Tell people you raise chickens, and most of the time they’ll ask if you have eggs they can buy. Tell people you raise ducks, and they say… “Why?”
For cultural and industrial reasons, our nation has come to respect the chicken and infantilize the duck. But the truth is, ducks are quite practical and productive–in many ways a better choice than the chicken. Besides their better production qualities and hardy constitutions, one of the duck’s best qualities becomes clearest in the snow:
Of course, being warm is not the only challenge a bird faces in winter, and in one respect ducks are more vulnerable than non-water-fowl: They suffer in the absence of plentiful water for dunking head and neck & bathing their feathers. Currently, the weather is so cold that replenishing water gives a whole new meaning to ice bucket:
Conditions like these present a puzzle for waterfowl owners. Under natural conditions, ducks would stay on a pond or lake and paddle to keep the water clear enough to dabble for fish and keep them reasonably warm. But in a barnyard where the largest source of water may be a kid’s wading pool, that’s not always an option.
Personally, I “solve” the problem by kicking holes in the ice over the wading pools with a boot & then lifting the largest chunks of ice out. If that’s not possible, I bring buckets of lukewarm water out from the house and put them in their pen. Neither of those solutions would be sustainable in a colder climate, and frankly they don’t really make me happy even in this climate.
Here are a couple longer-term solutions I’m considering.
1. Buy a water-tank heater like this: Stock Tank Heater. Trouble is, they’re expensive and still only heat about five gallons. The ducks quickly get water filthy, and the hose is frozen, so I still have to bring out warm water from indoors. Would work great for the goats, though, who don’t filthify their water.
2. Build a solar stock tank waterer like this: Solar Horse Tank, but partially buried to make it more accessible. Major problem on that is really just time and materials. I have noticed that a bucket partially buried in decomposing bedding stays unfrozen for longer, so I have a lot of confidence in this option. This still wouldn’t solve the frozen-hose problem, but the larger reservoir of water would mean less-frequent changes and perhaps would last through most of our brief freezing spells until I can use the hose again. Of course, how to drain it is another question…
If you have livestock, especially ducks, how are you keeping their water defrosted in winter? Please post!