Help, one of my 4 week old ducklings is bloated, firm belly, and lethargic


Nov 16, 2020
Hello, I'm new here and I'm hoping that someone here might know what I can do to help one of my ducklings. "Stripey" one of my silver appleyards seems to have a firm yet squishy bloated belly, she is acting lethargic and is not holding her head up as high as her flock mates. I noticed it this evening after they took a swim in the bathtub, I was drying her off and felt that her abdomen was significantly more bloated than the others. I don't think she was acting lethargic until after the bath. She is still eating and drinking normally, and pooping. She had some issues with "pasty butt" a few weeks ago but it cleared up after a few warm baths. Any thoughts? I feed them manna pro duckling starter/grower with garlic powder and brewers yeast. I also put ACV in their water. These are my first ducklings and I'm so overwhelmed by googling her symptoms. I appreciate your time and any advice you can share.

Thank you!
Welcome to BYC. Sorry to hear your duckling is feeling unwell. Could you, or have you already tried comparing her abdominal area, to the other ducklings in the pen, that are the same breed as she is? Could you post a few pictures of her poop? How does her vent look?

A swollen abdominal area could indicate several things like ascites (water belly), a blockage, but considering that she has had problems with pasty butt, which isn't particularly common in ducklings, it could be a bacterial infection like colibacillosis which can present itself in many ways, but with young birds can cause an enlarged abdominal area, lethargy, pasty butt, etc. Oftentimes if the birds were shipped, the whole process can be stressful, and they get fecal matter in their feed, or water, or scratch themselves with fecal matter, an infection can originate, and spread throughout their body. If her navel area wasn't absorbed well, an infection can originate there as well.

It is hard to know if that is the problem, without a gram stain, and other diagnostic tests, but for now, I would continue to offer the duckling supportive care. Make sure she is getting enough feed, and water inside her. Offer her scrambled eggs, or drip a drop of a poultry vitamin along her bill, and see if that helps.

If she continues to act as she is now, or gets worse, it may be good to start her on an antibiotic like doxycycline, or tetracycline. Which can be found here :

Try to keep their feeders, and waterers clean, and change the bedding out at least once a day. Increasing ventilation in their area may be good too.
Thank you so much for your response!

Her flock mates have completely normal bellies, no bloating whatsoever, including my other three silver appleyards. They all arrived from Murray McMurray Hatchery on 10/19/2020. She was also the only duckling (out of 10) who looked a little stressed by the shipping, but seemed right as rain after the first 24 hours had passed.

Her poop looked normal when I first posted this thread but now it seems like shes been drinking a ton of water and its a bit watery, I can try to add a photo later from my phone.

Her vent is totally clear/normal looking.

I'm not sure if it was technically pasty butt when she was a week or two old, she just seemed to accumulate poop around her vent which none of the others did, once I got the poop clumps off of the surrounding feathers though, she hasn't had a problem like that since.

All of the ducklings in the group seem to have "absorbed" their umbilicus without issue, even hers looked fine. Who knows though, I'm still a newbie to this so I may have missed some signs early on.

I found another post where the duckling looks and exhibits the same issues as mine so I am hoping for a similar turn out but we will see.

Stripey has not been as lethargic since I created this post, I think she way have been worn out from the warm bath. She is still eating, drinking, and pooping a normal amount.

I am waiting on the meds to come in the mail, I figure they might be good to have on hand anyway. Any thoughts on a probiotic for ducks? I have seen that floated around in posts here as well.

Thank you again for your time,
That's interesting besides the slightly swelled abdominal area, she's acting fine. Unless you want to see a vet and have the area checked out on a radiograph, I would say just leave her be, keep an eye on her, and just see how she gets along.

Keep us updated how she does.
Unfortunately it looks like Stripey is taking a turn for the worse, her abdomen is now red and the area around her vent is swollen as well. She is still eating, drinking, and pooping (all in small amounts). We let her swim in a warm bath just about every day but she will not clear out her nostrils so they are getting blocked up causing a slight whistle. She has also stopped preening anything further back than her wings. I have been giving her ACV in her water as well as oregano oil. She is fed Manno pro duckling starter grower and I offer various greens daily. She is now just about 7 weeks old. We currently have her separated from the other 9 ducklings because they were getting a bit too crazy around her and she was getting trampled.

I have medications on the way from ladygouldianfinch:
Doxycycline 50 mg
Enroflaxin 10%
4 in 1 Powder

They are set to arrive tomorrow but I have no idea where to start honestly. Does anyone have any recommendations for what med to start with. We live remotely in Montana and the only vet in town who sees "exotics" is not taking new patients unless it is an emergency which means the visit will be $200 just to have her looked at.

I should mention this "turn" started late 11/29 - early 11/30, she was relatively normal before then.
Photo 1: Stripey now, hanging out in my office with me.
Photo 2: Her most recent poop
Photo 3: Taken 11/29 right before I pulled her from the others

I know she may be too far gone but she seems to be trying, she vocalizes to us and will strut over to her food/water randomly to eat/drink. She has become very snuggly and will wedge herself into us if we hold/sit with her. So I'll keep trying as long as she does I suppose.

Thanks for your time and advice, I really hope she can pull through!


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I think you did well-ordering the antibiotics. Out of all of them, I would use Enrofloxacin as that's the most broad-spectrum, and it's unlikely if it doesn't work, the others will. Do not listen to the instructions on the bottle. You'll want to dose her at 0.05ml per pound, orally, twice daily for no longer than five days.
Thank you for your response Issac, I appreciate your feedback. We will definitely start her on the Enrofloxacin as soon as we get it. I'll definitely use your dose, do you recommend just syringing the medication into her throat instead of mixing it with water?

Thanks again,
Thank you for your response Issac, I appreciate your feedback. We will definitely start her on the Enrofloxacin as soon as we get it. I'll definitely use your dose, do you recommend just syringing the medication into her throat instead of mixing it with water?

Thanks again,

Enrofloxacin is not water-soluble, so you want to do it orally with a syringe or an eyedropper.

Here is some info on administering poultry medications orally :
I have to report the sad news, Stripey passed away this afternoon. The antibiotics arrived yesterday and we started her on them immediately, however, I believe it was already too late. As of this morning she was very sluggish and was barely hanging on.

I appreciate all of your help and comments, I am now prepared if I ever have to deal with something like this again. Hopefully I won't have to.

Thank you all,


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