1. If this is your first time on BYC, we suggest you start with one of these three options:
    Raising Chickens Chicken Coops Join BYC
    If you're already a member of our community, click here to login & click here to learn what's new!

Dead duck.. trying to figure out the cause

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by smithmal, Jul 14, 2016.

  1. smithmal

    smithmal Out Of The Brooder

    52
    7
    31
    Jun 29, 2015
    Maryland; Carroll County
    Came home tonight to find one of my ducks dead. She was laying in one of the nesting boxes with her eyes open and her head cocked back like she had a star gazing issue. Other than that, I saw no sign of injury or sickness. This morning she was fine when I let her and her sisters out of the coop.

    The ducks are kept secured in a 300 ft2 duck yard. The yard is completely enveloped with hardware cloth (1/2" x 1/2" from 0 - 4ft; 2' x 4' from 4ft up and all around ceiling of duck yard). The yard is kept locked with a heavy duty shackle lock at all times).

    Possible causes:

    1. Heat?
    There was a heat advisory today, but

    1. They had plenty of water
    2. They had plenty of shade

    My other ducks showed no sign of heat stress (panting, etc.).

    2. Rat Snake?
    About three weeks ago I found a large rat snake in the coop. I tried to coral it into a bucket so I could transfer it away from my property but it got away. My coop is on a raised platform 3' high off the ground. During the day, I would keep the coop open. Once I saw the snake, I stopped doing that as I'm sure it slithered up the ramp to gain access to the coop.

    I'm wondering if maybe the rat snake killed my duck. It was a Silver Appleyard (heavyweight breed) about 1.5 years old. I'm thinking maybe the duck got cornered into the nesting box and was killed? I know rat snakes are constrictors and will go after ducklings, but I haven't found any stories about rat snakes killing adult heavyweight ducks.

    Anything else you can think of?

    Thanks,

    smithmal
     
  2. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

    21,681
    2,617
    466
    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Very unlikely that it was the snake.
    Snakes don't kill things they can't or don't try to eat.

    Most likely a disease or mammal.

    Here are your two poultry/Ag dept. labs. Send your bird to one of them and they will be able to tell you what killed the bird.

    Maryland

    Frederick Animal Health Laboratory
    1840 Rosemont Ave
    Frederick, Maryland 21702
    Phone: 301-600-1548 Fax 301-600-6111
    IAV-A, ND
    24

    Maryland

    Maryland Department of Agriculture
    Salisbury Animal Health Laboratory
    27722 Nanticoke Road
    Salisbury, Maryland 21801
    Phone: 410-543-6610 Fax 410-543-6676

    .
     
  3. smithmal

    smithmal Out Of The Brooder

    52
    7
    31
    Jun 29, 2015
    Maryland; Carroll County
    Thanks for the info. What sort of test should I request to diagnose cause of death? Can I just bring the dead duck to the lab and drop it off? Any idea of typical lab test cost and turn around time for answer?

    smithmal
     
  4. TLWR

    TLWR Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,835
    180
    224
    Jul 10, 2010
    southern AL
    You'll need to refrigerate the body and call and ask them specifics.
     
  5. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

    21,681
    2,617
    466
    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Every state is different. Some, like California, are free.
    You can certainly drop it off. That's the best thing to do.
    I always order a complete necropsy so I know the cause of death and any other issues the bird may have had.
    It is about $80 in Missouri but so worth knowing exactly what I'm dealing with. With all the necropsies I've had done, I've never had a disease. They died from things like cancer and heart attacks.
    The lab here is about a 3 hour drive one way, so no small feat.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  6. smithmal

    smithmal Out Of The Brooder

    52
    7
    31
    Jun 29, 2015
    Maryland; Carroll County
    I dropped my duck off at my local Animal Health Lab the next day. A gross necropsy and general blood workup was $12. Today, I got my pathology report back. The official cause of death was "debilitation."
    The report indicated that the duck was suffering from two possible infections:

    1. Respiratory E. coli
    2. Bumble Foot

    There was no bacteria noted in the blood or oviduct. The duck was in good nutritional health. The day of death we had an extreme heat advisory in our area.

    My inclination is that the duck was in poor health at the time and the heat advisory was the "nail in the coffin." In terms of the E. coli infection, from what I've read, E. coli infections are the most common form of respiratory infections and death can occur suddenly. Control of these types of infections general revolve around increasing cleanliness and hygiene.

    My ducks are kept in a raised coop (3 feet off of the ground) with a ramp going to the coop from the duck yard. The coop material is straw with a light coating of Sweet PDZ before putting down straw to reduce the amount of ammonia vapor in the duck coop from duck urine. Coop straw is replaced every two weeks.

