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 natural body of water in your yard, picking the right breed is important. There are lots of breeds of domesticated ducks, these ducks have been bred for years to be raised by humans on traditional farms, in backyards, or even as indoor pets! Click here to read about different duck breeds.
Domestic breeds spend more time on land
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 two. 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.
My duck pool experiments
We have tried several pool configurations in our years of keeping backyard ducks. Some worked better than others.
Tiny Kiddie Pool
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 small flock of ducks. I love that it is super easy to dump and scrub, 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.
Stock Tank Pool
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. It is 38 inches tall and 58 inches long. This pool has been more hassle than it’s worth.
Things I like about the stock tank 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. We tried building steps out of cinder blocks, a long plywood ramp, even an old plastic slide from our kid’s old playset. 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, only a couple of ducks could fit in at once. 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 of times before giving up on it.
Bigger Kiddie Pool
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). I didn’t love all the water waste when dumping this big pool.
I want to install a drain in the bottom connected to a series of pipes to bring the used water to our orchard. I drilled a hole in the pool and used plumber’s putty to seal it. We had a ball valve piece to control the water flow. Unfortunately, the walls of the pool were too thin to properly support it. So that was the end of this pool.
Large Plastic “Thing”
Shortly after ruining the big blue pool, we ended up moving. In the new barn, we found this large plastic “thing”. It is about the same size as the blue pool – about 5.5 feet across – but not quite as deep. The nice part is the plastic is really thick so when I pick it up to dump it, it doesn’t crumble or bend. This makes cleaning much easier than the blue pool. I dump it and scrub it pretty much every day in the summer & fall because we have 13 ducks & 2 geese sharing this.
While this pool is enough for them to splash in and have a good time, I’m still mulling over options of how to build something larger and more permanent for them. We have a little slope to our yard that I think could be nice for a splashing “river” with rocks and a buried pool or two at the bottom of the slope. I’m trying to work out how I could use rain runoff from the barn to possibly supply water to a circulating pump….now I just need a bunch of money and free time!
Want even more duck pool 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 to access a deep stock tank from FarmYourBackyard!
I’d love to hear about your duck set up!