Do ducks need large bodies of water to thrive?
Do they WANT bodies of water?
Ducks must have a water source to safely eat. From the time they hatch, ducklings and ducks will always need water. Unlike chickens, ducks must “mix” their food with water. They start by grabbing a mouthful of crumble. Next, they waddle on over to their water, and combine the two in their mouth. This mucky dabbling ensures they can swallow the feed without choking. Consider it like eating oatmeal. Having wet oatmeal is much better than trying to swallow it dry. It can make quite a mess, but is fun to watch. They make the cutest sounds when doing this!
If you have an existing body of water, your ducks or geese will certainly love it! However, it isn’t a must. Waterfowl were made for both land AND water. They do enjoy a good bath and place to swim. You can give your waterfowl a kiddie pool to wade in. It will get messy, but they’ll enjoy it so much!
Ducks do love water, but also enjoy foraging on land. Our ducks are lucky. They have access to one large pond, a smaller pond, and a creek! Even so, I have seen them splashing around in water troughs.
Ducks are healthy for your pond! Waterfowl fit right in with the normal biodiversity of large bodies of water. Ducks and geese will keep weeds down on the edges of the water. They also will help cut down on insects, as insect larvae are a favorite snack. They also will eat baby snakes! Choosing the right breed of waterfowl will impact your success. We have had several kinds of ducks, and it takes a little research to find the breeds that fit your environment!
Flying breeds can get around to forage larger areas. Muscovy, Mallards, Cayugas, and geese can all fly. They are light enough to get some lift, and are better for free ranging since they can better escape predators. I happened to get my ducks from a local person. They are Muscovy mixes, hardly any loud quacking, totally free-range 100% of the time, and so colorful.
Runner ducks are a breed that can thrive without water. You may have seen these silly, very upright ducks before. They are wonderful foragers, and are even used for pest control on large grape farms. They employ these ducks to remove pests from their grape vineyards. Runner ducks are a great choice if you have mostly grass and don’t want the commitment of providing a big pool.
Larger, heavy breeds do better with a smaller space. Pekins and Swedish ducks are great foragers, but not always great fliers. They still need a place to mix and mash their food, but will be okay on the grass. Be sure to give these ducks plenty of room, while keeping an extra eye out for predators, as these are true “sitting ducks.”
If you want to add some waterfowl to your farm, go for it! If you don’t have a pond, don’t worry! Just give them a water source deep enough to dip their whole bills into. Ducks can be messy, so letting them roam is often the cure for that. Like chickens, they will return home to their coop or shelter at night. Ducks are fun and unique members of the farm. Provide the right duck with the right space, and you’ll enjoy them for years to come!