It is a common misconception that you need to have a large pond or lake in your yard if you want to keep ducks. Lucky for us suburban farmers, that is just not true! Backyard ducks will be happy with a small wading pool. When space is a concern and you don’t have the luxury of a huge body of water in your yard, picking the right breed is important. There are lots of breeds of domesticated ducks, these ducks have been breed for years to be raised by humans on traditional farms, backyards or even as indoor pets! Click here to read about different duck breeds. Some of the most popular domestic breeds include: Buff, Cayuga, Pekin, Indian Runner, Rouen, Welsh Harlequin, Swedish, Muscovy, White Crested, Khaki Campbell & Call Ducks. Unlike their wild ornamental relatives who spent most of their lives on the water, domestic ducks only spend about 10% of their day in the water. They are happy to forage in the woods, nest in the bushes and spend their day searching for slugs in the garden. Another benefit of domesticated duck breeds is they are bred to be very poor flyers, so you don’t have to worry about them taking off.
Domesticated ducks might not NEED a pond, but they would LOVE a little pool for splashing! Before you get out the shovel to start digging, dial it back a bit. Ducks love splishing and splashing, but they don’t need an Olympic size pool. They will be happy with a small kiddie pool or stock tank. With a large pond, cleaning can be a hassle, but a small kiddie pool is easy to dump and refill every day or so. The only requirement ducks have is water deep enough for them to submerge their whole head. They need to keep their mucous membranes moist so having clean water available at all times is really important.
We have tried several pool configurations in our years of keeping backyard ducks.
At first, when we had just two ducks, we bought a very small kiddie pool. This is a great little pool, about 3 feet across and about 5 inches deep and holds maybe 20 gallons of water. It’s good for little ducklings or a pair of ducks (although I still use this pool sometimes and all four ducks will hop in and have a grand time). I love that it is super easy to tip over and empty, which means I can easily & quickly clean it. The downside is it needs to be dumped every day in the summer, or every other day in the spring/fall.
As the two ducks grew, we realized they really wanted to dive and swim underwater (which is really hard in just a few inches of water). We found a 150 gallon stock tank on a yard sale site for cheap so we snapped that up. This pool has been more hassle than it’s worth. Things I like about it are that it is super deep (the ducks LOVED diving in it!) and that it has a drain plug in the bottom for emptying. The things I hate are numerous – because it is deep, that means it’s really tall so a ramp of some kind needs to be made to get the ducks into the pool. We tried many things and never really found a good solution. You could bury it to make it level with the ground, but then you can’t access the drain and it would be impossible to clean without buying pond equipment. It was really deep, but the surface area was so small, even with only two ducks, they looked cramped. But what I hated most was all the water waste – 150 gallons is A LOT of water, we didn’t have a good place for it to drain, and it killed me to waste that much water every few days. Besides the waste, the time involved in waiting for it to drain and then filling it back up was just insane compared to the 5 minutes it took to clean the little kiddie pool. We only filled this tank up a couple times before giving up on it.
Then, just to complicate matters, we decided to add two more ducks! So we went back to the kiddie pool idea, but got a MUCH bigger one. This new one is 5 feet across and about 10 inches deep, it holds about 130 gallons. The ducks loved having all the surface area to swim, and the water is just deep enough to dive a little bit. This pool is much harder to dump than the small pool and takes forever to fill, but it didn’t have to be changed as often (I could dump it once or twice a week vs four-five times a week with the small pool) and we still had the water waste issue going on. So over this winter, I am drawing up plans to install a drain in the bottom connected to a series of pipes to bring the used water to our orchard. Wish us luck, I’ll keep you posted as we undertake this engineering feat! **edited to add – my brilliant drain idea did not work, the walls of the pool were too thin to properly support it – back to the drawing board!**
Want even more ducky inspiration?
These are some of my favorite duck ponds from around the web!
I love the landscaping around this duck pool found on HomesteadSurvival.com
I love how this woman on ThriftyFun.com made a beautiful ramp and drain area for her stock tank (and it’s a shallower, more manageable size than the one we have!)
This is a great idea I saw on BackyardChickens.com, the waterfall feature not only looks pretty, it keeps the water circulating to keep it cleaner and keeps mosquitos from gathering.
Look at this cute duck pool & sundeck from FarmYourBackyard!
I’d love to hear about your duck set up!