Duck Health Guide: First Aid Kit Essentials, Egg Issues, Tips & Recommended Reading

Duck health guide: first aid kit items, healthcare tips & more thumbnail
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Updated and republished on 3/11/2021.

Like all pets, your ducks will get sick, injured, or require medical care at some point in their lives. It’s important for duck parents to be prepared for these inevitabilities up front and have a baseline knowledge about what to expect.

Likewise, you may want to learn about how to diagnose and treat common duck ailments that are NOT life-threatening at home. For ease of use, this article is broken into the following sections:

  1. Top 5 ways to prevent duck injuries and illnesses;
  2. How to stock your ducks’ first aid kit;
  3. How to find the right vet for your ducks;
  4. How to save money on prescription medications (if your duck ever needs them);
  5. Other helpful resources and recommended reading.

Elsewhere on our website, we’ve covered three other important duck healthcare topics that are important for duck parents to know about: 

The flock out foraging in the spring.

Our flock out foraging the gardens in spring.

Part 1. Top 5 ways to prevent duck injuries and illnesses

Of course, the best treatment for virtually any duck health or medical condition will always be prevention. It’s much easier to keep a biological organism healthy than it is to fix it once it becomes sick or injured.

In our experience, the five best ways to prevent a duck from getting injured or acquiring an illness are:

1. Provide a healthy, balanced waterfowl-specific diet.

Read: What to feed pet or backyard ducks to maximize their health and longevity.

2. Aim for better health, not more eggs.

Directly related to diet, we’d encourage you to adopt our “duck philosophy”: produce the healthiest ducks possible, not the most eggs possible. Egg production takes an enormous amount of energy and nutrients out of a duck’s body, so if you want to have long-lived, happy, healthy ducks with low medical costs and death rates, focus first and foremost on your ducks’ health.

3. Provide adequate swimming water.

Provide clean water for your ducks to swim in daily. Chickens take dust baths, ducks take water baths. Ducks’ water baths help with feather health, overall hygiene, and mite prevention.

Having a year round source of clean, moving water made a big difference in our ducks’ overall health and well-being. Depending on your resources, plan to at least have a large pail or kiddie pool for your ducks, that you change every 24-48 hours. If possible, consider building your own self-cleaning duck pond.

Svetlana the duck, post-treatment. Here she is after taking a swim in the backyard duck pond we built for our flock. / Duck Health Guide by Tyrant Farms

Svetlana taking a swim in the self-cleaning backyard duck pond we built for our flock.

4. Maintain clean bedding.

Keep your duck coop bedding fresh and topped up (we use a deep litter method) so they’re not standing around in soggy bedding or their own waste. We use large flake pine shavings for our outdoor duck coop.

If we have to bring a duck indoors to sit on a nest or go broody, we use aspen shavings. Aspen is dust-free, so it’s much better for in-home applications.

(Read: What’s the best bedding for your duck coop or run?)

5. Protect those delicate duck flippers! 

Provide a run/foraging area with clean, non-course surfaces. Ducks are clumsy walkers with big flippers, so rough granite, thick chopped mulch, rough concrete, etc. will increase the likelihood of foot/ankle injuries and infections like bumblefoot.

For larger areas (like a backyard), we recommend finely ground mulch (triple-ground) or shredded leaves. For smaller areas (like runs), large flake pine shavings would be our recommendation. Wet, poopy mud is going to attract parasites and anaerobic bacteria, eventually leading to health problems with your ducks.

Sometimes all you need is a good nap. Svetlana taking a nap with Susan.

Sometimes all you need is a good nap! Svetlana, back when she was still a duckling, taking a nap with Susan.

Part 2. Stocking your duck first aid kit

Do you have a drawer or cabinet with bandaids, rubbing alcohol, pain medication, and other essentials that you may need in case you get sick or injured? Or a full [human] first aid kit?

Similarly, you’ll need to have medical necessities on-hand in the event your ducks get sick or injured, e.g. a duck first aid kit. The further you live from a pharmacy or avian vet, the more important this precaution likely is.

Below are some of the items we think you should consider including in your duck first aid kit. We include a tiered rating system based on how important we deem the item to be in a duck first aid kit:

  • Essential = must-have;
  • Important = we’d encourage you to have it on-hand if budget allows;
  • Helpful = buy as/when needed.

