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Ducks in general but mostly ducks in winter ...  RSS feed

 
Deb Stephens
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Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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We have a lot of animals. We love them all and have never had any problem maintaining them in good health year round. This year we decided--for the very first time in the 25 years we've been homesteading--to get ducks. They are incredibly fun to watch and they pretty much keep us in stitches with their antics, but my god!!! they are messy!!! We clean their pool (3' deep x 12' diameter) twice weekly--that's 1700 gallons of water that goes to water our gardens (mostly) while we work on figuring out and building a filtration system to save on water. (We don't have a bog garden, but if this keeps up, we may have to consider one.) That is the first problem we've been working on (ideas for duck ponds with gray-water systems more than welcome), but what we are scratching our heads over is how in the heck do we keep them happily swimming in the winter without building a heated pool room over them?! What do you old duck keepers (old hands at duck-keeping, rather ... not OLD duck keepers ) do with your ducks in winter where it gets cold, icy and snowy? I imagine some of you just put the ducks in the freezer, but that is not an option for us. We are vegetarians and have them for the eggs.

One slightly different thing I am wondering about is how likely it is that they will hear the call of the wild and head south the first time a few mallards fly over in the autumn. Any stories on that front?
 
Marissa Creston
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Location: Flathead, Montana
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how in the heck do we keep them happily swimming in the winter without building a heated pool room over them?!


Ducks are very hardy. They do not need a heated shelter. I keep my flock in an insulated but unheated coop and they do just fine. And our winters are quite cold with temperatures that frequently dip below zero and can drop as low as -40F. Obviously, they don't venture outside much when the weather is particularly bitter, but give it a few degrees or a little sunshine and they are happy to spend all day outside. Nor do they need a pool. They can manage with a bucket. They just need enough depth to clean their bills out. But if you wish, you can keep them swimming for a bit longer with either a pond aerator or a pond deicer.

One slightly different thing I am wondering about is how likely it is that they will hear the call of the wild and head south the first time a few mallards fly over in the autumn. Any stories on that front?


Most domestic duck breeds are too heavy to fly, much less to fly south! So unless you purchased actual mallards, you should be just fine
 
Nicole Alderman
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For my ducks during the winter they had access to water in three forms:

(1) Our big pond. Much of it froze over (we're zone 7b) but they kept the area they swam in the most, free of ice. I also broke it with a metal pole a few times. The pond was totally not a necessity, and they only had access to it last year, but they did enjoy it. And, since it's fed by a stream during the winter, it was really low maintenance for me!

(2) A pail. This I keep in their duck house. We do the deep litter method and I half bury the pail in the bedding so the bedding acts as insulation. I also usually fill the pail with hot water from our tap (it cools to warm just by touching the cold pail), so that the water stays warm longer. Their house is not insulated, and my husband often insists that they get a heat lamp when it gets cold, but I'm pretty sure it's not really necessary most of the time...

(3) A large tray/"pan"/plastic drawer. Usually 2 feet by 2 foot and 3 inches deep. I fill up one or two of these for them to splash and bathe in during the day, dump it at night, and refill the next day. This makes for less water/ice everywhere. These are the same bathing tray/pan/plastic drawers that I use all year round. I change the water every day (when I didn't, my ducks came down with wet feather, which was dreadful and one duck died from it and another almost did). I like the smaller pans for them because they are big enough for the duck to swim in there, while small enough that I can give them clean water daily without wasting too much water. I tend to move their placement around, too, from tree to tree that looks like it needs more water &/or fertilizer. By moving them, I also encourage the ducks to forage more around the new placement, and it also decreases the damage they do to the soil around the tray.

I did notice, though, that when the daily temperatures stayed under freezing, their trays would freeze during the day, especially if they weren't in the sun. Thankfully, for me, that's only a few days/year.
 
Travis Johnson
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As Marrissa said, they do not need a pool of water to swim in during the winter. We keep ours in an insulated coop with the chickens and their own heat keeps the place from freezing unless it dips below -0 degrees (F). What few times it does that is not all that bad frankly, and as she also said they are VERY hardy compared to chickens.

