole the Ducks Nest! A Functional Rustic Barn Story

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Oh No! There is a turkey on the duck nest! Before I share that video though, let’s explore the back story.

Goldie is one of the Muscovy hens of Functional Rustic. In the cold of winter 2017 Goldie laid her first clutch of eggs in the nesting box I built. Actually, the nesting box started as the first duck house I built for my feather babies. This was before I learned how huge these colorful birds grow. They grew out of that box within a few weeks!

I don’t have any pictures of the build process because I created it before I started Functional Rustic. The only power tools I owned at the time I built this was a drill.

I already had sheets of plywood that were 2 feet tall and 8 or so feet long. When I tried to saw them the plywood shredded though. Eeek – can’t have that.

My solution, bend the board back and forth near the place I wanted the board cut. I already had part of the board cut before it started to shred. (it was old, cheap plywood) Just as you might break a long stick in half by standing on the middle and then pulling, I did the same with the plywood.

It wasn’t pretty but it actually worked effectively. I did not need clean lines or the boards to be symmetrical. I just needed to be able to make 3 walls and a floor with it. I used my newly ‘cut’ boards for the bottom, sides and back of the box. I put 1 foot length of 2×4 wood in each corner and screwed my plywood to the 2x4s.

Duck enclosures need a lot of air flow and a way for moisture to escape. In the floor of duck house I drilled small holes so that water, duck poo and other liquids can drain out of the bottom. The holes allowed me to later hose down the enclosure when it needed to be cleaned.

For the roof of my enclosure I used a steel screen from a storm door. That screen top actually dictated the size of the house. I felt so clever when I thought of how to repurpose that screen.

My duck house was going to be inside the barn. I used to keep my ducklings running free in a horse stall in the barn but, I learned that small animals can still harm my feather babies in the stall and I needed added protection for small predators. Because my duck house was indoors I did not need a roof to protect from the elements, just small animals.

I liked the stiff metal top because the birds were going to perch on it. I later learned that they will also poop all over it and anything under the screen. Also, steel or not, with enough force everything bends. It was a learning process. Ha.

You’ll notice I am not showing any pictures… doesn’t exist anymore. These are some big birds. In no time their fat feathery butts managed to bend the steel screen and separate the walls from the 2x4s.

The front of the duck house was my crowing achievement though. Some of the scrap wood that was left behind when we moved in had grooves carved in them and enabled a sliding door to be built without any hinges or attachments. The top and bottom boards were attached to the 2x4s in the front corners and the “door” slid into the grooves perfectly and allowed me to open and close the duck house by just sliding the door.

My babies were safe at last.

But this isn’t a story about the duck house/nesting box. This is the story of Goldie defending her first clutch of eggs from Gladys the Bronze Turkey.

Goldie the Muscovy Hen with some of the Muscovy Ducklings of Functional Rustic.
Gladys, the Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic.

Goldie laid 12 eggs in the nesting box. I had no idea this was going on until long after she had been sitting on them for awhile. She was still a baby duck in my eyes and I couldn’t fathom my baby having her own babies. Also, it was December in Michigan and well below freezing.

I only figured out what was going on when I realized that I didn’t see her move from that spot for a few days. It was not until she got up to eat one day that saw the eggs. She actually hid them before leaving the nest, but I watched her cover them with straw so her plan was foiled!

Goldie, Muscovy Hen of Functional Rustic.

The plan with the ducks was always to eat their eggs. I don’t want to be a duck breeder, just a mama. Well, like I said before, I didn’t know she had laid the eggs so I had no clue how long they had been sitting there. No way I was gonna risk eating them and finding a duckling.

So, I got on the google machine and learned a great deal. Apparently, Muscovy ducks are known for being broody hens. Broody is a term used to describe a bird that is nesting and sitting on eggs. Some ducks just lay eggs and abandon them or only sit on them for a short period of time and then leave the nest. The broody hen sits on her eggs all day until they hatch.

A hen cannot easily sit on her eggs and eat and drink and poop all at the same time or in the same place. She must get off the nest at some point.

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Goldie, Muscovy Hen of Functional Rustic on her nest.

Fun fact: a broody hen only poops once a day. Normally the duck poops several times an hour. She still eats similar amounts of food and water. She still has the same amount of waste product to expel from her body. However, when she is broody she drops all of that feces at the same time.

That is a big pile of poo. AND….that poo has been stewing and getting extra ripe all day. So, when it comes out you get the smell of an entire days worth of hot crap being shared all at the same time. Absolutely foul. Fortunately she knows it is gross and gets as far from her nest as possible when she does it.

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Goldie, Muscovy Hen of Functional Rustic learning the window isn’t open. Ha.

