Animal HousingBird LifeLivestock

Poo-Free Self-Filling Duck Waterer

If any of you have had any experience with ducks, you’ll know that they produce and deposit enormous amounts of nutrient — aka duck poo. It usually ends up over everything they come in contact with. A general good practice is to keep them on water and then either fertigate (fertilize while irrigating) with that water and/or use them in connection with an aquaculture system (a fish pond with ducks produce more fish then without). But there are plenty of books and articles about what to do with ducks, so I’ll finish my digression and return to the subject at hand — that of a water source for ducks that they can’t poo in. Well, not without really trying to.

As our permaculture systems continually evolve into complexity, we as stewards of those systems try to continually simplify their maintenance routines. As I’ve been at PRI Zaytuna Farm for the past four months I’ve tried to simplify the water sources for the poultry systems. There are many ways to give poultry water, from a dish on the ground to an expensive plumbed in water-on-demand system. All do the same thing — that being to provide water for your chickens, ducks, geese etc. A dish on the ground can cost nothing but can be spilled and manured in easily, and can require multiple refills a day. It’s not exactly low maintenance, and when your systems are being maintained by an ever changing core of students and WWOOFers this can be problematic. The plumbed in water on demand systems are generally very low maintenance, assuming they are installed properly, but can be expensive and requires a bit of skill to setup — nothing too serious but certainly more complex then filling up a dish with water and placing it on the ground. Plumbed in systems also require being attached to the irrigation/plumbing system, so require a fair bit of work and expense to change if systems evolve and poultry houses are moved.

So I was looking for the middle ground, something that can provide at least 2-3 days worth of water in a clean low maintenance design. The first method was the same thing used for the chickens, which is what most of the commercial systems use: a little dripper that releases water when the chickens peck at it. This can be used in pressurized systems or simply gravity fed from a reservoir (20 liter bucket etc…). At $2-$3 each they are fairly inexpensive and fit into standard irrigation fittings. They worked really well for the chickens and their pecking behavior but ducks don’t peck. They did seem to figure it out for the most part, however, but I wasn’t convinced it was the best system for them, as they seem more satisfied when they can submerge their beaks in water.

The mob

A quick search online brought up many variations of a pretty simple and clever design. Where you have a container with holes cut out just big enough for the ducks head to fit in and access the water. Thus eliminating the ability for the ducks nutrient deposits to get into the water. I thought that this was the way to go and decided to combine it with a simple float valve to keep a set water level and attached to a 20 liter container to act as the reservoir that can gravity feed the waterer.

So far it seems to be working well. This could be directly plumbed into the water lines but as the poultry systems are going to be changing it was better to have a temporary though still fairly low maintenance water source.

Waterer and float valve

Marking water level

Cutting hole for duck access just above waterline

Holes cut and float valve installed

Close up of float valve

Waterer in duck house

Waterer attached to gravity feed reservoir

Poo-free duck waterer in action


  1. Hey Eric,

    Its cool to see how this has evolved from the chicken drippers since I was down there in May. I’ll suggest this to my neighbour who has ducks. She was only mentioning on the weekend how they tend to scoop rather than peck. Nice article.

    Kind Regards,


  2. Not only do the ducks appreciate this efficient and practical solution for their daily water needs, those caring for them do, too.
    Thanks Eric for your efforts and care, persistence and skill in putting this water dispenser together – it works superbly.

  3. Thank you so much Eric!
    What a brilliant idea! You’ve made my life so much easier.
    I’ve got four ducks and have to wake up early every single morning without fail to clean and fill their water dispenser (which is the same type used for chickens) and pond. By the time I return from work the 10 litre water dispenser is empty and the pond a filthy sludgy mess!
    Often I have to leave very early for work and end up doing all this in the dark.
    Now at least, thanks to you, it looks as if I’ll have an easier job of providing my ducks with a constant supply of fresh water and will be able to get at least half an hours more sleep – on some mornings at least :)

  4. This waterer is great – well, at least my modified margarine-tub version is, which i have been using for my ducklings. I am curious how one handles rinsing out the bigger waterer that the pictured ducks are using? It seems to me that they leave quite a bit of “silt” at the bottom of the waterer – you have to rinse this out sometimes right? Is it a bit difficult?

  5. We tried this 5 or 6 years ago. Short term this works great, longer term you run into trouble. Our ducks put mud and other debris into the bottom of the waterer, eventually it clogs the float valve which must then be removed and cleaned with a thin wire. The bottom of the waterer also eventually becomes all mud and no water unless it is cleaned out periodically. These issues make it more work and no more effective then filling up a bucket or any other container over the loner term.

