Featured Stories on BackYard Chickens
- Overrun with Runners
Ducklings pant sometimes when they are nervous.
Does she have water to wash her head in frequently?
Their nares can get clogged and cause mouth breathing. But it sounds like she may be nervous.
Yes, it could be that she's stressed when handled and that's why she is panting. But it could also be dried food stuck in the nares. From what you've posted, I think this is likely the cause. Ducks must have water deep enough to dip their heads and clear out their nares at all times. Ducklings get food stuck in their nares quite frequently and if they cannot properly blow it out of their nares, it can become dried and stuck in there and cause open-mouth breathing because they can't get enough air in through their blocked nares. Do they get bath time every day? That is also a good opportunity for them to really blow out their nares.
You can also make them a deeper waterer by getting an old plastic food container with a lid. Cut a hole in the lid just big enough for them to get their heads in so they can wash their eyes and blow out their nares. You don't want the hole big enough for them to get their bodies in, though. They will just get themselves and the brooder soaking wet and will chill quickly, which is life-threatening to little ducklings.