Enhancing mallard production using Hen Houses in Manitoba, 2013-14

Final Report: Enhancing mallard production using Hen Houses in Manitoba, 2013-2014

Goals and Objectives

Artificial nest structures known as Hen Houses have proven to be a highly effective tool in enhancing duck production throughout the breeding range of mallards. This has been especially true in Prairie Canada, where usage rates and success rates make them the most cost effective tool we have. Delta and the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation (MHHC) have been using Hen Houses for over 20 years now and we continue to install and maintain several Hen Houses in the Prairie Pothole Region of Manitoba.

Several species of ducks have been found using Hen Houses over the years, but they are predominantly (>90%) used by mallards. Research conducted in the Minnedosa pothole region demonstrated that Hen Houses contributed the majority of mallard ducklings production given the high rates of nest predation experienced by ground nesting waterfowl. Hen survival also appears to be higher for hens nesting in Hen Houses as compared to ground nesting birds.

We will construct and install 200 new Hen Houses in the Minnedosa region of Manitoba. Delta continues to work in partnership with the MHHC for site selection and mapping for all Hen Houses in Manitoba. MHHC and Delta have seen additional benefits to wetland conservation through the installation of Hen Houses in that the landowners see additional value to wetlands with Hen Houses in them. Positive relationships built through the use of Hen Houses on privately owned prairie potholes have led to several additional habitat projects on the same parcels of land. 

Specific Habitat Products/Results Supported by WHC’s Contributions

Through the construction, installation and maintenance of some 600 Hen Houses, we will greatly enhance mallard production in the Minnedosa region of Manitoba. Based on past results, we would expect that this will produce over 200 incremental hatched nests per year beginning in 2014. In addition, we expect the relationships with the farmers and ranchers who own these lands will ultimately result in wetland conservation on these wetlands and for other habitats they own.

Benefits to Waterfowl, Wetlands-Associated Species, and/or Other Wildlife

The primary benefit of this project is increasing production of mallards. With 80% use and 60% success rates, Hen Houses are the most cost effective tool we have to produce mallards. Aside from mallards, we have seen canvasback, redhead, lesser scaup and goldeneye occasionally nesting in Hen Houses. An additional benefit in the deployment of Hen Houses is the relationship established with farmers and ranchers who own the land. The MHHC has had many such cases that led to additional habitat conservation through this process. These additional lands conserved will provide nesting habitat for many species of migratory game birds and other wetland associated birds.

Relevance to Habitat Planning, Decision Making and/or Management

The direct impact of the project is based on increased duck production. By using Hen Houses, we are utilizing the most cost effective management tool available for mallard production. The indirect influences are a result of the relationships established with farmers and ranchers who own the land where ducks are raised. The MHHC has noted an increase in habitat conservation as a result of installation of Hen Houses on the same private land.

Project Location

Manitoba: Rural Municipalities including Odanah, Minto, Saskatchewan, Harrison and others.        

Project Contact

For more information on this project, please contact Jim Fisher, Director of Conservation Policy, Delta Waterfowl Foundation, Manitoba.