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How to maintain a duck pond and what to plant?

 
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My husband and I dug a duck pond in our front yard, it's about 24 feet long by 20 feet wide and holds roughly 10,000 gallons. Where we dug it is clay soil so it holds water without the need of a liner. We are planning on having a flock of 10 ducks this year that will be free ranged and have full access to the pond. We are wondering what the best way to maintain the pond will be.

We live off grid so we have limited electricity, we are planning on buying a solar aerator to add oxygen to the water. I like the idea of using a sump pump in the pond to irrigate and fertilize our orchard and garden and then refilling the pond to keep the water somewhat fresh. I'm not sure how often we should do that though. I'm planning on setting up a large rainwater catchment system that we can eventually use to refill the pond so we don't have to use our well as often. We live in western Washington and get alot of rainfall. I would love to use plants to help filter things but it sounds like ducks will eat most aquatic plants so I'm not sure how feasible that is.

Having a filter that needs to run constantly isn't an option due to limited electricity. Alot of the information I see on duck ponds are for either really small 1000 gallon or less ponds or huge acre large ponds.

How quickly will 10,000 gallons get gross with 10 ducks?

 
Rusticator
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We have a clay-bottomed, unlined, human-dug, dam-finished pond. There is a leak in the dam, that we are working to fix, but other than that, it requires no maintenance. The wildlife found it, on their own, their poop apparently brought in plant life,  as well as allowing the flora grow up around the edges... We don't really do anything for it.

And WELCOME!! Good to have you, here.
 
Carla Burke
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I'm also struggling a bit, and completely missed the question on grossness. That may depend on a LOT of factors. Are you planning to stock the pond(we started doing that, last year, and discovered some fish already there)? Are you hoping to swim in it(we don't, but the local wildlife does, often)? Are you only going to keep 10 ducks (we have 16 in a roughly 1/3 - 1/2acre pond)? Frogs will likely find there way in, and will control the mosquito & other insect population, as well as creating (along with the fish, if you add them, and any wildlife) movement and oxygen. If you feel the need to create more aeration, there are quite a few solar powered pond aerators, in a variety of price ranges and efficiencies.
 
Carla Burke
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Looks like our auto-fill plan is in full swing, and we have a new visitor, today!
20240307_154651.jpg
Heron, on a rainy day visit!
Heron, on a rainy day visit!
 
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How many ducks does it take to thoroughly mess up a pond? If you ever watched the movie "The Biggest Little Farm" you might know that they dealt with this very question. If I remember correctly, their solution was to have the ducks in the orchard first thing in the morning, to eat all the snails. Then herd them off to the pond a bit later in the day, rather than letting them have access all day.

Also, maybe do some research about trying to establish duckweed as a source of food. Any plantings should be given lots of time to get thoroughly established before introducing ducks.

Ducks like water so much that they can stay in it all day, as experienced by my daughter when she converted a yucky, not-cleaned-in-years swimming pool to a duck pond. And they nibbled, picked and pulled apart whatever plants she tried to grow in the pond.

Funny story: she adopted a big one-eyed goofdog who decided to chase the ducks upon his first day home. They ran and flapped straight into the pool and, much to his surprise, so did he. So humiliated, he never even looked at them again.

Our small flock has continuous access to a very small pond, maybe 30-40 gallons. They don't spend all day in it, but when the water is changed, they definitely throw a pool party. And jumping in the water activates the eject button every time. So...clean for 10 minutes.
 