For simplicity, items in our recommended duck first aid kit are also organized by category.

A. Duck probiotics, vitamins, & minerals

1. Oyster Shell

Essential year round

The only kind of oyster shell our picky ducks will eat is the Scratch and Peck Feeds brand. Oyster shell or other calcium supplements should be provided for egg laying birds. We also recommend leaving a bowl of oyster shell out for your ducks even when they’re not laying since they know when their bodies need calcium and will eat it accordingly. (Buy on Amazon)

2. Rooster Booster

Essential in summer

This is a powdered supplement made of minerals, electrolytes, and Lactobacillus (probiotic). On extremely hot summer days, this supplement is great to add to your ducks’ drinking water. It can also be good as a quick nutrient-rich drench should your birds need it. Rooster Booster is available online or at your local Feed & Seed or Tractor Supply store. (Buy on Amazon)

3. Vitamin B-Complex


It’s super important that you do NOT buy either the flush-free niacin (inositol hexanicotinate) or timed-release. You just want straight-up B Complex. Surprisingly, this is a pretty difficult thing to find, so we highly recommend you buy it now and keep it on hand for if you ever need it.

We tube fed two of these capsules with some liquified Mazuri Maintenance feed to save a friend’s 20lb goose who had stopped eating, standing and walking. Within hours of his first meal with Vitamin B-complex he was standing again. (Buy on Amazon)

There are few, if any, creatures in the world that are cuter than ducklings.

There are few, if any, creatures in the world cuter than ducklings. Niacin/Vitamin B-complex is critically important to the development of ducklings as well, and is not found in proper ratios in chick feed, which is formulated for chickens. Read: How to raise ducklings, a step-by-step guide.

4. Nordic Naturals Pro Arctic Omega Liquid Fish Oil


Dosage as per our vet, EPA + DHA = 250 mg/day, so 1mL/day if you buy this one. We use this fish oil if we have a duck who needs help with feather health/oil production and waterproofing. We also use it for a duck who has been laying a bit too long and is starting to have egg issues (bumpy or soft shells).

This oil seems to give them a much-needed boost of healthy fatty acids until we can get them to stop laying (go broody). *Store in your fridge, not at room temperature. (Buy on Amazon)

5. ProBios


Another excellent probiotic to use regularly, especially following a round of antibiotics. It’s also safe for dogs and cats. (Buy on Amazon)

6. Nutridrench


This is a rapid, rich nutritional supplement. We’ll use it if we have a sick bird and they need a quick vitamin pick-me-up, as you would take a botanical health tonic or elderberry syrup if you feel a cold coming on. (Buy on Amazon)

B. Products to help with Toxins/Contaminants

1. Toxiban


Toxiban is a kaolin clay and activated charcoal-based suspension intended for use as an adsorbent of orally ingested toxicants. It is highly effective in treating accidental animal poisonings. Since this product lasts virtually forever and can save a duck’s life, we’d recommend having it on the ready in your duck first aid kit from Day 1. (Buy on Amazon)

2. Activated Charcoal 

Essential IF you don’t have Toxiban

A little less expensive than Toxiban and easy to add to their drinking water. Also great for the human first-aid kit when you’re nursing an upset stomach. (Buy on Amazon)

3. Milk thistle capsules


Our avian vet and a compounding pharmacist we know have seen amazing results from milk thistle supplements. In fact, they’ve seen severe liver damage completely reversed. (The silymarin compounds are what works magic.)

C. Wound Care

1. Vetricyn


A great product that isn’t limited to fowl injuries; it can be used on dogs, cats, etc… It’s safe for use in eyes and it won’t make them sick if they lick or accidentally eat it. The hydrogel formulation is wonderful for eye injuries because it’s more of a gel and tends to run off less easily. (Buy Vetricyn hydrogel on Amazon)

The Vetricyn Wound Spray is a great all-purpose wound flush or area disinfectant (like you’d use hydrogen peroxide on a human). (Buy Vetriyn wound spray on Amazon

*You only really need one or the other of the Vetricyn sprays – if we had to choose, we’d go with the hydrogel because it stays in place and doesn’t run.

