Food and water
RSPCA welfare standards
for domestic/common ducks
5 February 2015
* indicates an amendment
There is now a strong scientific basis underpinning the importance of providing ducks with
access to water for purposes other than drinking. The Council of Europe states that farmed
ducks show a clear preference for open water, even without prior experience, and a number
of scientific studies have demonstrated that ducks will use open water sources to perform a
range of behaviours, such as wet preening, head dipping, wing rubbing and different types of
shaking movements. These behaviours are not only important in the bathing sequence, but are
also beneficial to the health of the birds, for example in helping them maintain good plumage
condition and clean eyes and nostrils. The RSPCA therefore considers it essential for ducks
to be provided with suitable, easily accessible open water facilities that allow them to fully and
freely perform their important water-related behaviours.
FW 2.0 For each house, water meters must be connected to all the birds' drinking systems so daily water usage
for the birds can be monitored (see M 1.3 e)).
Ducks must have access to drinking water at all times, except when required by the attending
FW 2.2 All water supplied must be clean and fresh.
FW 2.3 Non-mains water must be:
a) tested every 12 months to assess its drinking quality (this must be recorded)
b) safe to drink.
The results of the non-mains water test should conform to the following:
Coliforms: less than 100 colony forming units (cfus) per ml.
Total viable counts: less than 1,000 cfus per ml.
FW 2.4 * Drinking water must not be allowed to become harmfully contaminated.
FW 2.5 The placement of drinkers must be such that all birds have ready access to water without undue
FW 2.6 Ducks must not have to travel more than 20m anywhere in the house to reach food and drinking water.
FW 2.7 Provision must be made to ensure an emergency supply of water in case normal supplies fail.
FW 2.8 Provision must be made for supplying water in freezing conditions.
FW 2.9 * All equipment must be in good working order.
FW 2.10 * All equipment must be hygienically managed.
FW 2.11 * Ducks must be provided with open water facilities that are appropriate to their age (see FW 2.16, FW 2.17
and FW 2.17.1).