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Duck Illness

19 April 2007 1,814 views 3 Comments

We haven’t been doing any blogging for the last few weeks because we’ve been dealing with a bunch of sick ducks. The ducks were doing just great until they were about 2 weeks old, and one night my husband noticed that Megatooth was sitting down in the brooder and looking very listless. Over a 12 hour period, she went from looking normal, to bad, to worse. It was a real shock to us since they had been thriving since we got them. We weren’t sure what the problem was at first, but the most glaring symptom was her weakness and wobbliness on her feet. She didn’t want to walk on them, and frequently collapsed. We were also horrified to see Megatooth go into spasms that we initially thought were seizures. (Later on, I came to the conclusion that she was most likely just panicking when she couldn’t regain her footing, although there might have been a neurological component too). I was very confused. From all I have read about ducklings, I knew that leg problems were most likely a result of feed that is deficient of niacin. I was feeding the ducks with chick starter, which has less niacin than ducks need. But to make up for that, I was supplementing their feed with Brewer’s Yeast, which my duck-raising guide recommended. So although the symptoms pointed towards a niacin problem, I really couldn’t understand how that could be the issue since I had been so careful about it.

To make a long story short, Arp ended up taking Megatooth into the vet to see what was up. I was not originally  planning to bring the ducks to the vet, but when the other ducks began to show some of the same kind of leg weakness, I knew I had to figure this problem out rather than lose the whole flock.  The vet’s diagnosis, which I’m still not entirely sure I agree with, is that all the ducks had a nutritional deficiency that originated from the egg due to poor feeding of the mother.  Since we bought the ducklings from a hatchery, I would of course have no way to verify this.  The vet said there was a small possibility that the duck had encephalitis, but there was no way to prove that with a live duckling.  Either way, we were not to blame, which made me feel better.  So at the vet’s direction, we began tube-feeding Megatooth and giving all the ducklings a vitamin-B complex by mouth several times per day.  It sure is fun to force vitamins down a ducks throat!  (They don’t like it very much, for some reason).

Sadly, the tube-feeding and vitamins failed to work with Megatooth.  Although the other ducklings went back to almost normal as of today, Megatooth didn’t make it.  We were sad to see her go.  She was the first of our Khaki Cambells to be noticed due to her more obvious egg tooth (hence, her name) and her more lightly colored feet and bill.  We have wondered whether her lighter coloring was an early indicator of the deficiency that killed her, but so often duck illnesses seems to be more about guessing than knowing.  I’m also sad that she died because that was the one duck name that was basically chosen by M.


  • stephanie said:

    I have had 2 female ducks that i thought they were egg bound. after reading this blog i am convinced it is a vitaman problem one female has died and i have the other seperated her. but my main thing is is there a thing as to much vitamen b can that hurt her also? and is it pill form or liquid?

  • Abby C said:

    I’m so glad I found this blog, even though I fear the same could happen to one of my babies, too. I bought 2 colored Easter ducklings from a local feed store around the holiday, one red and one a bright orange. The ducklings have had chick start from the beginning, sufficient room in a fairly big storage tub lined with newspaper and hay, along with a shallow, heavy dish for their water/swimming pool and a 100 watt (or so) heat lamp. My boyfriend and I have been taking good care of them and letting them play at a park every so often and they’ve seemed as happy as two orphaned ducklings could, I suppose.
    In the past week or so, the sweet, smaller orange duckling has been having the same little episode of a spasm like you described and it’s so scary to watch. I’ve been feeding them both chick start for the month or so I’ve had them so maybe they have a niactin shortage also. I’ve heard the colored Easter ducklings don’t live long, but I didn’t know if it were from the lack of a mother or from the lack of care and knowledge from the people who buy them for decoration.
    I’m calling a vet tomorrow to try and get some information, but if you could write back and give me some advice that’d be great also. Thank you :)

  • Leslyn said:

    I had 12 ducklings that we hatched in an incubator, and they all seemed happy and healthy for the first week, then they started limping around (I thought my daughters had hurt them playing with them)at one time five ducks were having trouble walking. Then the first born, my special duck died. Then the next morning I found one of them lying on it’s back kicking it’s feet unable to get up. I picked it up and held it and it’s legs would go straight and rigid, that’s what would tip him over. I really didn’t think he would live another hour, he was in really bad shape. I called the feed store and they gave me the number of someone who has written a book about raising ducks and I called and talked to them. They said it sounded like a niacin deficiency and recommended 100-200 milligrams disolved in a gallon of water. So I immediately started all the ducklings on this water, and 2 1/2 days later, the really sick one is still alive, and doing a lot better, though he still has trouble with his balance, but all the others are walking around just fine.
    Hope this is helpful to someone else.