Wing/feather problems? Advice needed

Discussion in 'Ducks' started by HannahDuckLover, Oct 31, 2015.

  1. HannahDuckLover

    HannahDuckLover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    By the jungle
    After three years of raising ducks, I think I've run into my first health problem.

    First, one of my young females, Skylar, seems to be developing her wings improperly. She's definitely a female, but her wings are growing strangely slowly. The quills seem rather greasy. I can't describe the way her wing feels, but it doesn't seem normal. Maybe the quills are thicker or denser, as well. When she walks, her wings are not tucked into the pockets like the others, but they droop. They don't quite drag the ground, but they droop down pretty far. It doesn't seem painful, but she does make a huge fuss and screams when we try to look at her wing or catch her. I'll try to get a picture soon.

    Second, an adult female, Apple, has a habit of eating the other ducks' feathers. During every feeding session, she will reach over to the closest duck, pull out one of the small under feathers, and eat it. She only does it once or twice a day, seemingly always only at feeding time. None of the other ducks exhibit visible feather loss. She's been doing this for several months. I haven't been too worried about it because it hasn't seemed to be a major problem.

    What's going on? What's causing it? Is it treatable? If so, how?

    My only guess is protein insufficiency. They eat wheat and sorghum and very little commercial feed (occasionally we give them some layer mash, meant for chickens). They also forage free-range (they used between one and three acres of our property) and find a lot of their own feed. Sometimes, when we have a creek after heavy rains, they find minnows and small fish. We give them vegetables and other tidbits from time to time.
     
  2. jducour

    jducour Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm no expert, but it seems they don't have enough protein in their diet. Wheat has a protein content of 10-15 %, and sorghum is even lower at around 8%. When a duck is growing feathers, or when we are approaching a cold season, they may need more protein and carbs to create warmth through digestion. I would purchase a higher protein feed, since they don't eat much of it. At least 18% - and pellets, not mash. Do live in a climate that is getting colder? Is your little duck with the new feathers going to be warm enough?

    Edited to add - our bug population is really dwindling, especially with it getting colder - if they forage for most of their food, there is probably less natural protein in their diet with less bugs around to eat.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2015
  3. HannahDuckLover

    HannahDuckLover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    By the jungle
    Thank you. I was guessing it might be protein insufficiency.

    Sorghum's protein content is 8%? Seems like I read it was 13%. What about oats? I read that was 8%, as well. Or spelt (which is similar to corn)?

    I read that the protein content of peas is 25%. But it's expensive. We're on a budget. I think pumpkin seeds were about the same. I've ground pumpkin seeds before to feed them, after we harvested a hundred pumpkins, but right now I have none.

    We live in a very hot climate. She has no chance of getting cold. It's 94 degrees right now. The heat is one reason I don't like feed with corn. It could get to 40 in a few months, but no colder than that. There are bugs all year around and they seem to catch a lot.

    I really don't want to use commercial feed, and our feed store doesn't have pellets available (not last I checked, anyway). We are not in a highly populated area, so it's hard to find some things. But I'll look into it and see if I can find something better. Right now I have about ten pounds of layer mash (17% protein, I think) and they think it's candy, probably because the protein content is higher.
     
  4. jducour

    jducour Chillin' With My Peeps

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    You can also give them treats that are high in protein - high quality cat kibble, meal worms, koi food, feeder fish. My ducks have started eating a lot of their feed - they used to go through 3 pounds a day, and forage all day - in the last week, they are eating 5 lbs a day! I have started giving them a pot of boiled potatoes, apples and squash every night. I serve it in a casserole dish filled with older milk. I will throw in some other things - cottage cheese, pasta occasionally, celery, pumpkin. They really look forward to it, and I plan on doing it through the winter while our yard has less to forage. Potatoes are so cheap right now. But they are only 7% protein. I would try some of the cat food, as long as meat is its first ingredient. Oh - don't forget - ducks love chicken! If you have a chicken carcass, you can pick off what your family didn't eat and give it to them.
     
