Building a Duck Pond

Having kept chickens for three years and rabbits for about two years I decided to get some ducks.  There was a piece of waste land just below the house which seemed ideal for creating a duck pond.  This is the story of our pond with some advice for you if you decide to do the same.

Clearing the site.  We had to get a digger in to make a hole for our underground gas tank so I asked him to clear the site and dig a pond about 6m x 4m and half a metre deep. 

 
Levelling the land.  The little Bobcat digger shifts the earth around to get a level site.

After laying a hosepipe down to get the size and shape I wanted the pond is marked out with lime to guide the digger driver.  The size is a little bigger than it will be when finished to allow for creating the banks.

We then lined this with two layers of polythene.  I know polythene can become brittle and leak but the earth here is like clay and would probably puddle out anyway.  If it doesn't then I will get a piece of pool liner and re-line it.  All the water from the road is diverted down a large pipe and into the pond to refresh the water when it rains.
 
Update:  We found the polythene broke up into small pieces causing problems so it has now been replaced with a brown PVC pond liner.
Then the edge of the liner is lifted up and a small trench dug all around the pond.  This enables plants to grow close to the water's edge.  The liner is then trimmed and tucked down into this ensuring one low point where the overflow runs off, opposite the inlet pipe. 
Then the chain-link fence is added.  A metre is a enough to keep the ducks in but we also need to keep animals out so I made it 1.5m high with a gate in one side.  The posts are simply hammered into the ground but you can set them in concrete if the ground is soft.  About 10cm of the netting is sunk into the ground.  An old tree trunk is laid across the pond to provide a perch for the ducks and a bit of interest.
A couple of trees are planted on the south side to provide a bit of shade, a silver birch and a weeping willow.  These must be kept watered for the first year while they establish themselves.
 
Update:  The willow survived but the birch died.  I plan to replace it with a row of bamboo along the fence.
Then we found a nice wooden dog kennel in a local shop to use as a duck house.  Really you need about half a square metre of duck house space per duck.  I intend to raise it off the ground a bit and build a ramp up to it.
 
Update:  I did this and it doubles up as a bit of shade for the ducks.
We had some rocks left over from the ornamental garden so I created a rock beach on one side.  No reason really, I just wanted a bit of variety.
Update:  The ducks wreck the bank so I am adding natural blocks of tufa around the edge.
Even before everything was finished in flew a huge white duck!  He seemed to like it here so we called him Larry, as in 'as happy as...'.  He is a Muscovy cross, so I am told.  They don't quack but puff instead.  I want quacking!

And finally I bought four baby mallard ducks and they have taken to the new pond like ducks to water!  There are a lot of grass seeds floating on the pond at the moment.  Larry doesn't seem to mind the intrusion into his space at all.  In fact he totally ignores them.  The babies are growing fast and it is now clear that we have one male and three females...just what I wanted!
 
Update:  As the Mallards grew Larry became more and more put out and eventually flew off.  One of the mallards, the male, turned out to be a Rouen, a sort of bigger version of a mallard.

The duck house is raised up to provide a drier home for the ducks and a little shelter from the sun underneath.  It also looks less like a dog kennel and more like a duck house now!

This is the fully grown male.  He is actually a Rouen, a type of Mallard but about twice the size!

Finally we have our first clutch of baby ducklings!  On 21st May 2006 the mother hatched out eleven babies and they scurry around the pond and surrounding banks.
Here is some advice based on my limited experience so far:

Feeding

The best way we have found to feed mature ducks is by putting a scoop of whole mixed grain with two litres of water into a stainless steel bowl and sinking it into the ground to the level of the rim so that it doesn't tip over.  I have two of these and swap them over each day so that I can clean the one not in use ready for the next day.  I keep the grain in a plastic dustbin with a lid and leave the scoop, an old plastic bottle with a handle cut off at the base, inside.  Baby ducklings like to eat rabbit pellets and this provides them with all the nourishment they need while they are growing.  I place a dry scoopful in a plastic tray with a wide base straight on the ground.  They get their water from the steel bowl.  I occasionally throw a few breadcrumbs into the water for them too, but not much due to the salt content.  They also eat the plants, grass and seeds available to them so it is important to have a natural source available too.

Size of pond

Our pond is about six metres long and four metres wide.  It is only half a metre deep so the ducks can easily forage at the bottom and it is deep enough for them to submerge and resurface, which they seem to like doing.  I am told this size should be adequate for four or five ducks.  Ensure there are several places where the ducks can easily get out of the water.

Fencing

We have fenced off an area about 10m x 8m around the pond to keep the ducks in and errant dogs out.  This gives plenty of space for grass to grow.  The fence is about 1.5m high plastic coated chain link fencing attached to metal posts.  Bury the base about 15cm into the ground.  The gate is a simple affair in one side, near the feeding bowl.

Shade

Ducks do need a bit of shade in the heat of the Italian summer so we planted two trees, a silver birch and a weeping willow on the south side of the pond.  Under the willow we placed a wooden dog kennel which seems ideal for them.  Now that the kennel is raised up there is additional shade underneath that too.

Cleaning

Sometimes the pond may need cleaning out.   It is best to syphon, bucket or pump it out, get a dustpan and brush and mop up the bottom.  Save the water for the plants as it is rich in nutrients, then refill with fresh water.  We have a grill at the side of the road which takes water down to the pond to refresh it whenever it rains.  Excess water overflows into a ditch and runs off down the garden.  You may need to top it up in hot weather due to evaporation.  We collect rainwater in two 3,000 litre tanks to do that.

The pleasure

Spending a while each day watching the ducks feed, play and splash is enormous fun.  They have become quite tame already and are willing to come right up to my feet.  A swallow dives down to the water sometimes and there are many butterflies, bees and even dragon flies.

Safety

The shallowest of water can create a risk of drowning so make sure the pond is safe with a locked gate and warning sign on the fence.  Even then don't leave small children near the duck pond unattended.

Links

The Call Duck Association - Fantastic website!

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