2. Polysporin


We’d been using this before we realized it was animal-safe. Also note, do not use Neosporin or any triple antibiotic ointments containing “pain relief” medicine on your birds. (Buy on Amazon)

3. VetWrap


Wrap for injuries; great for holding on bandages, etc.. You can also find this locally at any Feed-and-Seed or Tractor Supply. (Buy on Amazon)

4. Non-stick gauze pads


A great non-stick gauze for injuries. You can also find these at any pharmacy or grocery store. (Buy on Amazon)

5. New Skin Liquid Bandage


This is one our avian vet told us about. She recommends using it for minor bumblefoot cases or foot pad injuries to protect and seal while the flipper heals. (Buy on Amazon)

6. Silvadene, aka Silver Sulfazadene


This one requires an Rx from a doctor or vet. It’s a topical silver cream that works wonders against bacterial and viral infections. We’ve also used Curad’s silver solution ointment , but prefer Silvadene.

7. Preparation H


Yep! That stuff. Our vet also recommends this topically to help with inflamed tissues. Interestingly, she finds that it helps with foot inflammation when treating bumblefoot. (Buy on Amazon)

8. VetRX


A botanically-based product that offers effective relief from respiratory disease, crd, croup, scaly leg mites, and favus eye worm. It’s not a treatment for respiratory problems per-se, but can help make your ducks more comfortable in much the same way that breathing vicks vape-o-rub makes you comfortable if you have a cold. We just rub a few dabs on their bill. (Buy on Amazon)

C. Antibiotics, NSAIDs & Medications

1. Children’s Benadryl, Diphenhydramine


Used in treating anxiety and nausea (i.e. if you have to transport your birds) and allergic reactions (if your duck eats a hornet, gets stung, and their tongue swells to the size of a hotdog – yes, we know from experience). *Very important: Do not use grape-flavored Children’s Benadryl. Our vet told us either the dye or the flavoring used in the grape is dangerous to fowl. (Buy on Amazon)

2. Metacam/Meloxicam


This one requires a vet Rx. Excellent non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) that helps control pain and inflammation. We’ve used it to assist with egg issues, pain & swelling due to injury, allergic reactions, etc.

Just like your children, sometimes your ducks do dumb things. Like putting a hornet underneath their tongue. Not that we know anyone who has done that, do we, Jackson the duck? Nope. // Duck Health Guide

Just like your children, sometimes your ducks do dumb things. Like putting a hornet underneath their tongue and holding it there for a bit like it’s a slow-dissolving lozenge. Not that we know anyone who has done that, do we, Jackson the duck? Nope. With some Metacam + Diphenhydramine (Children’s Benadryl), the swelling was better in two days. Related: if you’ve ever been curious to take a look inside a bald-faced hornet nest, here you go

3. Clavamox / human equivalent Augmentin or Amox-Clav


Requires an Rx from a vet. A broad spectrum antibiotic, a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanic Acid, used for infections caused by bacteria. First line antibiotic used to treat Pasteurella, the bacteria in animal (mostly cat) bite wounds that can kill birds. This is a common antibiotic that people have in their medicine cabinets and it’s good to know that it does have an important animal use. Before you give your birds any antibiotic you should always check with your vet.

4. Ciproflaxacin Drops / Brand: Cipro and Ciloxin


Requires a vet Rx. A flouroquinolone antibiotic, used to treat nare infections caused by bacteria.

D. Supplies

1. Neoprene duck shoes


Very helpful if you ever have to treat bumblefoot (or other foot injuries) in your ducks. Yes, there are online vendors who sell duck shoes! We’d recommend you have two duck shoes per duck, if at all possible.

*Recommendation: Search Etsy and look for sellers with the best online reviews.

mawy gold, the duck, wearing her open-toed duck shoes

2. Tube Feeding Supplies


Literally a life saver. Birds will often become anorexic when they’re ill. Without tube feeding it’s impossible to keep them hydrated and nourished. We’ve saved many fowl (both ours and our friends’) because we have tube feeding supplies and know how to tube feed ducks and geese.

