If you’ve decided to keep a duck as a pet, you already know that there are plenty of things you have to prepare that might prove to be just a bit difficult. After all, it’s all fun and games with an adorable feathery ball of fluff until the duck starts quacking up a storm or leaving their, well, “leavings” everywhere.
But by far one of the biggest issues facing domestic duck owners looking to keep our feathered friends as pets is that of water. We compare someone being a natural at something as “taking to it like a duck to water,” but does that mean you need to be drowning in pond upkeep costs? Does your duck need water at all?
The answer to the second question is easy – yes, they do. Ducks need water to be happy because floating on the water is a natural part of their daily routine. In addition, ducks commonly dip their heads in water, making it all the more important to have some on hand.
But does it really need to be a full-size pond? Well, that depends on how you define a “pond,” and what kind of watery setup you have.
So let’s take a closer look at what’s foul and fair among watery setups for our water fowl friends.
About Ducks and Water
As mentioned above, ducks like water, but why? That may seem like a strange question to ask, but it’s really at the heart of the matter here. We all need water, but what is it about ducks and how they live that makes water an especially important part of their lives?
Ducks love a good drink of water, for one thing, drinking as much as one liter per day. But the big answer lies in the fact that they use water to keep their bills and eyes along with their feathers in good shape. Wetting their eyes and bills are an essential part of their health and wellness. While you may not need a whole pond for that, you do definitely need enough water for them to dunk their whole head into comfortably, or to float upon, dip down, and bathe.
This is why a little puddle or simply spritzing them with water simply won’t do. They need enough water to at least simulate a pond experience.
While ducks definitely need water to live and thrive, there are a couple of misconceptions about this that might muddy the waters. For one thing, when it comes to the amount of water set aside for your ducks, many people think that bigger is better – and that’s simply not true. For one thing, quality matters over quantity – you don’t want your ducks swimming in a nasty polluted mess, and they definitely don’t want to swim in such filth, either.
On the other hand, this gives rise to the idea that ponds are indeed necessary for keeping ducks, this is also fiction. Again, more water doesn’t mean better water, and in fact a greater amount can make it harder to keep things clean.
While ducks can get dirty in pond water faster than you might imagine, what’s really necessary here isn’t simply them having a place to wash off, but being able to wash their mucous membranes. If they can’t do this, they will start to feel dried out and unhealthy. This is also true given the fact that ducks will sometimes flap around in the dirt to try and rid themselves of parasites or stay cool. Once they’re done with that, they need to wash off, and a tiny glass of water won’t cut it – they need a pool, if not a pond, that can accommodate their whole body.
Kiddie Pools Versus Baths
Of course, this naturally begs the question of how you can create that “pond experience” in the absence of a pond. There are plenty of different receptacles that you can fill with water, but some are better-suited to this purpose than others.
For starters, kiddie swimming pools are far and away one of the best pond substitutes for pet ducks. These pools can typically hold at least 20 cm, which is more than enough for your average pet duck to dip their heads into and float, swim, bathe, and enjoy the rest of their pond experience on a micro level. The other nice thing about a kiddie swimming pool is that they are small enough to be convenient on your end. You can fill it up, empty it out, and move it around as needed.
On the flip side, while Sesame Street’s Ernie with his Rubber Ducky Song is iconic, baths aren’t the best for your duck fiends, especially for ducklings. While the sides of a kiddie pool are relatively shallow and thus easy for the ducks to get out of, bath sides are much steeper, slicker, and in most cases cannot be scaled as easily. We may think of ducks as incredibly buoyant and great swimmers, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t drown. That’s incredibly sad to think about, but that’s why it’s so important to make sure that it never happens, and why you want to go with kiddie pools over baths.
Putting Ducks at Ease for Life and Mating
Finally, there’s the fact that water is simply a huge part of ducks’ everyday life, and they’d just feel wrong without it. After all, ducks spend so much time on the water that it can be hard to imagine them not being there for many. Even if you keep ducks domestically, there is a fair chance that your ducks still spend as much time as you allow in watery pools, swimming and splashing and leading their ducky lives. If you don’t provide your ducks with water, they’ll sense that something is fundamentally wrong with the balance of their life, and their mental as well as physical health will start to suffer.
Then there’s the fact that ducks tend to prefer the water when mating. After all, if water is where ducks feel most comfortable, and mating is all about two ducks sharing, well, “comfort,” it makes sense that they’d want to stay by the pond or poolside.
That means if you are planning on breeding ducks, you need to make sure that you not only have a source of water for them, but one which can accommodate both of your breeding ducks at the same time. If that calls for a larger kiddie pool, so be it. Pools of at least 5 feet and 130 gallons can be more than enough to make a pair of ducks feel like they have adequate space for their “water activities.”
Of course, while ponds in nature aren’t regularly cleaned, you probably don’t want to subject your pet ducks to a scummy, filthy pool – and you don’t want to have to have that on your property for your own reasons. You’ll thus want to clean your pool regularly when the ducks aren’t settled atop the water.
A duck may not need a massive pond, but they do certainly need a pool of water to feel comfortable. By following these easy guides, you can take to duck owning like a duck takes to water.