Older duck; malfunctioning preen gland?


14 Years
Apr 22, 2009
One of my older (age 6) female Pekins has always had issues of one kind or another. She's never been as bright as the other two gals I have, has had recurrent bumblefoot, resolved, but is now lame due to repetitive joint swelling. Local vet says she's just prone to it and not much can be done.

A new problem has cropped up. She doesn't preen as much as she used to, but even when she does, her feathers don't seem to be taking on the oils they need for her to stay dry and fluffy. The front of her is often soggy and kind of matted. I'm worried about the colder temps coming our way this winter. If she doesn't dry out (and ducks are just always wet it seems) by night she's going to be cold. I've kind of resigned to the likelihood I'll have to keep heat on her at night this winter.

Has anyone every experienced this with their older ducks? Is there anything to be done about it?
It's quite apparent that your bird has an underlying condition that is predisposing her to develop these conditions. Most of which are associated with lack of movement, and hygiene. Bumblefoot often develops due to excessive pressure of the dermal surfaces of the feet, and hock swelling is frequently correlated with prolonged pressure to the hock area which results in an opening in the sore, which soon fills with bacteria, often of the staphylococcus family.

If poor feather condition is noted, that is most likely to be because of lack of proper hygienic practices. Instead of focusing on the feather problem, I would focus on the cause of these conditions which is inactivity.

I would ensure the duck is getting in water at least once a day. If it's getting cold out, and hypothermia is a concern, just mist her feathers with some warm water during the warmest part of the day, but you want to encourage the preening habits. Old ducks tend not to walk very much, and sit around most of the day. Excessive/prolonged pressure can lead to some of the problems you're seeing, so try to make sure her living quarters are soft and allow cushioning to her legs. Increasing the niacin (B3) intake in her diet, and adding omega threes like flax seed may help leg health.

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