What Causes a Duck to Limp and Go Lame?

What Causes a Duck to Limp and Go Lame?

A duck’s legs and feet are made for flying and swimming, not walking. Ducks have structurally weak legs, and the most common affliction of ducks is lameness. A duck may start to limp and eventually go lame for any number of reasons.

 

 

Injury

Ducklings brooded on wire can get a tiny hock caught in the hardware cloth. The restricted hock joint then swells, and unless the duckling is timely worked free it will be lame. The solution here is to brood ducks on a solid floor.

A duck’s legs can easily be injured if you grab the duck by a leg or legs instead of clamping your hands around its body. Injury may also occur if a duck gets its leg caught, for instance in a fence, and pulls hard to free its leg. Patrol your duck yard for potential sources of injury.

Lameness may also result from a glass sliver, a thorn, or a sharp stick lodged in the footpad, resulting in inflammation and infection. Treatment involves washing the affected foot, removing the offending object (as you would remove a splinter from yourself), and cleaning the area with a bactericide such as Vetericyn Poultry Care.

Bumblefoot

A duck kept on dry, hard-packed ground can develop an abscess on the bottom of a food pad that eventually hardens into a callus. This condition, known as bumblefoot, may involve one or both feet. It most often affects the heavier duck breeds.

Treatment involves washing the affected foot, cleaning it with a bactericide, pressing any pus out of the abscess, and removing the hard core, if one is present. Provide the recovering duck with clean litter or fresh grass and clean swimming water.

To prevent this problem, keep feed and watering areas clean, or frequently move the feed and watering stations. Also cover hard surfaces — such as concrete, gravel, or hard-packed soil — with clean litter. To keep ducks from trampling and killing the vegetation in their yard, divide the yard into several separate areas. Rotate the ducks periodically to rest each area and give vegetation time to rejuvenate.

Niacin Deficiency

By far the most common cause of lameness in ducks is niacin deficiency, which occurs when ducklings are fed rations intended for chickens. Chicks have the ability to convert the amino acid tryptophan in their starter ration into niacin. Ducks lack that ability.

But finding a niacin-rich commercial starter ration formulated specifically for ducklings can be challenging. Alternatives are game bird starter and turkey starter, both of which typically contain more niacin than chick starter.

If you must feed chick starter to ducklings, the easiest way to fortify it is by adding niacin in the form of livestock grade brewer’s yeast, mixed with starter at the rate of 3 pounds brewer’s yeast per 25 pounds of starter.

Niacin is another name for vitamin B3, which is required for proper bone growth. It naturally occurs in animals, fish, and some vegetables. Ducks in the wild get plenty of niacin by eating such things as worms, insects, and small fish. Ducks confined to a small backyard often lack opportunities to forage for niacin-rich treats.

In ducks, early signs of niacin deficiency are failure to grow and thrive, and reluctance to walk. Eventually the legs bow and the hocks swell, until the duck becomes completely and irreversibly lame.

Periodically letting confined ducks into a garden would make them happy by giving them the opportunity to forage for worms and other tasty delicacies. Other foods they enjoy that are relatively high in niacin include green peas, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin or squash seeds. Ensuring sufficient niacin in your ducks’ diet will keep them healthy and active.

And that’s today’s news from the Cackle Coop.

Gail Damerow is editor and principal author of Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals.

ducklings

Written by Gail Damerow

42 Responses to What Causes a Duck to Limp and Go Lame?

  1. My sons have 2 Buff ducks that are almost 4 months old. Recently we noticed one of them limping. We checked her foot for injuries or infections but couldn’t find any. We’ve been soaking her bad leg in epsom salt bath for 3 days now, but she has not improved. She stands on one leg most of the time, or lays down on the ground with the bad leg tucked in but off the ground. She is still eating and drinking. What would you suggest we should do?

    • I also have the same problem.She’s even laying and very much worried for her. I just keep asking myself what went wrong and what could be the possible best solution to her limping nature each time she start laying?

        • My dad got 4 ducks and I clUmed the smallest one and I noticed that it would lay down and when it try to walk it would crawl sort of and I noticed my duck’s legs stuck out and I dont know what to do ;-; please help thank you!

    • If one of your ducks a Drake It could be trying to mate too much causing the female to be exhausted, it may also result in her losing her voice, make sure to check for that and if you have a drake then this may be the case.

  2. I have one duck that is somewhat bowllegged and turns up lame frequently. I have nursed her out of the last 2 episodes. It seems more serious this time. The affected leg is swollen and hot to touch even having been kenneled for almost a week. I just had surgery and have another on the calendar for November.
    I’m beginning to wonder if I can take adequate care of them. I would like to find a better arrangement than I have. Do you allow folks to post animal free to good home? I have 4 female Perkins and a pair of Rouens that are a year old.

