Duckling Can't Walk - Diagnosis? Advice?

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by speckled_egg, Jul 8, 2011.

  1. speckled_egg

    speckled_egg Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 31, 2009
    Hey everyone,

    I've raised laying hens before, but this is my first try with ducks and I have eleven Pekins from Murray McMurray that are a few days away from three weeks old. They're very cute, but they're already enormous! This morning, when I went to let them into their run, one of them wasn't able to stand up. I took her (I'm guessing a her because her squeaker is starting to "break" [​IMG]) out separately and tested her in the kiddie pool to see if she could swim - she was able to swim, but seemed to experience discomfort when using one of her legs (I also may have had my overprotective Mama-vision on). I tried putting her on the ground and she was able to run back to the rest of the ducklings, but she had a horrible, lopsided run and sat down immediately after joining them. All the other ducklings were running around with ease and hopping in and out of the water, but she just sat where she was. I separated her from the group and put her in a box in the shade with food and water, which she consumed eagerly (though she'd ignored both when they were out of her immediate reach). I kept an eye on her throughout the day and she's maintained a healthy appetite, and has even scooted around a bit in her box, but seems to have low energy level both in the box and when I hold her. My ducklings are usually very active, but she only moves occasionally to adjust her position. Her other symptoms were odd defecation - her stool seems to be foul-smelling water with a few grains of feed in it, and possibly wheezing (I can hear her breathe if I listen for it, which I've read is the poultry version of wheezing?). I've checked her over and there is no swelling or obvious signs of trauma.

    I've been thinking over how she could have injured herself (because I'm hoping this is injury, not illness), and a few things come to mind. The one that makes the most sense, is that she climbed up on the nest box I have in the duck coop and jumped off of it. It's about a foot tall? Maybe a little taller? If it's this, then it would make sense that she's the only duckling injured, as the ramp to the top of the nest box is fairly steep (purposefully, to discourage the squeakers from getting up there before they're old enough to use it) and the food and water incentive is to stay below. Another possibility is rapid weight gain, which I'm skeptical of, mainly because she's about the same size as the other ducklings, all the ducklings have had some milk and a good amount of veggies in their diet to promote strong legs and slower growth, and none of the others have had this problem. I'm fairly limited in my duck knowledge, so I'll keep researching, and hopefully someone's got some ideas on here! I'd be much obliged to anyone who tosses a few my way.

    Oh! And for anyone who's worried about her stuck in a box, she's now in my bedroom in the brooder with a heat lamp, water and a dish of pureed spinach mixed with nonmedicated chick starter. She sounds contented and will mutter to herself when I move my foot (which is the only part of me currently visible to her) and was snuffling around in her water dish before she scooted away from it to get some (drier) rest.

    So, any ideas? Is this an injury? An illness? Is she spraddle-legged?
  2. Stormy Autumn

    Stormy Autumn Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 6, 2011
    It could be a vitamin deficiency. Ducks have different nutritional needs than chickens. B vitamins (especially Niacin) are really important for them, and a lack of Niacin can cause leg problems. I've never needed to use it myself, but you can buy niacin in the vitamin section of the drug store. There is a normal niacin which is what you need, and a No-Flush Niacin which is the wrong kind. You can also get brewer's yeast, which is high in Niacin. A vitamin/electrolyte mix for poultry from the feed store might help, too.
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2011
  3. bt03

    bt03 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 1, 2011
    Over the rainbow...
    Stormy is right about the niacin. It may just be the one duckling because she doesn't process it as well as the others. I have had a single runt that needed help while hatch-mate was just fine. Also the spinach is a no, no for ducks. Something about it blocks calcium absorption and can cause problems also. You may also want to try a Save-A-Chick vitamin pack. If you have a Tractor Supply Co near by or any feed store may have them or even be able to order it for you. It's all the yummy vitamins that are good for chicks and ducks to help perk them right up [​IMG]
  4. speckled_egg

    speckled_egg Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 31, 2009
    In regards to spinach, while it does contain oxalic acid which binds with calcium, which reduces the amount calcium absorbed, it's also a good source of calcium, which means that most of its "calcium blocking" is of the calcium it provides. It's high in antioxidants, iron, vitamins K, A, C, B2 and E, is fairly high in calcium and does contain niacin. It's supposed to be very good for bone health. Beet greens, kale and chard also contain high levels of oxalic acid, and nothing has been mentioned about restricting them in bird diets, so I think that the concern of spinach being bad for ducks may have been a bit blown out of proportion. [​IMG] Personally, I use spinach in moderation and only for birds that are not laying. I'm not trying to shoot you down, bt03, I just think that spinach is not quite the devil it's perceived to be. With that said, I will remove it from the ducklings' diet to see if it makes a difference.

    Thanks for the info about brewers yeast, Stormy Autumn and bt03! I'll check it out, because it's very possible she's just not as good at absorbing it as her flockmates.

