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Ducks won't use pond

 
                              
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Hello!  This is my first post, I'm excited to have found this forum!

We recently got 4 ducks and a guinea hen from a friend who was moving.  She didn't have a pond for them, she just used one of those big black round feed troughs and filled it up twice a day.  We have all of our downspouts piped to one place in the yard, so we decided to make the hole around the end of the pipe bigger to make a pond.  The hope was that when it rains, it will clean the pond for us somewhat, since we don't have a pump or filter or anything for it.  Currently it's just a big hole with no plants growing around it, but before we expanded it there were plenty of tall grasses and other plants that we hope will come back.  And if that doesn't work out we can try a baby pool or the like until we get a good working pond going in the area that will eventually be an orchard/food forest.

Anyway, we kept them penned up with a large bucket of water for a few days so they would know where to come for food and hopefully shelter at night.  Yesterday was the first day we let them free-range.  They went near the pond and ate around the edges, and the two Cayugas got in it, but then immediately got out.  Them getting out coincided with also spotting a kitten who was coming over to check them out, and the male lunged at the kitten.  They have not gotten back in since. 

Behind the house they found a large litter box that I'd taken outside to wash and dry in the sun, but I forgot about it and it filled with water.  The dog likes to drink out of it, lol.  The ducks found it and had a blast splashing and swimming in it.

So I'm wondering two things- maybe the pond is too deep and they don't realize they can swim because they've never been in water deep enough to swim?  Or they associate the pond with kittens appearing?  OR maybe there's something wrong with the water in the pond.  We have seen puddles around the house occasionally that have an oily sheen to them but we have no idea why.  Not all puddles are that way.  So maybe there's oil or something in the pond water that is making them sink?  And if that was the case, would some kind of greywater cleaning/planting area help?  Would it be a bad idea to put the water from all of the downspouts through that type of system whenever it rains?  Any book suggestions?  I've read some, but can always read more, of course. 

Thank you for any insight you may have!

Kathryn
 
Marissa Little
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Ducks seem to me to be overly cautious about stuff.  Give it a few days.  They really love to muck up any water they can and I bet they will be back.  I bet it'll be 3 or 4 days sometimes when I never see a duck in the pond.  Then the next morning all 30 of them are packed in there like sardines.

Do make sure they can get in and out easily.  We've actually had ducks get waterlogged and start to sink when they haven't been able to get out of a pond.
 
Tyler Ludens
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It could be the sides are too steep and they don't feel safe wading out in it.  Can you build a little gravel or sand beach for them with a very gradual slope?



 
Dale Hodgins
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   I suspect that your ducks prefer lots of natural cover that they can scurry to in the event of predator attack. A willow tree or some other tree or bush which likes water could give them what they need. Then again it may just be the kitten as ducks are skittish.

   Just like airplanes every type of bird has a preferred glide path and takeoff angle. It may be that your little pond is far enough below the surrounding landscape that they are forced to run to the rim to get airborne in the event of attack. They aren't helicopters so your pond may provide a takeoff angle which is too steep. You seldom see wild ducks put themselves in a position where they cannot immediately take flight.

   If you can come up with a type of farmyard duck which will permanently stay out of swimming ponds you'll be an instant millionaire since they would be in huge demand worldwide.
 
                              
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Thank you for the replies!  I think a more gradual slope inward would definitely help and we will be working on that.  Hopefully the tractor digging in the pond won't put them off it forever, lol!

Dale, I will have to think about the takeoff angle thing.  Would it help if the pond were more rectangular than square?  I think right now it's roughly 10 x 10-ish, maybe a bit bigger.  There are some trees that hang over it, but not as far down as a willow would.  The pond is right along the edge of the forest.  They love walking along the edge of the pond and heading back into the woods.  They really like standing on a pile of dirt between the pond and woods where they can see all around.  Hmm, come to think of it we had an issue with the pipe outlet ending up lower than the top edge of the pond, so the water isn't even with the ground, it's 2-3 feet lower.  So maybe they don't like that they can't see who is coming and feel like they're in a hole.  We're planning on fixing that this week, along with making the slope more gradual, hopefully that will help!

Thanks again!
 
Burra Maluca
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We have a duck called Spot who belongs to my son, so we're not allowed to eat him.  He was raised with chickens and he never really got the hang of water.  He believes he is a chicken and would perch precariously on the edge of their water tub staring in confusion at the water wondering why he was mysteriously drawn to it even though all the other chickens had no interest.  Eventually he would fall in, as his feet aren't really the right shape for perching, and he would panic and flap like crazy until he'd escaped, and then he'd run into the chicken house to hide in shame. 

We've recently bought more ducks - youngsters - and we're using him as a 'foster dad'.  He wasn't very happy about not being with his chickens but he's trying to make the best of things.  These young ducks aren't shy about jumping into their water tub, but dear Spot still freaks out if he's too close to the tub when they jump in and any of the water splashes on him.  He will literally run away from the splashes and hide out at the far end of their run, gazing wistfully at the chickens in their run for a while before taking a deep breath and waddling back to the ducklings to make yet another doomed attempt to fit in with them. 

I'm beginning to suspect that ducks, like children, are best raised in an appropriate environment where they can interact with all the things that they are naturally supposed to interact with, and are allowed to explore and express their natural curiosity without inappropriate peer pressure. 
 
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