Ask the Swan Specialist

Re: Shelter in winter
By:The Regal Swan
Date: 10 August 2014
In Response To: Shelter in winter (Sam)

Hi Sam:

Most swans will not seek shelter indoors or use a roof-like structure with only three walls. Since your swans are fairly new to the habitat, a shelter may work, especially if your habitat gets extremely cold and the pond freezes. A frozen pond can mean death for a swan due to starvation, dehydration, predators (predators can access the ice), drowning from being unable to get out of the water and being trapped between the ice, death from other stress related illnesses.

You can also use a shed, barn or garage (properly ventilated and no gas or chemicals), completely safe from predators digging under, climbing into or above the swans to access them. The shelter must have proper ventilation with no direct drafts, yet warm. Additionally, water and food must be placed in the shelter and the shelter cleaned daily to prevent pests such as ants and rats. The flooring must be non-slick to prevent leg injuries and non-abrasive to prevent bumblefoot---a condition that can occur from a staph infection. Straw makes a good substrate, but it must be cleaned daily. You may need to water the swans down with warm water to keep them water repellent. Their feathers will need to be kept wet so that the swans can preen and use their oil gland (uropygial oil gland) to clean their feathers.

Whatever shelter you choose- one that is already constructed and can be modified for a swan shelter or a new shelter, you MUST start training the swans to use the shelter immediately. Once the swans age and get used to a habitat without a shelter, it will be extremely difficult to get them to use the shelter during inclement weather or when you may need to treat them for any veterinary issues. This is why we normally tell swan owners with established flocks, that indoor shelters may not be practical as the swans are not used to going indoors. In these cases, the birds may have to be physically caught and kept indoors for several days to weeks during inclement weather because they will not go willingly into the shelter.

You will need to train the swans to go indoors by teaching them to come to the shelter with food. This may take some time, but they will get used to knowing that you are going to release them the next morning or eventually, if the weather is so severe that they must remain in the shelter for several days. The swans will need to be placed indoors at least 2-3 hours before dusk and 2-3 hours after dawn. Prior to and shortly after dusk and dawn, predators hunt. Coyotes and foxes may even hunt during the daytime, so you will need to change-up the times that you bring the birds in and release them back onto the ponds so that predators do not get comfortable with exact timing and wait for the swans to be turned onto the lake or land.

Even after training the swans, sometimes animals/birds will get it into their heads that they are not going to go indoors for whatever reason. During these times, you may need a boat or kayak to pressure them into going indoors. Word of note, a kayak may not be sufficient unless you have a couple of kayaks that can be used to herd the swans. Once a swan gets stubborn and learns how to outrun a kayak, you could spend hours trying to get the swans indoors. So, a good paced trolling motor/boat will be helpful. We hope that this information is of benefit. The Regal Swan

Messages In This Thread

Shelter in winter -- Sam -- 10 August 2014
Re: Shelter in winter -- The Regal Swan -- 10 August 2014