If any of you have had any experience with ducks, you’ll know that they produce and deposit enormous amounts of nutrient — aka duck poo. It usually ends up over everything they come in contact with. A general good practice is to keep them on water and then either fertigate (fertilize while irrigating) with that water and/or use them in connection with an aquaculture system (a fish pond with ducks produce more fish then without). But there are plenty of books and articles about what to do with ducks, so I’ll finish my digression and return to the subject at hand — that of a water source for ducks that they can’t poo in. Well, not without really trying to.
As our permaculture systems continually evolve into complexity, we as stewards of those systems try to continually simplify their maintenance routines. As I’ve been at PRI Zaytuna Farm for the past four months I’ve tried to simplify the water sources for the poultry systems. There are many ways to give poultry water, from a dish on the ground to an expensive plumbed in water-on-demand system. All do the same thing — that being to provide water for your chickens, ducks, geese etc. A dish on the ground can cost nothing but can be spilled and manured in easily, and can require multiple refills a day. It’s not exactly low maintenance, and when your systems are being maintained by an ever changing core of students and WWOOFers this can be problematic. The plumbed in water on demand systems are generally very low maintenance, assuming they are installed properly, but can be expensive and requires a bit of skill to setup — nothing too serious but certainly more complex then filling up a dish with water and placing it on the ground. Plumbed in systems also require being attached to the irrigation/plumbing system, so require a fair bit of work and expense to change if systems evolve and poultry houses are moved.
So I was looking for the middle ground, something that can provide at least 2-3 days worth of water in a clean low maintenance design. The first method was the same thing used for the chickens, which is what most of the commercial systems use: a little dripper that releases water when the chickens peck at it. This can be used in pressurized systems or simply gravity fed from a reservoir (20 liter bucket etc…). At $2-$3 each they are fairly inexpensive and fit into standard irrigation fittings. They worked really well for the chickens and their pecking behavior but ducks don’t peck. They did seem to figure it out for the most part, however, but I wasn’t convinced it was the best system for them, as they seem more satisfied when they can submerge their beaks in water.
A quick search online brought up many variations of a pretty simple and clever design. Where you have a container with holes cut out just big enough for the ducks head to fit in and access the water. Thus eliminating the ability for the ducks nutrient deposits to get into the water. I thought that this was the way to go and decided to combine it with a simple float valve to keep a set water level and attached to a 20 liter container to act as the reservoir that can gravity feed the waterer.
So far it seems to be working well. This could be directly plumbed into the water lines but as the poultry systems are going to be changing it was better to have a temporary though still fairly low maintenance water source.
Waterer and float valve
Marking water level
Cutting hole for duck access just above waterline
Holes cut and float valve installed
Close up of float valve
Waterer in duck house
Waterer attached to gravity feed reservoir
Poo-free duck waterer in action