3 week old Pekins - breathing troubles

LT71689

Chirping
Jul 5, 2020
274
451
93
Canada
I'm "fostering" a pair of ducklings this summer and may be running into some issues.

There's a farm a bit north of me that raises poultry mostly for consumption (from what I gather) but runs a "fostering" gig in hatching season that lets people keep a pair of newly hatched ducklings for a few weeks as a 'fun thing to do' and when you're done with them, you give them back to the farm. Quarantine felt like the perfect (and honestly only) time to foster a pet and when none of the cat rescues got back to me (a lot of other people had the same idea I guess) I stumbled on the duckling program and jumped at it.

Turns out I'm much more attached to them than I thought I would be so I've arranged for a friend who just moved onto a farm to home them when they get too big for me, but for right now they're doing fine at home with me.

Except for their breathing. I started them off their first week in a big plastic storage tote, flipping and scooping their bedding several times per day and then giving them a clean box with all new bedding right before bed. They were quickly outgrowing it so I've built them a 4x8ish pen in my dining room thats solid-bottomed with chicken wire fencing so they get plenty of airflow. We go outside to swim in a kiddie pool for an hour or longer almost every day and I let them roam the house a bit too. I scoop their bedding and replace as needed now and it gets much less wet and gross since they have more room to move.

They had a heat lamp in their plastic tote and then on the side of their new pen for a few weeks but this weekend I've turned it off. They did their best to hide from it when they were in the tote even at only one and two weeks and I'd frequently find them panting and have to raise the lamp away from them. Once they moved to the big pen they never went into the corner it was shining on - if anything it took away their available space because they didnt want to be near it. I thought we kept our house pretty cold (A/C is constantly on at 68F ish) but I still find them not huddling together, back feet stretched out, and sometimes panting. When they DO huddle its around their water dish, trying to dunk their chests into the overflow pan and its more like theyre trying to hog the dish than huddle for warmth.

They both trade off in breathing issues, I rarely find them both in distress at the same time, but they've both exhibited the open-mouth panting, gulping/gasping motion. Sometimes their breathing just looks heavy while other times its very fast and shallow looking. I can hear their breathing - it doesnt sound like the wheezy/raspy noises people make when theirs a fluid infection in their lungs, but I hear the air passing through their bills, a dry wispy noise. Theyre both starting to find their quacks and right now its a bit more honky than chirpy or quacky and the very chatty girl will sometimes honk as she breathes out. Like a goose being gently squeezed on every exhale, like snoring.

They've consistently had a water dish deep enough to dip their heads in (plus their daily swims where they can dive), I've checked their nares and everything looks clear.

I've read through a ton of the "duckling not breathing" threads here and am terrified I'm going to wake up and find them dead one morning (a bit like asking WebMD why you have a headache and finding the article on brain tumors). I thought I was *over* cleaning their bedding but after reading about aspergillosis now I'm not so sure. I don't have a vet (because I normally have no pets and didnt exactly plan on keeping these guys more than a few weeks...but here we are and I love them to pieces) I can definitely find one but we're not exactly in farm country so they'd be in for a pretty long car ride which I'm afraid might stress them even more (and so many of the articles I've found on aspergillosis say theres no treatment so a vet might just blow me off?)

I've started ACV in their water today and ordered a bottle of Oxine after reading the giant thread about how great it is (though if I'm misting them with it I'm worried about their bedding being wet?). I dont know if they're just really overheated for how big they are or if something more serious is wrong. *I'm* cold in my house so I find it hard to believe they're too hot but maybe I'm wrong? They eat, drink, and run around pretty normally (I think)

I'll add videos as soon as I get a youtube account sorted.

Thanks for any help/advice!

-Laura

Edit: additional info

They'll be 4 weeks this coming thursday. I *think* I've got one girl and one boy. I use pine shavings for bedding and the food they get is what the farm supplied me with, theres no label on their bag but they assured me it was enough to last at least 4 weeks (there's still plenty left). For the first week and a half they had some sort of yellow powder that was dissolved and mixed in with their drinking water that was also supplied by the farm so I'm assuming the food is regular feed and the "ducky gatorade" was the extra vitamins ducklings need.
 