pollinator
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Hollybeth, what I propose, especially with the rainfall you get is a pluvium with, downgrade of it, some sort of rain garden you could let them access... or not, or only at times? If you had a place where to run out the water, you could have one passive transfer pump with as many hoses out as you want and start transferring/ syphoning in one then another and another until they are all going out at the same time. [I dug my pond placing the excess on the edge, so I can create a syphoning action to empty it without too much trouble].
https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.crystalinks.com%2Fromebuildings.html&psig=AOvVaw1zXEd6gzCgGByL8JGFzWxB&ust=1709950938976000&source=images&cd=vfe&opi=89978449&ved=0CBMQjRxqFwoTCICZ7ePN44QDFQAAAAAdAAAAABAE
In case you didn't know, a "pluvium" was a structure of many houses in Roman times: The roof was slanted to catch water in a central patio rather than shed it out of the patio. Beneath, they often had a cistern that they would clean occasionally and they used it for drinking water. With the amount of rainwater you get in Washington, and a pluvium, you might never have to draw water from your well.
Indeed, it is incredible the amount of water you can get from just one inch of rain on a conventional house roof.
Here is how to calculate it: https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/rain-barrel-for-rainwater-collection/5497.html
I raised some meat ducks, a dozen of them and yes, the pond did get gross but in the evening, after they went to bed [on their own!- I love ducks!] I would empty the pond, using a pump, and yes, with an electric pump. I hope permies will guide me to the perfect solar pump. They also make solar pumps, and this year, I might spend the money and get one.
My pond is 20'X10" and bout 4' deep at the deepest, so it is smaller than yours. It is also in 35 feet of sand, so I am using the biggest and thickest waterproof tarp I can afford.  I had to clean it up about once a week, with a transfer pump, and I would irrigate my apple trees with it, or just run it in the orchard [it does take a long time to empty the #$%^%$##@!! pond!]
The solar aerator is a great idea. I didn't have one, nor did I have a filter, which is quite necessary. What kind do you use/ plan to use?
I am also looking for a circulating pump, Solar if possible, of course, not really big but just to keep the water moving. I avoided mosquitos in this pond that was mostly stagnant with the use of ryegrass [much better and healthier  than other chemicals]
I had meat ducks, the white Pekin type: they make little noise and do not fly, nor can they clamber on top of obstacles very well, so they are very easy to keep.
For vegetation, if you can keep a lush lawn around it [and you should be able to with that kind of rain and the fertilizer from the ducks, they should be very happy there: they are not *always* in the water. They love clover and of course, duck weed.
I was thinking of having a floating or semi-floating island, with water cress [Nasturtium officinale] It grows well in moving water. I'm not sure how quickly ducks would demolish it, but the cress is more for me. Unless your ducks are the flying kind, you should be able to have a floating bed with the water cress roots in water? That's my dream, anyway, but you seem to be thinking along those lines too, so I thought you might like the idea.
My pluvium, as I dream it, will have very little slope but go all around the pond and be about 4 feet wide. I will probably use plywood or used pallets covered with tarp, or perhaps the 4'X8' sheets of white plastic like you have in showers.  The roof of my pluvium doesn't need to be high: Just 4ft at the highest edge and 2 ft, if that, t the lower edge.
I started making plans but I have to wait for my income to catch up to my dreams ;-)
I really want to have solar everything, too. I'm sure there will be some savvy permies to let me know what kind of solar pump will be the best. [Permies are the best!]
Since I'm retired, I'm budgeting a couple of hundred bucks/ month.
So good luck to you.
 
pollinator
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What is a pluvium
 
Carla Burke
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John C Daley wrote:What is a pluvium



Hi, John. Cécile describes it rather well, in her second paragraph.
 
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Do ducks really need a pond? I was taught that they must have clean water for washing their beaks and head. Ours get a clean tub daily and enjoy the sprinklers.
 
Carla Burke
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Cyn Stratt wrote:Do ducks really need a pond? I was taught that they must have clean water for washing their beaks and head. Ours get a clean tub daily and enjoy the sprinklers.



My understanding is the same as yours. Our ducks only 'found' our pond, recently, even though we've kept ducks, for several years, with just buckets or low wash-tubs, too small to play in.
 
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I built a house and plumbed gray water drains separately; shower, bathroom sink, utility sink, and laundry drain. So I had to do something with that water: I drained it to a circulating gray water system and added some aquaponic garden. Then the ducks came, so I expanded the aquaponic overflow to make duck ponds (only a couple hundred gallons for an average of six muscovy ducks. That water was always clear except right after they'd been bathing. The gray water circulation was very small: about 2 gallons per minute for five minutes every hour during daylight hours. That would create a "pulse" of water that would start an autosiphon at the top of the system, hydraulically speaking. That pulse would fill (and drain) a series of growing beds before flooding through the duck pond and finally returning to the bottom of the system: a coarse rock filter (softball-sized rocks), overflowing to a 500 gallon fish tank and finally a sump for the pump.