When she gets up for her daily dose of diarrhea she gorges on food and water. My google search taught me that it is good to keep food and water near the broody mom to be to help her stay strong. Food rich in calcium is also suggested to help promote strong egg production.

I noticed that the longer she stayed on her nest the more orange her caruncle was becoming. By this point I found an amazing discussion board called Back Yard Chickens and started to go there for all my duck questions. There I learned that if a Muscovy is lacking in protein their red caruncle will start to lose color. This is normal, apparently, for a broody hen because of the limits on her ability to hunt for protein while nesting.

Even though I knew it was normal, I felt like such a bad duck mom knowing she was not getting all the nutrients she needed. I did give her, and the other ducks, some grass hoppers. That didn’t go as well as I hopped though.

When I gave them grass hoppers over the summer the ducks chased them all around and it was great show. However, it was below freezing. Did you know that grasshoppers do not live long when it is 15 degrees outside? Well, now I do. Seems pretty obvious now, but at the time I was excited to try and offer them an extra treat. The ducks didn’t seem to understand that the now frozen treat before them was a bug they were supposed to eat. Usually the bugs they hunt are fleeing for their lives.

So, Goldie is being a broody hen and spending all day every day on that nest. She doesn’t even get off the nest to shoo the boys away. And you better believe her tail shake brings all the boys to the yard. (hahaha….that’s funny when you know that Muscovy ducks communicate with tail wiggles instead of quacks. Also, jokes are always funnier when they immediately have to be explained. Ha.)

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Goldie, Muscovy Hen of Functional Rustic, sitting on her first clutch of eggs.

When Goldie is off of her nest and someone goes near her eggs she gets really low to the ground, sticks her neck out, wiggles her tail furiously and then charges at the intruder. It is quite a sight if you ever get the opportunity to witness it.

Well, Goldie is not the only broody hen in my barn. I have another Muscovy Hen, Amelia Air Duck, and a Bronze Turkey Hen, Gladys.

Amelia Air Duck tried laying some eggs before the weather got cold but she abandoned that nest shortly after starting it. She was no longer broody by the time the snow came. Gladys however, she wanted to be a mom more than anything.

Amelia Air Duck – the first Muscovy Duck of Functional Rustic to fly.

One guy on the discussion board said his Bronze Turkey Hen would get so broody at times that she would sit on rocks if she was not laying her own eggs at the time. hahaha. Can you imagine that sight?

I can, apparently. Gladys did lay eggs, but not many and not for long. Her eggs were big, beautiful and delicious. Since there was no Tom (boy turkey) around to fertilize her eggs there was no point in letting her keep them. She was very upset that I took her egg each day.

She wont let a lack of turkey eggs to keep her from motherly instincts. One day, when Goldie got up for her daily “routine” Gladys confiscated the nest!! She strut over there with a purpose and plopped down immediately. Went into full “boulder” mode as I like to call it. That is when she grabs the ground with her feet tightly and firmly holds her wings in place so you cant move her – much like a boulder.

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Gladys, the Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic.

Gladys stole that nest like a boss. I couldn’t believe it myself. Goldie shared my dismayed. I realize I may be projecting onto the duck, but I swear she gave me a “WTF” look regarding the latest development. She was pissed.

Obviously, I want to find out what happens next. So, I squat down on the floor a few feet from the fray (really on the front lines of the battle) and filmed the great “Retaking the Nest of 2017!”.

Below you can see what unfolded between these two broody hens and how the victor tended the eggs afterward.


Be sure to follow Functional Rustic for daily inspiration and stories from around the barn. Don’t forget to check out the Functional Rustic Store to see what the ducks help me build in the barn.

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than just a blog? Find out what others already know by shopping in the Functional Rustic Store.

Below are just a few of the handcrafted items available.

3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder – Silver

3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder from Functional Rustic adds a rustic elegance to any space. The 3 Tier Tea Light Candle Holder is made from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted. Free Shipping.


“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament

“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament by Functional Rustic is handcrafted from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint. Twine is used to hang the ornament. Free Shipping.


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Appreciating the Sights and Sounds of Functional Rustic

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Appreciating the Sights and Sounds of Functional Rustic.Functional Rustic

Every morning I wake up, grab some coffee and head out to the barn to let the ducks out and watch the sunrise. It is a truly magical way to start each day. I still can’t believe that I am fortunate enough to be able to experience this beauty every single day.

In the rush of day to day life it is easy to forget to appreciate what is around me. The beauty of nature, the ingenuity of humans and how both intertwine to form the world we live in. There is so much to appreciate.

Winter Sunrise Over the Functional Rustic Barn.

When I lived in the suburbs I dreamed of living in the country. I wanted a quiet place in the middle of the woods away from the hustle, bustle and noise that accompanies life.