  3. What about one foot that begins to curl up in a small duckling? (just purchased from Tractor Supply…) Not both feet… no abscess as in bumblefoot?

    • usually they will grow into it. But it’s totally normal for any ducks or chickens to have a curled foot, he or she will get better naturally.

    • I have a duckling with a curled foot. I powdered up a 500mg niacin tablet adding it to the food…… For the leg, I massaged from hip down to ankle and then the foot gently stretching the web area; using Arnica Gel. Started standing on it last week and now follows me around with a slight limp.

  4. My duck startes limping and I suspected it was bumblefoot. But when i checked, she didn’t have it. What else could it be?

  5. My duck has some sort of walking problem. When she walks her tail goes in all different directions and she ends up falling after a few steps. Does anyone have any idea what it can be?

    • Terry, I have this same thing happening right now with a mallard we just purchased less than a week ago. The duckling was walking fine up until yesterday morning, then we noticed the same thing you describe. It’s as if that “ankle” joint is not working properly. What ever happened to your duckling?

    • I’m having the exact same thing happening with my Pekin. She was ok and is now lame. She cant walk at all and I dont know what to do.

  6. We have a pekin duck who has gone lame. We have been giving her niacin for 3 days but have seen no improvement. Where the leg joint meets at her feet it looks as though they don’t bend and she doesn’t spread her webbing of her feet apart. Has anyone seen this before and if so what are your suggestions? She eats and drinks fine and the other sisters aren’t mean to her at all even though we felt she needed to be separated, which we did but they still are within quacking range of one another. We’re beginning to think she may not walk even though she was able to before.

    • Terry, I have this same thing happening right now with a mallard we just purchased less than a week ago. The duckling was walking fine up until yesterday morning, then we noticed the same thing you describe. It’s as if that “ankle” joint is not working properly. What ever happened to your duckling?

      • I had a duck that started limping (barely able to walk). I started feeding them frozen peas (thawed) and he was able.to walk within a couple days. Good luck!

    • As long as the niacin is in proper balance, try light massage down the leg and the foot gently stretching the webbing. (I did use a bit of Arnica gel = you may need to dilute a bit with some water or olive oil)

    • I have 4 baby ducks that are around 5-6 weeks old one my ducks started limping. I have gotten the breyers for their food and giving them lettuce and sunflower seeds. But now she’s gotten to we’re she just lays there. If I move her to water and food she still eats. What can I do???? VERY WORRIED!

  7. I recently had a Welsh Harlequin that got a virus that caused the bones in her foot dissolve. It came on and progressed very quickly (days) Sadly, I had to put her down. Take your duck to the vet if you can.

  8. I found a wild duck he can’t move his legs very much and drags them behind he won’t stand and flaps his wings to drag himself across the ground any idea what could be wrong and how do I fix it

  9. LAME DUCK
    I feed the turkeys, woodpeckers, doves, etc. behind my patio (on a golf course, and there is a decent vernal pool here that forms for weeks when it rains); and about 4 to 6 wild male mallards have “set up shop” here, helping themselves to the bird seed I put out… well, I noticed one of them limping (and the others at first would follow him – I think he is an old duck, probably had been “the leader”, but is now getting lamer and lamer, and now mainly just sits near the end of my low patio fence, and only one other “odd duck” stays nearby the lame one). I hope he gets better… he can come into my patio if he wants; he likely will by tomorrow.

  10. My female duck is about 1 year and just one morning her leg only one is useless no
    breaks, no swelling she flops around there is no strength in it as if she only has one leg please she eats shes strong just lost use of leg we hold her but her flock gets to run around and she cant
    could it be a stroke…Heartbroken she has energy ..LOST please help me

    • It sounds like an injury of some sort. I would look up ways to create a temporary splint and see if her strength improves.

  11. Hi, i have a male runner about a yr. But for the past week he’s been unable to walk or even stand. He’s not got bumble foot. I’ve been given him epsom salt baths, niacin, extra vitamins and he’s been staying in resting I found mites and now treated for them he also has bright green poo.so im also going to worm him. He’s not eating a great deal. There aren’t any bird vets about. I don’t know what to do. He a still alert and I let him sit in the pen some of the day so he can see everyone else. ?

    • Sounds like he may have an infection somewhere as bright green poo and lack of appetite indicates this. I had a female who had an internal infection with these symptoms and she needed at least two weeks of antibiotics and tube feeding and managed to recover from it. Try calling a vet for advice and they might offer a prescription for antibiotics. If they don’t help call a farm vet.

