What’s wrong with my duck’s feathers?

A question came up on the Exhibition Poultry group asking about how to maintain a nice feather in your ducks… more specifically what could be causing damage to their feathers, and how to stop it.
To keep your ducks in premium condition for exhibiting it is important to ensure their feathers are bringing their A game, with minimal feather damage. Since ducks don’t really think too much about how their feathers need to look for shows and exhibitions it means these issues can come up pretty regularly. Now I’m no vet, and I don’t have all the answers, but there are a some things I’ve learnt over the years I can pass on to at least narrow down the possibilities on what might be causing the damage.

Damaged duck feathers, feather tips

Photo by Cathy Newton

Damaged duck feathers

Photo by Cathy Newton








Photo by Cathy Newton

Worm your ducks

If it is overall feather issues you’re having, make sure your worming is up to date with your ducks. Internal health is just as important as external health and will help with the overall strength of your ducks feathers.

Lice and Mites

Also lice could be causing irritation in your ducks resulting in them scratching around through their feathers causing all sorts of damage. Another tiny feather terror is the Feather Mite… now from what I’ve been told by my vet, these aren’t the same as the Red Mites you find on chickens… They only feed on the feather, so examine your birds closely. The Feather Mite I’m thinking of is small flat and grey. They tend to hide in the groves of the feather and it doesn’t take long for them to start feasting on those beautiful feathers. They are a bit easier to spot on white, but you may have a bit of a harder time with your coloured ducks. You can get different products to treat Lice and Mites, but you’d be best to chat to your local vet about what is best for you to use.

Feather mite on ducks, waterfowl, geese

Feather Mite on Indian Runner feathers

Feather mite on ducks, waterfowl, geese

Feather Mite on Indian Runner feather




Roughed up

Make sure your ducks are not having to scrape past rough surfaces, or chicken wire regularly. This is a fairly obvious, but an important tip. If your ducks are constantly having to rub past rough rockery, timber fencing, chicken wire fencing or any other surface that is rough it will naturally have an adverse effect on your ducks feathers. If it can’t be avoided for whatever reason… like maybe you only have a small area to house them. Try covering the rough surface with something a bit smoother like tin sheets, or Laminate depending on weather exposure. If you have them in a large open area it may not be as much of an issue.

Watch the tips

Now something that maybe not many know, or haven’t realised… If it’s mainly the ends of the wing feathers, or tail feathers that you’re having issues with you may need to adjust your pond setup. If you don’t have your duck’s pond below ground level then that could be another reason you’re having issues. Reason being, a lot of people like to use things like the kids clam shell (kiddie pool) for their ducks to swim in, and so the ducks will walk up, stand at the side and wash their heads in the water with the body outside the pool. They will then proceed to flap their wings about merrily, and in the process damage the tips of their feathers on the ground, quietly destroying your chances of winning bird of show (If that’s what your working towards). In the wild ducks will generally fly and land in the middle of the pond or dam, to bathe themselves and never have to touch land… To give you an example – it’s kind of like if you had a bucket of water in the middle of your yard… stuck your head in it and then rolled on the ground to dry yourself. You’re not going to be able to do it very easily, and you are are probably going to scrape and damage parts of your body also, so making sure your ducks have a clean run in to their pond could help in keeping their feathers in tact.


Damaged Duck Feather tips

Photo by Cathy Newton


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This will start to sound like a broken record, but it is the 3 most important things to remember… as well as the above mentioned tips, I can’t stress enough… good quality fresh food, fresh air, and fresh water are essential in the journey to having your birds look the best they can be. With out that they won’t have a chance against the stiff competition out there.