Ducklings Unable to Walk? Time to Learn About Niacin Deficiency in Ducks & Ducklings

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niacin-deficiency-in-ducks1What is Niacin?

Niacin is an essential vitamin required for proper duck health and development (such as bone growth). Waterfowl need more of it than chickens since ducks do not convert feed into niacin as easily. Therefore they need more of it in their diets. If there is a deficiency of niacin in your ducklings diet, some complications may occur.

How do I know if my ducks have a niacin deficiency?

As of yet, your smartphone can’t quite do everything and, as unfortunate as it is, sometimes you still need to use your little noggin of yours in diagnosing your sick or hurt ducklings. First, make sure your duckling doesn’t have any visible injuries on the legs. Sometimes a duck may become stationary because of a physical injury to their legs or webbing. The webbing on their feet is very thing and can be prone to injury if they are waddling over sharp surfaces. If there are no visible injuries to the feet, then there are additional possibilities. If their diet is deficient in niacin, within several days ducklings will develop a reluctance to move around since moving will become painful. This can lead to wasting away and stunted growth as they will likely not eat or drink as much as they should. As the condition worsens, their legs may start bowing and their hocks may swell as well. Death can occur within 2 to 3 weeks if the deficiency is not treated or else the duck may grow to be permanently disabled (see Angel Wings in Ducks).

How do I fix niacin deficiency in ducks?

niacin-bottle-from-walgreens

Bottle Niacin supplements (from Walgreens.com)

The good news is that niacin deficiency can be easily fixed if caught in time. You simply need to add niacin to your duck’s diet. You can purchase niacin at any pharmacy (included those located on the corner of happy & healthy). Niacin usually comes in 500 mg tablets. Your duck doesn’t need that much. If you assume your pet duck eats .35 lbs of feed per day at 3 – 4 weeks that means that they would need 10 milligrams of niacin a day. You will waste some of the pill since it won’t all be eaten by the ducks. Ever watch a duck eat? They are messy and will spill half the feed! So just cut about a 1/8 portion off of the pill, grind up the portion, and spread it on top of the feed.

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You can also add the pill to the water. If you don’t let your ducks play in the water (which means they won’t waste half of it) and only let them drink it, you can add one 500 mg tablet to every 8 gallons of water. If you figure on ducks wasting half the water, just add a 500 mg tablet to 4 gallons of water.

An alternative to the niacin pill is the Vitamin B liquid supplement available at most pharmacies. Vitamin B supplements typically have niacin in them. By administering this liquid supplement to your individual ducks, you know that they are getting the required dosage.

How do I prevent niacin deficiency in ducks?

You can prevent niacin deficiency but making sure your ducklings eat feed that has enough niacin in it. A well balanced broiler or game fowl starter should have the niacin you need (but may not, as explained below). A chick starter that is prepared exclusively for laying chickens probably will not have enough niacin in it. Even if you use the common Dumore chick starter sold at Tractor Supply that is labeled as both a chick and duck starter, you may run into niacin deficiency. This is because not every duck is the same in their capability to produce niacin. It can depend on the genetics of your duck or the health of your duck’s gut as too how much niacin they will naturally produce. Because of this, you may see some ducks in your flock suffering from a deficiency even though others are not.

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There are some dietary supplements you can add on occasion to help prevent niacin deficiency. Brewers Yeast is a product that is naturally high in niacin and may be added to your ducks diet. Be careful not to supplement their diet too much since you still want them eating the commercially prepared feed. There is generally 5 mg niacin per 15 grams (or one tablespoon) of human grade brewers yeast. Livestock yeast isn’t as concentrated, however, and will have about 1.5 grams niacin for each tablespoon.

You cannot over treat your duck’s with niacin so if you are not sure what the problem is, try the supplements out and if the problem is fixed, fantastic! You figured it out. If the problem has persisted for too long, the duck may become crippled as it won’t have the nutrients it needs to grow bones and joints properly.

Hope that helps!

Yours in Poultry,

Josh

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