Sick Duckling

11 Feb

photo (33)

Two new baby ducklings (female) we ordered from McMurray Hatchery, arrived on Jan 31, now 13 days old.

When they arrived I put them in a plastic bin brooder, in our house, for the first 10 days to make sure all was well.  I normally keep all baby birds in the “house brooder” for a full 4 weeks and then transfer them to a brooder inside the chicken coop for at least another 4 weeks before incorporating them in with the rest of the flock.  For some unknown reason I changed the norm and put them in the brooder in the chicken coop this past Friday. Everything was fine Friday and Saturday.

Sunday morning I went out to do chicken chores and check on our new girls and was shocked to find one of the ducklings turned over on her back paddling her feet in the air!  I have no idea how long she had been like this.  I quickly turned her over, whereby she took a very wobbly step and went right back over on her back.   I righted her once again, but this time I cupped my hands around her to hold her in place, give her some added warmth and try to calm her down.  We stayed this way for several minutes.  Thinking she was probably exhausted from this little ordeal I placed her in front of the water to allow her to drink, which she did.  With one hand cupped around her for support I offered her some feed with the other, which she ate.  After about 15 or 20 minutes she seemed to be feeling better and on shaky legs walked over to the feed dish to get more.   So I figured perhaps I walked in right about the time she ended up on her back and I am probably making a mountain out of a mole hill.

I checked on her several times as I went about my usual chicken chores for the morning.  By the time I finished feeding, watering and gathering eggs both ducklings were settled down together so I figured everything was okay.  Throughout the day I checked on them several times as I could not get this ridiculous picture out of my head of her laying on her back paddling her little feet.  All I could think about was that commercial of the elderly woman on the floor saying, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

This morning I went out to do my chicken chores and AGAIN, find this poor baby duckling on her back paddling her feet.  This is not normal people!  What is going on?  A million thoughts are running through my mind:  I put them outside too soon.  There is too much pine shavings on the brooder floor making it an unstable ground to walk on.  Am I putting enough Vitamins in the water?  Is there something wrong with my feed?  This poor duckling is so unstable on her feet it is not funny.

Okay so here are the details of the last 13 days:

Feed:  I started them out on Certified Organic Chick Starter from Coyote Creek Mills for the first 10 days.  Then I switched them over to Purina Start & Grow, for the last 3 days.  I did this mainly because I noticed our meat chicks that are on this same feed  (in a totally separate area/never been anywhere near the ducklings) all have soft-ish poop and I am having issues with pasty butt.  Since I have never had this problem on Purina I am questioning the organic stuff.  Additionally the “sick” duckling had pasty butt for the last 4 days she was given the organic.  Three days on the Purina and I have not had to clean her butt off once.

Water:  Fresh water given twice daily with added Vitamins and Electrolytes for the added niacin supplement.

Brooder Housing:  First 3 days was an XL plastic tub with newspaper in the bottom, changed twice daily.  Day 4-10, same tub with about 1/2 inch of pine shaving in the bottom, cleaned out as necessary.  Last 3 days in 2 X 4 brooder pen inside chicken coop with about 2 inches of pineshaving, water, feed and a brooder light on one end for warmth.  As of this writing have moved them back into the house into a makeshift 3 X 3 foot pen with doggie pads on the floor, those I have covered with that rubber drawer lining stuff so they can have secure footing.  I also have a box with pine shavings if they choose to get in there and sleep.  The pen is 1 1/2 feet up off of the floor and sits about 3 feet from a space heater (no central here) so it is nice and toasty warm (but not too hot).

Weather:  The last 3 days the outside weather has been cold and rainy with day time temps averaging about 65 and nightime lows about 45.  Although the ducklings have been inside a brooder pen, inside the chicken coop (which is a 15 X 17 converted horse stall), with a brooder light for warmth, yes it probably got drafty at night and yes I am kicking myself right about now.

I caved this morning and took both ducklings to the Vet.  Since I have no idea what is wrong with the “sick” duckling I have no idea how to treat.  Here are their stats from the Vet:

Duckling to the left of the picture holding her head up:  This is the duckling that “I thought” was well/okay.      temp was 105.4,  weight 540 grams, Vet said he could hear scratchy sounds in her upper air sacks, which he also said was where her lungs were located, lower air sacks sound clear.

Duckling to the right of the photo with her head down:  This is the duckling that keeps ending up on her back and has really wobbly legs.     temp was 105.2, weight 342 grams, air sacks sounded clear, poop sample showed no intestinal worms.

