“Can my ducks use your waterers?”
I get this question a lot from customers, and my standard answer has
always been, “Yes, but they’ll need to be able to submerge their heads
in water somewhere else so they can keep their eyes clean.” Now
that we’ve got our own ducks, though, and I saw firsthand how awful their living space gets if they have an open water source inside, I decided to look further into the issue.
Metzer Farms did a great study in which they raised ducks in several different
watering systems. They found that posture, walking ability, body
weight, and growth rate were all unaffected by watering system —
unsurprising since ducks raised commercially only have access to poultry
nipples and still grow fast enough to be economically viable.
However, the ducks without any source of open water did tend to develop crusty eyes and nostrils and sad-looking feathers. Plus, they really seemed to miss playing in the open water.
On the other hand, the
study also found that ducks only spend about 5% of their time dabbling,
which suggested a compromise that would keep both us and the ducklings
happy. We opted to provide a nipple waterer inside their brooder
to keep things as clean and dry there as possible, then to give them a
little bathing pool outside (supervised at first since young ducklings
So far, this hybrid approach has worked great. Wet duck poop does require us to add fresh bedding
in the brooder every day, but the space stays acceptable. Our
ducklings have no problem drinking from the nipple waterer…and they
adore drinking and paddling in the pond water I provide in a pie pan
Interestingly, the chicks
we’re raising with our ducklings seem largely uninterested in the open
water. They did run over to see what all of the commotion was
about when the ducklings first started to play, but soon the chicks
hopped back into the brooder to enjoy clean drinking water. And
who wouldn’t after the ducks turned their playground water brown?
Hopefully the poop-free drinking water will keep both chicks and
ducklings healthy, while the outdoor dabbling station will let the
ducklings enjoy their innate duckness. Sounds like a good compromise!