Nutritional Deficiencies In Waterfowl

by Meghan H

Published November 7, 2022

Waterfowl, and specifically ducks, are more prone to nutritional deficiencies than most chickens. Here’s a brief overview of a few of the more commonly seen issues in waterfowl caused by a lack of key nutrients. In many cases, a deficiency can be corrected.  However, even though the lack of nutrients is corrected, a deformity or physical injury caused by it may be permanent.

Angel Wing in Geese - Meyer Hatchery blog

Wry Neck

Wry neck can be caused by injury to the head, a genetic defect, or a deficiency in the diet. When a deficiency causes wry neck, it’s usually Vitamin E and/or selenium that is lacking. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that can quickly oxidize and be ineffective if you don’t feed freshly-milled feed. Vitamins in the feed lose potency in as little as 4 weeks after milling.

Selenium is a trace element that helps antioxidant vitamins like Vitamin E work more effectively.

Angel Wing

Young ducklings and goslings that are fed too much protein at a young age are prone to develop what’s called Angel Wing. When the protein level in the diet is too high for the growing birds, their feathers emerge too rapidly and cause twisting of the wing tips. 

Duck with Wry Neck - Meyer Hatchery blog

Leg Weakness and Deformities

Waterfowl are prone to skeletal issues due to a lack of Vitamin B (Niacin) in their diet. The deficiency usually is seen as a weakness in the legs and an inability to stand or walk. You may also see swollen hock joints in birds with a niacin-deficient diet.


To prevent most nutritional deficiencies, make sure you offer fresh feed that is age and species-appropriate and available at all times.


If you’ve identified an ailment caused by a nutritional deficiency, you can supplement your bird’s diet with many food items that you may already have in your kitchen or pantry.

  • Fresh, dark leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Float frozen peas in their water, which they love to hunt
  • Nuts and seeds are also good treats with many vitamins that waterfowl sometimes lack. 
  • Sprinkling their feed with brewer’s yeast will also provide a source of niacin to help treat a deficiency.
  • Adding molasses to their water for a natural Vitamin E source
  • Rooster Booster Poultry Cell is a great multivitamin supplement to add to your bird’s water source or mix into the feed to help correct many nutritional deficiencies. 

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