Do I need a large pond or large lake?
While we have all heard the phrase "She took to it like a duck to water," meaning put a duck in water and instinctively, they will swim. Naturally ducks need water for survival and to thrive, but you can put your shovel down before you start digging a pond in your backyard.
Ducks do not require large bodies of water to survive; they only need water deep enough to submerge their entire head. This aspect made them popular for backyards and suburban homesteaders. Although a pond or lake is acceptable, it is not necessary.
What to Use for Water
I prefer plastic water tubs or kiddie swimming pools more than a fixed stock tub. A duck's water source needs cleaned daily to keep out the muck, debris and bacteria; tubs and pools dump and wash easier. Ducks like to splash, dunk their heads and get in and out of the water a lot; moving the pools around will help control the mess and won't kill the grass as quickly.
After many trials, messes and mud, we discovered the pea gravel and pool method works best for us. We screwed four 2x4's (each piece cut 5 feet long) and made a square to lay on the ground. Next up, we filled the square with pea gravel and placed the tub or pool on top. Now it's ready to fill with water! All of the water drains down threw the rock and the ducks can splash, play and preen themselves without the mud and litter mess.
Another quick tip: Have a hose near your duck pen for easier and faster clean-up.
Why Ducks Need Water
The happy duck is a healthy duck. Ducks are happier with water; whether it is a pond, lake, kiddie pool or plastic tub. This will keep them healthier for many reasons...
Ducks need water to eat and keep their mucous membranes moist and clean. Ducks like to dig in the mud for worms but must have clean water to clean their bills and swallow their food. If a duck goes too long without water, it will die.
Ducks need clean water to preen and bathe themselves. This will keep them free of pest and also activates their oil gland distributing waterproofing oil over their feathers; used for swimming and regulating their body temperature. Preening also keeps their feathers healthy.
Ducks use water for their bodily maintenance which keeps them healthier and happier. Managing their waters daily, will stop bacteria contamination and diseases in your duck.
Duck prefer water for fertile mating. When I clean and refill the waters daily, the drakes start mating with the hens as they hear the water running. We do not always keep our drakes and hens together; breeding can be sometimes be hard on the hens. Our ducks appearance is important for exhibition but their health is a priority on our farm.