What Makes a Duck Wobbly? | Are They Sick?

Ducks are usually prone to diseases that are caused by changes, negative attributes, or infestations in their environment and living conditions. If left untreated, it may cause severe health problems, which is why identifying what makes your ducks wobbly is important. 

So, what makes a duck wobbly? It is mainly because of foot-related problems and injuries such as twisted ankles, hip malfunction, scaly and peeling legs, nutrition or niacin deficiency, cracked or dry legs, foot injuries, bumblefoot, sores, swelling, and age or arthritis. 

To know more about these foot-related issues, what causes them, what you can do when it happens to your ducks, how to prevent them from happening, and the appropriate treatment for each specific type, read further this article! 

What Are the Common Issues in Duckling Feet?

What are the Common Issues in Duckling Feet

Twisted Ankle

Twisted ankles may be a result of sudden movements made by the duckling as they’re naturally playful and interactive. It can also be caused by either being stepped on by bigger ducks or tripping over or being caught up on objects. 

The ankles of the ducklings turn, twist, or roll beyond their normal range of motion. This them unable to walk or may even cause lameness. Thus, the telltale symptoms are limping, a swollen leg, or not being able to walk at all. 

When this happens, immediately isolate the duckling away from the other ducks and provide food and water for the meantime. Consult your vet if the swelling or limping continues. 

Hip Malfunction

Ducklings can also experience hip problems present since birth, either due to genetics or issues during incubation at the time of hatching. However, it can also be caused by injuries inflicted by other ducks.  

The symptoms of hip malfunction are ducklings walking with a limp or unnatural gait. It may even cause them to stop walking completely. 

You can choose to let your ducklings’ hips correct on their own. Also, you can help by massaging the muscles of the area where they’re affected.

Why Is My Duck Wobbling and Falling Over?

Why is my Duck Wobbling and Falling Over

Scaly and Peeling Legs

  • What is it: Scales on the legs of ducks are slightly raised and are oftentimes enlarged and rough in texture. This is caused by scaly leg mites. They can make skin dry and peel off in chunks when the mites and infection have bore themselves through. 
  • What to do: Clean your ducks’ legs but be careful not to remove the scaly and peeling areas. Schedule a weekly leg-dipping water treatment if you haven’t already. 
  • How to prevent it: Regularly clean and sanitize the ducks’ living areas. Make sure you consistently change both their drinking water and swimming area daily to avoid contamination and attracting mites. 
  • Treatment: You can use oil or cream to soak the ducks’ legs. This effectively kills the mites every 3 to 4 days for 2 weeks, as recommended by an expert. However, it’s best if you consult your vet immediately for the proper treatment plan.

Nutrition or Niacin Deficiency

  • What is it: Nutrient deficiency from Vitamins A, E, B1, B2, and B3 (niacin) can cause leg weakness, lack of coordination, tremors, rapid leg contraction and relaxation, unsteady gait, and leg muscle atrophy. 
  • What to do: It’s difficult to diagnose this as it is an internal issue, which is why it’s best to consult your doctor immediately when you’re noticing your ducks showing symptoms. 
  • How to prevent it: Make sure your ducks are fed with a well-balanced diet. Corn-soy basal diets, composed primarily of yellow corn and soybean meal, are recommended to ensure your ducks have a good source of niacin and other essential nutrients according to this study
  • Treatment: Feed them with a complete set of both starter and grower diets. Avoid feeding whole grains as it can further worsen the ducks’ nutritional deficiencies. Make sure they also have easy access to clean drinking water.  

Cracked or Dry Legs

  • What is it: It is caused by dehydration or not being able to swim in a designated pool. A duck’s skin will be dry-looking and have white cracks on it. It can also look like the skin is peeling or has already peeled off in chunks.
  • What to do: Make them drink water immediately to quench their thirst, and/or place them in a pool with clean water. You can also feed them with electrolytes to restore those they have lost due to dehydration. 
  • How to prevent it: Aside from providing your ducks with access to clean water, both for drinking and swimming. Also, feed them with hydrating supplements such as Save A Caf Electrolyte Vitamin Supplement to guarantee that they’re hydrated even during days that have intense heat. 
Save A Caf 116410 Sav A Chick Electrolyte Vitamin Supplement
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  • Treatment: Drinking water, allowing them to swim in a designated pool with clean water, and feeding them with electrolytes (optional but highly recommended). 

