Adding a pond to your yard can help set a tranquil, picturesque scene for the landscape, but you can get even more enjoyment and entertainment from the water feature if you design it to attract ducks. Your family can observe the birds gliding across the water and feed them from time to time. If you want the pond to be attractive to ducks, though, it must be designed and built the right way and blend with the rest of the landscape.

A Mandarin Duck Swimming in a Pond. Hino, Tottori Prefecture, Japan
credit: View Photos/amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images
A pond with steep slopes on its shoreline may be difficult for ducks to enter.

Design the Pond

The first step in creating a duck pond is choosing its location and size. A sunny area that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily is usually the best option. When it comes to size, the larger the pond, the better. A pond with a minimum size of 2,500 square feet is usually necessary for ducks. Opt for an irregular shape instead of an exact circle or oval, too. Ducks typically prefer shallow water. So the pond should be no more than 4 feet deep. Aim for most of the dug-out area to be fewer than 3 feet deep, however, for the best results. A pond for ducks and other wetland animals should have 25 to 40 percent of its depth at zero to 1 ½ feet, 25 to 50 percent at 1 ½ to 3 feet and less than 20 percent at 3 to 4 feet during the times it is full, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Avoid building steep slopes, which can discourage ducks from visiting, promote erosion and make growing difficult for plants. Use a grade of 10-to-1 or flatter, which means the pond should drop no more than 1 foot every 10 feet.

Excavate the Area

Creating an outline in the desired shape and size for the pond will help you determine exactly where to dig to make the pond. A garden hose or rope laid on the ground can mark the outline. Start digging inside the outline, using a spade or shovel. Depending on the pond's size, the digging part of the project can be time-consuming. So ask family members and friends to assist. Create shelves throughout the pond as you dig if its design features varying depths. Form a gentle slope at the shoreline that you can cover with gravel. Removing all sharp rocks from the hole as you dig will prevent damage to the underlayment and pond liner.

Line It

A man-made pond must be lined to ensure it doesn't leak. Preformed pond shells are available to line ponds, but they are made in standard sizes, depths and shapes so don't work for custom-made ponds. If you've dug an irregularly shaped area with varying depths, then a pond liner can be used to cover its bottom. Ensure the liner will hold up well and isn't prone to leaks by opting for one made of ethylene propylene diene monomer, or EPDM, which is the type usually used by professional pond installers and can be purchased from pond suppliers. Placing a synthetic-material underlayment on the pond's bottom first will protect the pond liner, cushioning it from rocks, roots and other debris. Then try to use a single piece of pond liner on top of the underlayment to cover the entire pond instead of overlapping multiple pieces of liner. Spreading the liner loosely inside the hole prevents tears.

Fill It

Using a garden hose works well when it's time to fill a pond with water. The water will press the pond liner into the contours of the hole that you dug. Before filling the pond, however, place two large stones on one side of the liner to hold it in place. While water fills the pond, hold each end of that side of the liner taut; an assistant's help may be necessary. When the pond is full, use the excavated soil to build up the edges where the soil level is low. Excess liner that is visible around the pond can be hidden with rocks or pavers.

Add Plants

Adding plants in and around the pond can help it blend with the landscape. Floating plants such as fragrant water lilies (Nymphaea odorata), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 11, can add interest to the pond but may wind up battered by ducks' wings. Plants that grow along the bank and shallow portions of a pond may be better options. Swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius, USDA zones 6 through 9), common rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos and cultivars, USDA zones 5 through 10) and yellow-fruit sedge (Carex annectens, USDA zones 4 through 8) are options for the perimeter of the duck pond.