For ducks, water is more than a nutrient. It is a source of entertainment, a way to keep clean, a method to make eating easier, a way to keep cool in hot weather, an area to mate and a place to find great things to eat. No wonder they spend so much time near water and make such a mess with it!!!
After speaking to hundreds of duck and goose hobbyists and farmers, problems with water is one of their major concerns. "How do I provide it to them in the best way possible and how do I prevent a mess?" It boils down to your drinker/waterer and the flooring around the water source. I will discuss the different types of waterers in another blog. For now, let us look at the best flooring around their water source.
No matter the type of waterer you use (bucket, bell waterer, nipples, or automatic float waterer) a slatted or wire floor under the waterer works wonders. The objective is to not allow your ducks and geese to play in their spilled water. This prevents mud from spreading throughout the pen, reduces your bedding bill and keeps the birds and their drinking water cleaner.
You can use many different types of flooring. You want the openings large enough that the water and manure drop through but you want enough surface area that the birds are comfortable walking on it. In fact, ducks and geese often prefer wire or slat flooring in warm weather as it allows cooler air to circulate below them. The picture above is our breeder ducks on the wire flooring under their nipple waterers. Below is a single flooring piece, 5'x10'.
We have great success with PVC coated welded wire flooring. It is most commonly 1"x1" but we have also used 3/4"x2 1/2" and 1"x2" openings. The PVC coating greatly extends the life of the wire but is more expensive and often difficult to find. You want to get as thick of a wire as possible. Remember that the lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire. The main advantage of welded wire flooring is that there is very little surface area - any spilled water immediately flows through the flooring and out of reach of the duck or goose. The only disadvantage of the welded wire is that it eventually rusts and you must repair or replace it before it injures the feet of your birds. The picture below is the 1/2"x1/2" PVC coated welded wire we use in our smaller brooder room.
There are also many types of plastic flooring made for poultry. Any of these should work well and they typically have a longer life than wire flooring. Below is a 2'x4' plastic poultry flooring piece in use and individually.
Prior to the introduction of plastic flooring, strips of oak were used in the United States. In Asia, strips of bamboo is used. Below is a picture of a hardwood platform and another gray plastic flooring we tried that was originally designed for swine.
No matter the type of flooring you choose, you will need to build a frame to hold it. Normally this is made from 2"x4" lumber. For extra longevity, use treated lumber. For our wire platforms, we put a 2x4 support every 12". Even then, the wire stretches and sags between the 2x4s after a couple of years.
If your waterer is over dirt, dig a pit and place the flooring over your pit. You want that water to soak into the ground, not flow out from below the flooring into your bedding. Normally a pit that is 1'-2' is sufficient. If you decide to dig a deeper pit, you should probably build a wooden frame liner to prevent the sides from collapsing. You only need to line the top 12" of the pit walls. The picture below shows the pits we built for our new goose pens. These pits were lined with plastic so the manure would not leach into the soil.
If your pit is lined with plastic or concrete, you will need to be able to pump it out periodically. We have a manure wagon for our interior and exterior pits. For smaller operations you can use a simple trash pump to suck it out and spread it on your used bedding, a pasture or garden area. If your pit is not lined and you don't have a large number of ducks or geese, it will probably soak into the soil and not require frequent cleaning.
You want to make sure the flooring is wide enough that it catches all the splashed water and manure your ducks and geese generate. Ours are all five feet wide.
By using wire, plastic or wood flooring under your waterers, you will alleviate one of the biggest problems confronted by duck and goose hobbyists and farmers. Your life will be much easier - less bedding to spread, fewer dirty eggs, and your ducks and geese will be happier as they will be cleaner and always have fresh water to drink.
Please refer to our blog on sources of poultry flooring, so you can find the flooring you need.
What do you use around your waterers to prevent mud and mess?