Overheated Ducks? No Problem!

When Lois M. inherited several ducks, she was worried that they wouldn’t make it through her hot Oklahoma summer outdoors. There are very few trees on the property, so there isn’t much shade—and it gets very dry during the summer.

So the original problem here is that there isn’t enough shade and water for the ducks. That’s one problem.

Now let’s apply permaculture to the problem. The permaculture motto is turning the problem into a solution—in this case, a quadruple solution.

A Permaculture Solution for Overheated Ducks

Ducks like water. And they turn that water into fertilizer soup.

Well, vining melons and squash like water, too—and they love fertilizer.

Ducks also like shade. Well, vining melons and squash love the sun—and they have big leaves that make lots of shade wherever they’re planted.

If you plant vining melons and squash in an open field, bugs and slugs may be drawn to the plants and the moisture.

Well, ducks love to eat bugs and slugs. And you love to eat melons and squash all summer long.

So, those Oklahoma ducks can be either one problem, or four solutions—depending on how you look at it.

The first principle of permaculture is observation: “Getting to Know Your New Permaculture Site”

You’ll Need a Trellis and an Enclosure

You may want to build a trellis to hold the vines, and an enclosure to hold the ducks. Let us combine those two things.

There is a type of fencing called a cattle panel. You can find many examples on the Internet of these being formed into an arch and used to trellis vines. Simply put a fence across the open ends, and you have an enclosure.

Place a water trough on each side, so that it can easily be emptied onto the roots of the vines each morning. Let the ducks out to patrol for pests in the morning while you dump and refill their water troughs. They will return to the troughs for water, and you can shut them in for the heat of the day.

Repeat this in the evening, shutting them in to protect from predators.

Another option is to build your duck enclosure under a grape trellis. This was done a long time ago on this farm, but I can’t show it because a heavy winter snow collapsed the trellises—so it is a mess that I have to try to solve this year.  There were two trellises—a long narrow one around the perimeter of the garden for the ducks, and a high square one for the chickens.

What Do You Think?

What are your best suggestions for keeping your ducks (and other livestock) from overheating during the summer months? We’d love to read them in the comments below!


(This is an updated version of an article that was submitted by Qberry Farm and was originally published on April 19, 2016. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!)


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  • James Robinson says:

    I love this about the ducks and the shade. I was in the Delta of MS on a very large farm. I have tried this with some variations on many occasions. I give this a 5-star rating.

  • Hey, this is an awesome idea… one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that” kind of moments. TNX for sharing.

  • James says:

    Can you eat ducks or geese or get any kind of food production from them? Why would you have them?

    1. Blair says:

      absolutely. check out raising chickens for egg production and raising meat ducks. you can also eat eggs from ducks and geese. “Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat…” that goose isn’t getting fat because it has plenty to forage through right before Christmas. it was being fattened up for Christmas dinner. Goose is all dark meat, which is a plus for me as I prefer the dark meat. lol

  • Thanks for the great job of editing. looks so much better than when I sent it off to you.

  • I dont own ducks but I have to save the tunnel is really cool project. You can grow a lot of vining indeterminates in very little space.

  • NickOhMan says:

    Depending on the breed of duck they are great egg layers. Impervious to cold weather down to zero degrees, and they don’t cannibalize your garden like chickens will if they have access to your veggies.

  • Freaking great idea man!!! I can’t have ducks at my place right now, but the cattle panel shade/trellis is a winner! I was going plant some cabbages in a cattle panel hoop structure I have as a temporary high tunnel (we’re still over a month out from last frost here!), now I think I’ll add some melons and squash to the mix and train them up the sides, should help keep those cabbages from overheating this summer…..Thanks Hans!!

  • Gail Gardner says:

    Long term I love your solution. Short term they can use tall weeds or buildings for shade or a tarp tied between t-posts or fences. What they need most is water. Some duck breeders use those small blue kiddie swimming pools. They last about one summer.

    A better, longer term solution is large 15-gallon rubber tubs. They are easy to fill, clean, and dump under trees. My long-term idea is to have one tub for each row of fruit trees. Each day, I will dump the water under a tree and move the tub to the next tree before refilling.

    We clean the tubs daily because ducks are really messy and we have a lot of them. But if you have only a few you might not have to clean them daily.

  • Gail Gardner says:

    I’m sure you can find the 15-gallon rubber tubs at many farm stores, but here’s a link so you can see what they look like: http://www.miller-mfg.com/product/HP15.html

    Full grown ducks can easily climb into them and swim around and reach over the site and drink (just barely as they’re pretty deep).

  • Gail Gardner says:

    Sorry, for another comment – I forgot to say that our ducks are in SE Oklahoma and they’ve had ducks here for many years. As long as they have water we have never lost any due to heat. They do spend the heat of the day in the shade. Their favorite place is under a willow tree. The young ones are more sensitive to cold.

  • R A Myers says:

    Great article on an approach to problem resolution.

  • John Cox says:

    After reading this I can see loofah in my future!

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