Please do NOT try tube feeding a duck if you’ve never been shown how or don’t have someone giving instructions. Do NOT put the feeding tube down the glottis (the center hole that opens and closes) or you’ll kill them. Instead, put it to the left or right of that hole. (Buy kit on Amazon)

Related: See our instructions and video tutorial about how to tube feed ducks and other poultry species.

3. 35mL Syringes


Extra tube feeding syringes. Our ducks take two, 30mL syringes (60mL total) of food, and you don’t want to have to stop mid-feed to syringe up more food. Buy extra syringes and have them ready to go. (Buy on Amazon)

4. 3 mL Syringes


We use these for things that require larger doses like antibiotics or benadryl. (Buy on Amazon)

5. 1 mL Syringes


Very useful for smaller dosed medications like Metacam. (Buy on Amazon)

Svetlana, our medical miracle (sometimes a medical disaster) and little feathered pig. // Duck Health Guide

Svetlana, our medical miracle and little feathered pig enjoying a muddy foraging adventure.

Part 3: Finding the right vet for your duck

Finding the right vet for your duck may be harder than it sounds. For one, poultry/ birds are a relatively specialized area of veterinary education and many vets don’t have that much education or experience diagnosing or treating ducks.

That’s no fault of the veterinary sciences, it’s simply due to the fact that the demand for dog and cat “doctors” is far higher than it is for duck doctors.

How to find an avian vet for your duck

Nevertheless, you’ll want to try to find a vet with a specialization in Avian Practice. The easiest and fastest way to find such a person or practice is to do a quick search on the Association of Avian Veterinarians’ website. Under the dropdown navigation for “degrees,” select ABVP (Avian Practice) then enter your address.

If you can’t find a vet who specializes in Avian Practice near you, simply call your local vet(s) and inquire about their comfort and knowledge level in treating ducks.

We’re lucky to live close to relatively high population areas with lots of vets within a 30-60 minute drive. If you happen to live in the Upstate region of South Carolina, we highly recommend HealthPointe Veterinary Clinic in Duncan, SC.

Dr. Hurlbert has ducks of her own, so you know your birds are being treated by someone who knows waterfowl well. She also comes highly recommended amongst wildlife rehabbers and other area vets (as we found out when we first got ducks and were calling around to find someone who treats birds).

Svetlana at the vet waiting to see Dr. Hurlbert. She can’t even bear to look at us – she loves her vet, but hates having to go into her office to be poked and prodded.

During our trips to see Dr. Hurlbert for both duck well visits/checkups and unwell visits, we’ve learned a tremendous amount about ducks. It’s also nice to have an avian vet willing to answer a thousand questions from very inquisitive duck parents each time you show up!

Svetlana in her nebulizer - a clear tupperware container that we fashioned into a nebuilization chamber. We cut a hole into the side and inserted the T-shaped plastic piece that attached the nebuilzer cup to the piece that would typically go into your mouth. The other side of the T was plugged with a rubber cork.

Svetlana in her DIY nebulizer getting her daily dose of Speer’s Super Sinus Flush. The nebulizer is pretty simple – a clear tupperware container that we fashioned into a nebuilization chamber. We cut a hole into the side and inserted the T-shaped plastic piece that attached the nebuilzer cup to the piece that would typically go into your mouth. The other side of the T was plugged with a rubber cork.

Part 4: How to save money on prescription medications (if your duck ever needs them)

Unfortunately, our feathered friends get sick from time to time. Unlike with humans, there are zero comprehensive insurance options available for birds. Yes, we’ve looked.

If you’ve ever had a beloved pet get chronically ill, you know that the expenses can add up quickly. The same thing may happen to you with a pet duck. If so, this section may help you navigate more serious healthcare issues.

When Svetlana, our most beloved duck ever, was diagnosed with Aspergillosis, not only was it completely terrifying, but the treatment plan lasted 2+ years and involved several expensive medications administered twice a day! (Antibiotic: Augmentin (Amoxicillin / Clavulonic Acid) and an antifungal: Sporanox suspension (Itraconazole) or Vfend (Vorconazole).)

While Augmentin is available as a generic, the dose we needed her Sporanox in was only available for children in suspension form, and wasn’t available as a generic. There is a generic adult-dosed pill, but there is no way to break it down to ensure even dosing for a duck.

