A Guide to Common Duck Diseases

Domestic Duck Breeds Don't Get Sick Often

A Guide to Common Duck Diseases

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Domestic duck breeds are generally extremely hardy and don’t often get sick as long as they are fed a healthy diet, given plenty of room to exercise and access to fresh water daily, but there are some fairly common duck diseases that you should be aware of if you raise backyard ducks. Hopefully, you will never have to treat any of these illnesses, but it’s always best to be prepared.


  • Hardware Disease/Botulism/Aspergillosis
  • Bumblefoot/Staph Infection
  • Sticky Eye/Eye Infection
  • Impacted Crop
  • Prolapsed Penis/Vent
  • Wet Feather
  • Wry Neck

Hardware Disease/Botulism/Aspergillosisduck-diseases

What do ducks eat? Just about anything. Ducks love to eat shiny things, including spare change, screws, bolts, wire, staples, or pieces of metal, which can lead to a duck disease called “hardware disease,” which isn’t really a duck disease at all but rather a type of poisoning. Signs of poisoning, whether it be from hardware disease, botulism, which is caused by bacteria found in stagnant water, or aspergillosis, which is caused by mold spores in wet feed or bedding, include lethargy, diarrhea, decreased appetite/weight, seizures, dehydration, vomiting, drooping wings, unsteadiness or difficulty walking. Toxins can work quickly, so while a visit to a vet is highly recommended in a suspected poisoning situation, feeding some molasses can help flush the toxin, as can charcoal pills, followed by lots of fresh, clean water, and of course removing the offending metal, dirty bedding or water or spoiled feed.

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To prevent all kinds of poisoning, be sure your duck yard is free of debris, and standing water, and that your ducks have lots of healthy treats, good-quality feed, and clean, fresh,s can be susceptible to Bumblefoot, which water.


Bumblefoot/Staph Infection

The heavier duck breeds, including Pekins and Appleyard, can be susceptible to bumblefoot, which is basically a staphylococcus infection caused by a cut, hard landing, or splinter. It manifests itself as a black scab on the bottom of the foot. Often catching it early enough means it can be treated using Vetericyn or an herbal salve to draw out the infection, but more advanced cases often require surgery to cut out the kernel of infection with a scalpel and then keeping the foot clean and dry until a new scab forms.


Sticky Eye/Eye Infection

Debris, a scratch, or rough mating can all cause eye infections in ducks. Their sinuses run down the back of their head, so often eye issues and respiratory issues go hand in hand with ducks. Symptoms of an eye infection include a closed eye, bubbling eye, redness, or tearing. Cleansing the eye well with saline and then making sure the duck has access to a nice, deep water bowl to submerge her entire head can often clear up the problem, but if it doesn’t seem to get better in a few days, a compress of steeped chamomile tea or goldenseal can help clear up the irritation. A more serious infection might require Vet-Rx, a natural camphor-based solution that can be added to the water or applied to the nostrils.

Impacted Crop

Since ducks will eat practically anything they can get hold of, they sometimes suffer impacted crop if they ingest long pieces of string, twine, plastic, or even rubber bands. A crop should be empty in the morning since ducks digest everything they eat overnight, so if you suspect impacted crop, gently massage the area, then offer grit, some olive oil, and plenty of water. Be sure to keep the area your ducks roam free of any potentially dangerous materials, and if you feed your ducks cut grass or weeds, be sure to cut them into fairly short lengths.


Prolapsed Penis/Vent

A prolapse occurs when a portion of the oviduct pushes outside the duck’s body while she’s laying an egg, or the drake’s penis doesn’t retract after mating. In both cases, it can correct itself on its own, but it’s a good idea to keep the area clean and apply some coconut oil and sugar for a few days to tighten the skin tissue and keep it soft. For either a duck or a drake suffering a prolapse, it’s a good idea to separate them to prevent mating while the prolapse is healing. You can try to carefully push the prolapse back inside if you don’t see any improvement in a few days. And allowing your flock plenty of room to exercise and a healthy diet can help prevent prolapses in your flock. In extreme cases, a visit to the vet might be in order.

Wet Feather

Adorable Pekin Ducks
Ducks not allowed regular access to water in which to swim, or ducks in generally poor health or kept in unsanitary conditions can suffer wet feather, a condition where their preen gland, which they use to keep their feathers well-oiled and waterproofed, stops working. This leads to the duck not being able to stay dry in the rain or water, and risking the chance of drowning or getting chilled. If your duck seems to not be waterproof anymore, give her a bath in Dawn detergent, then rinse her well and blow dry her. This will remove any dirt and old oil and give her a chance to start over. Only give her a tub of water to drink out of and splash water over herself for a few days and then allow her pool access again to see if she has regained her waterproofing. Severe cases often require the duck to go through a molt and grow in all new feathers before she is waterproof again.

Wry Neck

Wry neck is a condition that normally only affects ducklings. It can be fatal if not treated since the ducklings are unable to hold their head up and will often not be able to walk correctly. Wry neck can be caused by a vitamin deficiency, blow to the head, or ingestion of toxins. Adding B1 and E vitamins, as well as selenium to the duckling’s diet can reverse the condition. You can supplement with vitamin capsules, or add some brewers yeast, bran, sunflower seeds, or wheat germ to their diet or some herbs and spices such as parsley, sage, thyme, cinnamon, spinach, dandelion greens, alfalfa, marjoram, or turmeric, which contain both Vitamin E and selenium.
Regardless of the duck type, ducks are far more cold-hardy and healthier in general than chickens. You shouldn’t encounter too many issues with duck diseases. It’s easy to research ducks and duck breed pictures. So, why not consider a few for your backyard flock?