    1. Thanks for the idea and conversation starter, Eric!

      I agree with Maurice about the silt. It’s a good idea to keep the poo out of the waterer by restricting access to duck heads and necks only, but it’s a little harder to clean the inevitable silt out compared to an open-top bucket. We have an open-top 3 gallon bucket with a more robust float valve that never clogs with silt. I haven’t seen the ducks poo into the open top bucket because it’s taller than their rumps. I dump out the bucket and silt every week or so.

      1. Can you post a picture of the waterer you’re using? Where did you buy it? I desperately need one that won’t get clogged. Thanks!

  6. Where can I find the parts to make this?? What kind of hose did you connect it to?
    Do you have any sketches/plans you could share??

  7. When I go away for a day or two, I put a bucket full of water (sized so ducks can reach their heads into it) inside a clam-shell pool which also has water in it. The clam shell water gets the dibble-dirt and poo, the bucket water stays clean. I put out at least two of these, for 5 ducks.

  8. Sorry Carrie, I can’t seem to put the photo in this comments field. It really is as simple as getting a bucket (I use soft black ones with handles either side) and putting it into a kiddie pool, then filling both up. Any hints on how to get photos here welcomed :)

  9. Great idea. Thank you. I have the drippers they peck for chickens but was trying to figure out what to have for ducks. I was trying to figure out a way for keeping fresh water and satisfy ducks need to dips heads/eyes in water. To remedy the ease of cleaning out, a 5 gallon bucket could be used the same way with easy to remove lid for rinsing. I use hanging 5 gallon buckets (and used “cat litter” buckets) for my chicken drippers too.

  10. Great I have now converted to this watering system with two small updates we find keeps the water clean for longer. First place it on a pallet or away from soil so the duck can not dabble where it drips. Second we put the float valve in a separate water container which is closed to the Ducks which is joined to the water container by a pipe. You can adjust the height of this container which in turn adjusts the height in the water container the same time as keeping the float valve in clean water. I hope all this is clearer then mud!! Well done you have saved me time and money and the Ducks love it. Jonathan Jones Albany WA.

    1. Do you have a picture of this setup? I would like to build something similar to that before my Pekin ducks are old enough to go outside. Any help would be appreciated.

  11. I might have forgot to mention that all the supplies used were found on site. I agree that a 5 gallon or 20 liter bucket with removable lid would be easier to clean, but a duck head sized hole gives you plenty of room to use a cleaning brush when necessary. I wouldn’t worry too much about having a completely maintenance free anything when you are dealing with living creatures. I’d take a periodic cleaning once in a while over every day anytime. But i’m sure there are many refinements that can be discovered and hopefully shared with pictures and or videos.

  12. With the exception of the float valve I found all my containers at the Albany dump shop X 6 and was charged $2 for the lot also by having the float valve in a separate container you can run as many other water troughs off this as you want provided they are on the same ground level. I agree that all animals need to be checked as often as possible but its great when all you have to do is say, ALL GOOD!!! Jonathan Jones Albany WA.

    1. Can you send a photo of your current duck waterer with the 2 containers? I need something in a month that will keep them in fresh water for 3-4 days. This sounds like the perfect thing for me. I think I have all the supplies

  13. After reading the comments, I’ve come to the conclusion that having three 20th drums would work better without a float.
    still using the original drum for a water trough, but without a float. Using the bung on the bottom of the drum connecting two more drums. The two extra drums sitting level with the first. The extra drum is so it has the same capacity as the original design. All working on a self leveling system. Easy cleaning, no blocking, an if need be can be made larger with extra drums and tee pieces. All plumbing is normal dripper tubing

  14. i just use 150mm hard poly pipe about 800mm long both ends screwed with end caps also screwed on put a small float through one screwed end and then starting 200mm in from end so ducks can’t reach float i cut out top of pipe a section 60mm wide for a length of 500mm so ducks can drink and leave final 100mm for end strength in other screwed end i put a screwed tap to drain when cleaning with hose connection to drain and then for a proper clean i unscrew ends and use bleach and toilet brush on a stick to get rid of build up. water is connected with hose connection that connects to float with hose connection all run from a water tank and on days when i may want to administer medication i just mix meds in a smaller container with hose connection and allow it to gravity feed into Poly pipe

  15. Thanks ! The best idea I have come across . Have 5 call ducks as pets and they live in a large dog kennel at night . Makes it nicer , I don’t go out in morning to a duck sitting in the bowel . And as you know , where they sit they poop ! Thanks again am Goin to try tomorrow .

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