Given the right conditions and a suitable diet most species of waterfowl will breed in captivity and for many keepers of wildfowl it is the breeding that offers both a challenge and a reward. There is something very gratifying about breeding something in captivity that is far removed from its natural environment and in a world where there is ever more pressure on the environment, knowledge gained from captive breeding will almost certainly help save species from extinction in the future. Most species of waterfowl and pheasants have adapted well to captivity and viable populations have been maintained over many generations and the interest and skill in doing this needs to be encouraged so that the ability is there should the need arise in the future to save a species from otherwise certain extinction. A viable captive population could potentially provide a nucleus for reintroduction in the event that a species became extinct in the wild and sadly this will almost certainly be the case with a number of the more vulnerable species.
Consequently if you aim to breed the waterfowl in your collection it will be important to provide the right sites for the given species to use. Some species are very much more exacting in their requirements than others. A Mallard would almost certainly lay in an enclosure that was almost completely devoid of any appropriate nest sites but at the other extreme something like a Bufflehead could be in full breeding condition but if the female had not got an appropriate nest box to lay in she would not lay.
When preparing nest sites consideration should be given to the type of nest site favoured by the species in the wild and in basic terms trying to create a suitable substitute while all the time remembering that this is not an exact science. Waterfowl that nest in hollow trees in the wild are unlikely to lay if you do not provide appropriate nest boxes, in the wild many waterfowl species nest on the ground in cover and many of these species will readily use an appropriately sited ground nest box if natural cover is not available. However there are exceptions and in these instances suitable natural cover needs to be encouraged or created to provide the right site to encourage some species to nest.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding nest site preparation and invariably sites that you are convinced will be perfect are the last to be used and a spare nest box that is set up where you walk past every time you visit your waterfowl and cause disturbance invariably has multiple occupants during the season. With nestboxes and sites a picture speaks a thousand words and over time I will add pictures of different sites and designs with specific narrative that I hope will assist.
These can be of various designs and can be attached to a post or a tree trunk and positioned over the water or on land. The entrance hole would usually face the water and a ramp should be provided to the entrance hole so that the duck can access the box. There is no specific angle that the ramp should be positioned at. It is often the boxes with a ramp that is particularly steep that prove the most popular.
These can again be of varying designs and sizes but would usually be postioned on the ground. They can be in the open but I would suggest that they are better placed at the base of a hedge or tree or just under a shrub or just into some natural vegetation.
Natural / artificial sites
Depending on the size of the enclosure it may be possible to create naural nesting sites by planting appropriate plants that will provide nesting cover or placing some logs or branches appropriatly in light cover to create a semi-natural site. Hopefully some of the pictures below will give some ideas and possibilities.