As for your water issue, the problem we found is actually the pool itself. When we switched from a plastic pool to a pond...roughly the same size but dug out of earth, a lot of problems went away. We were swapping out the water every other day, but now with earth it needs no water change out. Over the course of a week it slowly drains, so we just refill it again with the hose. It is about 1/3 the water we used before. It just does not slime up like it did with plastic as a liner either. And the ducks love it; they just wade into their natural little pond and dabble and swim, bathe and...well we all know ducks mate when in the water!

All this we discovered by accident when we dug out for a barn, needed a might more dirt to fill a low spot and in doing so created one where it did not matter. Spring rains filled this up and the ducks were forever grateful. Now that I know this, my ducks will NEVER have a plastic pool again, but a real dirt pond. Even if it is not ideal clay and drains out, far better for them to fill it occasionally then have sludge induced plastic.
 
Deb Stephens
Posts: 398
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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Thanks for the info everyone!

Travis Johnson wrote:As for your water issue, the problem we found is actually the pool itself. When we switched from a plastic pool to a pond...roughly the same size but dug out of earth, a lot of problems went away. We were swapping out the water every other day, but now with earth it needs no water change out. Over the course of a week it slowly drains, so we just refill it again with the hose. It is about 1/3 the water we used before. It just does not slime up like it did with plastic as a liner either. And the ducks love it; they just wade into their natural little pond and dabble and swim, bathe and...well we all know ducks mate when in the water!

All this we discovered by accident when we dug out for a barn, needed a might more dirt to fill a low spot and in doing so created one where it did not matter. Spring rains filled this up and the ducks were forever grateful. Now that I know this, my ducks will NEVER have a plastic pool again, but a real dirt pond. Even if it is not ideal clay and drains out, far better for them to fill it occasionally then have sludge induced plastic.


Travis, We did the same thing with the pond at first--we had been making a "borrow pit" in the top of our garden for years, using the soil there to create raised beds in another part of the garden with the idea of eventually making some sort of decorative pond with fish or just for local wildlife use. It held water for quite awhile after each rain and when we got ducks, they would happily waddle over and wade in. We also dumped their tiny kiddie pool there before we got the larger pool.

The problem, or rather the two problems we had with that idea were these ...
1 - The pond was at the top of the garden, so every time we emptied the pool or it rained for a few days, water would overflow into the beds below it. That was fine when the garden needed water, but we got so much rain this spring the garden was already water-logged and the excess was drowning the plants closest to it. (Plus, all the duck poop was over fertilizing a lot of it!) We dug out a diverter ditch to channel the overflow away from the garden, but then we discovered that we had a second problem.
2 - One day, we found one of the ducks dead lying on the bank. The water was apparently becoming anerobic from having no vegetation or aeration in it (This was an accidental pond, remember--it was not ready for that yet.) and we think she died from botulism. The next day we fenced off that area and planted cattails in it. We intend to eventually do what we had planned and make a real pond, but that has to wait for a time when we don't have a zillion other projects to complete. Meanwhile the cattails are thriving--as are many other weeds that like the damp--and we don't have overflow problems in the garden.

So ... for now we're working on a way to turn a couple of barrels into gigantic filters (one to remove the solids and one to clarify) with the idea of pumping the cleaned water back in instead of dumping it. However, I think the idea of just having them make do with buckets for winter is a good one. They do love their pool, but they'll survive without it for one winter and by the next, maybe (fingers crossed) we can have a natural pond for them to play in in winter. Who knew ducks would be so much trouble?! (And expense!) I wish I had known, but they are soooo cute.
 
Skandi Rogers
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Location: Denmark 57N
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I have muscovy ducks, (a pair and then up to 20 ducklings) who live outside in summer free range, with access to both the chicken waterers and a small pool they can clean in, but in winter they live in a horse stable (only the adults, the others live in the freezer) with only a water bucket. They simply throw too much water around to let them have a pool in winter, and they cannot stay outside as they would just turn their area into a mud bath, in the warm spells and a ice rink in the cold times!
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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we too get down to -30f in winter. they only get a heated waterer in the winter and they're fine . if we get a usually warm day i might fill a large feed  bowl with hot water outside and let them bathe. then put them back once they have dried. don't have to do this tho.
 
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