    An update: She seems to have gotten worse - she is now unable to stand at all. If I set her on the ground, all she can do is scoot forward using the base of her neck, her beak, and probably some minimal input from her legs. It's horrible to watch. She remains perky and alert, but seems to have a reduced energy level, or has simply given up trying to be active. I tried letting her swim again, and she kept her right leg out behind her, unmoving, for most of it. She was able to use it to paddle, but preferred not to. Her left leg appeared unaffected. There doesn't seem to be any swelling and when i try to set her on her legs, the hock bends without resistance. When she sits, her legs seem a little far apart - they rest next to her instead of under her. It's nothing like the pictures of spraddle leg I've seen online with a bird doing the splits, but it's different from how her flock mates sit - they sit on their hocks and she sits on her belly with her legs next to her. I've removed spinach from her and the flock's diets completely and I'm going to try the brewer's yeast and try to treat her for spraddle leg (she's too big for a bandaid, but I'll look for a rubber band big enough), and we'll see. I took a video of her "scooting", so maybe once I figure out how to put videos up, I'll put a link here.
  5. speckled_egg

    speckled_egg Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 31, 2009
    Her stool is back to normal, by the way.
  6. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

    Jan 3, 2010
    Southern New England
    Storey's Guide recommends 100 to 150 mg of niacin per gallon of water immediately if niacin deficiency is suspected. It affects the nervous system and is very serious. Based on her diet, I'll guess niacin deficiency. Different ducks react to that differently - some don't seem to show an effect, for others it can be fatal.

    Another possibility might be (less likely) botulism, in which case giving her lots of water and perhaps a laxative to purge her system is recommended.
  7. Rhondax6

    Rhondax6 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 14, 2009
    Cheboygan, Michigan
    Oh boy, this sounds just like my girl, Pancakes. We're hoping it's a niacin problem and will be corrected soon. I took her to a wildlife rehabilitator this morning and she divided a 500mg niacin capsule into four portions and gave her one portion mixed with 2 CCs of warm water in a syringe with a bit of IV tubing attached and squirted it down her throat. I am to do that daily for 7 days. Good luck with yours! There's more helpful advice under my post "coordination issues"
  8. Oddyse

    Oddyse Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 21, 2011
  9. speckled_egg

    speckled_egg Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 31, 2009
    My internet has been down until just now.

    I've been feeding her the brewers yeast mixed with her regular food. I've tried treats and even a bit of sugar water, but her appetite has declined severely. She will perk up to eat when her food and water is very fresh and she is becoming listless. She is clearly suffering. She is no longer able to move her legs very much at all. I had to work for most of the day, and when I came back, her vent was green and crusty and she was sitting in her own feces. Clearly, she isn't even able to shift her weight. When I came home, I soaked her in warm water to loosen the dung around her vent and to give her muscles a chance to relax. She didn't move her legs at all, aside from tiny flexing of the toes and I wasn't able to fully clean her vent because she began sinking in the water. I dried her off and arranged a "donut" for her to sit on so she can be more comfortable. She was starting to look like a pancake, and I can't imagine sitting in such an unnatural position being pleasant. Her breathing was starting to seem labored, but moving her to the "donut" seems to help. If this is a niacin deficiency, the brewers yeast may be too late for her. I've been feeding it to the rest of my flock as well, and they seem to enjoy it. None of my other birds have developed any problems and I'd like to keep it that way.

    I've been inspecting her quite carefully, and it's possible she has injury up toward the hip. I plan to soak her in warm water regularly (probably after every defecation while I'm home, and as soon as I get back from work) and regularly rearrange her "donut" so she doesn't get bed sores. The middle joint of her innermost toe on the left foot seems to be damaged. The joint is pinkish and swollen. I'm certain this is not the reason for her lameness, and it probably happened when she ran to her friends on the 7th. I would splint it, but I'm not sure how to do so around the webbing between her toes. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be much obliged.

    I'm also very concerned about the crusting around her vent. I hope she isn't pasting up, because that could prove fatal on its own. Hopefully the soakings will help and she will still be able to defecate. I'll keep you posted.

    Thank you, Amiga, for the input. In your comment you say "based on her diet." I'm curious what aspect of her diet could cause a niacin deficiency. Is it that I'm feeding chick starter? The spinach treats? I'm asking because I have 10 more babies, and if it is possible, I would like to prevent any future niacin deficiencies. How would my duckling have become deficient in the first place? Chick starter should be nutrient complete for chickens and is widely recommended as duck feed. Does it lack sufficient niacin? If so, why is it recommended? Also, when feeding a niacin supplement (in my case, brewers yeast), how often, how much and for how long does the supplement need to be fed?

    Rhondax6, good luck!

    Oddyse, thank you for sharing your experience. My duckling doesn't have a dislocated leg (no swelling, and her hocks look normal), but many of the comments on your page contained valuable information. Thanks!
  10. speckled_egg

    speckled_egg Out Of The Brooder

    Jan 31, 2009
    She just laid a dumpling, so she's not pasting up! [​IMG] But, man, the smell! [​IMG]

    It's extremely foul smelling diarrhea. I'm used to horse, dog, cat, pig, cattle at dairies and feed lots... it takes quite a bit of an odor to gross me out, and I feel physically sick when I smell this. I'm really hoping it's not rimerella.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2011

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