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Magnolia Ducks

Crowing
Jan 24, 2018
4,336
12,622
482
Magnolia, TX
Pekins seem susceptible to the heat more than other breeds. Don't worry that shallow panting is normal for them. Mine do it all day, granted its much hotter at my place. Also stretching the feet out behind them is normal. I call it duck yoga. It sounds like you are taking good care of them and they are doing normal ducky things.
 

LT71689

Chirping
Jul 5, 2020
274
451
93
Canada

This is Melba on the right, my girl with her quick shallow breathing/panting drying off after a swim. Theyre a little tough to catch because they start quacking at me as soon as I give them attention, but I think you can really see her tail end bob with the breathing. Triscuit, my theoretical boy on the left is breathing pretty normal, though ironically he was the one having trouble in the first place today which is why I brought them out for a swim. He did a LOT of dunking and shaking his head, a little gasping even while swimming which I haven't seen either do before, but now seems alright. (and they've gotten back in the pool for their second swim)

I think I noticed the breathing issues in her first and it struck me as odd that she'd be too hot when he's been bigger than her the whole time and he wasn't having any problems at first. Now they trade off pretty evenly - if one of them is perfectly fine the other is doing something worrying
 

LT71689

Chirping
Jul 5, 2020
274
451
93
Canada
Pekins seem susceptible to the heat more than other breeds. Don't worry that shallow panting is normal for them. Mine do it all day, granted its much hotter at my place. Also stretching the feet out behind them is normal. I call it duck yoga. It sounds like you are taking good care of them and they are doing normal ducky things.
Half the responses I read on other threads were "that's just Pekins" and the other half were "omg your duck is dying". It's an emotional rollercoaster! I was worried about taking their lamp away too early (the instructions the farm gave specifically for them was to keep it on for four weeks and I've seen other people in the forums do even longer) but the ONLY time I saw them voluntarily go anywhere near it was one day they came in from the rain and didnt get to warm up in the sun like usual. Otherwise they avoided it completely.

They dont seem to nervously huddle like they're straining for warmth, but they'll lay together pretty often (they're extremely attached to each other, I cant move one of them just around the corner for half a second before they start freaking out) and I couldnt figure out their temperatures because one would be pushing to snuggle while the other was panting away like they just ran a marathon and I figured if they were too hot they'd scatter so I thought maybe its not the temperature and something worse
 

LT71689

Chirping
Jul 5, 2020
274
451
93
Canada

Tried to get their breathing noises. Sound might need to go all the way up. When the rest of the house is quiet it's really apparent to me that I can hear them
 

Isaac 0

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
Jul 19, 2016
22,489
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1,051
Iowa
Pekins are so heavy/fat, breathing like that is pretty normal. As long as you're at least attempting to keep them in cooler temperatures, and they're not showing any abnormal symptoms I would not be concerned. :D
 

LT71689

Chirping
Jul 5, 2020
274
451
93
Canada
Thanks for the reassurances.

It's definitely cold in our house, my polar bear of a husband told me I could turn the A/C if I wanted to because he got cold. Still, I wrapped an ice pack in a towel and they're fighting over who gets to sit on top of it, so I guess I'll just keep that routine going.
 

Maddog_photog

Songster
May 22, 2020
348
470
146
San Diego, CA
Thanks for the reassurances.

It's definitely cold in our house, my polar bear of a husband told me I could turn the A/C if I wanted to because he got cold. Still, I wrapped an ice pack in a towel and they're fighting over who gets to sit on top of it, so I guess I'll just keep that routine going.
It’s hot over here, and my Pekins have been panting. I had some seedless grapes chopped into fourths that I had frozen in the freezer so I threw a few her way and the panting stopped and she got a little treat..!
I feel the same way about my ducks as you do with yours! In contrast I did get mine as pets, not meat production fosters, yet I have grown far more attached to them than I would have ever anticipated! I keep thinking to myself, and telling anyone who would listen: I may never understand the reason ducks aren’t a more popular pet! I read online somewhere somebody described ducks as puppy dogs with feathers, and I think that’s a very accurate description.
 

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