Help! Ducks lose their balance and are fine in a few minutes!

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by jmccoy1119, Jul 31, 2011.

  1. jmccoy1119

    jmccoy1119 New Egg

    Jul 31, 2011
    We have 4 different ducks (9 months old) that will suddenly have trouble standing. First they lean back just a little, then fall forward and catch themselves with outstretched wings. Then they sit down and won't move. In about 4 or 5 minutes they will get up and walk away as if nothing was wrong. If I'm outside with them (we have 17 ducks in total) for an hour, I will usually see one of them have a sitting spell.

    The ones experiencing the problem seem to be eating fine, and they look and act healthy -- except for the few minutes when they fall down and stay down.

    They are eating Purina layer pellets and are free range grazing during the day. We keep them in a coop with pine shavings at night. We have a kiddie pool (in addition to a chicken waterer), so they can keep their nostrils cleaned out. The pool has gotten pretty nasty lately as the weather has been in the mid to upper 90s during the day. So, even though I was cleaning it out every other day, it did get to looking kinda strange. So, 4 days ago I started setting the pool up with fresh water once a day, emptying it later in the day and letting it dry.

    Any ideas???
  2. The Duck ABC's

    The Duck ABC's Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 5, 2011
    Sounds like a niacin deficiency. Commercial feed usually does not contain enough for ducks, while it is perfect for chicken. Go to Albertsons or your pharmacy and get Niacin, also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid. Do not get the no flush, reduced flush, flush free, or slow release version of it. Walmart does not have the correct one, so don't bother looking there.
    Next you mix 100mg per gallon of drinking water. Give that to them for one week and then give to them one or twice per month to prevent it from happening again.
  3. ChristineR

    ChristineR Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 15, 2011
    WA state
    My first thought was Niacin deficiency, too.

    When you say, Purina Layer pellets, do you mean chicken feed? If so, I would get them on a waterfowl diet. I personally like Mazuri waterfowl, but I there are others out there.

    Buy a copy of Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks, by Dave Holderread. There's a lot of great info in there about diet (and lots of other topics).
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  4. manybirds

    manybirds Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 4, 2011
    are they crested breeds?
  5. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    Actually... I'm usually the first one to call "niacin deficiency," but this doesn't sound right to me this time. Niacin deficiency generally leads to weakness and trembling in the legs, often leading to an inability to walk altogether--not sudden spurts of being unable to walk followed by completely normal behavior. Also niacin deficiency nearly always shows up in growing ducklings, not nine-month-old adults.

    In fact, I'm going to say it's unlikely to be a nutritional deficiency at all, as these are grown birds on a perfectly adequate diet--Purina layer plus free range.

    So my first thought here was that it could be something neurological, but I have no experience with that. Still, the question regarding them being crested seems like a good one.

    Another possibility is that they are getting into some sort of mold or fungus that is causing neurological problems.

    Or that they are getting leg cramps? Which could be caused by bad food, mold, etc. also.

    It's going to be really difficult to suss this out, but the first thing I would try is to go buy a new bag of feed, put the old bag of feed at the back of your feed room, and give them the fresh feed for a few days. Feed can go bad without changing smell or texture or anything visible to humans, and it can cause a whole host of problems. If the feed is the problem, you should notice marked improvement in a matter of days. If not, then you will know the old food was fine and you can use it up (which is why I wouldn't throw it away until you know something).

    The other thing I'd do is check their environment carefully for fungus, mold, etc., and try to clean it out.

    Good luck. Hopefully, it won't lead to anything serious and you'll get it sorted out quickly. [​IMG]
  6. Oneacre Homestead

    Oneacre Homestead Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 25, 2011
    I had a duckling that did something like that, but it died. It would have these weird seizires and then after lying there like it was dead for awhile, get up and walk around like normal. The other ones were all fine! I decided that duck had some kind of inborn Neurological disorder, but what do i know. I read a few other posts talking about similar sounding behavior in ducks, but never read about a cause that seemed plausible. Mine was a buff orphington duck from metzer. Like I said, it's hatchmates are fine.
  7. kikidee

    kikidee Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 30, 2011
    San Clemente
    For nician deficiency is it okay to feed them broccoli for that? I heard that is high in nician
  8. jmccoy1119

    jmccoy1119 New Egg

    Jul 31, 2011
    You may be on to something here with the mold. The ducks scatter some of the feed on the ground around the feeder, and I have seen this feed mold in the dirt immediately following wet weather.

    I've also noticed that when the feeder is empty or near so, some of the ducks will scoop up the fresh feed off of this ground along with some of that dirt. So, this could be the source of the problem.

    I went out a little while ago and cleaned up around the feeder by digging down and scraping out the old dirt and hauling in some fresh dirt. I will go out this evening an put down some bricks or something that will allow me to get up the old feed without it getting mixed into the dirt. I'll let you know how it goes.

    By the way, I added vitamins to their water for over a week to no avail. The varieties involved at this stage are a buff orpington duck, two welsh harlequins, and a white crested duck.


  9. iamcuriositycat

    iamcuriositycat Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 30, 2009
    Charlotte, NC
    Let us know how it goes. You could also put the feed up on wire stands, where the feed falls through the wire to an area that is inaccessible to the ducks because of the wire. I don't really have a mold problem, I think because I lay down fresh straw every few days and the high carbon content makes mold growth difficult. But I may just be lucky...

    Good luck, and keep us updated.
  10. jmccoy1119

    jmccoy1119 New Egg

    Jul 31, 2011
    It's been a couple of weeks since I placed their feeders on a concrete pad. This is far more sanitary than damp ground and I have not seen any mold issues since.

    Unfortunately, the problem persists. I now have another 3 ducks exhibiting the same symptoms.

    I've been following some of them around to see what they may be getting into, but so far I haven't found anything that may be the cause. I am stumped.
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2011

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