Friday, September 2, 2011

How Do I Keep It Dry Around My Duck & Goose Drinkers???

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.

For our brooder barn, we purchased a very nice flooring.... for ducklings.  Unfortunately the hocks of the geese became caught in the holes from about 3 to 10 days of age.  To prevent this we had to put 1/2" hardware cloth over it.  This is not good as the manure does not drop through easily and quickly builds up on the floor.  But if we only had ducks in there, and no welded wire - it would work great!

Prior to the introduction of plastic flooring, strips of oak were used in the United States.  In Asia, strips of bamboo are 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' deep 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?


  1. Man, geese are terribly dirt makers but you presented a unique idea of keeping the dirt:-)

  2. I have just a tiny flock of nine runners. For their indoor pen, I use the bottom of a large plastic dog crate with an inch of sawdust bedding, and the stock pot that is their water bucket sits in there. The sides of the crate catch about 99% of the splash, and the sawdust absorbs it. I stir it once a day for two or three or sometimes four or more days, then replace the sawdust and wipe it down. I use the sawdust around my gardens (instead of buying mulch) so there is little added expense.

    Outdoors, the water bucket is on mulch over soil. In the fall, I find that oak leaves neutralize most odor. In the summer, I rake out and replace high carbon mulch once a week or so.

  3. Is there a waterer available that is better suited for ducks/geese. Or are waterers, generally for chickens and available at most feed stores deep enough for them

  4. I use a 5-6 gallon bucket with lid turned over in a hog pan. Just drill a couple holes near the top where you want the water level to be. Having the lid makes it easier to fill and some people have had trouble getting the vacuum to form without one.

  5. Can you send us a picture of one? Send it to Thank you.

  6. I use a 5 gallon dog water tower. I pit this on a plastic lid from a tupperware type storage tub. I made a cover for the water opening that is 2x4 inch wire so that they can not bathe in the bowl.

  7. well i have baby pools on a limestone base (in the pen) and it does ok. there is no inside for these birds so they play in the yard, dig holes in the wet soil then go wash it off in the pools. it is such a joy to watch the ducks play in the newly filled pools. the limestone sand works well with poo and mud. the poo just hoses off mostely. i have an underlayment of rock fabric under it with gravel on that then the sand. so far so good.

    ducks are so full of fun and sunshine - always seem to be happy

  8. Based on much research, trial and error, and info gleaned from other duck owners, we are installing a French Drain as a duck yard. French drain = 4 to 6 inches of gravel or small rock covered with heavy landscape fabric, which is then covered with 4 inches of river sand (for health reasons, only use river or construction sand). The gravel allows water to drain off quickly (into garden watering system), the landscape fabric keeps the sand from sifting down through the gravel, and the sand acts like kitty litter. (which is very easy to scoop out the poo with diy wire mesh shovel). From my experience, sand is also the best litter for the duck (or chicken) coop.
    For the adult duck feed and water area, I have salvaged plastic bread rack trays that look much like your plastic poultry flooring pieces pictured above. Place them over a tub or longwise-cut half barrel. Cut a hole in your tub/barrel and bury it so it will drain into the gravel layer (and/or pipe runoff to the garden) and be level with the sand in the duck yard floor.

    Everything I know I learned from someone else.

  9. As I've only had my ducklings for a little over a week, I only have experience with keeping the brooder dry. I've taken plastic lidded containers (lids must snap on securely) and cut a portion of the lid off to create an opening. The ducklings are able to get to the water but not in the water. What's nice is I have varying heights of containers so all I have to do is move the lid to another container as they need larger amounts of water. To keep their bedding dry, I've placed the waterers inside of a cake pan which allows them to get to the water easily but prevents them from completely soaking the bedding. I couldn't find anything of the right size to fit in my brooder to allow dripping. It's not perfect but it works well enough. that I don't have to constantly add/change their bedding because it's sopping wet. I'm only raising 6 ducklings so my set up is fairly rudimentary, but as I can be here 24/7, I can monitor things and keep up with clean-up.

  10. I meant to include a link to a picture of my watering set up for the brooder in case it could be helpful for other folks with small set ups for just a few ducklings.

  11. I have to keep my geese in the barn at night. I made a 4x4' frame and covered it with wire so they can't play in their mess... but I still need to enter the barn every morning with boots, and a shovel..... I just can't keep the wood shavings clean. Also outdoors I have a large kiddie pool with fresh water but the geese have turned a 10x10', two foot deep ditch into their favorite mud bath.
    They seem to love the mud and are constantly digging the ditch deeper. The problem is even though they have fresh water they drink the muddy water. Should I fence off the mud hole so they don't drink the muddy water?

    1. To prevent the overnight mess, don't give them water at night or give them just enough to tide them over for several hours. They don't have to have water during the night - unless you are locking them up for over 14 hours. The only risk of the mud hole is if something dies and ends up in there. Botulism may spread through the muck and affect them if they drink the infected water. But I would probably be more worried about soil erosion or mud going down stream.

  12. I really know nothing so take all with grain of salt! I have four ducks frm store couldn't sell as ducklings took them hime with the chicks . They think they are chickens. every other day take them out to a kiddie pool for 15 minutes. They run for the coop when I let them out of pool.O therwise they drink out of chicken waterers. floor is cement, use straw, that's it. Maybe works cuz only 4? No mud no mess,. only water inside the coop I put straw around waterers once every two to 3 days.Rest of coop 2 weeks.30 chickens live there too they all share feed.