How to Build a Permaculture Duck Pond

Build a Permaculture Duck Pond | Biofilter, Fertigation, & More

September 21, 2020

Daniel Mark Schwartz Profile Picture

With my permaculture food forest well underway, I went the route that is increasingly popular in the community, a duck pond for biofiltration and fertigation. Here is my experience on how to build a permaculture duck pond.

Building a permaculture duck pond begins with deciding how ducks will fit in to your system, and proper placement of the pond. Then, you dig the pond itself or install a pre-built system. Lastly, you use swales and other means to connect the pond in to your overall system.

Braining in new animals can be a big commitment, which is why I went in depth below. In this article, I’ll help you find out of ducks are right for you. As well as go through step by step how to the perfect duck pond for your needs.

How To Know If Ducks Are Right For Your Permaculture Food Forest

A big part of the permaculture process centers around incorporating beneficial animals in to your home system. Taking the time to do some research and figure out what is the most practical solution for your situation is likely to make your permaculture experience so much better.

Some of the factors that I you consider.

  • The size of land you have to work with
  • Local climate and weather
  • How much work you want to get involved with
  • Legal limitations in your area
  • What type of animal will perform best in your food forest

Chickens and ducks both very good ways to go in almost any situation.

They both take up very little space. They both require not a lot of work and thrive in almost any climate. And, besides being very beneficial, most regions, even many cities, allow small flock of ducks and chickens with only minor restrictions.

How To Choose Between Ducks And Chickens For Your Garden

Here are some of pros and cons of ducks vs chickens —

Chickens

Cons

  • Require a lot more effort in building a coupe and keeping it warm in the winter and cooler during a hot summer
  • They tend to get more diseases than ducks
  • They can be brutal on seedlings (This means you must control them when wanting to use them as part of my maintenance and fertilization process)
  • Maybe a bit too much work

Pros

  • They produce eggs, so they are a valuable food resource — that’s a big plus!
  • They will totally control any insect issues
  • Chickens also scratch around a lot (It creates a natural tilling effect great for your soil)
  • Chickens poop everywhere, helping the soil

Ducks

Cons

  • You have to clip their wings so they don’t fly away
  • They can be quite messy
  • They can be noisy

Pros

  • Require only a basic shelter and tend to deal with the cold better than chickens
  • Ducks also are susceptible to fewer diseases than chickens
  • Ducks only bother seedling when their big web feet trample on them, but they don’t attack them for food like chickens do
  • You can actually herd ducks! (have you ever tried to herd chickens?)
  • The ducks process in the fertilization of the food forest it is much more controllable
  • Ducks will not only control insects but also any type of invading slug will be decimated
  • Ducks produce bigger eggs higher in nutrients, both vitamins and protein.

What I like best about ducks is that they prefer to poop in their pond. This means you end up with this great liquid fertilizer which you can direct into your food forest or take out and use it as nutrients and water in specific areas.

In many ways, ducks are like easier to manage chickens, that provide tasty exotic eggs and slug control.

Where To Put Your Permaculture Duck Pond

The ultimate placement for your duck pond and housing is if you have a part of your property that is slightly elevated. You don’t want to place our duck village to close to your own living space. They tend to smell a bit especially in the summer.

If you are incorporating a duck pond in to an existing permaculture design, consider permaculture zones, and how the ducks will interact within the system. Ducks will need some form of daily attention, so keep them in accessible area, where their fertilizing and pest control skills will come in handy.

How To Build A Permaculture Duck Pond

The beautiful thing about ducks is that you don’t need a big pond for them to be happy. Ducks need a small bit of water to keep cool, have a drink and also to dunk their heads keeps their nostril clear.

You don’t need to dig any big holes, so it’s not labor intensive. You can even use an old bath tub, kiddy pool or anything similar, if you have something like that handy.

Permaculture Duck Pond Design Diagram

I did’t have an old tub laying around I made a pond from scratch. This is how I did it.

Tools:

  • Shovel
  • Knife or scissors
  • Plastic or pond liner
  • Rocks

Steps to build a permaculture duck pond:

  1. Dig a hole about one and a half yards long (1.5 meters) by 1 yard (1 meter) wide.
  2. Dig down about 15 inches (38cm) deep. Go deeper if you want but not much shallower or evaporation will be a factor.
  3. Make a very slight mound around your hole or pond. Don’t make it too high or your ducks will have a problem getting out, it gets very slippery.
  4. Line the hole with a tarp, plastic (heavy gauge) or pond liner (the best option).
  5. Cut the pond liner roughly the shape of the pond.
  6. Measure the bottom to the top edge, add 1 foot (30 cm). This should go over top of the little mound you have put all around.
  7. Put some bigger rocks in the corners on top of your liner, inside the hole. This just keeps it from floating up.
  8. Line the top edge of the pond liner with enough soil and rocks to keep it in place.
  9. Fill your new permaculture duck pond with water or wait for the rain to do it.

