Dying ducks and maggots in their vent

Mrs. BJ Hensley Jr.

9 Years
Jul 23, 2010
I have about 60 ducks. I love ducks and never had a problem raising them. BUT on Thursday, I found a dead duck (one of my Favorites). I had seen her an hour sooner and she seemed fine. I haven't seen anyone acting sick or ill except one other little lady has bumble foot; which I just treated with ducky surgery today. Anyhow, I saw her about 1pm, and about 2 I went to change their water, and she was dead. I was immediately saddened and started to cry as I picked her up and I was about to hold her and hug her lifeless little body, and realized she smelled like she had been dead for a week. I flipped her upside down and she had A HAND FULL of maggots fall from her vent; which by the way was very loose. Today, I went out to my truck to see if I left my phone charger in it, and saw another favorite of mine (Flop) dead out by me tractor. I had had her longer than any of the others but that's only like 14 months. It was suspicious since SHE hadn't been sick either (as far as I knew) and sure enough... she had (not as many and not as big) maggots in and on her vent too. She had to have only been dead for about an hour too, since she wasn't there when I fed the cows an hour earlier. I don't understand what happened. HOW did this happen? WHAT causes this? HOW can I fix it. This is devastating. I have 15 Drakes and 45 girls; well, I did! I don't want anyone to suffer, I don't want anyone to die, and I need to know know how to fix this.
Sounds like Flystrike, something quite common in rabbits and sheep I think.

It's where flies lay eggs around the backside of an animal (they're attracted to pooey bums) and the hatched maggots start to eat the host, causing almost certain death unless immediate veterinary action is taken to remove ALL maggots - even a single maggot left could potentially travel through the vent to the inside of the animal and cause mayhem. Very sad. I've not heard of it in ducks before, though that sounds like what it is. It's likely that the eggs were laid beforehand (I don't know how long they take to hatch!) and were therefore unnoticable and causing no harm to the ducks, then they hatched out and caused the ducks' deaths quite quickly.

I guess it may also be possible that the ducks died from some other cause and flies happened to have laid eggs there which hatched and started to feed of the bodies, but that seems unlikely.

I assume they do but I'll ask anyway, do all your ducks have access to bathing water and take regular baths to keep themselves nice and clean? Like I said, pooey bottoms attract flies, so the key is to prevent by ensuring all ducks are keeping their backsides clean rather than treat the problem because as I mentioned it is a difficult procedure.
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I have 3 kiddie swimming pools, a natural spring, and a pond all within a 1 minute walk for them. ALTHOUGH!.... Come to think of it. It's been raining a LOT here and then it dried up so there's this stagnant puddle in the front yard... about 5x5. They DO get in there and play around. Could that cause it? I change the water every other day in the pools... since they have the year round spring in the back yard. I will be more than happy to change their water every day or even twice a day if I knew it would help them.... it's just that, this is how i have ALWAYS done it and never had a problem before. could it be one of my drakes spreading something the way an std works?
Well you don't seem to be doing anything wrong so don't blame yourself! The stagnant water may be a nasty bug paradise so maybe try and get rid of it and let them stick to the clean water, but I think it seems more just like bad luck. I think flystrike, if that is what it is, is probably quite rare in ducks, however as I always say, the more ducks you have, the more likely you are to encounter something unusual! We have 6 ducks (2 boys, 4 girls) and at the moment we have one female with a prolapsed cloaca. It's been out for weeks now and we've been to the vets and given her wormer and antibiotics, but it's still out! I'm very worried about her but she seems okay in herself and is laying and pooping. I worry about flystrike though since she's quite exposed, so I make sure she's having regular baths to keep the area clean.

