Duck Ponds, Ponds and ducks, they are perfect together. Or are they?
Most constructed backyard ponds are designed and built with the intention of keeping fish and plants, not ducks. So what do we do when a pair of local ducks decides to make our pond their home? Enjoy it for a short time, take photos, then discourage the ducks from making your pond their home. DUCKS AND KOI POND WATER GARDENS?
Your backyard koi pond water garden definitely is not the place you want shared with ducks. Not that I have anything against ducks, I am not an anti-duckite. I just have seen the impact that ducks can have on our backyard koi ponds and water gardens. I am confident that there are plenty of other naturally occurring; or larger scale man-made ponds that can handle a duck or goose population. Ducks tend to enjoy plants as a food source or for bored entertainment. Ducks can quickly destroy the water garden that we have invested so much time and money on. Lilies will quickly get shredded, submerged plants uprooted, potted plants knocked over, and marginal plants trampled. Our smaller fish and invertebrates can become sources of protein for the backyard duck. Ducks spend a lot of time out of the water too and will impact the surrounding landscape. The primary reason they are at your pond is to set up a nesting site. No bueno. Ducks get a bit territorial when nesting and may not be happy about pond keepers coming by the pond. They may even exhibit aggression. Being chased by a hissing duck or goose sounds funny, until it’s you! Not the picture of serenity most of us have when planning our koi pond water garden. One of the biggest impacts in and around the pond is the waste droppings from the ducks. It can become quite a mess. Backyard koi pond water garden filter systems were not designed with this type of waste production in mind. Your pond water can become very foul (no pun, …ok it’s a pun). Forget about water clarity, and prepare for some odors to begin wafting around once you have some ducks established in your non-duck handling koi pond. You’ll find that a lot of extra time for maintenance will become necessary. Which means increased costs for water treatments, and filter materials.We should try to plan duck ponds accordingly, and leave koi out of the picture on most duck pond designs. This is not to say that a koi AND duck pond can’t be done, it can, and it is another blog at another time…
For the pond that most of us install, a duck or more can have a dramatic impact. Impacts that we may not consider when we first discover our web footed friends paddling ‘round our backyard pond. However; ducks and geese add a whole new dimension to pond keeping. With intent, planning, and purpose a “duck pond” can be constructed that will attract and support local ducks and assorted water fowl. A designer duck pond can be stocked with exotic water fowl of numerous and interesting varieties; yet still be low maintenance, beautiful, and enjoyable. The varieties waterfowl may surprise you if you are not familiar with exotic water fowl. Keeping these birds can be very rewarding. Ducks and geese can be domesticated as well. They’ll even get along with the family dog or cat. Over time they can become a pet that is close to your heart. Most water fowl have a pretty long lifespan, if you are planning a duck pond take that into consideration. Some water fowl may need winter housing, or egg laying areas, that is another consideration when building your duck pond.
PLANNING YOUR DUCK POND:
So yeah, ducks and ponds are perfect together as long as planning takes place. The first step is to plan your stock level. A pond for 3-5 birds will be a much different project than a pond for 30-50 birds. Once you figure your stock, plan how big the pond will be, and then make it bigger! Go longer than wide with your duck pond, or whatever shape appeals to you. Duck ponds don’t need to be very deep and a depth 18″-24″ should be fine to keep most ducks and geese happy. A “beach entry” should be created for easy in and out of the pond. A shallow shelf is suggested to a depth of 6″-8″. After size has been considered think about maintenance or better yet think about how much maintenance you want or are willing to do. Plan your filtration based upon that. Whatever you think you need in filtration double it!
GET THAT WATER MOVING!
A constructed or designer duck pond should definitely have water that is moving a lot and plenty aerated. Establish a skimmer or skimming zone for your duck pond so the surface of the pond is constantly swept clean. Skimming also does a tremendous job of oxygenating and degassing your water so you don’t have a smelly pond. Add a waterfall, but this time not just for the aesthetic value, this has got to be for oxygenation too. Design your waterfall for maximum water agitation. Create a waterfall with many rocks that the water has to run over to really churn things up. This will create a “white water” condition in the waterfall and that is very desirable, highly oxygenated water.
OXYGENATE, OXYGENATE, OXYGENATE
Speaking of oxygenation, you will want to install a good, no wait, an EXCELLENT aerator for the pond with multiple points of aeration within the body of the pond. This not only moves the water from the bottom of the pond to the top but its bubbling action also breaks up duck waste into smaller manageable sizes that your main filter system can process more efficiently. Submerged water jets can be installed by tapping into your pump line or by having a dedicated pump for submerged water jets. The submerged water jets also are meant to move water and break up animal waste into smaller particles, a good strong flow, and several points of output for your water jets will help the overall filtering and cleanliness of your duck pond very nicely. Gravel added to a pond with ducks can help to capture much of the waste and help to break it down, but your gravel filtration will need to be cleaned periodically as well. Be sure to use the correct size gravel with a grain size of 3/4″ – 1″. Gravel maintenance will need to be done at least every year or so.
BIOFILTRATION FOR DUCK POND
The actual bio-filtration of the pond can be tackled with any number of manufactured filters or you can construct a wetland filter (bog filter). I favor the wetland filter because of the incredible capacity it has to strip water of debris, and the powerhouse bio-filtration they offer when built correctly. The wetland filter is also aesthetically pleasing when it comes to integrating it into the overall design of the pond. The wetland filter can be planted with aquatic plants such as sweetflag and others, be sure the plants do not appeal to the palate of your birds. Again the name of the game for the bio-filtration of a duck pond is to double what you think you need!
MAINTENANCE FOR DUCK POND
The main complaint that people have when building their duck ponds is maintenance issues. Many of these issues can easily be addressed by thinking out your duck pond carefully. Do not treat it like a koi pond, water garden, or swimming pool; because it is NOT. The key components to a successful duck pond are size, water movement, aeration, filtration and stock level. Plan all of these on the front end and you will not constantly be playing catch up on the back end. Try to resist the urge to over stock. Because you have a great looking duck pond you may feel 1 or 2 more birds won’t make a difference, they will. And accept the fact that no matter how well you are set up, a duck pond requires a significantly higher level of maintenance than a koi pond or water garden ever will. If you are at peace with all these factors them you to will have a great duck pond.
Another consideration is the safety of your ducks. As duck keepers probably already know there are many predators out there that think YOUR ducks are delicious. Birds of prey like haws, eagles, great blue heron will all have a go at making a meal of your livestock. Stealth predators like fox, mink, coyote and any number of other local species can cause issues. Even some domestic dog and cat might surprise duck and fowl keepers with a kill from time to time. Ducks are amorous as well and find plenty of time to attempt breeding. Male duck and easily drown a female duck during this process and it happens more often that one would think. Try making sure some shallow areas are available for when the pond residents are feeling frisky. Like the planning of any pond, be it a koi pond or duck pond, keep the predators in mind, keep safety in mind, and plan accordingly. With the right planning you will have an amazing pond you will fully enjoy in every way.
CHECK OUT THIS DUCK POND PROJECT VIDEO!!
All copyrights to this material belong to Mike Gannon.