Duck suddenly died! Please help diagnose!


Jan 18, 2016
Portland OR
I have 3 welsh harlequin females. They are 9 months old. They have been great pets- loving life in our backyard in Portland, OR, foraging, swimming in their pond and giving us 1 egg each per day for about the last 4 months. One of our girls (our favorite one) suddenly died today and we are searching for answers and feel totally helpless, sad and are hoping that we didn't do something wrong or let her suffer unknowingly. Im hoping someone on here might be able to help with a diagnoses, especially since we are hoping it isn't something that might affect the other two!

About 2 weeks ago egg production tapered off. This coincided with some cold weather and snow (low was 27 a couple nights). Around the same time the girls started molting- mostly their flight feathers- which we thought was either due to stress from the cold or just regular early winter molting. Many forums claim that early winter molting is normal. They didn't seem to mind being cold but did not care for the snow at all and opted to stay in their pen all day- which is very unlike them. As the snow melted they ventured out and resumed normal activity. Two of the three girls molted all of their flight feathers. The third still has most if not all. There are also lots of downy feathers around the yard.
The weather has been rainy and consistently in the 40s. The ducks dont seem to mind. They still swim and forage. They have been sleeping in their nesting box rather than the open air portion of the pen, which they were opting for through the fall. The other day I caught them napping-All but one was sitting-the one standing seemed to be fluffed up and shivering. I wish I could remember which one it was that was doing that. Not sure if it was the one that died or not.
The other morning I let them out and they ran to their pool to jump in the fresh water I had just filled. They were all excited and running top speed. The one that died was in the rear and I did notice her abdomen seemed fatter than the others. I wouldn't call it distended or swollen per se, but it was noticable.
They have been eating less feed lately in general, but all seem to devour meal worm treats and cut up veggie scraps with excitement. They also forage all day long. Their bedding is cleaned every other day and water is kept fresh and full daily. One pond has been left to stagnate over the fall winter (mostly because its hard to clean and Im very pregnant at the moment). They have avoided that one and dont drink from it or swim in it.
Its been raining like the dickens this week so I havent been hanging out outisde with the flock as much as usual, so symptoms may have been missed, but today is the first day of us noticing real symptoms besides the recollections listed above.
My husband noticed this evening when he went to put them in for the night that 2 were in the pond and one was sitting against the wall acting weird. She felt wet and was so docile he could pick her right up, which is not at all typical. He put her down and she stumbled toward the pen. Her left wing seemed droopy and she was very imbalanced, sitting down every few feet. He called me out and we inspected her wings and body for damage. No signs of injury or blood. Her abdomen didn't feel like there was an egg in there. No protruding oviducts. Her body feathers felt thick and normal. We put her down and she walked slowly behind some shrubs with her wings low and mouth open. She went into the pen and sat down. She definitely seemed disoriented and abnormal. We were leaving for a few hours so decided to check on her when we returned. We just returned to find her dead in the pen where we left her. She was found with wings slightly out (not fully outstretched), head tilted to the side in front of her. She was stiff.
Does anyone know what could have happened? Egg bound? Botulism? Poisoning? We are sad and searching for clues! We dont want the rest of our brood to meet the same fate!


Jul 8, 2017
Did you ever find out what happened? I'm curious because I just found one of my three-year-old white layers dead in the shed (where they sleep). She seemed fine this morning and I found her dead at about 4:00. We have noticed that the ducks have slowed their laying in the last two weeks (almost to a halt), which is why your post intrigues me. The weather has been irregular, but not cold. I also looked around the yard and saw that some tomato vines had been nibbled through the garden fence, which they've never done before. I'm wondering if the tomato vine poisoned her, or if it was something else. I've removed the plants, but I'm afraid that we'll lose another one. We have three more white layers and two Welsh Harlequin.

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