The Majestic Monthly


Issue 8: August 2005

In This Issue...


Filtering Your Pond


Feeding Waterfowl at Your Local Pond


Health Alert: Botulism


Fishing Line Danger


Get to know your predators: The Weasel


The Month in Photos!


Recommended Reading:
How to Build Animal Housing


Reader Poll #8

Get to Know Your Predators: The Long-Tailed Weasel

The long-tailed weasel only weighs about a pound and like the fisher cat, it is a ferocious and blood-thirsty predator. They can squeeze through holes as small as an inch and are notorious for killing entire coops of ducks if uninterrupted. They tend to do most of their work at night, but can occasionally be seen during the day.

Healthy rodent populations and access to a water source tend to lure in weasels. Keep rodents under control to avoid fostering an environment suitable for weasels. If you have a lot of hawks, owls and other birds of prey in your area, they will help keep rodent, and therefore weasel, populations under control. Cats are an excellent deterrent; they will hunt rodents and weasels. Remember to protect your ducks from your cat.

The Month in Photos!

Digging The Courtyard Pond:






Our little Majestic Princess!

Recommended Reading

| Ordering information |

How to Build Animal Housing
By Carol Ekarius

Book Description

Cows and horses, donkeys and mules, sheep and goats, pigs and fowl, even llamas are living on small farms and in backyard barnyards throughout the United States. But how and where are these critters being housed?

Author Carol Ekarius knows. In How to Build Animal Housing, she provides dozens of plans -- with illustrated, step-by-step instructions -- for species-specific shelters that are well ventilated, safe, appropriate for the animals, appealing, convenient, and a solid value for their owners.

The book is essential reading for anyone interested in animal health and welfare. It includes complete plans and step-by-step, illustrated instructions for sheds, coops, hutches, multipurpose barns, and economical easy-to-build windbreaks and shade structures. Ekarius covers new high-tech, portable structures made of plastics and fabrics, such as hoop houses and hen spas, as well as more traditional alternatives, such as straw-bale structures. Always practical, she enumerates the advantages and disadvantages of ready-to-build kits and modular barnyard buildings and includes designs for watering systems, feeders, chutes, stanchions, and more --the essentials that help owners keep their animals healthy and happy.

Ekarius wisely emphasizes the importance of careful planning, choosing an appropriate housing site, and complying with local zoning regulations; pest control, basic housing maintenance, and insurance costs are also discussed. Real-world advice from farmers and veterinarians on the types of housing and facilities animals like best enliven the text throughout.

How to Build Animal Housing is the most comprehensive and useful guide of its kind. For small-scale farmers, hobby farmers, do-it-yourselfers, and animal lovers, this book is indispensable.

Reader Poll #8

Question: How do you supply bathing water for your waterfowl?

Natural Pond/Lake
Man Made Pond/Lake
Kiddie Pool
I Don't

Voting Has Closed.
Please see next issue for results.

Results of Reader Poll #7

If you had the space, would you want multiple drakes in your flock?

Yes  91%
No 9%
Depends on theBreed  0%

Contact Us

Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary
17 Barker Road
Lebanon, CT 06249

Our Newsletter

The Majestic Monthly is published 12 times per year. Back issues can be obtained online from our Newsletter Archives.

Filtrating Your Waterfowl Pond

Letís face it: Ducks and geese poop a lot -- especially around and in water. Keeping your human-made waterfowl pond clean can be extremely difficult. You donít want unsafe chemicals in your pond that could harm your waterfowl when they drink the water, neither do you want them swimming in festering pools of algae and excrement (which can lead to botulism). So what is the solution?

A friend of ours has solved the dilemma of keeping his duck water clean and it is inexpensive and simple to do. His filtration system runs on the same general principles as a freshwater aquarium tank, only much larger. Below is a simple diagram describing the system.




















