What to do About the Ducks?

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This is part three of the saga about the chickens – and ducks – I got a few weeks ago just in case there aren’t any eggs and such to get a few months from now. Plus just because. It’s entertaining to have a flock of birds of pecking around and even if you can get eggs from the store, they’re nothing like the eggs you get from your own coop.

Ducks lay larger eggs, being larger birds – and many people swear that duck eggs are better eggs for baking. One thing’s for sure, ducks like to swim. In fact, they need to swim – or at least, they need to have a place to dunk their heads in order to wash down their food and to clean their bills; it is apparently  a Duck Thing.

How to get water to the ducks isn’t the problem. The problem is getting fresh – clean – water to the ducks.

Practically every day.

Ducks, it turns out, are messy birds. They splash and splatter the water you bring them. If they can get into the water you bring them, they’ll leave something in the water. Which means needing to change it.

Enter the problem, water being heavy. And lots of it being messy. Dump out a kiddie pool or equivalent in the area where the birds are and you’ll soon have a swamp where the birds are – and where you have to go to care for the birds.

A duck mire is as vile for  you as it is unhealthy for them.

What – as Lenin said – is to be done?

I’m thinking of doing an above-ground swimmin’ hole for the ducks. Above ground so as to be easily drained, by gravity – via a drain hole in the pond, feeding into some PVC pipe and a valve that makes dumping the dirty water and directing the dirty water easy and much less messy.

I haven’t decided yet whether to use a store-bought form like the ones you can buy at home improvement stores or use a liner and make my own pond shape. I want it to be big enough to let two adult ducks – which mine almost area already, they grew much faster much larger than the chicks I got at the same time – actually swim and dive, not just dunk. So prolly 3×3 or so and at least a foot deep.

But not much taller than that, as ducks aren’t mountaineers. You want them to be able to get to the water or it doesn’t do them much good. My tentative plan is to install the pond in a frame just above the ground, just high enough to give me easy and not buried access to the plumbing – the drain hole/pipe that will run from the bottom of the pond to carry the duck water out of the run area and dump it – as we say in around here – in the Woods.

Probably either landscape rocks around the pond, stacked in a gentle descending/ascending grade, for the ducks to waddle to and fro, around the perimeter or just fill dirt and grass. Then a hose run from the spigot to the pond so that refilling the ducks’ swimmin’ hole with fresh water is a matter of turning the water on.

I’ve seen people build automatic top-off systems that use a float  – like a carburetor! – to maintain the fill level but draining will still be an issue.

Meanwhile, I am giving the almost-ducks (just three weeks from downy ducklings to adolescents beginning to quack and turning their adult duck color) daily swims in the wheelbarrow, which is just big enough to let the two of them – Flip and Flap – paddle around and dunk their heads.

I found out something else about ducks that may be of interest. Or at least, something about Flip and Flap. It turns out that ducks are good mothers. My two lead and protect my proto-flock of eight chicks (still small) as if they were the moms of these birds. The chicks snuggle with the ducks and the ducks are always wherever the chicks are. The chicks get anxious – and peep – when the two ducks are swimming in the wheelbarrow, which is out of their line of sight.

This is sweet as well as practical. The ducks are biological heat lamps – no electricity need to keep the chicks warm if the power goes out (once the ducks are a few weeks old) and – I am hoping – the much larger and more intimidating ducks will deter any predators that are thinking about chicken for dinner, maybe even hawks – which is the main predator I’m worried about at the moment because the run isn’t protected from above. (More about the threat from below here.)

Maybe the presence – and quacking – of two pretty sizable ducks already larger than a red tailed hawk will make the hawks reconsider.

In the meanwhile, time to do some measuring and framing!

. . .

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Eric!

    Not sure if it’s still the case, as I can’t find it on their website, but Tractor Supply used to sell these heavy-duty “pools” made of thick solid plastic- about 8 or 10′ in diameter and maybe 1.5-2′ deep…just what the ducktor ordered! Plenty of room for the ducks to enjoy- no fuss, no muss- put some landscaping around it, it’d even look nice (They’re blue), and be plenty strong to endure the winters…IIRC they were around $200-$300. I’m always tempted to get one my self and fence off a little area and get some ducks of my own. (Watching them float/swim is the best part of having ducks!)….and maybe it’d keep ’em out of MY above-ground pool…… (Best part of having that, is I get to swim and float!)- Some algaecide and maybe a little filter to run occasionally might keep it clean (Consult duck forums about that) and not require constant changing of water.

    If TSC dunt have ’em, I’m sure someone else does…just don’t know what ya call ’em, or what their intended use is…but they’re definitely out there.

    • ….and borrow some pigs- They’ll wallow around in the mud and do a good job of sealing-up the pond so the water stays put!

    • ken, just what I was about to suggest. If you have a dry creek or cut you can dam it cheaply and then have fish and fowl. A couple months ago we were stocking our tank and right in the middle of it, a deer walked through the trees on the spillway and walked into the tank and swam all the way to the end where we were. Even deer need to cool off some times. I would have sent a link but the computer doesn’t seem to want to take the video from the phone.

  2. I’ve never known of anyone raising ducks without a real pond. Geese I think you can do. They don’t swim nearly as much as ducks do. And they make HUGE eggs. I fear your small “pond” may turn into a swimming pool, also known as a hole in the ground you throw money in.

    • Geese are nasty and mean, which does make them good watchdogs.

      Our former neighbors used to have chickens, ducks, geese, and guineas. They had a kids’ swimming pool and would just stick a hose in it daily and run it over until it was fairly clean. It’s so dry out here that the runoff wasn’t a problem, besides the fact that it was all down in the bottom of a dry coulee anyway.

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