There are a lot of myths, untruths and unknowns when it comes to ducks and water. So let’s debunk a few and explain some truths.
Ducks need water. That is a fact. They need it for several reasons, though surprisingly not for swimming. A duck doesn’t actually have to swim, though he does like water for bathing. What he does need it for is eating. And simply the fun of playing in puddles.
So if you decide to have ducks in your back garden, a pond is not necessary. Delightful, and would be thoroughly enjoyed, but not necessary. Ponds, and we are talking the large variety, are particularly useful for safety more than anything else. It’s impossible for a fox to get to a duck on a pond. That’s why you may see a duck house floating in the centre. Hawks and other predator birds that are not waterfowl are not overly fond of getting their feet wet when grasping for prey. (Though they will try if there is no better option).
But if you are or wish to look after ducks, then simply a child’s paddling pool will suffice. How little, or how many depends on how many ducks you have and how often you wish to change the water.
We have used multiple little pools for our ducks since the very beginning of having them. Some we have sunk in the ground, others we have not. The ease of having them above ground is emptying, cleaning and if needed moving them.
Being able to move them is sometimes a good thing. They will grow algae if they sit in the sun. By being able to move your little ponds, you can shift them into the shade. (And ducks prefer the shade over sunlight in the heat of summer.) Speaking of summer, of course when it is hot the ducks do need plenty of fresh water to drink.
Don’t worry too much if they muddy the water. Ducks need dirt or grit to digest their food. We use dog bowls as their water bowls. Can’t be tipped over and low enough for ducks to easily drink from.
You will often find them putting dirt into their water. If the bowl is not big enough for them to merde in, then it is only dirt and can’t harm them. In fact dirt in water is good for ducks, so don’t go cleaning their water bowls every time they dirty them! We change ours every morning, but simply add to the water bowls during the day to keep them topped up.
As for duck pools, we have three. Two above, one in the ground. They definitely prefer the one in the ground due to ease of access. And yet, it is the smallest one.
Depending on season, heat, rainfall, and how much freedom they are getting out of the enclosure, we change the water in the pools every 3 – 5 days. It’s really a case of looking and seeing how dirty it seems.
Sure you could change daily, but I can tell you from experience it isn’t necessary. It’s something you have to base on where you live, how dry it is, and the season. Of note, we re-use our ducks pool water on the garden. It is naturally fertilised, so not only are you not wasting, you are aiding your garden too.
As for rain, when it comes to ducks and water that comes from above, they actually aren’t that keen. As prey, they don’t like anything that comes from above. (And that includes our hands.)
If it rains hard, our ducks will look for shelter from the worst of it. Or if not shelter, they will stand tall, trying to be as straight up and down as possible, to be the smallest target for the rain. And you really can see why the saying ‘like water off a ducks back’ is said when they do this.
Our Maggie really hates the rain. If we have a torrential rain day, she heads straight indoors. No messing. Just climbs the stairs and goes to sit on the sofa. She won’t move until it stops raining. Unless she spots a puddle en-route.
Water below that forms into puddles is a whole different game. And a fun one at that. Ducks love puddles. They will play, tossing water about. Also wash. And best of all, if you are lucky to see it, they do the duck dance. They stomp their webbed feet very fast. It looks a bit like when a child has a tantrum. It’s actually to try and get worms to rise, but even when knowing the practicality of it, it is still super cute.