Ducks are hardy animals that can thrive in virtually any condition. Provide them with protection, clean water, food, and open space, and they’ll survive without much attention.
That said, one question most newbie duck owners ask themselves is the environmental requirement for these aquatic birds. They can swim, fly, and walk, so do ducks need a pond?
Well, ponds aren’t a necessity for these animals. However, they enjoy splashing on bodies of water and need a constant water source to keep their mucous membrane from drying out.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. So in this post, we’ll discuss all you need to know about ducks; their natural habitat, nature, safety, and everything related to ponds, so keep reading!
Ducks are a subspecies of Anatidae, a waterfowl family consisting of several bird species, such as geese and swans. Experts identify three types of ducks: dabblers, divers, and perching.
Dabblers are the most common domestic duck species. This type of duck primarily feeds along the water surface, eating insects, vegetation, aquatic plants, and larvae.
Nevertheless, while we call them waterfowl, most ducks won’t need a pond to be happy, so you won’t have to start digging holes in your yard.
However, they still need enough water to maintain their physical health. A duck without access to water can experience extreme dehydration and even exhibit destructive behaviors.
Remember: they need water to keep their mucus membrane moist. They also need moisture to keep their eyes, beaks, nostrils, feet, feathers, and legs in good condition.
Ideally, ducks should live near bodies of water, like ponds and rivers. And it’d be a great advantage to have access to these resources to better care for your ducks.
Creating artificial pools or basins of water might be beneficial for your ducks. But this solution can be costly, and the maintenance can be demanding.
So how big of a pond or a water source should you really provide your ducks?
As mentioned above, ducks don’t need a full-fledged pond to survive. They just need enough water to avoid dehydration and keep essential parts of their bodies from drying out.
Practically speaking, you’d only need a water supply deep enough for the ducks to bathe. They should be able to stick their heads into the water and wash their bodies.
That said, buckets of water or a kiddie pool should be enough for most ducks. Just make sure to regularly replace the water, as these feathered creatures tend to excrete where they swim.
Moreover, they also usually drink the water they’re swimming in. And contaminated water can lead to several health issues for these birds, such as hyperkeratosis and skin and foot diseases.
With this in mind, you should constantly refill their basin with clean, fresh water. You can also use modified drinking cups to prevent them from drinking contaminated water.
It’s natural for ducklings to want to swim when they spot bodies of water. They’ll dip in it as long as it’s wet—even in shallow basins containing their drinking water.
Swimming may be in their nature, but you shouldn’t let newly hatched ducks wander into the water just yet. They might appear cute floating in the water, but they’re vulnerable to it.
You see, adult ducklings have an oil gland at the base of their tails. This gland is why these birds have water-resistant feathers, preventing water molecules from seeping.
Ducklings, however, aren’t hatched with a fully functional oil gland. For this reason, water can effortlessly flood their still-developing feathers, which can affect their overall health.
When ducklings hatch, they typically have soft feathers. These feathers are excellent at keeping the ducklings warm, but they aren’t as pliable or water-resistant as the feathers of an adult duck.
With this in mind, you should refrain from releasing ducklings into the water immediately after hatching. Wait a few weeks before exposing your ducklings to open water.
Young ducks will develop their preen gland two to four weeks after hatching. Before this time, the only liquid you should give them access to is their drinking water.
You may introduce them to light swimming in shallow water at two weeks old. Make sure the water level doesn’t exceed the ducklings’ heights and that they can walk in and out of the water.
A wide shallow bowl or a kiddie pool with one to two inches of water is an excellent starter. Prepare a warm, dry bed for your ducklings after swimming to prevent health issues.
It’s best to pick a warm day when introducing ducklings to deeper water. Avoid using cold water and place their warm bed or heat lamp where they can easily find it.
The preening gland of your ducklings should function properly after one month. You may allow them access to open water without supervision during this stage.
Don’t wait too long before introducing swimming to these aquatic birds. Studies revealed that the lack of access to water could inhibit a duck’s preen gland development.
It turns out that the more you expose them to open water, the faster their oil gland develops. And the earlier they learn to swim, the quicker they adapt preening behaviors.
Like other migrating birds, ducks are vital in balancing an ecosystem. Their diet and migrating behaviors serve numerous purposes in the biodiversity of life in a pond, river, or wetland.
One key role of ducks in the environment is they bring new species to another ecosystem, such as fish, plants, and frogs. They help keep the environment healthy by adding life to it.
Their diet also helps regulate species that can otherwise disturb the balance of the ecosystem. Ducks eat pond weeds, snails, worms, small amphibians, and crustaceans.
They’re excellent pest control, as they consume larvae floating in the water. If you find your pond full of pesky insects, like mosquitoes, releasing a few dozen ducks should do the trick.
Apart from insects, ducks can help minimize algae and invasive aquatic plants, like hyacinths or water lilies. These seemingly harmless birds will help control snake and frog populations as well.
Ducks live, eat, and secrete waste in the water like most creatures thriving in similar areas. Their poop contains excess nutrients, which can encourage algae bloom and water pollution.
These birds can defecate multiple times, lowering your pond’s water quality. The type and size of your pond and the population of ducks present can add to or minimize this particular issue.
These aquatic birds are the avian equivalent of rabbits in the wild. So, aside from food and shelter, owners should consider the countless animals preying on ducks.
One effective way to protect your ducks from predators is to fence your pond. A good barricade will hold your ducks inside the area and keep predators from entering.
The fence should be tall enough to prevent raccoons, skunks, badgers, and other predators from jumping over. So, you’d need to have at least a six-foot-tall barrier for the best protection.
The enclosure shouldn’t have spaces where predators can crawl or squeeze through. You can try using mesh wires or netting materials for this purpose.
Knowing what ducks can and cannot eat is essential. These creatures are curious eaters, nibbling and eating plants in their surroundings.
That said, the typical pond vegetation should be safe for your birds to eat. Plants like greater pond sedge, water celery, broadleaf arrowhead, smooth frogbit, and pond weed are safe.
However, you’d also want to avoid several yard plants, which are toxic to birds and poultry. Some examples of these poisonous plants are ragwort, tulips, and hydrangeas.
Ducks are fascinating birds to have as a pet or poultry. While they require more work and investment than other poultry, these waterfowls lay healthier and more eggs than chickens.
That said, you don’t need a pond when taking care of these birds. Provide them with enough water for their necessities, and you’re good to go!
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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