  12. I have a blue sweed duck that injured his leg. The duck use his leg at all. The leg just hangs to the side, helpless like. I put him in warm water & the duck didn’t care to try & swim. The leg doesn’t feel warm at the joints or broken. Nor doe it have Bumblefoot. My duckling is confined to its plastic container.

  13. I bought 2 baby ducks back on April 10, 2020. They were both fine for two weeks until one of them started to limp when walking. I realized it was a niacin deficiency and bought some niacin that I’ve been giving to her for the past two weeks. After the first few days she was unable to move any muscles,(turn her head to clean herself and walk), and she wasn’t feeding herself much unless I moved the food and water closer to her mouth. She has gotten noticable better within the past week and was able to walk and now when she does try to walk she trips on herself and just lay’s down. Shes is now able to move her neck more to clean herself but not for a long period of time. What can I do to make her better. I feel like the niacin isnt doing much. Ive checkeed her feet and nothing looks abnormal and am still giving her niacin but its been at least two weeks since I started the niacin treatment.

  14. Hi, so my eldest sister owns two ducks of different species and, recently, one of the ducks died while the other was wounded. The one that died was found with it’s legs sticking straight with a cocked neck, and i was wondering if something like post-mortam contraction would be possible if the duck would have died by the causes listed above. The duck had a noticeable growth defect, as it was older than the other one, and yet it still had it’s down feathers after the other had fully matured. The one who is still alive has something wrong with it’s right wing and left foot, and i was alos wanting to know if those could be early signs of niacin deficiency or not.

  15. I have a duck that’s always had leg problem, he’s about 8-9 weeks old. First niacin deficiency, then Bumblefoot. I was treating both of those and he seemed to be getting stronger but still not able to walk much then overnight he couldn’t walk at all. His hip seems out of place a little and his jock is swollen and he can’t bend his leg by himself. If I try to bend it I can only bend it about 2/3 of the way but not all the way bent as they normally would sit. Any ideas??

    • It sounds like you’re doing everything we’d recommend. With the hip appearing to be out of place, it seems as if maybe his muscles have just deteriorated from all of the trauma to his legs. I’m sorry, but I’m just not sure what else to try at this point.

  16. I really need help my ducks are pekin ducks and i have 4 if them and they are 6 weeks old and one of them started off by limping then not waking then not eating then her poo is bright green and now she doesn’t like to lift her head and I don’t know what to do at all I really need your help and this is my first pet ever I don’t want her to die and this happened in a course of two Days ?

      • Chelsey. Can I call u. My duck is getting completely lame and my son is heartbroken. It kills us to see her flop around. Please any advice

  17. My daughter has had what we think is a Pekin duck, and a mallard for about 5 weeks. About two weeks in, the Pekin started limping, tripping over it’s left foot. We noticed it was turned in some. We thought it was because of the small enclosure we had them in at the time. We now have a fairly large area they can roam, and let them out in the yard to roam. But the foot keeps getting worse. When it swims, it doesn’t use that foot. It tries to use it when it walks, but ends up stumbling and then laying down. It still moves around somewhat, but not much. There is nothing visibly wrong, like a sore or break. The legs look bow-legged and the one is just turned in. We aren’t sure what to do. My husband thinks it’s in pain and we should “do something” with it. My daughter is devastated at the thought. Help!

  18. I have a pekin duck that has been acting lame
    Stumbles around with tail down and isolates from the rest of the flock and sits a lot.
    She’s eating and drinking and seems very bright and alert still.
    The drakes were pecking at his/her rear end.
    We’re not sure if he’s a he or she as she doesn’t have the tail feather but also doesn’t quack.
    Now I noticed bright green and black poop.
    We’ve isolated her in a hospital set up while we try to figure this out.

  19. I have 6 Pekin ducks that are about 13 weeks old, one had gone limp a few weeks ago and seemed to have gotten better after some good water therapy to relieve any pressure on her leg. Tonight I found her in mud by herself with her wings out to balance herself and thought she was stuck (she wasn’t) she tries to walk but only a few steps and lays down, I again made sure she got her water therapy and placed her in a kennel with soft bedding in hopes to rest her leg overnight and not stumble over her siblings. What else can I do for her? Please help, It breaks my heart to see her this way. Thank you

    • Have you tried adding more niacin to her diet? You can start by adding niacin in the form of livestock grade brewer’s yeast, mixed with starter at the rate of 3 pounds brewer’s yeast per 25 pounds of starter

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