With a 10k pond, you could easily set a plastic barrel with holes in the shallows somewhere to collect water but not suck in fish, etc. Use the water for some aquaponics and dump it back in the pond: the nutrients in the water from ducks or fish will be great for whatever vegetables, etc. you might decide to grow. Don't think of the yuck as yuck, think of it as free fertilizer.
 
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Wow that´s quite a big pond, I´m sure your ducks will love it. The idea of using the water to fertilize your plants is great to. I think how often you have to change the water will depend on a lot of factors, so just keep an eye on it and you'll know when you feel like it has to be cleaned out. Remember ducks don't live in perfectly clear water in the wild, but you don't want a pond completely full of duck manure either. I would recommend adding some small minnows, pond plants like duck weed, a small solar powered fountain to airate the water, and maybe even some snails. Everything working together like it does in nature will help keep it clean longer, but with such a big pond you hopefully wont have to clean it too much at all
 
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Cade Johnson wrote:Then the ducks came...



Your setup sounds awesome, Cade!  

Do you have a thread here on permies.com, and if not, would you be willing to take a few photos and share more details of your setup?
 
Carla Burke
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George Yacus wrote:

Cade Johnson wrote:Then the ducks came...



Your setup sounds awesome, Cade!  

Do you have a thread here on permies.com, and if not, would you be willing to take a few photos and share more details of your setup?


Yes, please! I'd love to see your designs, too!
 
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We now have 10 ducklings of unknown breed, living indoors with my daughter.  They will need shelter and small pond. So I'm going to follow several threads in the forum.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Cyn Stratt wrote:Do ducks really need a pond? I was taught that they must have clean water for washing their beaks and head. Ours get a clean tub daily and enjoy the sprinklers.



Welcome to Permies, Cyn, and yes, you are correct: ducks need water deep enough to put their whole head in it so they can blow their nostrils clean.
It is if you live in an area where their water will freeze in the winter that things get complicated. Ducks can put up with a lot more cold than chickens, so the cold is not the problem, but  some water has to be kept fluid for them to blow their nostrils.
That's the main reason I have not gotten ducks to be kept over the winter, but I'm working on it. So far, I'm taking only meat ducks [White Pekins].
My pond isn't very large or deep [+/- 700 gallons], but once I make the jump and get some Khaki Campbells to get eggs from, I will have to get a de-icer for their pond. If I had a large barn, I could give them a kiddie pool and water them inside, although it would be difficult and stinky, but I don't...
I don't feel too bad about having birds that dirty their water [a lot] during the summer, because they are in an orchard, and I have designs on that dirty water: I will pour it around trees and on the rhubarb.
What kind do you have and do you live where it gets very cold in the winter?
 
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:ducks need water deep enough to put their whole head in it so they can blow their nostrils clean.



That's interesting, thanks for the info!

In terms of keeping water liquid, it obviously depends a lot of situation and local climate. If you can keep your water circulating or moving (either into and out of the pond, if it is fed by a stream or spring; or around the pond using a pump) then it will resist freezing for much longer. Perhaps a simple solar-powered pump might be a good option to try?
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Luke Mitchell wrote:

Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:ducks need water deep enough to put their whole head in it so they can blow their nostrils clean.



That's interesting, thanks for the info!

In terms of keeping water liquid, it obviously depends a lot of situation and local climate. If you can keep your water circulating or moving (either into and out of the pond, if it is fed by a stream or spring; or around the pond using a pump) then it will resist freezing for much longer. Perhaps a simple solar-powered pump might be a good option to try?




Thanks, Luke. right now, I'm using a corded pump but I did buy a solar one. I'm afraid that either corded or solar, at night, when that pump stops, it will freeze in the -40 we've had sometimes. Once I get it going, though, I would use it during the summer, to save electricity, then put it away and use the corded one. I'm thinking that a good tank de-icer might even be a better option.
My little pond isn't very deep, so freezing solid is a definite possibility.
During the winter, and especially in January, the cloud cover is on all the time. It is dreary.
 
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