Duckling Hatched with Bruised Legs?


6 Years
Apr 24, 2014
Hello! I have a broody duck that hatched two ducklings overnight. One seems perfectly healthy, but the other hatched with what appeared to be very bruised legs. Both legs were deep purple and appeared to have either blood pooling around the joints or large veins very near the surface of the skin. She never seemed to be able to walk or put weight on them and one foot remained curled like it was in the egg. I put her in a warm bath to see what her strength and range of motion was and she did not paddle or move her legs (she clearly enjoyed the swim and was very animated and energetic, but did not use her legs in any way to move around or balance). Her legs were not paralyzed, but seemed to be entirely lacking strength. After drying her thoroughly, I put her back in the nest under the mother. A few hours later, I found her under the mother in a different location, dead.

A few other details: I did not notice the ducklings legs until late afternoon, but I did notice this morning that the duckling had rolled onto her back due to the movement of the mother, and did not try to right herself. This afternoon, during the few moments that she did attempt to walk, she ended up simply wiggling along the floor using mostly the motion of her torso rather than her legs. It is possible that she was stepped on by the mother, but my gut says that probably wasn't the cause. She was able to wiggle her tail, so the injury/defect seemed more around the legs than the back, and the bruising was visible on both legs. There was also some slight bruising in the area where the yolk absorbed, but the yolk was fully absorbed and her abdomen was closed. She never appeared to be in any pain, and in fact seemed very happy and animated, so I was surprised to find her dead so quickly/suddenly. I was expecting to have to cull, and was not looking forward to it.

Has anyone seen this before? Any idea what the cause might have been, or whether there might have been anything I could have done for the little duckie? Not beating myself up over this, but I would like to be more informed in case I have any others hatch with the same problem in the future.

Here's the only close-up I was able to get of the duckling's leg. Both legs looked roughly the same. The bruising was much darker in person than it appears in the photo.

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