I don't think it's anything to do with the other ducks/drakes. Maggots can only be the result of some sort of insect, not sexually transmitted..
I am not quick to blog or quote, but I am a nurse first of 25 yrs, I decided 10 yrs ago to give Wound Care a whirl to get out of the hussle and bussle of charting and medication administration along with having Sat/Sun off. I also have had ducks and critters all my life living in the deep southern country I was born in and continue to reside. Let me start with my first comment: Maggots will only eat dead flesh, we used them in the medical field to debri severe sores, gangrene, frost bite, bed sores, they were also placed back in Florence Nightinggale, LOL, not quite that far in the 50's as a fact, in people's ears with chronic ear infections to eat out the dead tissue and with wax removal where surgeons and doctors could not go. My grandmother had a saying that if a chicken eat maggots it would fall dead, well my chickens and ducks eat maggots from feed under pens, we buy 28 -30 percent ground feed from the local Minonites, and during the summer under our standing pens this feed falls, with daily watering gets really smelly, and with the 100 temps from April -- Sept we have a real fly epodimic here on our farm, we bought guinea's to help with our pest control, but we do spray with a pump sprayer that we mix purchased fly killer in. I think the reason the ole timmers thought that maggots killed chickens or critters, when they found them there was maggots from these extreme temps we have along with other factor. If a critter dies, it does not take but a quick second for a blow fly (those real big green nasty disgusting flies in the summer) to lay eggs, and within short minutes to hours with the contribuating temps or enviroments you can have maggots so assume that was the cause of death. Again, I am no expert only sharing my experience. I have never lost a critter to eating maggots. They get under these pens and scratch digging them up and think it is a caviar around our farm. I just wouldn't be to hasty to jump to the conclusion that the cause of death was maggots. I do not know your temps. , but ducks have to stay cool, extreme temps can cause death quickly, dirty water for drinking can also, medicated feed can, laying mash or ground fine feed in large adults can without proper large amounts of clean water with every bite, cow ants you state you had cows, look for a contributing factor there, those big red hard capsulated ants known as cow ants, one sting from them or other insects can kill a duck in a quick minute, look around your property for wasp nest, hornet nest, fire ants, some plants are poisounus to ducks and other feathered animals, common yard flowers and plants, such as Lirophee, some blooms from fruit trees or veg stalks are poisounus to waterfowl, but most off all it could have just been a genitic issue you did not know about, but again start with your yard and property for the cause and factor.
Although the maggots of some species will only eat dead tissue, some will eat live tissue. I think this is more likely the case, especially considering the timeline that you gave. We've had this problem with rabbits before. It can start with something as small as a scratch and usually they're completely infested or dead by the time the problem is discovered (at least if you don't handle them on a daily basis). It's heartbreaking when it happens, and from what I've been told there isn't a lot you can do for it. The last time this happened our rabbits were in the garage and their pen was being cleaned daily. Our vet basically said that this just happens and wasn't our fault, so that at least made me feel a little better. I think the best solution is to try to reduce flies as much as possible.
I'm sorry but I have to humbly disagree.

In livestock (any animal really) flystrike is caused by fly larvae feeding on an animal's living tissue. It is very common in sheep because they can borrow into the wool without a farmer ever noticing until the sheep are sheared and they've already done their damage. It can happen in any animal in hot, humid and dirty conditions, even humans.

Some larvae are specific to dead tissue matter, but many more will burrow into living tissue.

to the OP: I'd give all the ducks a good look over to see if you can spot any flies or larvae on them. I'd also muck out their living quarters and lay down fresh, clean, dry bedding.

if they are infected you need to pop out the larvae like pimples and get the wounds clean, clean, CLEAN. Ivermectin is good prevention.
ALL of my duckies are free range so I don't believe that the bedding is the issue. We live on 183acres and they're allowed to go anywhere they please. The ONLY place that is remotely dirty is the puddle, which is now flushed and full of more water since we have had 6" of rain in the last 24 hours. I am in Northern Arkansas but the temps have been relatively normal in the last 2 months and humidity has been normal as well; except storms. None of them were getting sick when they were pinned up, but as I got more duckies, and they were in a 24x12 dog kennel.... I thought it was time to let them loose... and since my dog chases off coyotes and bobcats. I have not been able to find any of the other causes that were mentioned... and none have any visible wounds. Is it possible they swallow flies and they don't die right away laying eggs in their crop.... then hatching and traveling through their intestine? The ones with bumble foot (there are 4) have been treated, are walking fine, are pinned in a 5x5 coop (which is moved daily), and have gotten a broad spectrum antibiotic to make sure the bumble foot infection does not spread. They are already walking better. I could try to fix the area in the yard with rock, but that's where the water drains to when it rains.... the last time i filled it in with rocks, it rained so hard the rocks drained out and were all the way down the hill. I'm not sure how to fix it. I have caught as many as possible and given physicals, but everyone i HAVE been able to catch seems ok; granted, they get raped about 20 times a day each.

Any other ideas or conclusions?

AND YES they are maggots. I am very familiar with maggots and I GUARANTEE that's what they are. White with a black/gray pin stripe on their back under their translucent grubby "skin" Black "eyes" and black tip on butt.
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