Point being, all of her prescribed medications are also used to treat people so we were able to take advantage of a few resources that help us humans purchase our medications more affordably. Below are tips that helped us save a ton of money.

Tip 1: Use pharmacy discount cards.

GoodRx saved us so much money.

Just download the app, type in the medication name, and show the scan card to your pharmacist. These work great if the drug you need is out-of-patent, meaning it has a generic equivalent.

For instance, the retail price for the antibiotic we needed for Svetlana was ~$250, but we were able to get it for $73. We ultimately ended up finding a way to get our Augmentin (Amox-Clav) much cheaper (<$30), which brings us to tip #2…

$250 versus $73 - big savings on duck medication thanks to Good Rx.

$250 versus $73 – big savings on duck medication thanks to Good Rx.

Tip 2: Make friends with your pharmacy staff & don’t be afraid to ask if they know of any discount programs.

We’d often go pick up Svetlana’s drugs in the evening when the pharmacy at Walgreens was less busy.

Most of the time we’d bring her with us, so our pharmacy staff was able to get to know her. She always wore a diaper, so we were never concerned about “messes” – please don’t take an undiapered duck anywhere, let alone somewhere with sick people.

Any time we’d get her Augmentin (or any other Rx) filled they’d do a quick search through various programs and promos to make sure we were getting the best price possible. We were able to get an <$30 price because of a new program (at the time) that had been sending out literature to pharmacies and our pharmacist made a note on our account for the next time we came in.

Side note: It’s surprising to us how few people noticed that we were walking around Walgreens carrying a duck. The observant ones who did were always tickled. One woman thought she was going crazy and did a few double takes until Susan finally said, “You aren’t imagining things, this is a real duck.”

Tip 3: Call around to a few compounding pharmacies.

The compounding pharmacy we used had a veterinary pharmacist on staff who worked with the Charleston Aquarium. She was extremely helpful and was able to put together Svetlana’s Sporanox Rx (Itraconazole) for a few hundred dollars cheaper than a standard pharmacy.

We ended up not using them long-term because she’d been taking the suspension form for a while and it wasn’t recommended that we switch to pills (that’s all the compounding pharmacy could put together in a highly bioavailable form).

Tip 4: Try Costco.

Costco is sometimes much cheaper than any other pharmacy, and you don’t have to be a member to buy a prescription from them.

For instance, our vet wanted to try Vorconazole. Walgreens was charging $300; Costco offered the same medication for $45. When we were calling around to check prices, we asked the pharmacy tech to repeat herself, then verified at least two more times before getting off the phone because it was so much cheaper than anywhere else we found.

Using the four tips above can save you a lot of money if you have a sick or injured pet duck who needs medication. We were able to get 3-4 months worth of meds for about what we paid for 1 single month when Svetlana was first diagnosed.

Svetlana going for a car ride to pick up her medications. Actually, this is a photo from us driving to a family Thanksgiving vacation.

Svetlana going for a car ride to pick up her medications. Actually, this is a photo from us driving to a family Thanksgiving vacation.

Part 5. Other helpful resources and recommended reading


For diagnosing duck illnesses and injuries: 

Majestic Waterfowl’s Diagnostic Chart: If your birds are ill, start here. Very helpful in narrowing down illnesses based on symptoms. 

Poultry Podiatry: Really good link on dealing with feet and leg issues. Everything from penicillin injections to dealing with splayed legs to housing issues.

A PET scan from Svetlana's stay at UGA. This is one of the cooler images I've ever seen of a duck. This scan was taken at night and shows her fully calcified egg ready to be laid in the AM. // Duck Health Guide

A PET scan from Svetlana’s stay at UGA. This scan was taken at night and shows her fully calcified egg ready to be laid in the AM. (click to enlarge)

Other health issues: 

We mentioned other duck healthcare articles we’ve written at the top of this article, but it bears repeating: 

Svetlana's x-ray from when she was egg bound. That round mass towards the bottom of her tail is her egg. Luckily there weren't any others. / Duck Health Guide

Svetlana’s x-ray from when she was egg bound. That round mass towards the bottom of her tail is her egg. Luckily there weren’t any others. (click to enlarge)

Recommended Books: 

A wonderful book written by the founder/president of Majestic Waterfowl Sanctuary that you NEED to buy if you plan to get pet ducks: The Ultimate Pet Duck Guidebook

Storey’s Guide to Raising Ducks: Written by duck conservation expert, Dave Holderread, this is a great book if you’re looking to raise your birds for production purposes and helpful for the small flock owner as well. 

