Can a broken duck bill heal?

shelby_connelly

In the Brooder
Jun 12, 2022
5
10
24
British Columbia
2 weeks ago, my call ducks were attacked by a raccoon. After a tiring day at my landscaping job, I unintentionally fell asleep without putting my ducks to bed. They normally had free run of the backyard during the day, and I would put them to bed in a predator-safe pen when it got dark. My dad woke me up at around 10:30 pm to remind me. When I went outside, I couldn't see or hear my ducks. I called and called for them, as they recognize and respond to my voice, but nothing happened. Then I found the white duck's (Cap) body by the gate. I was too late, and something had killed him. The grey duck (Bucky) was nowhere to be found. I assumed he had been dragged away, and ran to the front yard to look for a sign of him. While I was in the front yard, my sister found him. He had fallen from the tall laurel hedge in the backyard. Something must have dragged him up into the trees.

Bucky was still alive but severely injured. He had a large open wound on his neck/chest. Skin and feathers were missing, and a tendon was exposed on the back of his neck. He had a smaller wound on his tail near his oil gland. His back left toenail was missing, and his bill was crushed. My mom is a nurse, so we called her while she was at work. She told us to clean his wounds with Hibitane. I didn't feel comfortable keeping him in the duck pen for the night, so we set him up in the dog kennel in the kitchen. He had access to clean water and softened food, but he would not eat or drink. He spent the night standing alert in the far corner of the kennel. I slept on the floor beside him, as I wasn't sure if he would make it through the night.

The next morning, I saw the raccoon in the backyard. It was drinking water out of the duck pool. My mom chased it away with a broom. After having seen the extent of his wounds in person, she felt Bucky was suffering and would likely need to be euthanized. I still hoped there was a chance for him, and if he were to be euthanized, I wanted a veterinarian to do it humanely. I contacted multiple veterinary hospitals, but they were either busy or did not treat ducks. A friend of my parents has chickens and goats. She recommended the Langley Animal Clinic. We were able to get him an emergency appointment the same day. After examining Bucky, the vet told us that ducks are incredibly resilient, and he had at least an 80% chance of survival. He said that his wounds were mainly superficial, and we could treat them with over-the-counter Polysporin to prevent infection. This came as a very happy surprise to us, as we thought he wouldn't make it. I was only charged $65 for his appointment!

Once a day, we gave Bucky a bath. We rinsed his wounds with Hibitane and hydrogen peroxide and applied Polysporin. His feathers would become waterlogged after his baths, so we had to pat him dry with a towel. His oil gland was undamaged, but he hadn't been preening. It likely hurt his neck too much to reach back toward his tail. I read that hydrogen peroxide is beneficial for the initial cleaning of wounds, but can irritate new tissue growth. We removed the hydrogen peroxide rinse from Bucky's bath routine.

It had been almost a week since the incident. Bucky had begun to drink water again, but he wouldn't eat anything. His poops were green and watery. I emailed the vet with my concerns, and we scheduled another appointment for the next day. The vet taught us how to syringe-feed Bucky, and recommended adding a vitamin supplement called Poul-Vite to his drinking water. As the hydrogen peroxide, he also recommended removing the Hibitane rinse from his bath routine. The appointment was free of charge, and the Poul-Vite only cost $8!

The next day, while I was at work, my mom let Bucky waddle around the kitchen after his bath. He kept pacing by the glass French doors and looking out into the backyard. She let him have some supervised time outside. At first, he wandered around looking lost. We think he was looking for his friend Cap. After a while, he started pecking at the grass like he normally does. When he was brought back inside the dog kennel, he started pecking at the softened food. When I got home, I offered him some normal duck food pellets. He gobbled these up so fast! We think he realized that his friend wasn't coming back, that he was all alone, and he had to take care of himself. Once he began eating again, his poops became more frequent, brown, and solid.

Bucky's personality is coming back more and more every day. His wounds are beginning to heal and scab over, and he has begun preening again. Once a day, he gets some supervised time outside to exercise and forage. The other day, however, another small part of his bill chipped off. He is still eating and drinking, but some of the food falls out of his mouth. I was wondering what other duck owners have experienced with bill injuries. Will it heal?

For anyone living in British Columbia, I highly recommend Dr. Aaron Gibbons at Langley Animal Hospital. We wouldn't be where we are today without his kindness and generosity!

Attached is a photo of Bucky's bill injury. I can't figure out how to rotate the photo!
 

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I am sorry to hear about your duck. You have a great vet there. Your duck was most likely in shock after the traumatic event. It can take them a while to get back to normal after an attack. I lost one duck to a hawk a few months ago and one duck in particular took it hard. She recently just returned to normal after some one on one pampering.

@ruthhope I believe has a duck with an injured bill. It will not regrow. You can soften his food to make it easier for him to eat.
 
@shelby_connelly what a horror story your Bucky has gone through. Thank goodness you have access to a kind and affordable vet.

As @Quatie wrote, I have a rescued pekin drake, Ping, that was attacked as a small duckling by a raccoon. His clutch mate died in the attack but this little sweet boy survived. His bill is now permanently deformed but he lives a full life.

Ping gets his duck pellets and mealworms in an old fashioned heavy, deep earthenware dogbowl. Its deep to help him eat and heavy so that it doesn't get pushed around/over as he eats. He also manages to eat ducky soup [food left over in the duck's food bowls, that I add water to] in a heavy black rubber dish [mine was from Tractor Supplies. ]
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Don't worry about food leaking from Bucky's injured beak. Just put the food in a deep dish so Bucky can "plow" the food to the side and get it inside the bill. When the bill is healed, it may well have a hole that leaks, but that wont worry Bucky!

At the moment for the newly injured bill, I would give ducky soup rather than dry food as it is easier to slurp up. But once the bill is healed, even if it has a hole or is otherwise deformed Bucky will be able to eat. I have seen a duck, with the end half of its upper bill missing, that is able to eat from a deep dish. Ping's main challenge is eating his defrosted peas. I put them in a plastic cup that tapers to a narrow base. He gets really excited by the peas and shoots them all over the place, but within the cup they hit the sides and fall down. He manages to get his share of these treats.

Looking at the photo of Bucky, I don't think he'll have any problems eating long term. He will leak water and some food through any remaining hole, although that may worry you, it wont worry Bucky
 
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