This is the absolute simplest way to build a permaculture duck pond. You can get much fancier with a bit of imagination.

Adding to your permaculture duck pond can come incrementally when you have the time and energy, but this build is a suitable place to get started with your first flock of ducks.

Filling Out Your Permaculture Duck Pond Microbiome

There are also many additions for permaculture duck ponds which make them more efficient and help provide biofiltration services for our off grid garden system.

Adding Fish To Your Duck Pond

Introducing fish is beneficial because they will feed of the duck poop and help clean the water. But, you need to have a bit bigger pond than the one I described in order to have room for fish.

If you do increase the size of your permaculture duck pond in order to include fish, a few of the best fish are:

  • Catfish
  • Mosquito fish
  • Minnows (great for smaller ponds)
  • Bluegill

Adding Wetlands Plants to Your Permaculture Duck Pond

We can plant water plants around our edges. These will help keep the water clean and remove many pollutants from the water. Depending on the size of our pond. Here are a few common aquatic plants:

  • Duck weed (great for the smaller ponds)
  • Cattails
  • Bulrushes
  • Papyrus

Integrating Your Duck Pond / Fertigation

I happen to be a bit lazy. I think it’s the whole reason I embraced permaculture in the first place. Let nature do our work!

Here are the best options for using the fertilizing power of your duck pond for the least amount of work.

You have a couple of obvious options for watering your food forest with duck pond fertilizer.

  • You can run a hose (if I have one but I don’t)
  • You can fill up a water jug and hand carry it

But, the way that I went about it that requires very little work on a daily basis was to build swales (pathways or channels that direct water).

Building Swales for Duck Pond Fertigation

I create swales from the outside of my duck pond to my food forest. When I add water to my pond or the rain does, the over flow goes directly where I want it too.

This is the reason to build your duck pond on a higher elevation on your property. I only have to add water to my permaculture duck pond and let the overflow both water and fertilize my food forest.

How to Take Care Of Your Duck Pond In Cold or Hot Climates

Smaller permaculture duck ponds are prone to freezing in the winter. They also need special consideration in hot climates. Here is how you take care of your permaculture duck pond in both cold and hot climates —

Managing Duck Ponds in Mildly Cold Climates

For mildly cold weather just break up the ice forming on the top. One easy way to do this is to add plastic jugs with saltwater, and float them in the pond. The bobbing of the jugs will help keep the ice down. And, the salt content of the water in the jug will prevent the jug itself from freezing.

Managing Duck Ponds Very Cold Climates

Very cold climates require some form of active heating during the coldest parts of the winter. I recommend that you run the following items if you have the electrical capacity —

  • An air pump to keep the water moving. If you have fish, you will also need this for them.
  • A trough heater, the same as a cattle farmer uses to keep his water troughs from freezing.

This may be difficult to manage for a fully off grid setup. Another, more experimental option, would be to erect a mobile greenhouse or hoop-house over the pond in the winter. But, in very cold climates you may have to just accept that the pond will be frozen in the winter, and that fish won’t be a viable option unless you restock every year.

Managing Duck Ponds In Hot or Tropical Climates

To deal with hot weather you must try to control the temperature and evaporation of the pond. The primary way to manage this is with shade.

Planting trees like weeping willow or bald cypress are great options to help prevent excesses water loss, supplies shelter for the ducks, and help regulate nitrogen levels.

If tree planting isn’t an option, consider placing the pond in an already shady area such as besides an existing structure. Or, next to a trellis planted to sun loving vines such as morning glory or kiwi.

Is duck manure good for gardens?

Duck manure is especially rich in nitrogen which makes it highly beneficial when diluted or composted before application. Pure duck manure may be too concentrated and burn plants if applied directly. Since ducks usually poop in water, using duck pond water as a fertilizer tea can be an efficient option.

What size pond do ducks need?

Duck ponds can be as shallow as 1 1/2’ to 2’, and only need just enough room to fit the ducks. They should also have a beach or shallow side about 6" deep to allow ready access. Duck ponds can be much larger and deeper if designed to accommodate fish and other animals as well.

How do you build a duck pond?

Duck ponds can be made out of plastic kids pools, or by digging a hole and installing a plastic liner. They should have at least one ramp or earth beach to allow easy access for ducks. In hot climates, make sure the pond is shaded. Cold climates may require a small heater and water pump in the winter.


Free Off Grid Guide

Thinking about going off grid? Subscribe for a free 30+ page PDF that helps you get there! My gift to you.

You will receive your free guide, exclusive discounts, and occasional announcements