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Designing duck ponds

 
pollinator
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I am looking at building some duck paddocks.

I intend to dig a series of ponds, one for each paddock.

So far, all my ponds hold water through the summer at depths of between 6 and 9ft below surface; they will very slowly refill if drained below this point.

So, there will be substantial pond-shore areas that are flooded for 6ish months of the year, and exposed during the remainder. I have very clay-rich subsoil followed by nearly pure clay; it has held up for a full year year as 100% vertical dropoff 14ft tall on my oldest pond edge, but this seems a suboptimal long-term plan.


QUESTION 1: What would you consider a good slope for this application, allowing for ducks to forage on it without collapse, bearing in mind the ponds will be at least 12ft deep from surface level?


QUESTION 2: What would you plant in this seasonally submerged area? Especially the deeper parts...


QUESTION 3: I intend for each pond to have a deeper center section surrounded by a foraging 'shelf' at a depth that will be a good fit for summer foraging. How deep do think this should be?

I understand all domestic ducks barring muscovies to be descended from mallards, which are a dabbling duck, and don't dive to forage deeper in the water. Question being, what is the ideal depth range for dabbling?
 
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How many ducks will you have? How will you plan to clean the water?

I sometimes let my ducks into my pond. They haven't been in my pond (which is probably over 1,000 sqft and 5-10 feet deep) for over a month. That was 12 ducks using it. The pond is STILL brown and mucky, even after all this rain. There's lots of plants in there, but they just can't clean that much poop. It won't clear up until it has water flowing out of it.

The first year I let them in the pond during the "dry season," I hadn't realized how bad it had gotten and they started getting wetfeather. I actually had one duck die from wet feather. She couldn't keep herself dry. I was devastated.

For a while, we tried to do a duckaponics system. We had 8 ducks in a 6x6x4 pound. My husband is a fishkeeper and very skilled at filtration. He set up a nice big gravel filter for it. It could not handle that amount of poop. It would get nasty in a few days, and then we'd have to do a giant water change that clogged the drain. We gave up on that idea!

Right now, I just fill trays of water that are 2-6 inches deep and about 1.5 feet wide. The ducks bath in these. (They also have deep pails to drink out of.). I dump the water out every day or two to keep it fresh. It seems that I need about 1 tray to 5 ducks if I change it that frequently. I often move the trays around, sometimes from one fruit tree to another, so the dumping of the water gives nutrients and water to the tree. With the trays, I can keep my ducks clean and healthy. Sure, they LOVE the pond much more, but having them sick is not something I want. Plus, the bobcat keeps eating them when they splash around there...

Anyway, I don't really have answers to your question. I can say ducks like to dive at least as deep as their body is long. 2 feet deep would probably be all they need. For the shallower areas, anywhere from 1 inch to 12 inches is probably good. Mine dabble happily in puddles.

We have in the deeper areas of our pond, lilies. They were planted by the original owner. They have not been destroyed by the ducks, despite much foraging. I have no idea if these are the best plants for the application, as they aren't edible. But, they are pretty and survived the ducks...

I honestly don't know what to plant in seasonlly submerged areas, other than what's still alive in my pond, which is grasses, sitka willow, salmonberry, horsetail, and some sort of jewelweed relative. There's probably much better plants. I've never tried to introduce plants to the pond, as I want to keep it more natural and haven't had time.

My pond has some sloped banks and some nearly vertical ones. They enjoy poking into the vertical walls to get bugs. For the shallower edges, I've noticed that over time the ducks have turned them into steeper embankments. They're now having a harder time getting out. I would definitely have some slightly sloped angles, much like you'd see at a beach or lake edge where people wade into the water. Something like 15 degrees? The ducks might end up making that steeper over time, so it's probably best to keep it less steep?
 
Dillon Nichols
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Thanks for all those thoughts!

I will probably start with a handful of layers for personal use as that is most useful to me right now.

I think meat ducks would suit the seasonal nature of forage availability better, *if* my setup works well enough to scale up. I would hope

I will probably have only 1-2 ponds to start, and rotate the ducks to a dry pen with a kiddie pool while I try and get some life going in the pond/s and figure out all the other details. So far my young ponds have a really impressive array of bugs and amphibs very soon after construction, but no truly aquatic plant life.


The first pond meant for this use has most of the deep part dug, I would guess it is around 4-5000 square feet at 11ish feet below ground, meaning about 5ft deep in late august in this coolish, wettish summer.

It is a weird almost-L shape, probably be more of a C when done; lots of edge. I will dig the shallower slope once I get all that spoil moved/spread, which is the slower part. Perhaps it will be an 18k sf pond in the winter with all the sloped edges?

Excellent point about the erosive aspect of ducks. Maybe I will try a mix of very shallow slopes with sheer cliffs. The cliffs might collapse.. but they would be hard for a duck to erode! I would like to avoid regularly redigging out the pond bottom to counter erosion, due to toxic badness from the machine, and of course cost, and disruption of pondlife..


Your pond has not cleared up in a month; how long were the ducks in there for? And what type are yours? What depth is the pond? Any sort of metrics like this are a great starting point!



I have seen ducks really trash ponds before. I haven't seen a setup with more than one pond to enable rotation. I am hoping that if I get the pond size/population/length of stay/length of rest correct, that the pond will bounce back super fast and be highly productive with all the duck goop..

Kind of like figuring out how long to graze a pasture, but harder to gauge visually..

If recovery is excessively slow, I will not spend the time and money to dig many more pond for this purpose. However, I am digging ponds anyhow, to provide irrigation water and fire control water, and drainage, and.. So, the duck scheme is not the sole justification for ponding, but it does complicate and increase costs vs ponds not placed and designed for ducks.



