Making and Testing a New Waterer

~ Grassy Roads Farm Life ~

One of the many things I have been thinking about lately is figuring out a different way to water the ducks. I have been giving them open tubs of water, which they quickly turn into bath water, as well as, drinking water. Not only does this mean they sometimes do things in the water that I would rather not think about them drinking, but it also makes a mess. As they are playing in the watering tubs, the water they splash out makes everything wet and encourages the ducks to make more mud. Like I said last week, the baby ducks LOVE to create muddy spots and dig in them.

One of the ducks bathing in their water tub during the most recent snow storm.

While ducks like to have open water to splash and swim in, they don’t need it all of the time. Giving them access to water to swim and play in a couple of times a week is perfectly fine. What they do need is access to drinking water that is deep enough to submerge their nostrils and eyes. If ducks can’t dunk their eyes and nostril in the water to clean them out, then crusty gunk will start building up and they will eventually get sick from it. So what are my options that will allow the ducks to stay healthy, but maybe not make quite so much of a mess?

There are several commercially available options for chickens. One is to hook a hose up to what is essentially a PVC pipe with a bunch of specially designed baby bottle nipples. The chickens can then be trained to bite on the nipples to get water. I love this idea for chickens because there is almost zero wasted water or mess. This concept can be adapted for several other types of poultry, and if we ever get quail then we’ll probably do something similar for them. However, this design doesn’t work for ducks because they can’t wash their eyes and nostrils.

Chicken waterers can also be bought at almost any farm supply store which have an inverted reservoir of water that drains into a shallow basin from which the birds can drink. We actually use one of these for the young ducklings, but the basin becomes too shallow for them to wash their eyes and nostril in as the duckling grow up. Once the ducklings get too big to submerge their eyes and nostrils in the basin of the chicken waterer, I switch them to the open tub of water.

I’ve actually looked for a duck waterer similar to the chicken waterer, but have never found one that has a deep enough basing. A few weeks ago I was fighting some sort of sickly bug and didn’t feel like doing much of anything. I finally gave in, laid down on the couch, and began flipping through channels on the TV. By sheer luck, I happened to come across a show where they were building a waterer for a turkey.

The waterer they built was simply a 5 gallon bucket with some holes drilled around the rim, a lid for the bucket, and what looked like a big round cake pan. They filled the bucket up with water, put the lid on it, flipped it upside down in the cake pan, and the water ran out the holes in the side of the bucket until the water in the cake pan covered the holes. It was the same principle as the chicken waterer, but on a larger scale. The light bulbs immediately began going off in my head. With a few modifications, I bet I could do the same thing to create a duck waterer!

Two of the big girls using the new duck waterer that I made for them.

I tried it this week and it worked! I drilled the hole in the lid, instead of around the rim of the bucket, because I wanted all of the water to be able to drain out of the bucket in the summer. I placed two bricks in the bottom of one of my duck watering tubs and placed the upside down bucket on top of the bricks. The ducks have enough room in the watering tub to dip their bills and wash their eyes and nostrils, but aren’t able to get in the tub to splash around. As they use water out of the tub, the water in the bucket drains down and refills the tub.

I’ve only tried it with the big girls so far, because the baby ducks freak out about anything new. I wanted to make sure it worked before I introduced it to the baby ducks. So far, I’m happy with the new waterer. The big girls are using it without any problems. I guess it is time to buy some more buckets and lids so I can make more duck waterers.



Shannon is a beekeeper, farmer, wildlife biologist, and author. She owns Grassy Roads Farm and Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting. Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting specializes in plants and habitat consulting services for honey bees, native pollinators, and wildlife conservation. She is the author of Plants Honey Bees Use in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Shannon also writes a blog about Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife and a farm and nursery blog that features stories of life on the farm, tips for attracting pollinators and wildlife, and highlights of different plants for pollinators and wildlife.

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