Circumstances presented themselves that I was provided the opportunity to start my Happily Ever After life in my thirties. Only as they were reaching retirement were my parents able to follow their dream to live in the country.

The fact that I get to start my life off in my dream environment instead of working my whole life to earn it is humbling. I feel obligated to earn the privilege of living here. I have everything I could ever ask for laying before me – the possibilities are endless.

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The view of the Functional Rustic Barn from the woods beyond the wetlands.

I pledge to maintain and improve the extensive ecosystem that calls my property home. I will approach each homestead project with enthusiasm because its a privilege I have that others do not. I will do my part to make better the lives of all the creatures I encounter in the magical world that is Functional Rustic.

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A deer visiting Functional Rustic on a cold, snowy day in Dryden, MI.

Most of all, I will share my good fortune with others.

Since I moved out to Dryden, MI in 2017 I am making a concerted effort to live intentionally as the person I want to be. Part of that process is waking up early and spending the morning with my Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey.

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Gladys – The Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic.
Amelia Air Duck, Muscovy Hen, looking down at the Muscovy Drakes of Functional Rustic.

A bright perk of being up early is being able to actually watch the sunrise. Living in suburbia, even if I wanted to wake up with the sunrise the view was ‘eh’. Functional Rustic is anything but ‘eh’.

Being in nature is therapeutic. The therapeutic aspect is a key reason I wanted to implement an outside daily routine. I guess going to and working in the barn are outdoorsy but the barn isn’t nature.

I know that I’m a creature of habit. My old habit was laying on the couch to ensure it didn’t run away. My old habit was making sure that cable companies did not go out of business from lack of viewership.

If being in nature is going to be my new goal I need some re-enforcement to maintain the new habit. That is when I started filming the sunrise. I am watching it anyway.

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Stunning sunrise views from the back of the Functional Rustic Barn.

More importantly, on days when I am in a rush to get in and out of the barn for whatever reason, it is really easy to not take a minute to absorb the beauty around me.

To force me to take a moment to smell the flowers, so to speak, I take minute long videos and upload them on social media every day. I made enjoying nature a part of my daily routine and built in accountability by promising to continue sharing the experience with others each day.

Even when I am in a rush, spending 60 seconds every morning to document the wonderous sights around me is now a habit instead of a goal. Recording the video enables me to put an actual time on it. I am guaranteed at least one minute of peace a day.

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One of the Functional Rustic Ponds in the font yard.

Now that I have a  new blog platform on which to share my story I will share those videos here as well. I already upload all my videos to YouTube each week but, daily sunrises deserve to be enjoyed daily not weekly.

I am still working on how best to present the videos and what time of day is most effective to publish them. I have a lot of ideas coming together at the same time (very, very exciting!) and as they are implemented I am learning how best to adjust my time management.

Below you can watch the videos from the past two weeks. Please let me know what you think and if you have any special requests for the kinds of videos you want to see.

Until next time, Enjoy!!

Written by Sarah Palmer, Owner – Functional Rustic

Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than just beautiful sights and sounds? Find out what others already know by shopping in the Functional Rustic Store.

Below are just a few of the handcrafted items available.


3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder – Silver

3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder from Functional Rustic adds a rustic elegance to any space. The 3 Tier Tea Light Candle Holder is made from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted. Free Shipping.




“Meow Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament

“Meow Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament by Functional Rustic is handcrafted from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint. Twine is used to hang the ornament. Free Shipping.


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Our Introduction to Muscovy Ducks

Originally Published November 23, 2017. Updated 7/25/18.

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Introduction to Muscovy Ducks. 3 of the Muscovy Drakes of Functional Rustic.

These past few months raising Muscovy Ducks has been quite an experience. We moved out to Dryden, MI to start the next chapter in our life and our new home came with a great barn. I knew I wanted to start some sort of business with the barn and began researching all the livestock options I could think of. The more I researched the animal options the more I realized that big barn animals have big needs.

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6 of the 7 Muscovy Ducks of Functional Rustic. They’re about 6 months old and do not seem to mind that it is below freezing.

Around this time my sister mentioned that Tractor Supply was selling chickens and ducks in batches of 10. I knew I wanted to get the ducks but 10 was way too many. With very little convincing my mom agreed to take 4 and my sister would take 2. Four ducklings for us! Well — we went to town the next weekend and the chicks and ducklings were no longer available. At this point I was determined to raise ducks and felt obligated to provide my family with the ducks I promised.

The next morning I went on craigslist and found an add for ducklings – $7 each. I immediately called them up and we were at the house within an hour. Steve was great — knows a lot about Muscovy ducks. We knew nothing. I didn’t even know what a Muscovy was until we arrived at his house. (I do not recommend this approach to inviting any living creature into your home. Research your animal before you commit to raising it.)