Other than this, my backup tools for cleaning the water will be pumping out dirty water to trees and fields, and pumping in clean from a duckless pond. The water table is higher and recharge rate faster, if I go another ~150 metres northeast. This is much too far from my zone 1 for predator protection, but a good place to source replacement water..

 
Nicole Alderman
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Dillon Nichols wrote:
Your pond has not cleared up in a month; how long were the ducks in there for? And what type are yours? What depth is the pond? Any sort of metrics like this are a great starting point!



We have mallard-type ducks (a banyard mix of ancona, magpie, runner, white layer, blue sweedish and cayuga). The ducks had been there, off and on, since October or November of the year before. As long as new water was flowing in, the water stayed relatively clean. Once the seasonal creek dried up, the pond stopped filling enough to drain out. That happened sometime in...late May? Early June?  The pond was filthy by the time I fell into it. That was July 31st. The pond was still at least 5 feet deep (I was up to my neck in it) and the deeper parts are a good two+ feet deeper than that.

I found some pictures of my ponds in this thread.

Pond when it's full:



Pond when it's about as deep as it was when I fell in:





The pictures only show about 2/3rds of the pond. There's a bit more to the left behind the bushes there. It's a pretty big pond! If the mucky picture is 5 feet deep, the whole pond is 15+ feet deep at it's fullest. And, I only has 8-13 ducks in it. My ducks haven't been in it since July 31st (when I fell in), and it still looks mucky, a month and a half later. I always provide them fresh water in their trays, even when they have access to the pond, to prevent wet feather.

This is what wetfeather looks like, all the ducks have it various degrees of severity. The one with the arrow pointing to, is Remington. We still have him, and he's all better now. But, here's what I wrote two years ago about it:

Another duck was even worse, having an open sore on her breast. We'd almost got her healed back up when she somehow managed to get in our water pail and died of hypothermia. We thankfully managed to bring Remington back from the brink with warm water baths, lots of clean water and bedding, and lots of food available right next to him so that he could recover.







I feel horrible that I did not notice what was wrong with my ducks sooner at the time. Keeping animals has a learning curve, even when you read everything you can about them before getting them (which I did!).  I don't want anyone else to learn the hard way (with their animals suffering) like I did.

So far my young ponds have a really impressive array of bugs and amphibs very soon after construction, but no truly aquatic plant life.



That life will greatly diminish once the ducks get in there! We used to have swarms of gorgeous, giant green dragonflies and smaller red ones. Now, we only see a few. The ducks eat the larve the the dragonflies lay in the water. I'm still really sad about our lack of dragonflies now. There also used to be more little frogs, and a lot more bullfrogs. Now there's much less of both of those. There's a lot less mosquitoes, too, though...
 
Dillon Nichols
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Dillon Nichols wrote:
Your pond has not cleared up in a month; how long were the ducks in there for? And what type are yours? What depth is the pond? Any sort of metrics like this are a great starting point!



We have mallard-type ducks (a banyard mix of ancona, magpie, runner, white layer, blue sweedish and cayuga). The ducks had been there, off and on, since October or November of the year before. As long as new water was flowing in, the water stayed relatively clean. Once the seasonal creek dried up, the pond stopped filling enough to drain out. That happened sometime in...late May? Early June?  The pond was filthy by the time I fell into it. That was July 31st. The pond was still at least 5 feet deep (I was up to my neck in it) and the deeper parts are a good two+ feet deeper than that.

I found some pictures of my ponds in this thread.

Pond when it's full:



Pond when it's about as deep as it was when I fell in:





The pictures only show about 2/3rds of the pond. There's a bit more to the left behind the bushes there. It's a pretty big pond! If the mucky picture is 5 feet deep, the whole pond is 15+ feet deep at it's fullest. And, I only has 8-13 ducks in it. My ducks haven't been in it since July 31st (when I fell in), and it still looks mucky, a month and a half later. I always provide them fresh water in their trays, even when they have access to the pond, to prevent wet feather.

This is what wetfeather looks like, all the ducks have it various degrees of severity. The one with the arrow pointing to, is Remington. We still have him, and he's all better now. But, here's what I wrote two years ago about it:

Another duck was even worse, having an open sore on her breast. We'd almost got her healed back up when she somehow managed to get in our water pail and died of hypothermia. We thankfully managed to bring Remington back from the brink with warm water baths, lots of clean water and bedding, and lots of food available right next to him so that he could recover.







I feel horrible that I did not notice what was wrong with my ducks sooner at the time. Keeping animals has a learning curve, even when you read everything you can about them before getting them (which I did!).  I don't want anyone else to learn the hard way (with their animals suffering) like I did.

So far my young ponds have a really impressive array of bugs and amphibs very soon after construction, but no truly aquatic plant life.



That life will greatly diminish once the ducks get in there! We used to have swarms of gorgeous, giant green dragonflies and smaller red ones. Now, we only see a few. The ducks eat the larve the the dragonflies lay in the water. I'm still really sad about our lack of dragonflies now. There also used to be more little frogs, and a lot more bullfrogs. Now there's much less of both of those. There's a lot less mosquitoes, too, though...



That is definitely bigger than my mental image from your previous post! Looks lovely, but not to fall into!


Yes, the ducks will happily eat all those neat and helpful critters... but, the ducks will only get access to the duck ponds. So far I have started 3 non-duck ponds, with plans for more; there will be *much* more aquatic habitat than when I arrived, even writing off the duck ponds as being only for ducks and duck-food! I am hoping an epic dragonfly population will keep down the skeeters... we'll see!

(When I bought the place last spring, there were no ponds, but a raised depression would hold water into spring.. I found it full of dead tadpoles when it dried out, and dug a pond on that spot a few weeks later. So many more frogs this year than last!)
 
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