Building a pond for your ducks can be most rewarding. How big a pond you have on your smallholding, and what shape, is largely a matter of budget and how pretty you want it to be. In reality a small number of ducks can get by with nothing more elaborate than a baby’s bath sunk into the ground, so long as it is cleaned regularly.

But a baby’s bath is hardly something to strive for, so here are the ideals for a long-lasting, pleasing duck pond.

  • It should be durable. Flexible liners on their own will become damaged, if not by the birds themselves, then during the periodic cleaning that must take place if the water is to remain healthy for the birds.
  • It should have, in one or two places at least, gently sloping sides, to enable the birds to enter and leave the pond with ease. Preferably it should have a shallow level bit, no more than a few centimetres deep, on which the birds can stand and preen before launching themselves into the water.
  • It needs strong edges, because the birds will dig around in the soil in any damp spots at the edge with their beaks, quickly undermining the structure of the pond.
  • The simplest and cheapest permanent pond is one made of concrete. Properly handled, a concrete pond will last for decades, and gives one the flexibility to construct with ease any shape one desires: Round, oval, kidney-shaped etc, according to the shape of one’s garden.

The process of building a pond

When you are building a pond for your waterfowl, you will follow a number of steps.

Step 1

Start building a duck pond by excavating the required shape from solid, unworked ground, making the hole about 100mm bigger and deeper than the desired finished pond.

Avoid sharp angles if possible as they are weaker in the final casting than gentle slopes, are more difficult to clean and are prone to cracking.

Make sure the finished excavation is smooth and free of loose soil.

Step 2

Line the excavation to a thickness of about 15mm with cement plaster comprising one part cement to six parts sand, and wet enough to make a workable, plastic consistence.

Fashion spacer blocks using a 75mm nail embedded in a 15mm thick square of mortar. The block should measure 30mm x 30mm. You will need about 16 blocks per square metre of pond.

A quick and easy way to make lots of blocks is to fill old plastic ice trays with mortar (one part cement and one part sand) and to embed the nails pointing upwards in each block.

Fix the spacer blocks 25mm apart around the pond, knocking them through the plaster liner into the underlying soil.

Cross section of pond.

Step 3

Place two layers of 25mm galvanised chicken mesh over the spacers, in such a way that the twisted wires of the layers of mesh are at right angles to one another.

Fasten these down to the spacer blocks by knocking hooks made of 4mm wire through the plaster liner into the soil.

Ensure that all the ends of wire are folded in on themselves so that nothing will protrude through the concrete.

Step 4

Now get ready to make the pond: It is important that the whole pond be cast and covered in one go, and that the resultant structure be covered and allowed to cure slowly for maximum strength.

The concrete mix is one pocket of cement to 60 litres of coarse sand (e g river sand), 20 litres of plaster sand, 50 litres of small concrete stone (6mm) and 4g of chromate salt (either potassium chromate or potassium dichromate) to prevent the mixture reacting with the galvanising of the wire mesh.

To measure litres of building material use a builder’s wheelbarrow, which holds 65 litres, and remember that in all measurements one wheelbarrow holds (a bit more than) two, not one, pockets of cement.

Thus, one pocket of cement, with one wheelbarrow of river sand, a third of a wheelbarrow of fine sand and three-quarters of a wheelbarrow of stone, mixed with water, will give you enough concrete to cover 3m2 of the shell.

When placing the concrete, work smoothly from one side to the other, applying a 15mm layer and forcing it through the mesh to bed with the plaster underneath. Immediately thereafter, apply a second layer, also 15mm thick, to give a final thickness of 30mm of concrete. Remove the wire hooks one-by-one as you work.

Wood float the surface to a rough finish, or float with a steel trowel if you want a smooth surface.

Cover the entire structure with plastic and allow it to cure.

Step 5

Although you can fill the pond two days after casting, keep the edges covered and moist for a further two weeks to allow curing to complete.

Change the water a fortnight after first filling before allowing the birds on to the pond.

You will also need to change the water periodically thereafter because waterfowl “rinse” their food as they eat, thereby losing some of each beakful into the water, and they also defecate in the water so a sludge of feed and faeces soon develops on the bottom of the pond.

When cleaning the pond do not discard this sludge but add it to your compost heap for decomposition.

This is a part of a series on buildings and infrastructure on smallholdings and small farms. To ensure you don’t miss out on the rest of the series, subscribe here to receive our Feature Newsletter at the end of the series.

Part Two: Alternative Building Materials For Your Plot

Part Three: How To Make Ecobricks For Basic Plot Infrastructure

Part Four: Tips On How To Build Animal Housing

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