Do Ducks Need Water To Swim In?

Ducks are waterfowl birds. By their very name, you would understand that they NEED water.

Ducks crave water. Their love for water is in their DNA. Keeping a flock of ducks happy is as easy as providing them a means to swim.

ducks bathing in pond on the homestead

Some people choose to give their ducks a small kiddie pool, while others have a pond for their ducks. But, do ducks really need a pool filled with water to swim in?

I’ll address that question – and give you lots of tips for keeping your ducks happy – in this post.

Do Ducks Need Water to Swim In?

Technically no, ducks don’t need water to swim in, but they do need water that is deep enough to dip their heads into. Ideally they should be able to swim, though.

Water access, particularly access to clean water, is essential for all domestic ducks and wild ducks, including those raised in your backyards.

Ducks are happiest when they have a large body of water to swim around. They love to bob for food, such as weeds and fish.

Do Ducks Actually Need Water To Swim In?


Ducks are also notoriously “prissy” birds that like to preen and be as clean as possible.

They are kind of like cats in that they like to be clean. It’s far easier to be clean when you can dunk your whole body in water. Preening is essential for a duck!

Eating and Drinking

In addition to food, ducks also need water to help them eat, which is common among many other kinds of waterfowl, like geese.

Drinking water helps ducks to swallow their food, and they also drink a lot of water to stay hydrated. Ducks usually drink water when they are eating, but they will also drink water on its own.

When ducks drink water, they often dip their beak into the water and then tilt their head back to swallow the water. Sometimes, ducks will also dunk their entire head into the water to drink. This cleans the nostrils and the windpipe.

For Playtime

To be very happy, ducks need a pool. But, no. They do not need a pool to be healthy and relatively happy.

Ducks will also enjoy a bucket of water, or a regular drinker that you would use for chickens.

They will still splash and play with a bucket as much as they can. Ducks are content when they can at least dip their entire heads in the water.


While most animals need water for drinking and bathing, ducks also need water for mating. The male duck will often dip his head underwater to collect plants and other materials that he will use to build a nest.

He will then present these items to the female as part of the courtship process. If the female is impressed, she will allow him to mate with her.

Otherwise, she will swim away and he will have to try again. This fascinating mating ritual shows just how important water is to ducks.

Health and Wellness

Ducks need water for several different purposes. One of the most important is to help keep their feathers healthy. Ducks preen their feathers regularly, and this process helps to remove dirt, mites, and other parasites.

Water also helps to lubricate the ducks’ feathers, making it easier for them to preen effectively. In addition, ducks use water to clean their oil glands.

These glands produce a natural oil that helps to keep the feathers waterproof. If the glands become clogged, the feathers can become dry and brittle.

Do Ducks Raised for Meat Need a Pool?

While all ducks enjoy having access to water, it is not strictly necessary for ducks that are being raised for meat.

This is because these ducks generally do not develop problems related to the water issue unless they are much older, past the slaughter date. It is, however, necessary for ducks raised for eggs.

However, larger and heavier duck breeds tend to have higher fertility when they have access to water for swimming.

The drakes like to mate in the water when possible, and it helps them overcome any inconveniences.

In addition, swimming helps these ducks stay cool in hot weather and reduces the risk of heat stress.

As a result, while giving meat ducks access to a swimming pool is not essential, it can certainly be beneficial.

What Happens if Your Ducks Don’t Have Water

If a duck doesn’t have access to water, it will actually drink less to avoid producing too much urine, which could lead to dehydration.

Ducks also need access to deep enough water to submerge their faces past their eyes. If they don’t have this opportunity, they can develop a condition called sticky eye, which is caused by a build-up of pus and debris on the surface of the eye.

While a sticky eye is not dangerous, it can be quite uncomfortable for the duck. Fortunately, providing your ducks with a small basin of water to splash around in will help them stay healthy and happy.

What to Use for Your Duck’s Water

Many people don’t realize that what you use for your duck’s water is just as important as what you use for their food. Here are some ideas.

A Pond or a Pool

Ponds are generally cheaper and easier to set up than pools, and they provide ducks with a more natural environment.

However, ponds can become muddy and stagnant over time, and they may attract predators such as snakes and raccoons.

Pools tend to be more expensive than ponds, but they’re also easier to keep clean. In addition, pools can be drained and refilled on a regular basis to keep the water fresh.

In the winter, it’s hard for us to maintain a pool since it freezes in the cold.

A frozen pool does NOT make for happy ducks! They see the water, but can’t do anything about it!

And, yes, they WILL let you know that they are displeased. Loudly. Just like a cat. We solve this problem by putting out heated buckets for them to drink from and dip their heads in.

That way, they can at least clean out their bill, wash themselves off a bit, and enjoy their food.

In general, if you CAN provide a pond or a pool your ducks will be happiest. If you can’t, don’t despair.

They will still get the water they need from whatever you provide. In the end, their needs being met is what matters really.

A Large Galvanized Container

A large galvanized container can make a great water bowl for your ducks. The smooth sides will help prevent your ducks from getting wet and dirty, and the deep bowl will give them plenty of room to splash around.

You can find these containers at most hardware stores, and they are typically very affordable.

Just be sure to clean the container thoroughly before adding your ducks, as the process of galvanizing can leave behind harmful chemicals.

A Livestock Trough

A livestock trough is an ideal option for this, as it can hold a large amount of water and is easy to clean. You’ll need to fill the trough with fresh water every day, and make sure to empty it and clean it out once a week.

How Big Should a Duck Pool or Pond Be?

The general rule of thumb is that each bird needs six to nine square feet of water to be able to move about freely, clean themselves, and closely simulate a natural environment.

Don’t use anything with walls steeper than 7 or 8 inches deep. This entrance and exit depth will allow the ducks to both get in and out of the water safely and easily.

A water source for tiny ducklings should not have walls that are more than 5 inches tall.

Do Ducks Need Swimming Water in the Winter? Yes!

Even though it may be cold outside and the ponds are frozen over, ducks still need access to water.

Ducks are able to maintain their body temperature in cold weather by fluffing their feathers, which traps a layer of air next to their skin.

This insulation technique works well, but it requires the ducks to have a constant source of water so that they can clean and preserve the duck’s feathers.

If a duck’s feathers become matted or wet, it can lose its ability to stay warm, putting the duck at risk for hypothermia. In addition, water is essential for digestion, and without it, ducks can quickly become dehydrated.

As a result, it is important to make sure that your local duck population has access to fresh, unfrozen water during the winter months.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are keeping ducks as farm pets or for production, water is essential.

You don’t need an Olympic size pool to keep them healthy, but for all breeds of ducks, from Muscovy to Pekin ducks, water is life.

After all, keeping your ducks healthy and happy requires more than just feeding them the occasional scrap from the kitchen table.

What do you do for your ducks on the homestead? Do they have a pool or just a bucket? Be sure to pin this for later!

2 thoughts on “Do Ducks Need Water To Swim In?”

  1. Perfect timing, I was just trying to convince my husband we need ducks this winter and his response was to plan out a pond! I’m glad to know we won’t need to wait for ducks until the pond is finished 🙂

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