All About Duck Health: Issues, Links, Resources, Recommended Reading, Treatments & Diagnostic Tools

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We recently did a presentation on raising backyard ducks for the 2015 South Carolina Organization for Organic Living’s (SCOOL) annual conference. As promised to presentation attendees, this article has additional helpful links, recommended reading, and other resources for duck owners seeking to identify and treat various duck illnesses and health problems. 

First off, we recommend that duck owners/parents always have a duck first aid kit on-hand to treat minor injuries before they become problems. We provide a detailed list of recommended duck first aid kit items in our article Duck Health Guide: First Aid Kit Items, Tips and Recommended Reading

Recommended Reading

Also, we think it’s a good idea for duck owners/parents to do some reading about raising ducks before they jump in. Our top recommended reading list about raising ducks – and identifying/treating potential duck medical problems: 

Our favorite, go-to duck book. We probably consult it a few times/month. If you only buy one duck book, it should be this one. Very comprehensive and thorough.

A great text for people looking to raise birds for eggs (or, gasp! meat). Also lots of good info for the backyard duck enthusiast.

We do not have this book (yet), but it comes highly recommended and looks like it’s packed with tons of good info.

Perfect for the duck parent going through an illness. It’s written more for the clinician, but we found it immensely helpful when dealing with a sick hen.

Directed 100% towards the clinician, but helpful if you want to understand what’s going on with a sick bird. Differential diagnoses, recommend diagnostic tests, treatments, etc.

Other Helpful Links & Resources

 duck health: diagnostics 

  • Majestic Waterfowl’s Diagnostic Chart: If your birds are ill, start here. Very helpful in narrowing down illnesses based on symptoms. There is also a wonderful book written by the founder/president of Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary that you NEED to buy if you plan to get pet ducks. You can find it on Amazon.

 duck health: legs & feet 

 duck health: eggs & vent

Egg Binding - signs & symptoms
  1. rapid or labored breathing
  2. lethargic
  3. pelvic area will feel like a hard mass, or you can actually feel the egg that is bound
  4. swelling
  5. constipation
  6. fluffed up feathers
  7. straining/tail-pumping
  8. feces contain egg yolk could mean egg perionitis

This is a very uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition for birds. If you notice one of your ducks experiencing signs/symptoms of egg binding, please consider seeking medical attention. Our vet bill ran almost $300, which is very reasonable considering we had her tube fed, x-rayed, an extensive blood panel done and were given 2 medications + oral calcium. If you can’t afford a vet visit, you may be able to find a sympathetic vet who will give you something to help deal with the inflammation and pain without requiring a visit.

 duck health: ducklings 


 duck health: digestive system 

 duck health: general 

How birds (humans & insects) breathe:

If you made it this far, congratulations! You’ve found one of our favorite things:’s infographic.

Birds are crazy-cool animals. But one of the most interesting things about them is the way that they breathe. Birds don’t have a diaphragm to assist with the inhalation and exhalation of air.

Instead they have highly specialized structures called air sacs. These air sacs act like bellows that fill the stationary lungs (their lungs don’t inflate and deflate like ours do) and allow them to TAKE IN oxygen on EXHALATION. It’s this adaptation that enables them to quickly supply lots of oxygen to their bodies thereby allowing them to fly!

If you love geeky things like this, go check out She’s got so many educational, animated infographics. We love her website!

Be sure to check out our other posts about raising ducks!

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