Veterinary Textbooks:

I really like to understand what’s happening to my girls when they are sick, how the illness will progress and what to expect as they get better. I also like to have an idea of general treatment protocol.

The internet is a great place to find tons of info, but sometimes what you find are halfway educated guesses and the suggested treatments are often not supported by veterinary science. We have too much invested in our small flock (emotionally and otherwise) to throw darts, so we prefer information from our avian vet and/or veterinary textbooks.

Texts like these could also be helpful if you live in a rural area where there are no avian vets but there are general vets that are willing to see your ducks and help with diagnoses. We own both of these books in the kindle format and recommend them:

  1. Backyard Poultry Surgery & Medicine: A wonderful textbook written for small animal vets, but has proven very useful for us in understanding illnesses in our own flock. Highly recommend. kindle edition
  2. Clinical Veterinary Advisor: Birds & Exotic Pets: From the amazon listing – Concise summaries of hundreds of common medical problems help you consider differential diagnoses, recommend diagnostic tests, interpret results mindful of unique species differences, utilize important concepts of species-specific husbandry and nutrition, prescribe treatments, and provide follow-up care. kindle edition
Just as a momma duck is responsible for her ducklings, you're responsible for being good duck parents to your whole flock. That requires a lot of learning. If you don't want to take time to learn, please don't become a duck parent, because their lives depend on you.

Just as a momma duck is responsible for her ducklings, you’re responsible for being good duck parents to your whole flock. That requires a lot of learning. If you don’t want to take time to learn, please don’t become a duck parent, because their lives depend on you. (Read: Complete guide to hatching ducks eggs.)

We hope you found this duck health guide helpful! If you have any questions about your feathered family members, please ask them in the comments section below!

If this article was helpful, please consider sharing it on Pinterest using the images below!  

Got ducks? Thinking about getting ducks? Here's everything you need to know and have available to keep your flock healthy and safe. Article includes: supplements, vitamins & minerals, wound care, medications, supplies and more - plus how to save money and PREVENT your flock from getting sick or injured!

Got ducks? Thinking about getting ducks? Here's everything you need to know and have available to keep your flock healthy and safe. Article includes: supplements, vitamins & minerals, wound care, medications, supplies and more - plus how to save money and PREVENT your flock from getting sick or injured!

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  • Reply
    December 7, 2023 at 2:18 pm

    I just purchased 6 Indian runners this past summer and they are doing great! Your health guide has been incredibly helpful for that. But I did have one question regarding worms. I didn’t really notice anything about deworming ducks in the article. I don’t believe it is an issue with my flock as of now but I was curious what steps to take should this become an issue ever?

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      December 9, 2023 at 4:52 pm

      Hi Bryce! Glad our duck health guide has been helpful for you. We’re not quite sure why, but we’ve never once had a problem with worms/parasites with our ducks in over 10 years of raising them. Last year, when one of them was acting lethargic, we suspected worms so had a fecal test done by our avian vet. No worms. So this isn’t an issue we’ve ever had to deal with, knock on wood. If one of our ducks did get worms, we’d probably go with a product like WormGuard Dewormer, which is a natural product primarily made of diatomaceous earth and doesn’t have any withdrawal period (aka you can continue to eat the eggs). Hope this helps and best of luck to you and your flock! We got our first Runner this year as well. 🙂