Since he really can’t find anything wrong other than the scratchy sounding air sacks in the larger duckling he felt we were dealing with an upper respiratory thing so he prescribed .25 oral Baytril to be given twice daily for 1 week.  Come back if they don’t get better or if anything else happens.

Okay so we have an antibiotic and I’m all good with that.  The only reason I brought the “well” duckling with me was I was afraid the “sick” duckling had something that might be contagious and wanted to make sure they both got treated.  I wasn’t expecting such a big difference in weight either, I mean the “well” duckling weighs a whopping 540 grams and the “sick” duckling weighs 342 grams.  That’s a difference of  202 grams and these two ducks were born on the same exact day.

Anybody out there have an opinion, thoughts, suggestions, advice, ever have this same thing happen?

4 Responses to “Sick Duckling”

  1. storythom February 24, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    Thanks for liking my serial short story, “The Home Place.” I’m really glad to know about your blog!

  2. quarteracrehome February 11, 2013 at 11:42 pm #

    It could be your feed. Baby ducklings and adult ducks need a VERY high level of protien, niacin and B12 which are NOT found in most “chicken” feeds which are “meat free”; AKA, low in B12 and niacin! Some options for improving this are things like feeding eggs and chicken meat to your ducks (what? I know right?) but the best way is by getting food for game birds or ducks specifically. Feeding a duck chicken food is a little like feeding a cat dog food. It’s actually not built for their digestive tract. Even if your ducks are having other issues the first thing I would address is feeding a species-appropriate food because if they ARE sick with an infection the last thing you want is a weak immune system from a poor diet!

    • chickensinthegarden February 12, 2013 at 12:27 am #

      Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately the local feed stores do not carry any kind of “duckling starter” so everyone recommends the chick starter. I can scramble some eggs to add to their diet if you think that would help? There is an Atwood’s and Tractor Supply in the next town over. I believe they carry a “wild game bird mix” but no specific domestic duck feed. Had not considered it as a feed option as it is for adult fowl. I do regularly add a Vitamin and Electrolyte supplement to their water. It contains Vitamins A, D3, E, B12, Riboflavin, Niacin and a few other things. Will reassess my dosage to ensure It is correct to amount of water. The temp in the room I have them now is right at about 85 degrees according to the thermometer I have in the pen with them. They have eaten several times tonight and gone through a good bit of water so I am a little encouraged by this. Any thoughts on that adult wild game bird mix being given to ducklings? Just out of curiosity what do experienced duck people feed their ducklings? I have searched high and low and called at least 4 or 5 different feed stores asking for “duck starter” and I get the same answer every time, “everybody uses chick starter”. It’s a little frustrating.

      • quarteracrehome February 12, 2013 at 1:44 am #

        Don’t you hate it when it randomly doesn’t send your comment? Sorry if this is a double post.
        Most people use a mix of a chick starter and a game bird starter for ducklings along with a niacin supplement. Niacin can be supplemented with brewer’s yeast on their food or 100mg tablets of niacin tablets (NOT inositol hexanicotinate, regular ones) per gallon of water. Adult ducks tend to get game bird food, or a mix of feeds with oats and more niacin supplements. I know many people that feed cat food to their ducks because cats also need niacin in large amounts (for the exact same reason which is why you can’t feed dog food to a cat). All ducks need niacin supplements their whole lives on commercial feeds.

        Your chick starter has about 18% protien and ducklings should have around 20%-22%. Also most chicken feeds are free of “animal products” which are the highest sources of niacin around. Remember; in the wild ducks eat a lt of fish and bugs which are rich in niacin! A scrambled egg would be a good step in fixing the nutrient deficiencies your ducks probably have until you can get to a store to pick up better supplements. Hard boiling an egg would probably be even better and has less non-egg oils that way. If you have a cat food with 20% protien a bit of this crushed or soaked could also help. So can fresh greens or thawed frozen peas. (I have heard that peas are an exceptional favorite.) ALWAYS make sure they have fresh water.

        Niacin deficiencies tend to have the most effect on a duckling’s legs causing deformation, muscle loss, weakness and seemingly disorientation which is why I thought of the diet. It seems to fit the bill. (Haha, bill, cause it’s a duck. Oh dear.) A quick search for duckling leg problems or niacin deficiencies show the same sort of issues your duckling is having!

        Personally I don’t own ducks yet (I will be getting them this year) but I spent to last year avidly researching their nutrition and care requirements. You’d be amazed what is on the internet to be found in the way of info!

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