Saturday, May 9, 2015

Clean-ish Duck Water

Q: How do you keep duck water clean?

A: Don't have ducks!

If you like clean water your best bet is to avoid keeping ducks. Seriously! When I just had chickens I'd fill up their water bucket and I could ignore it for days, not that I would, fresh water is a good thing, but their water didn't get dirty.

If you have ducks any accessible water will be dirty. The duck talent for dirtying water is something they hatch with. There are ways, however, to prolong the amount of time water is drinkable or swim-able. First, it's important to note that ducks need water. They need water they can dip their whole head into so that they can keep their eyes and nostrils clean. While bath water is optional, though I can't imagine having ducks and not enjoying watching them splash and preen, a deep container of drinking water is not.

Water for ducklings:
When you have ducklings, use a plastic deli container or yogurt container. Think Tall! The taller your water the less likely your ducklings will be to try and take a bath. You want a container with a lid. Cut a semi-circle out of the lid and then your duck can dip into the container, but can't splash around in the water. Or use a plastic milk jug and cut a duck head size hole in the side. The idea is to replace the container with a taller one as your ducks grow so you are making the access point easy for them to reach, but not so low that they are tempted to try and take a swim.

Putting a baking rack or hardware cloth over a pan and putting the water container on top of that, so drips are contained, may help some. I chose to have a small removable plastic bin where I put the food and water. It was filled with shavings to absorb the excess water. 

Ducklings love to swim, but until they have well oiled feathers, instead of fluffy down, you need to supervise them at all times when they have access to a bath, and dry them off afterward so they don't get chilled. 

After a bath it's time for cuddles! 

Water for adults:  

When it comes to adult ducks there are  a few things that will help keep your water clean-ish. 
I use a bucket for drinking water,
here you see they dirty it before it's done filling.

Try to have different water for swimming and for drinking.
Have adequate drainage or absorbent bedding.
Limit access to dirt, which will quickly become mud. 

Having said that, remember, ducks LOVE mud! Digging into the mud with their bills is a happy enrichment activity, allowing them to forage for roots and bugs. I purposely leave a section of dirt where I can run the hose and allow the ducks time to do what ducks do.

In an idea duck set up, which I don't have, a bucket of water would be available for drinking that was set on wire or in a well drained area. I've found that keeping the water a short waddle away from the food dish encourages the ducks to get more food down before they go for a drink. Ducks do need water to wash down their food, they don't have teeth, so everything goes down in big pieces and dry food can cause them to choke. But, if you keep the water at least 10 feet from the food the water will have less food sludge in the bottom in the long run. That means less food waste and cleaner water. However, it does not mean that your water will be clear. You will still need to give your ducks clean water at least once a day.

If you keep your food and drinking water in an area away from your swimming water then you will avoid food sludge ending up in the swimming water. This doesn't mean your swimming water will stay clean, ducks poop in their swimming water, so this water will also need to be changed on a very regular basis, to be determined by how large your pool is and how many ducks you have.

Obviously ducks also drink their swimming water. The idea of having drinking water and swimming water is more a differentiation between water that is kept nearer their food and water that is kept far away from the food.

If ducks can get to mud near their water they will add mud to the water, creating mud and poop sludge in your swimming water, or mud and food sludge in your drinking water. That's the reality of my life and it's not the end of the world. A scrub brush from the Dollar Store and the hose quickly render a dirty tub of water clean once again, if only temporarily.

My ducks are pets. I love to watch them do duck things, like play in the mud and splash in their swimming pool. Ducks don't care if their water is sparkling clean, but your ducks need fresh clean water on a regular basis to stay healthy and properly care for their feathers.

Visit my Dobby The Duck Pinterest Board for more ideas. 

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