  • Reply
    Lisa Swift
    June 28, 2023 at 1:19 am

    Hi there! We are new duck parents and your website has become like my bible!! I was wondering if you could give me some advice on duck diarrhea. Since I’m new to this I’m not totally clear on what should be normal for duck poop and in my research I’ve read some people who say watery poop is totally normal and others who say it’s not normal at all! My Silver Appleyard, Elsa (9 weeks) has had watery poop for probably about 6 weeks now. Sometimes the poop is literally just a spat of water, or a spat of water with a couple solid-ish chunks. Other times it’s like the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, but it’s never really firm like it was in her first couple weeks of life (when I could pick them up off the towels in her brooder). I did take her to an avian vet about 4 weeks ago and they tasted her poop for bacteria and parasites and it came up negative. They had me do a round of antibiotics and anti-parasitic anyways. But the poop is still watery. Aside from the poop she seems very healthy – she has lots of energy, eats with vigor, cuddles, talks to us, and is overall a lot of fun. She does seem to be losing a lot of feathers at the moment but I think that’s just the start of her molting her juvenile feathers. I was thinking of giving her milk thistle just in case she somehow ingested some toxins and is having liver issues? Or am I just overly worried? Thank you SOOOO much for any advise you can offer!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      June 28, 2023 at 10:31 am

      Hi Lisa, and thanks for your kind words! It sounds like Elsa the duck is in good hands. You probably won’t be surprised to know that duck poop is a topic we find interesting and one that is oft-discussed in our home (and yard). 

      Broadly, here’s what we observe in our ducks’ poop: a lot of variability in consistency depending on what they eat. When they eat a lot of greens: green poop. After a good feeding of their kibble: tan/brown poop. Tomatoes: red poop. After foraging in soil: black poop. Generally, the consistency of our ducks’ poop is akin to “soft serve ice cream,” (good description by the way – ha!). But they do often have watery poops as well. 

      The two worst types of duck poops (at least from our perspective) are:
      1. Cecal poops – These are incredibly smelly, oily green-brown poops that happen every ~10 poops or so when ducks clear out their caecum. Ceca are small worm-shaped outpockets in the lower digestive system that absorb water and nutrients, not solids. Once the ceca fill up, out comes the fine, filtered bits mixed in with other digestive horrors. 
      2. Broody poops – The only time ducks care to refrain from pooping every 10 minutes is when they’re broody and sitting on a nest. When they come off the nest after many hours, watch out. Broody poops are explosive, foul-smelling outputs that are basically 10 poops for the price of 1.  

      As for whether Elsa the duck is having “normal” poops, here are our thoughts:

      First, let’s define “normal” as the center range on a spectrum. One side of the duck poop spectrum might be unusually solid poops and the other side of the spectrum might be unusually watery poops. It’s impossible for us to say without actually seeing Elsa’s poops, but maybe she’s just on the unusually watery side of the duck poop spectrum. 

      If she’s gaining / maintaining weight, eating normally, healthy, happy, molting normally (yes, sounds like she’s shedding her juvenile feathers), etc, then it sounds like you have nothing to worry about. Her body is getting the nutrition it needs even if her poops are watery. If she’d somehow ingested a potent toxin, that would show up in acute symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, wobbliness, etc. 

      Since you can also rule out parasites and harmful bacteria, then she might simply have some unusual digestive features. For instance, her caecum might be smaller than normal or altogether absent. Or perhaps her microbiota (the microbes in her GI system) are simply different than that of most other ducks.  

      Could these differences (assuming there are indeed differences) create some sort of chronic downstream problem(s) that show up in negative health outcomes for Elsa later in life? Unfortunately, that’s impossible to say at this point. We did see reference to an old study on chickens stating that “A cecectomized chicken seldom differs significantly from the intact bird in growthor other physiologic indicators (Thornburn and Willcox, 1965).” -Source: That’s obviously a different species than domestic ducks, but might provide some reassurance. 

      One thing you didn’t specify is whether you have other ducks or just Elsa? If you have other ducks, presumably their excreta has a different consistency than Elsa’s? This is probably the first question we should have asked, but we’ll bury it down here anyway. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jamie Warner
    April 26, 2022 at 3:34 pm

    Hi! I have a 5 year old Welsh Harlequin female that began limping last week. I checked her foot for bumblefoot, but saw no sores. Her foot looked fine with maybe a slight bit of swelling in her ankle joint. I went on and soaked her foot in an epsom salt bath and sprayed vertericyn on her foot anyway. After doing this, the next morning she would not come out of her coop to forage with the others, and still won’t for the past 4 days! She is eating and drinking, but refuses to come out, and has moved to a spot in the coop that is hard to get to her. Any ideas or suggestions? Thank you!