  (Repeat as necessary)

First, you should have an underwater pre-filter to remove debris like feathers, leaves and twigs that might clog the pump. Many people suffer failure at this first step, because ducks usually bring a lot of debris into ponds with them (nothing beats wetting that yummy grass before you eat it!). Commercial filters will often clog too quickly, reducing the flow of water, possibly damaging the pump, and require cleaning so often that owners give up. The solution to the problem is to wrap the pre-filter inlet with one inch thick, coarse weave, filter material. This filter material looks just like the greenie scrub pad you might use to clean a pot in the kitchen, only larger and thicker (the coarse stuff is usually white in color). Bungee cord can be used to secure the filter material around the pre-filter. The pre-filter and filter material should be cleaned whenever you find the water flow from the pump is significantly reduced. This is easily done for both by using a garden hose and is needed about once each three to four weeks.

Next, you have to be able to circulate water with a pump. The pump is probably the most expensive element of the filtration system, and there are many different sizes and types available. The pump should be, at the least, large enough to completely pump your pond water capacity once within two hours; the more the better.

Following the pump, you should send the water flowing through a series of mechanical filters and biological media filters. The purpose of the mechanical filter is to remove leaves, dirt, and feathers. The purpose of the biological media is to remove chemical impurities like ammonia.

One inch thick, coarse weave, filter material can be used for the mechanical filter. The biological media can be as simple as small rocks, or you can pick up plastic ďbio-ballsĒ from most local pet stores that sell fish. Place the bio-media in a mesh bag and wrap the mechanical filter material around the bag.

Our friend uses plastic planters to hold each pass in place. Please note that these are not underwater. The water flows through each pass, and air and water mix in each pass. This process is important, because you want to grow nitrifying bacteria in the bio-media and the bacteria needs both air and water. These bacteria are very beneficial in removing ammonia from your pond water and should not be disturbed, so be sure not to clean your bio-media! On the other hand, the mechanical filter material should be cleaned whenever you clean your pre-filter, or sooner if it starts to look ugly.

The number of passes through filter and bio-media depends on the quantity of water you are trying to clean. Our friendís system has four passes and filters about 350 gallons.

Feeding Waterfowl at Your Local Ponds

As we visit our local ponds in search of abandoned animals, we often see people feeding the wild and domestic ducks and geese. It is always best to let wild waterfowl forage for their own foods. Interfering can cause overpopulation issues on ponds as well as migratory delays. Over population can also lead to an increase in predators in the area. Feeding can also incline wild animals to lose their fear of people. You may be a nice person only wanting to warm their belly, but keep in mind that other people donít necessarily share your kind intentions and could use this advantage to bring harm to the animals.

We do understand the attraction, especially when children are involved, of feeding the domestic waterfowl. Domestics do not necessarily have the instincts to forage properly on their own. If you wish to feed a domestic duck or goose on a pond at least do right by feeding them the right thing. There are certain foods that simply should not be fed to these creatures, or to any animals for that matter.

Bread is never a wise choice for waterfowl. Ducks and geese can choke on bread, so it is a dangerous snackóthe same is true of popcorn. In addition, if a duck or goose belly gets filled up with bread, they wonít forage for bugs, snails and other small creatures that are a needed protein source. A belly full of bread leads to malnutrition in ducks, which can cause all kinds of bone, muscle and feather deficiencies.

We are always amazed when we see folks standing at the shores of ponds throwing chips and snack foods into the water for ducks and geese to eat. None of these foods belong anywhere in their diets and should never be introduced. They are not healthy for humans and are just as unhealthy for waterfowl.

If you are planning a picnic and cannot resist the urge to feed the waterfowl and do not have actual duck food on hand, there is a safe and healthy alternative. Plan ahead and bring some round, floating cat kibble with you. This is a protein filled snack that is a fantastic alternative to unhealthy human snack foods. Avoid over feeding waterfowl; only throw in what the animals will consume right then and there. It is important that excess food isnít left behind to sink and decay.