    The duck yard is 300 square feet and is completely enveloped in hardware cloth (1/2 x 1/2 from bottom to 4'; 2' x 4' from 4' up and around ceiling of coop). The sand near the water and food tends to get saturated with fecal material need the watering stations. The top layer of the sand is mechanically removed on a monthly basis and cleaned (9 rinses with water followed by a disinfection with non-chlorinated bleach followed by 3 more rinses). You can see a video of my setup here if you are so inclined.

    In terms of the bumblefoot issue, I did not have a continual sand tilling process in place (I do now) and I was not monitoring the ducks foot health (I do now).

    My inclination is that the ducks were and are routing through the sand near the water stations (as that area tends to get wet) and are picking up fecal material from there.

    I have read that there is a E. coli vaccine available (Poulvac) that has shown great effectiveness against flock death with chickens from E. coli infections. Has anyone used this?

    I have had a followup conversation with the pathology vet and was told to give my local extension a call and was provided a number to a poultry expert that could answer additional questions that I may have.

    Does anyone have additional thoughts about my setup and/or cause of death?

    Thanks,

    smithmal
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  7. RachG75

    RachG75 Chillin' With My Peeps

    138
    11
    71
    Jun 5, 2016
    Central Illinois
    I'm sorry about your duck Malcolm. Your coop and run are really nice too; I enjoyed the video because we are soon going to be building a similar area.

    I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure non-chlorine bleach doesn't disinfect. I've googled that before (as a slight germaphobe new mother). It's a common myth, but it doesn't have enough peroxide in it to really do anything, disinfecting-wise. Very curious what others might say; I wasn't aware you have to mechanically remove the sand and rinse it. That seems like a pretty big chore, but better than constantly replacing another kind of bedding, I suppose. Exactly how do you do the rinsing? Did you rig something cool up for that too?
     
  8. smithmal

    smithmal Out Of The Brooder

    52
    7
    31
    Jun 29, 2015
    Maryland; Carroll County
    Thanks for the reply. You are correct. Chlorine free bleach should not be thought of as a disinfectant. Thinking of changing up and using hydrogen peroxide now.

    I found this article regarding disinfecting coops: http://www.scialert.net/qredirect.php?doi=ijps.2009.237.241&linkid=pdf

    and it mentions using hydrogen peroxide or a product called Perasan A (which is a combination of hydrogen peroxide and periacetic acid). I noted the following in the product description:

    This product has demonstrated greater than 99.999% reduction of organisms after 60 seconds exposure period in the AOAC Germicidal and Detergent Sanitizing Action of Disinfectants study. Contains no chlorine. Safer for the environment while being less harmful to equipment. Quickly kills a broad spectrum of microorganisms. Effective over a wide range of pH. USDA applicable, EPA registered. Won¹t harm stainless steel equipment.

    This study specifically indicates very good biocide activity against E. coli with a very high dilution rate (1:768).

    Has anyone used this product?

    In terms of cleaning the sand, I've done it several times trying different methods. I'll be uploading a video on how it is done soon. It does take a good amount of time, but you get loads of high nutrient fertilizer from it (which I dump onto my fruit trees). The basic steps are:

    1. Remove top layer of sand (about 1"-2") with a flat bottom shovel
    2. Place sand in utility cart (best to use one that has a quick release dump feature). Fill utility cart 1/3 - 1/2 full
    3. Fill cart with water (not to rim; about 3/4 of the way full)
    4. Using a rake, continually sift the sand to promote separation of sand and waste
    5. Dump water
    6. Repeat steps 1-5 eight more times
    7. By 9 rinses you should have pretty clean looking sand
    8. Fill cart once again with water
    9. Add appropriate amount of disinfectant
    10. Let set for appropriate time and rake occasionally
    11. Dump water (not on plants or fruit trees)
    12. Rinse 2x more times
    13. Dump sand back into coop and level
    14. Done

    As mentioned, you do get a ton of liquid fertilizer this way. Its my understanding that duck feces is relatively "hot" in solid form so it should be aged, but in liquid form, the nitrates readily break down so it isn't nearly as "hot." I would not however, use this on vegetables since essentially it's raw waste. Dumping it on tree roots is fine though.

    I don't allow my ducks to free range. I wonder how other people are dealing with their duck yards when they keep the ducks confined?

    smithmal
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
    1 person likes this.
  9. ChickenCanoe

    ChickenCanoe Chicken Obsessed

    21,681
    2,617
    466
    Nov 23, 2010
    St. Louis, MO
    Thank you so much for posting the results. I wish many more people would do this. It would be very enlightening to all.
     
  10. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Running over with Blessings Premium Member

    69,335
    5,092
    671
    Oct 3, 2009
    Western N.C.
    I use Oxine AH for disenfecting inside my duck geese and chicken houses. http://www.shagbarkbantams.com/oxine.htm
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by