Snow Ducks

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:

A permanent waterproof down coat keeps this blue magpie drake warm in the bitterest weather

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:

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!

8 responses to “Snow Ducks

    • Oh, good idea! I guess that melts the water in the bucket too, so you end up with a container of lukewarm water. I’m going to make a confession here. I left my hose running a trickle last night. Looking out my back window, I can see the pool of dark in the middle of the snow, and there are many many grateful wild birds gathered around the watering hole. Maybe not very environmentally friendly, but it’s working for me so far. Wondering if I’ll like it so much when the water bill comes.

  1. Water hose…..I never ever have a frozen water hose. Every day during the cold months I undo my hose from the spicket, pull it down hill and go back to the top of the hose and blow that sucker out. Keep blowing untill its easier to blow. Your hose should have no water in it and the next morning you hook it up and you have water.
    Sometimes I wait untill the ducks are bown the bottom by the end of the hose. I pick up the hose and say BOOOOO down the hose. OMG right I do, they run back up the hill like its going to eat them up.

    • Ha ha! That is too funny! Wow though–that sure sounds like a lot of work with frozen fingers & wet spigots… I suppose it’s probably a more environmentally and budget-friendly solution than the hose running all night though…

  2. Nope, not hard work takes less than a minute to clear the house least I know I have water in the mornings.
    Oh and LOVE your Blog by the way, very educational and informative. Love It. x

  3. Water hoses in winter. Having had horses for 10 years and now ducks and geese ….her is what I do.I live Ga./Tn border, so we can freeze an inch -3″ in water ponds or buckets at night. I use a floating de-icer in my horses trough. For watering everyone: I used to just have normal house fawcets, which worked fine when we had a basement. I would put caps on them outdoors (freeze caps )if it dropped in the low 20’s for the night. I Put “quick connects” on my hose and faucets.You just push to connect aodn pull the ring back to disconnect. Luckily I have a slight downhill at both farms so I could connect, water, clean pools (wearing rubber boots and sometimes rain pants over my inside clothes). Then I would turn the faucet off, disconnect with a quick pull and make sure the hose was downhill with no loops to trap water. If I want to be extra careful I’d strt at the end of the uphill or even flat, sling the hose over my shoulder ,(over my outside smelly work jacket ) and walk downhill feeding the hose as i went, all water drains out. Course I don’t have to do that if I make sure the hose doesn’t have any loops. ——We also put in a underground “freeze proof hydrant “(a bit of plumbing by hubby at the well, which is near the ducks at this farm, and it automatically drains itself…nice abut 40$ at TS.

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