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10 Common Illnesses Found In Ducklings

Raising animals on the farm or homestead is a fun and rewarding activity. Animals can be great companionship, but they have much more to offer. They can contribute to your family’s diet by providing eggs, milk, and meat. You may also consider raising animals for profit. You can use the byproducts to trade or to sell for money. You can also breed your animals and sell them or barter with other homesteaders.

Working with animals is not an easy task, but with experience and knowledge, you can become an expert. Fowl are a great place to start if you are new to animal husbandry. Most people think immediately of chickens, but you should also think about raising ducks. As with chickens, you can get eggs and meat from your ducks. When they forage, ducks eat snails and slugs, providing you with natural pest control. Additionally, ducks make nice pets. If you are thinking of raising a bird as an educational activity for your children, ducks are a wonderful choice.

Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Raising Farm Birds…

As with raising any animal, health is an important consideration. Ducklings are susceptible to infections, diseases, and parasites. The best way to deal with these is prevention. Keep your ducklings healthy by providing them with adequate shelter, food, and water. Cleanliness is also crucial. They need dry, clean bedding and plenty of ventilation. Unlike chickens, ducks cannot clean themselves very well. Make sure your ducks have a clean water source for bathing, such as a pond or a baby pool. Get them the proper vaccinations and de-wormers and always be on the lookout for signs of illness.

With these precautions, you have a great chance of raising your ducklings to be healthy, adult ducks. But, even with your best efforts, you may see disease or illness in your flock. Below are some of the most common health issues you might observe in your ducklings and ducks.

Curled Toes

If you are hatching your ducklings, you may see some come out of the egg with toes curled up like a fist. If they don’t straighten out after a day, you should correct them with a homemade splint. Cut a piece of cardboard to match the size of the duckling’s foot. Uncurl the foot and flatten it against the cardboard. Stick it to the cardboard with band-aids. Keep the splint on for about eight hours and check the status. Put on a new splint if needed.

Duck Virus Hepatitis

Ducklings between one day and about a month old are susceptible to this contagious and fatal disease. As they get older, the ducklings develop a resistance to it. The disease sets in quite rapidly and spreads very quickly. It typically produces a mortality rate close to 100 percent in a group of ducklings. Symptoms of hepatitis include spasms and contractions in legs and arching. Affected ducklings may die within an hour of symptoms being seen. The only way to deal with this disease is to prevent its occurrence. Keep young ducklings separated from older ducklings and ducks. If you are breeding ducks, the mother should be vaccinated against hepatitis.

Duck Virus Enteritis

This disease is also called duck plague and most often affects older ducks. It can, however, affect ducklings in some cases. The disease is contagious and fatal and is caused by the herpes virus. Symptoms of the illness include sluggish behavior, green-yellow diarrhea that may contain blood, and ruffled feathers. This virus is rare but also very deadly, so it is worthwhile to vaccinate any breeder ducks that you have in your flock.


Coccidiosis is an infection caused by the parasite coccidia. They attack the lining of the intestines and prevent nutrients from being absorbed into the bloodstream. This results in under-nourished birds that are too thin. They may also have blood in their droppings. The infection is usually contracted when the ground is littered with infected droppings and is more easily spread in warm and wet conditions. The best way to prevent coccidiosis in your ducklings is to keep their area clean and sanitary. You can also get an anticoccidial agent to put in feed or water to kill the parasite. When you are raising ducklings, move their coop to a new patch each day to prevent accumulation of droppings. Ducks with the infection can be treated.

Slipped Wing

Ducklings with slipped wing have feathers that turn outwards or that simply drop from the body. This condition is caused by a diet that is too high in protein, which makes the duckling grow too fast. The quills accumulate more blood than the wing can support correctly. To avoid slipped wing in your ducklings, make sure their feed does not have too much protein. Consult with a veterinarian regarding the correct feed.


When you fail to keep the ducklings’ living quarters clean (especially dry), they can develop a respiratory infection called aspergillosis. It is caused by mold spores that accumulate in bedding and hay that is wet and moldy. An affected duck or duckling will have labored breathing, although that can also indicate pneumonia. You can treat aspergillosis with a fungicide, but it will not always be successful. Keep living areas clean and dry and you should be able to avoid this infection. Also be careful with the ducks’ feed. Store it in a cool, dry place and never use feed that has gone moldy. Ducks can get aflatoxin poisoning from a mold that grows on grain. Ducks are very susceptible to the mold’s toxin and even small amounts can be fatal.

Wet Feather

Another condition that can affect your ducks and ducklings if you do not provide them with dry enough quarters is wet feather. You will recognize wet feather by a dirty appearance and waterlogged down. The cause of this is living in wet and muddy conditions without reprieve. When the ducks spend so much time being wet and muddy, they cannot get clean or dry. You can prevent wet feather by keeping your ducks’ living area clean and dry. When the weather is excessively wet for an extended period of time, keep them inside and dry. If they do develop wet feather, it usually corrects itself in the next season with new feather growth.

Avian Cholera

Avian or fowl cholera is caused by a certain bacterium that infects ducks called Pasteurella multocida. The infection occurs most often in locations that are unsanitary or where ducks have standing water in their pens. Symptoms of the cholera include diarrhea, mucous discharge, a loss of appetite, and labored breathing. There are treatments, but keeping conditions clean, sanitary, and dry can usually prevent an outbreak.


The bacterium Clostridium botulinum produces toxins that are dangerous to ducks. Colonies of this bacterium grow in stagnant ponds and in other areas where organic matter is decaying, such as near animal carcasses. The toxins produced can cause ducks to lose control of the muscles in their legs, neck, and wings. You will see the duck’s neck go limp, which is why this is also called limberneck. The affected duck will also be unable to swallow. Avoid poisoning by keeping ducks away from stagnant water, especially in hot weather when the bacteria grow the most. The duck may die rapidly, but you can attempt an old treatment. Give the duck water with one tablespoon of Epsom salts to one cup of water. Administer it with a syringe (not with a needle) because it cannot swallow easily.


Like most farm animals, your ducklings are vulnerable to worms of various types. These internal parasites can range from fatal to a nuisance, and getting the animals de-wormed is recommended. Check with your veterinarian for the appropriate wormer for your new ducklings.

Raising ducks is fun and can also be profitable. Take good care of your little ducklings, and they will reward you in turn. While the list of possible diseases can seem overwhelming and a little terrifying, it is easy to avoid most of these conditions. Take all the necessary precautions with your birds, keep their food, water, and living area clean and tidy, and you will not have to worry about much.

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