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      April 28, 2022 at 1:03 pm

      Hi Jamie! Sorry to hear your duck is limping. Limping by itself could be any number of things (other than bumblefoot, which you’ve ruled out), including:
      1) egg binding
      2) septic arthritis
      3) leg or foot injury (break, sprain, etc).

      Determining exactly what condition is afflicting your duck is difficult without a physical exam. If there is ankle swelling, that would point to an injury, infection, or septic arthritis (which is actually surprisingly common in ducks, according to our vet). For a duck to behave as you’re describing means she’s probably experiencing significant pain. Ducks tend to hide pain until it’s pretty bad so as not to get shunned from the rest of the flock.

      Our advice: if at all possible, take her to an avian vet at your earliest convenience so they can nail down what’s wrong with her, get her on a treatment regimen, and get her pain medication to ease her discomfort. Best of luck to you both!

  • Reply
    June 10, 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you for writing this article and sharing all of your wisdom, I have been reading your blog religiously and have used this information to make an extensive duck first aid kit…
    Here is my question, Is it possible to give a capsule of B complex to a duckling (and duck) without tube feeding, and how? Could I remove it from the capsule and put it on food? In water? Mix it into a solution and use a syringe?..
    I have one (welsh harlequin) duckling that arrived in the mail today (with her 3 sisters) that seems to be much sleepier than the others and spends quite a bit of time on her own, but appears to be eating and drinking just fine. She is the lightest in color (barely a twinge of brown, pale bill with almost pink tip), but also one of the two larger ducklings)..I was thinking of putting nutri drench in their water and possibly supplementing with a B Complex (they have other vitamins and minerals in their water from Metzer, plus probiotics and extra niacin in their food) would a BComplex be a good idea in this situation?..Any advice or words of encouragement about our light duck would be greatly appreciated

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      June 11, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      Hi Angel! Thanks for the kind words. You don’t want to pill a duckling unless absolutely necessary for medical reasons – and it doesn’t sound necessary here. The best way to get B vitamins into your ducklings is by putting it into their mash or their water or both. You can remove it from the capsule or use nutritional yeast – whichever you prefer.

      If you already have extra niacin/B Vitamin in their food, you’re probably fine as-is unless she’s really deficient in which case you could also add it to their drinking water or food. Some variability in behavior between ducklings upon arrival is to be expected. For whatever reason, she might have taken the trip a little harder than the others and need a bit more time (and possibly electrolytes) to recover. Please feel free to check back in with us in a week or so to let us know how she’s doing and best of luck!

  • Reply
    Rex Jones
    March 11, 2021 at 9:34 pm

    Great info, almost too much to read. Had Muscovy pair, Gertie and Bertie for years and never had a problem. Just lucky I guess. Enjoy your articles.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      March 12, 2021 at 10:18 am

      Muscovies are some very hardy critters, so that likely helped. However, the more ducks you have the more likely you are to experience a problem with at least one of them. Also, we found out the hard way early on that pushing ducks to produce too many eggs via a higher protein diet also increases the risks of other health problems.

  • Reply
    October 23, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Thank you for this great information. I have two Indian runner ducks that were attacked by a dog yesterday. My sweet Spooks didn’t make it and Doodles is recovering with bite injuries. I gave her a bath in the tub, watered down peroxide and washed out the punctures and put Polysporin on her poor wounds. She and I snuggled on the couch all afternoon (duck diapers would have been nice) and put her to bed with fresh straw last night. She is doing ok this morning. Laid an egg. But I am glad to have read your post and my mind is eased knowing that what I used is safe for her.

    • Reply
      Aaron von Frank
      October 23, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Oh no! We are so sorry to hear this, Candice. Truly heartbreaking. Hopefully, the dog’s owner is going to do something to repay you for your loss and ensure the dog never escapes again. We have our ducks surrounded by a 6′ tall chain link fence during the day and put them in a fortified coop at night, but we’re still anxious that a large dog or other predator might one day be able to get to them when we’re not around. Hope Doodles makes a full recovery and you’re able to find her a new flock mate or two at some point in the future.

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