It is a common misconception that you need to have a large pond or lake in your yard if you want to keep ducks. Lucky for us suburban farmers, that is just not true! Backyard ducks will be happy with a small wading pool.
When space is a concern and you don’t have the luxury of a huge body of water in your yard, picking the right breed is important. There are lots of breeds of domesticated ducks, these ducks have been breed for years to be raised by humans on traditional farms, backyards or even as indoor pets! Click here to read about different duck breeds.
Some of the most popular domestic breeds include: Buff, Cayuga, Pekin, Indian Runner, Rouen, Welsh Harlequin, Swedish, Muscovy, White Crested, Khaki Campbell & Call Ducks. Unlike their wild ornamental relatives who spent most of their lives on the water, domestic ducks only spend about 10% of their day in the water. They are happy to forage in the woods, nest in the bushes and spend their day searching for slugs in the garden. Another benefit of domesticated duck breeds is they are bred to be very poor flyers, so you don’t have to worry about them taking off.
Domesticated ducks might not NEED a pond, but they would LOVE a little pool for splashing! Before you get out the shovel to start digging, dial it back a bit. Ducks love splishing and splashing, but they don’t need an Olympic size pool. They will be happy with a small kiddie pool or stock tank. With a large pond, cleaning can be a hassle, but a small kiddie pool is easy to dump and refill every day or so. The only requirement ducks have is water deep enough for them to submerge their whole head. They need to keep their mucous membranes moist so having clean water available at all times is really important.
We have tried several pool configurations in our years of keeping backyard ducks.
At first, when we had just two ducks, we bought a very small kiddie pool. This is a great little pool, about 3 feet across and about 5 inches deep and holds maybe 20 gallons of water. It’s good for little ducklings or a pair of ducks (although I still use this pool as a secondary pool). I love that it is super easy to tip over and empty, which means I can easily & quickly clean it. The downside is it needs to be dumped every day in the summer, or every other day in the spring/fall.
As our ducks grew, we realized they really wanted to dive and swim underwater (which is really hard in just a few inches of water). We found a 150 gallon stock tank on a yard sale site for cheap so we snapped that up. This pool has been more hassle than it’s worth. Things I like about it are that it is super deep (the ducks LOVED diving in it!) and that it has a drain plug in the bottom for emptying.
The things I hate are numerous – because it is deep, that means it’s really tall so a ramp of some kind needs to be made to get the ducks into the pool. We tried many things and never really found a good solution. You could bury it to make it level with the ground, but then you can’t access the drain and it would be impossible to clean without buying pond equipment.
It was really deep, but the surface area was so small, even with only a couple ducks, they looked cramped. But what I hated most was all the water waste – 150 gallons is A LOT of water, we didn’t have a good place for it to drain, and it killed me to waste that much water every few days. Besides the waste, the time involved in waiting for it to drain and then filling it back up was just insane compared to the 5 minutes it took to clean the little kiddie pool. We only filled this tank up a couple times before giving up on it.
Then, just to complicate matters, we decided to add more ducks! So we went back to the kiddie pool idea, but got a MUCH bigger one. This new one is 5 feet across and about 10 inches deep, it holds about 130 gallons. The ducks loved having all the surface area to swim, and the water is just deep enough to dive a little bit.
This pool is much harder to dump than the small pool and takes forever to fill, but it didn’t have to be changed as often (I could dump it once or twice a week vs four-five times a week with the small pool) and we still had the water waste issue going on. I want to install a drain in the bottom connected to a series of pipes to bring the used water to our orchard. Wish us luck, I’ll keep you posted as we undertake this engineering feat! **edited to add – my brilliant drain idea did not work, the walls of the pool were too thin to properly support it – back to the drawing board!**
Here we are several years later – we have over a dozen ducks now and are utilizing a two pool system. It’s not perfect, but it works alright for now. We have a large pool and a smaller pool. During the warmer months we alternate dumping & cleaning one pool a day. So they have two pools to choose from and plenty of space and each one is dumped and cleaned every other day. Still searching for that perfect duck pool set up.
Want even more ducky inspiration?
These are some of my favorite duck ponds from around the web!
I love the landscaping around this duck pool found on HomesteadSurvival.com
I love how this woman on ThriftyFun.com made a beautiful ramp and drain area for her stock tank (and it’s a shallower, more manageable size than the one we have!)
This is a great idea I saw on BackyardChickens.com, the waterfall feature not only looks pretty, it keeps the water circulating to keep it cleaner and keeps mosquitos from gathering.
Look at this cute duck pool & sundeck from FarmYourBackyard!
I’d love to hear about your duck set up!
Monday 29th of May 2023
Enjoy your posts, thank you! We have a 260 gallon preformed round 6' wide & 18" deep pond liner for our ducks. It's buried to be pretty much level with the ground. We change the water every few days using a sturdy sump pump that can handle moderate debris - attached a long drain tube so we can move the discharge end to different locations on our property for irrigation.
Emptying the pond and then running 2 hoses in different directions efficiently cleans the yuck out of the pond in just a few minutes. I give it a good scrub every few weeks.
We put a laundry basket with smooth rocks along one edge as a safety measure for our ducks. They are usually fine getting out wherever, but this safety feature is very important in case of injury or diminished waterproofing during molts. Regardless, they LOVE the platform and often use it for preening and grooming during pool time lol.
We have quite a few ducks so this has worked out really great for us, and we love watching them dive and have underwater zoomies! Hope this is a helpful idea.
Monday 29th of May 2023
that sounds like an AMAZING set up - those are some lucky ducks!
Sunday 21st of March 2021
So I will be getting 2 Indian runners next week. I got a stock tank that is 20" deep. We will be putting it in the ground so it will be even with the ground. Do I need to build a ramp or put rocks in it so the ducks can get out? If so what do you suggest I use?
Monday 22nd of March 2021
They should be able to hop out on their own, they will love being able to dive down!
Friday 26th of April 2019
I now have 12 ducks with 3 large kiddie pools. Looking into an 8ft round tank from tractor supply. To drain my kiddie pools I drilled a round hole and used hose shut offs and pieces used to repair hoses on the inside of the pool. I used epoxy to adhere them so no leaks. I used pieces from old hoses to drain the water into my garden.
Friday 26th of April 2019
great idea, thanks Lisa!
Monday 8th of October 2018
In July 2018 we ordered and received 26 ducklings. I kept them in our bathtubs and x-large totes for 2-3 weeks. We then put them in a brooder for another 2 weeks. Our problem is these ducks won't go in our man-made pond. They will go in the baby pool as long as it is not near the pond. What could possibly be going on with them?
Monday 8th of October 2018
hmmm that is strange! So they aren't quite full grown yet correct? Is there any cover around the pond? It could be possible they are a little leary of it because it is too big and out in the open. I bet once they are full grown (usually around 4 months) they will love it, but to encourage them to go down there, you could try planting some low bushes or shrubs around the shoreline where they could retreat to if predators are flying overhead. I have also seen some duck keepers with ponds build floating duck houses for in the water (google image search floating duck house to get some ideas). Good luck!
Thursday 8th of March 2018
Awesome Post!! I appreciate your great ideas about backyard pond. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.