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  5. HannahDuckLover

    HannahDuckLover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    By the jungle
    Next time we're in town I'll try to find out if I can get mealworms, koi food, or feeder fish. There are some people raising fish nearby. I'm a little averse to the idea of cat food after reading how unhealthy and gross dog food is, but I'll check it out. I thought of a few other grains that might be high in protein, too. Chia seed is 16% protein; spelt is 17%. Oats are supposed to be 12 to 24% protein. I can get those pretty cheap, too.

    5 lbs a day for 8 ducks? Wow. I'm glad mine don't eat that much, or else they'd finish off a 100lb bag of wheat in less than ten days! I have 24 ducks right now, although four of those are young males that we'll eat.

    I've also noticed that several of my ducks are growing slowly. I guess that's because of the food, too.

    In the meantime, though, what should I do about Skylar's drooping wing?
     
  6. jducour

    jducour Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I would focus on her first, making sure she gets a great treat of 50% protein every day. That would be one hand full of meal worms or koi food. You can also feed them hardboiled eggs (chicken or duck, if you have excess) just crush them with the shells on - good source of protein and calcium. You can buy good quality cat food, read the label - if you are really concerned about the quality, do some research online. I've found some at walmart in the past I was happy with.

    I know you are concerned about cost and quality of their food, but you need to address the gaps in their nutrition, and you're doing a great job. If it was me, I would supplement with whatever I could get my hands on ASAP, and go from there. Maybe you can find a better source of protein for the long run over time.

    I'm jealous you have warmer weather all year! I didn't know I would ever say this - but I'm sad all of the bugs are gone! Ha!
     
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  7. jducour

    jducour Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Oh - and 5 lbs a day of 8 duck isn't too bad - Pekins can eat over a pound of food a day each. I had a pekin that weighed 13 lbs by 3 months old! My Pekins probably eat the most, followed by my Welsh Harlequin. That's why when people ask what breed of ducks they should get, I suggest Runners. Mine are excellent foragers, lay a huge egg every day, and eat very little food. Not much of a meat bird though!
     
  8. HannahDuckLover

    HannahDuckLover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Jul 10, 2015
    By the jungle
    The ducks are molting, so they haven't been laying. But I can give Skylar a chicken egg every day. We don't go into town very often, but next time we do, I'll get some other high-protein feed. We're also looking into raising earthworms or mealworms, as a steady source of protein.

    I didn't realize how little our ducks really ate. They must find more food than I thought. They eat some at their main evening meal, and the young ones beg for food a couple times in the middle of the day. Some of the adults join in at these “snacks,” but some of the other adults seem to only eat about five bites of food a day! And they are the largest, heaviest ones, too.

    You wouldn't be so jealous of the warm weather if you had to endure 110 degree heat! :) I wish it was a little cooler.

    Thank you so much for your help!
     
  9. HannahDuckLover

    HannahDuckLover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    By the jungle
    Here's a pic of Skylar's wing. Not the best quality though.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Sometimes both wings droop, sometimes only one. This time it was both. She is standing right beside her sister (Kiwi JR), who seems perfectly fine. Kiwi kindly posed with Skylar for comparison.
     
  10. Amiga

    Amiga Overrun with Runners Premium Member

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    I think she just may have a higher nutrient need. You might consider a small worm bin, or even some plain sardines packed in water only - she should not need much on a daily basis, I would think. I don't know your climate, but think about - longer term - growing amaranth. I have heard that is high in protein. And I was told that oats are used to reduce the amount of protein in feeds to prevent angel wing.

    I would also consider spending 4 or 5 dollars on a good poultry multi vitamin - it keeps quite a while in the frij, too. My adopted Cayuga has a similar problem and the vet said it was an imbalanced diet. She is improving, but we don't know if the wings will come back up to the usual position or not.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
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