two black ducks on grass lawn

Why is My Duck Falling Over?

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

I used to flip out whenever my duck kept falling over which increased gradually until I started noticing.

And this is the same question that popped up in my mind, why is she falling over?

My research brought me to Avian Botulism.

It’s a condition where the duck’s nerve endings are affected by this potent toxin, Botulism.

Unfortunately, most people do not pay heed to it immediately.

If your wobbly duck is not getting back right, you need to pay attention.

There are many ailments associated with duck health care.

Therefore, it is mandatory to keep a check.

For which, we have compiled this article to let you know what makes your duck falling over.

Why is my duck falling over?

Why is My Duck Falling Over
Photo by Anthony on

There could be various reasons for a wobbly male or female duck.

If you’re observing such feebleness, it could be one of the symptoms out of many, from physical weakness to a parasitic attack.

It is advisable to look for the root cause and having sufficient knowledge will help you pick out what’s wrong with your duck.

Two conditions, Toxoplasmosis and Botulism, have almost similar symptoms.

However, it can be differentiated by monitoring closely.

What causes Botulism?

Ducks are natural swimmers and spend most of the time in stagnant waters.

Decaying organic matter in the ponds or surrounding areas contain toxins produced by a bacterium, Clostridium botulinum.

Contaminated water or swimming area is one of the principal factors in causing Botulism in birds, especially ducks since it is their main habitat.   

How to treat Botulism?

As mentioned in a scholarly article, treatment for a bacterial disease is the use of local antibiotics.

For instance, penicillin G or metronidazole is proven to be helpful.

However, to prevent this fatal bacterial infection in ducks, it is imperative to take preventive measures rather than finding a cure.  

How to prevent Botulism?

Prevention is better than cure, especially, if we’re talking about limping water birds.

Defending against Avian Botulism is easy; all you need to know is what causes it.

As mentioned earlier, the bacterium Clostridium botulinum produces the toxic substance ‘Botulism’.

This harmful microbe survives on carcasses inside or near duck ponds.

These dead organisms if ingested by waterfowl (however small the quantity is) causes fatal Botulism.

The question is about what management techniques must be implied to prevent Avian Botulism.

So here are the preventive measures you can take at a very basic level.

1. Picking up and discarding carcasses

Of course, you already maintain the hygiene of the pool.

Nonetheless removing any decaying matter immediately is mandatory.

Birds that are sick with Botulism tend to hide or die in vegetation.

To prevent prolong outbreaks, carcasses and dead organic matter must be thoroughly eliminated.

2. Changing or cleaning water

 Maintaining water hygiene is vital.

Draining or flooding the wetland will help in eradicating toxin products and harmful bacteria.

3. Stabilizing water level and temperature

Clostridium botulinum thrives in high water temperature and lower water level.   

One has to take this step in summers when there are greater chances of outbreak.

How do you treat an injured duck?

Animals become aggressive when hurt or injured.

It is important to protect yourself and wear thick gloves to avoid any bites.

Also, an injury or wound could be contaminated which is often contagious and can harm human beings.

To capture the bird, a net is very useful.

If the injured waterfowl is in a pond, try to get it out of it by coming in between the drake and water body.

A large crate with holes and lined with newspaper can work best for ducks.

An antiseptic solution must be applied on an open cut or wound.

If you are unable to find any physical injury, make sure that the duck is not in shock.

Place it in a quiet, semi-dark, humid, and warm environment.

A large crate with holes and lined with newspaper can work best for ducks.

What causes a duck to fall over or limp?

Limping is linked to paralysis.

The toxin Botulism binds with nerve endings and disrupts muscle movement to the extreme.

The duck falls over due to the paralytic effect of Botulism.

You will observe lethargy, weakness, and the inability to hold the head up.

This leads to drowning which is why ducks cannot survive Botulism.

Can Botulism go away on its own?

Unfortunately, it cannot.

Botulism is a serious bacterial infection that needs to be treated.

Mildly infected ducks can often be successfully treated.

This can occur by moving the affected drakes from the contaminated area.

Giving them proper care, a healthy environment, and fresh water and food are the key steps.

Ducks that have been severely infected with botulism are difficult to save.

This disease is highly fatal and it is common for the bird to fall into a coma quite rapidly.

Does vinegar destroy Botulism?

Acidic elements have been known to stop the growth of this anaerobic spore-forming bacterium, Clostridium botulinum.

Vinegar, lemon juice, citric acid, and other acidic solutions must be utilized to increase the acidity level of foods given to the ducks.

However, vinegar does not completely kill Botulism.

Using vinegar and good heating processes can inhibit the spore growth of the bacterium.

However, we cannot emphasize enough that how prevention from Botulism is the only step to avoid it.


With the help of the given guidelines, you can easily save your drakes from Botulism.

Your duck is falling over because he/she is facing a crucial condition.

Administering appropriate treatment and managing conventional preventive steps is critical.

The useful information in this article will keep your ducks safe from environmental deterioration such as the decay of organic matter, which although is inevitable, can prove to be fruitful.

Botulism outbreak is rapid and prolong.

If one is infected, it is highly likely that other birds will promptly become affected.

Therefore, preventive and active strategies along with efficient management is quite essential.

If your bird shows clinical signs, take immediate action to avoid disappointment in the long run and consult a vet.

May all your ducklings live healthy and happy.

Photo of author

About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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