Foot Injuries

  • What is it: Injuries are inevitable—everyone can get them, even your ducks. They can suffer from cuts or wounds on their legs, feet, and foot pads caused by playing, fighting, accidentally hitting or tripping over obstructions, or simply due to waddling around. 
  • What to do: Separate injured ducks from the rest of the group and put them in a safe place. Find any open wounds and cuts, then clean them, treat them with antiseptics, antibiotics, or other disinfectants, and cover them with a bandage. 
  • How to prevent it: Regularly clean and sanitize their living areas, as well as constantly replace their drinking and bathing water. Remove possible obstructions in their walking areas. 
  • Treatment: If the injury looks quite severe, you don’t know how to treat it, or you’ve treated it, but it doesn’t show any signs of improvement, then call your vet immediately. You may be instructed to bring your duck to their clinic for closer inspection. 

Bumblefoot

  • What is it: It is an abscess of the foot or a bacterial infection caused by an infected scrape or cut to the duck’s foot. Once the infection has settled on a specific area, initially on the duck’s foot pad, it will be large, inflamed, and reddish in color. If left untreated, it can spread to the tendons, joints, and other parts of the leg. Other causes are lameness, overnutrition, parasitic infection, and foot deformities or injuries.
  • What to do: Treat the infected area by removing the pus or the core of the abscess, then wash the area with clean water thoroughly. Afterward, apply a bactericide to remove any remaining harmful microorganisms. You can use the Banixx for Chixx Spray that’s sting-free and offers soothing relief for your ducks. 
Banixx for Pecking Sores, Bumble Foot, Fowl Pox, Raw Vent Area Infection, Chicken Leg/Foot Injuries
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  • How to prevent it: Bumblefoot usually occurs because ducks walk on dry surfaces or areas that are hard-packed such as concrete floors and gravel. As such, you must make sure that your ducks’ walking areas are grassy, or you can cover the hard surfaces with a layer of fluffy but clean litter.
  • Treatment: If the initial at-home treatment shows no signs of improvement, contact your vet and schedule an appointment immediately. Make sure the infected area is bandaged so that it will be protected against further bacterial infestation.

Sores

  • What is it: Sores are caused by the environmental conditions of a duck’s living area. It may be because these areas are rocky, wet, or muddy. They’re characterized by a reddish area on the feet and foot pads. 
  • What to do: Transfer the duck into a dry and clean area immediately. The sore should also be treated, cleaned, and bandaged to reduce the risk of further infection. 
  • How to prevent it: Clean the ducks’ living areas and ensure that they’re almost always dry and that the ducks are stepping on relatively soft ground or hard surfaces covered with a layer of litter. 
  • Treatment: Consult your vet immediately if the sores aren’t going away even after applying initial treatment or if they’re starting to become more infected. It may be a sign of a more serious disease such as bumblefoot. 

Swelling

  • What is it: Swelling is simply the enlargement of the foot or leg of your ducks due to an injury or infection. The swollen area will usually be hotter than the rest of the duck’s body as the natural immune system responds. 
  • What to do: Separate the injured duck from the rest of the group and transfer them to a safe and dry place. Check if the swollen area is relatively hot to the touch. If so, apply cooling pads to reduce the heat. 
  • How to prevent it: Assess the ducks’ living areas and remove any potentially harmful or toxic obstructions such as foreign objects. 
  • Treatment: To be safe, contact your vet immediately to know the right medication needed for treatment.

Age or Arthritis

  • What is it: Arthritis is characterized by the inflammation of a duck’s joints which can lead to pain in the inflamed areas, disability, stiffness, and swelling. Other than age, it can be caused by trauma, metabolic disorders, and infection. In some cases, arthritis can be a symptom of staphylococcal infections and infectious tenosynovitis, according to specialists.
  • What to do: Contact your vet immediately to consult the appropriate medication that can best treat your duck’s arthritis. 
  • How to prevent it: Arthritis for older ducks is inevitable. As such, they should be kept separate from younger, healthier ducks. They should be kept in living spaces that have extra layers of bedding material to prevent pressuring the sores. To prevent arthritis for younger ducks, regularly clean their living areas and change their water (bathing and drinking) constantly. Also, feed your ducks a well-balanced diet and encourage them to exercise or play more. 
  • Treatment: Ducks that have arthritis are usually treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve the pain. 

Ducks exhibit wobbly movements due to feet-related problems that are mostly caused by issues in their environment and living conditions. The primary step for prevention is making sure your ducks’ living spaces are clean and free from dirt. This includes regularly changing their drinking water and making sure they have access to a clean swimming area. 

List of Sources

Leg and Foot Disorders in Domestic Fowl

Niacin and Tryptophan Requirements of Mule Ducklings Fed Corn and Soy-Based Diet

Common Poultry Diseases

Duck Housing and Management

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