27 thoughts on “A Guide to Common Duck Diseases”
  1. I need a help regarding my duck.
    She accidentally quacks loud and shaking her head badly just like she wants to vomit but she don’t, she do like that about 3 times a day , since last 3 days , i don’t know what goes wrong with her, she is a pet duck .
    I can’t understand what to give her food or treatment?
    Is this problem is curable at home or may i approach to a vet?
    Please let me know

    1. My 5-day-old duckling has just developed bluish spots on his bill almost look like they’re blistered up what is wrong

  2. Duck isn’t moving around sways while standing not eating, not making any sound, keeps crying keeping eyes closed

  3. I live in Minnesota. My male pekin, is about 5 years, always been healthy and in charge.This last week I’ve noticed he’s lagging behind the others, even stopping to set awhile, tail always down ( not normal), not as steady on his feet and the bone that runs down his chest seems more defined. Not sure how much of his duck ,food he’s eating but will still take his favorite food from me, cherry tomatoes, which i cut even smaller. Any ideas or help will be greatly appreciated. I only have 7 ducks total.They are my family. Thank-you, Janell

  4. Hi!! I need help with my duck. If anyone has any idea as to what is wrong with her and how to treat it please let me know! Im desperate she is family and i hate to see her hurting. Today is day 3. Left foot is swollen and both feet are super hot. I dont see the hard part underneath it for it to be bumblefoot.. She is not getting up at all. Doesnt want to swim and looks like she is loosing strength on her neck too. She feels hot overall like as if she has a fever but shivers at times too. She wont eat on her own so i have to make her eat and drink. Im searching for vets that see ducks near me to take her in.
    Thank you in advance!!

    1. Hi, just from this description it sounds like perhaps your duck injured her foot and it became infected, and now the infection is affecting her body. What she needs are antibiotics. Unfortunately, those require a veterinarian because all feed-based antibiotics are now restricted as part of the Veterinary Feed Initiative. You can buy injectable antibiotics over the counter, but you would need to call a veterinarian to get a dosage for your duck, since most of those are labeled for swine and cattle. Good luck and I hope she recovers!

    1. Hi Terri, there shouldn’t be mold on a duck’s beak. Depending on the breed, there can be a bluish patina on the beak that looks like mold, which is perfectly natural and part of their coloring. If you can send a picture to editor@backyardpoultrymag.com we can take a look at it.

  5. Female duck seems to be trying to nibble at her rear end in the water. Is swivelling around, in the water, like a dog trying to catch its own tail. Looks uncomfortable. Three days ago she appeared to have a litter of four ducklings, but now there are only two remaining. She and her two ducklings will come out of the water OK to eat food.

  6. I have a five week old Rouen. Her left foot is turned inward and she sits frequently and limps. I assume it is possibly caused by a niacin deficiency. I gave her niacin for the first couple of weeks. I have begun to give it to her again. Is it possible for the foot to correct it’s self or is failure to thrive more like? I am heart broken.

  7. Hi. Our 7 days old ducklings dies daily. We lost 8 in three days. They look fine and healthy but then staring to shake their heads, looks off ballans, stop eating and drinking and die shortly after. Please advise. I’m desperate.

    1. Check if they have pooped
      10-20 mins, or with in an hour from hatch. If they haven’t. They need help, you can help by holding between thumb and last two fingers lift tail, then carefully press in on bottom and down on lowest part of back. But be very careful might help if you set on towel. If blocked you can use a warm wet qtip. Check every 20-30 minuets.

  8. I need help I left my duck ok an in the morning when I wake up I saw my duck lying down an beating up an looking super weak idk what to do can someone help me with this please because this is not the first time it is happening among my ducks.

    1. Did you ever find out what was wrong? I have a duck with similar symptoms, falling over and can’t turn herself over to get up.

  9. One of our community pond ducks appears to have sustained a head injury. Yesterday, the first day noticed, appeared very red. Today, it also appears there are some white spots or small areas on top of her head. I haven’t been able to get close enough to see how bad it really is or to get a good snapshot. She did come up with the others when time to eat, but she didn’t eat, nor did she eat today. She stays in the water, but at a small distance from the others and just floats with her head resting on her chest. Not sure, but her right eye might be involved.
    Any information will be greatly appreciated and I thank you in advance!

  10. My duck just recently in the past week has became weak he has got leaking out of his eyes his feet are turning in now. He is an inside duck because of where we live I rescued him about 3 months ago a dog chased him under the neighbor’s car and he was just a baby and I don’t know where he came from. Over this past 3 months this has become my baby and I love it more than anything in the world and I don’t want something to happen to him I don’t have money for a vet at this point I don’t even have a car to go anywhere and I just don’t know what to do

  11. My duck was limping yesterday. Today I found her upside down and her body looks crooked. She’s pooping and ate a few worms, but she’s not holding her head up and she was shaking. There’s no signs of injuries. Please help.

  12. A few of my ducks have red skin that is visible through their feathers. I don’t know if this is natural or not because it is my first time raising ducks. I don’t want to call a vet on anything unimportant or normal. Because my dad and mom’s friend gave them to us, we don’t know what breed they are. Any info would be really helpful.

  13. I have a laying silver appleyards female she was fine when I left for work I get home her bill is becoming pale pinkish right about the black tip and her head looks like it’s wet she has no trouble walking or eating I’m panicking I love this girl such personality

  14. I have a 7 week old Khaki female who survived an attack 3 days ago. We cleaned her wound on her head and applied a poultry wound spray and are giving her chick boost in her water. Shes acting better, still not eating, but yesterday a swollen bump appeared on her head. I put oregano in her water for inflamation. Is there anything else i can do to help her. I would like to avoid stressing her by taking her to the vet.

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