Do Domestic Ducks Need a Bucket, Pond, or Dam?

Those who think ducks only require a bucket of water to keep them happy are plainly wrong. Ducks will survive with access to just a humble bucket but they won’t be happy about it and anyone who claims otherwise is delusional! 

I’ve only had ducks for about 18 months, as at the date of this post, so I’m relatively new to keeping this type of poultry. We started keeping ducks by accident; actually, an old school friend of mine saw my blog and contacted me to see if I would take his two Khaki Campbell’s off his hands because they were fed up looking after them.

I must admit to being a little reluctant at first because I had only kept chickens and quail up to that point in time and I had no real idea about keeping ducks. However, I did have the room and I wanted to help an old school mate out so I accepted his offer of a couple of free ducks.

Ducks (Khaki Campbell) drinking out of a bucket but I bet they'd rather swim in it! (image above)

The deal happened rather quickly (I think his misses must have been allergic to poultry or something) because he seemed urgent to get rid of the ducks and at the same time he threw in all his chickens plus the chicken house!    

Naturally, I needed to do a crash course in duck keeping so my research found that, surprisingly, ducks can be kept without a dedicated water source for them to swim. Apparently, (and according to my research) ducks are fine to keep with just a bucket of water for them to occasionally dip their beaks into to clean out their nostrils… well, so they say.

I couldn’t help but be sceptical about the scant water requirements of a “water bird” but since I had little time to prepare, let alone build a pond or dam, I got a nice big bucket for my new poultry species. Within minutes of my new ducks arriving on our property, they made a bee-line for the bucket and within the first day they had turned the water inside into a brown, mucky, sludge that stank of duck spit!      

Therefore, my suspicions that ducks required more than just a water bucket was certainly reinforced after just one day and I immediately started working on a solution.

My ducks aren't different to any other ducks – they LOVE water! And because of this, they persist in roaming up and down my outer boundary fence trying to get into the neighbouring properties for a swim in their waterways. 

Our ducks swimming in neighbouring creek (image above)

Unfortunately, my outer fence regularly gets penetrated by massive wild dogs which push under the feeble chicken wire through the night and when a hole is created (and I've missed it) the ducks get through the next day and have a ball swimming in the neighbouring creek down the back end of my property. 

However, all the fun ceased when last week the ducks got attacked through the day by a wild dog – it was carnage. I was home but I was too late to save one of my ducks… and, that wasn't the first time. 

I had to bite the bullet and make a secure area so I'm currently building an inner dog proof perimeter fence around my poultry pen – nothing will get in and nothing will get out – but I couldn't help feel sorry for my ducks not having a pond or dam to play in. I do have a poly tank pond within my pen which the ducks do like and use except I feel (just like the bucket) it's really not enough, hence my duck dam project. 

With little experience in earth moving or dam/pond building I was hesitant to get any work done because I had this misconceived image of some large excavator tearing up my property and costing me thousands! But with my new desperation (my ducks depended on me) I finally started "Googling" to see if I could get the job done for a reasonable price and with little collateral damage. 

Brian from Dig It Down Under starting on our small duck dam (image above)

Luckily for me I came across a guy called Brian owner operator of Dig It Down Under who specialises in mini-earth moving machinery. His mini excavator can fit between a gap of only 1 metre wide due to its ability to narrow and expand out the tracks. However, being “mini” doesn’t necessarily mean tiny jobs and as I found out Brian was able to dig my small dam with ease and in about an hour the job was done and with some extra work scraping my new fence line the total cost was around $300 (prices vary due to several reasons so best talk to Brian).

I positioned the dam on the lower end of my property where it will be fed by the natural lay of the land and a drain/gully I had pre-dug years ago to divert water straight down my property rather than having it run across it. My expectation is the dam should fill pretty quickly once the wet season arrives.

The ducks have already inspected the dam and started bobbing their heads in approval which is a mating ceremony ducks carry out (usually before entering water). They seem to instinctively know this “hole” will hold water some day and I’m looking forward to seeing my ducks frolic in their very own safe water course soon.

Ducks inspecting their dam. Depth is about 1.6 metres in the centre (image above)

Final product is a great water feature enjoyed by everyone!

There is no doubt in my mind that ducks need a proper place to swim. It doesn’t have to be a lake but it really does need to be more than a few thousand litres and most certainly more than just a bucket.

Without an adequate and save place to swim ducks will become depressed and no matter what reason you keep ducks for albeit the plate, eggs, or pets; a depressed duck will not be good for any of these things. Therefore, it’s in our own best interests to ensure our ducks are as happy as we can make them so if you think a bucket is enough you better think again or perhaps, like my friend did, give up your water-birds.

You can make a comment below or join our forum to follow the conversation over there where I have started a thread on ducks and dams.        

Mark Valencia – Editor SSM

Look, and see the Earth through her eyes…

 

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