We decided to get five ducklings for us and five ducklings for my mom. The ducklings were only a few weeks old so we had no idea what sex they were. We wanted them for eggs but were so eager to get ducks that day that we chose to risk them being male.

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Transporting Muscovy Ducklings home in a box.

We delivered ducklings to mom and then welcomed our feather babies to their new barn. We used a box to transport the ducklings and they were fine. They did poop a lot though so the car smelled pretty bad by the time we got home.

We chose to keep them in the horse stall with the rubber mat flooring and added our own straw. The stall is 10 ft x 10 ft  with floor to ceiling doors that open to the outside. The perfect space to set up a pool, food and heat light for the ducklings.

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I used plastic shelves as ramps in and out of the pool for the Muscovy ducklings.
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Valencia Merble the Dog napping in the Muscovy duckling stall.

Every morning I would wake up early and open up the door so they could get fresh air. We set up a board so they couldn’t leave the stall but they still got all the sunlight.

My life soon revolved around the ducks — and I loved it! I gave them fresh water in their pool in the morning and spent hours coaxing them in and out of the water. I was quite proud of the ramp set up I came up with  spare plastic shelving.

In time we moved the ducklings to the stall next door. The new stall was centrally located so it was safer from large predators. Also, the floor was already covered in wood shavings so we didn’t need to provide straw.

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Muscovy Ducklings under one month old.
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Valencia Merble the Dog hanging out by the duck pool.

In just a few short weeks the ducklings grew fast. They learned to swim right away and picked up hunting as soon as they were big enough to fit the bug in their mouth. I was so proud the first time I saw one eat a spider.

According to the Muscovy Duck guides I read online — Muscovy ducks are avid hunters and when full grown they can eat prey as large as a mouse or small fish. I know for a fact they eat small frogs! They also did an amazing job removing the spiders and mosquitos from the barn.

Within a week of having the ducklings I was getting up with sun and heading out to the barn to tend to the ducks. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I adapted to the new early morning schedule I established for the ducks. No alarm needed – I just pop out of bed excited to see my feather babies!

Muscovy ducks need water to swallow their food. It is vital that if you decide to raise Muscovy ducks you always have a source of water available near their food. The ducks put the dry food in their mouth, take a sip of water and then swallow. This approach of course causes half the food to fall out into the pool – but it just gives them something to dive for later! Ha.

When it came to change the pool water I dumped the water in an area the ducks spend time so they can play in the puddle and eat the food that was spilled. Also, when the ground gets soaked by the pool water grubs and bugs come out of the ground and provide food for the ducks.

As they got bigger I was able to move the pool to a fenced area just off the back of the barn. The new fenced in area allowed the ducks more room to explore but still kept them protected near the barn. Hawks circle the property and I was terrified our little birds would get attacked.

While most ducks are known for their quacking — Muscovy ducks do not quack at all. Instead, the Muscovy ducks communicate mostly with body language and heavy breathing noises. I just can’t get enough of watching their butts wiggle and listening to them huff and puff.

One morning the dog and I head to the barn to start the day — same as we had every day before. I slide open the door to the stall and my heart sank. I actually screamed and even the dog looked shocked.

The ducks were dead. Slaughtered. Not eaten — just killed.

In tears I ran to the house to wake my husband and tell him what happened. We were devastated. It was our job to keep them safe. We thought the stall was the best duck house ever. We were in complete shock.

After hours of research online we determined it was a weasel that got them. Vicious creatures. Apparently they can fit into any space a mouse can fit. I even found the tiny hole in the floor that the weasel entered through. I had no idea that I needed to protect against weasels.

We held a memorial service for the ducklings and buried them in the yard. We were heartbroken. Devastated. Still are. Even writing about this is stirring up feelings I would rather not remember. Those little ducks were only with us for a month but will remain in our hearts forever.

Although their death was traumatizing — I was determined not to let it deter me from continuing to have Muscovy Ducks in my life. I had fallen in love.

The next day we called up Steve and got 6 more ducklings  — the Muscovy Ducks of Functional Rustic! (Our bronze turkey came shortly after that.)

Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic

Stay tuned to Functional Rustic for the latest on the Muscovy Ducks and Bronze Turkey of Functional Rustic.

Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic

Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than stories from the barn? Find out what others already know by shopping in the Functional Rustic Store.

Below are just a few of the handcrafted items available.


“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament

“Quack Spoken Here” Wooden Ornament by Functional Rustic is handcrafted from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint. Twine is used to hang the ornament. Free Shipping.




3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder – Silver

3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder from Functional Rustic adds a rustic elegance to any space. The 3 Tier Tea Light Candle Holder is made from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted. Free Shipping.