Where's There's Bread There's Botulism


Avian Botulism is caused by the ingestion of the toxin Clostridium botulinum. Botulism goes by many names, including limberneck, western duck sickness, duck disease and alkali poisoning and is ubiquitous in nature. All birds are susceptible to the toxin (except vultures) but it most commonly affects chickens, turkeys and waterfowl. There are 7 types of the toxin, A through G that have been identified. Waterfowl are commonly affected by the type C toxin.

Field Signs

Botulism is commonly found in shallow water and wetlands overlying limestone and alkaline water. The toxin is fairly heat tolerant and can remain viable for years in spore form. The toxin requires dead organic matter and an anaerobic environment to thrive. The presence of decomposing vertebrates and invertebrates, rotting vegetation, poor water quality and high temperatures are contributing factors in a botulism outbreak. Outbreaks frequently occur at local park ponds where there is a mixture of wildfowl and abandoned domestic waterfowl that are being fed inappropriate foods such as bread, pizza crusts, donuts, popcorn, etc. The uneaten foods will sink, decay and contract the toxin. During the summer months (July through September) water levels will fall and reveal toxin-infested, rotten food. Waterfowl then consume the decaying organic material and become infected.


Signs of infection can appear within a few hours after ingesting the toxin but can take up to a few days. Clostridium botulinum affects the peripheral nervous system. Birds display a progressive loss of control of legs, wings, neck and eyelids. As paralysis progresses, birds lose their ability to hold their head erect and can easily drown. Severely affected birds appear to be in a coma. If left untreated, most visibly affected birds will die.


If a botulism outbreak is suspected that involves wildfowl, it is important to notify state wildlife agencies as well as the US Fish and Wildlife Service. If only domestic birds have been affected, notify the US Department of Agriculture. A wildlife rehabilitator licensed to treat migratory birds should also be contacted. All affected birds must be removed from the site and admitted to a rehabilitation facility. Steps should be taken to prevent additional birds from being exposed to an infected site.


Treating birds affected by botulism has commonly been viewed as time consuming, expensive and not worthwhile. However, attempts to rehabilitate infected birds have been successful. An anti-toxin is available but is difficult to obtain. The treatment protocol used by many rehabilitators involves an initial dose of Toxiban (an activated charcoal suspension) followed by intensive fluid therapy. Birds receive oral fluids to flush the toxin from their system every few hours until they are able to maintain head carriage, at which point they are given access to fresh water.


The best response to a botulism outbreak is to prevent it from occurring. Monitor local park ponds where abandoned domestic waterfowl reside and monitor their condition. Educate people about the dangers of feeding waterfowl: bread breeds botulism; feeding tames wildfowl and renders them non-migratory; feeding typically tapers off in the cold months and leaves non-migratory birds to starve to death. If you maintain your own flock of domestic fowl, keep their feed fresh and their water clean.

Article By:

Michele Goodman
Webbed Foot Wildlife Rehab Clinic
Ambler, PA


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases.

Ritchie, Branson W., Harrison, Greg J., and Harrison, Linda R. Avian Medicine: Principles and Application. Wingers Pub., 1994.

The Horrors of Fishing Line

When you are fishing, do not cut your lines. Fishing line left in ponds is unmerciful to wildlife. Rehabbers are continually catching ducks, geese, swans and other waterfowl tangled in fishing line. The line embeds itself into legs, wings and even gets swallowed. It has horrifying results on animals causing serious infection, loss of limbs, needless suffering and most often ends in death without intervention.

Reeling in your fishing line takes longer than pulling out your scissors, but the hazard you prevent is worth the few extra minutes. If you are going to fish; please do so responsibly and make every effort to retract your line properly.


       Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee in connection with any guidance provided on this website. Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary expressly disclaims any liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use or for the violation of any federal, state or municipal law or regulation with which such guidance may conflict. Any guidance is general in nature. In addition, the assistance of a qualified professional should be enlisted to address any specific circumstances.

© Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary 2005