Poultry can suffer from a
variety of insects and mites but fortunately ducks, kept in good
conditions, are prone to only two of these parasites (which live
on the outside of the bird). A healthy bird will carry a low
parasite load because efficient washing and preening will remove
them. Birds housed with poultry, and with insufficient water, are
most at risk. If a bird is ill, it may also become infested.
In Call ducks, the head and neck
region are more difficult to clean than in longer-necked birds.
Closely-packed feathers in the short neck are more likely to
harbour parasites. So, if a bird is scratching unduly, and
especially if its eyes do not look clear and bright, then an
inspection for parasites is recommended.
Mites are related to spiders and have
eight legs. There are four different kinds of mites which are
important to poultry keepers—northern fowl mite, red poultry
mite, depluming mite and scaly leg mite. If ducks are not kept in
close association with poultry, then only northern mite affects
them. This mite looks very like red mite which spends a lot of its
time in the woodwork of the poultry house. Both of these mites are
blood suckers, and the northern mites lives on the bird all the
time. They seem to need the warmth of the host because when the
bird dies, then the mites die too. This does not apply to the red
mites which live in the structure of the poultry house
Mites are the same shape as
ticks, which are also a type of mite. They are easiest to see on
white birds, and seem to infest only the head and neck region of
ducks and geese. They are most frequently seen when birds get warm
at bird shows, or whilst travelling to a show. Then, the mites
come out to the surface. The bird owners are frequently unaware of
the parasites’ presence until this happens. On coloured birds,
it is very difficult to see the mites at all.
Lice are six-legged insects. The ones
which affect the waterfowl are quite long-bodied, and are greyish.
They do not have wings, cannot jump, and evade removal by living
in the feathers and hiding. They are most frequently seen on the
white wing feathers of Call ducks—particularly on the axillars
under the wing. The lice do not suck blood, but chew skin scales
and fine feather. They have flattened bodies and clawed legs which
make them very difficult to remove—by finger mail or beak. Size:
2 mm in length.
If the ducks are in good condition, they
will control the parasites. But if a duck is sitting, or if the
birds are infested and scratching, they will probably need help.
Powders containing insecticide are the traditional treatment for
external parasites. Pyrethrum is very effective
against mites and lice. Johnson’s pigeon spray contains
biodegradable pyrethrum and works well. It is obtainable from
agricultural suppliers and trade stands at bird shows. It is also
available from pet stores as Johnson’s ‘Anti-mite and Insect
Spray for Cage Birds. Avoid getting powder or
spray in the eyes of the bird on treatment. Two treatments are
needed, spaced at 8-10 days. This is because pyrethrum does not
kill the eggs of the mites and lice. So when these hatch, a second
treatment is needed. Observe withdrawal times; read the product
In recent years, ivermectin has become popular as a systemic agent to control both
internal and external parasites.
Small 10 ml packs are available through your vet (for
treating pigeons). So when you obtain the product this way, check
the dose with your vet too. This product is retailed at 0.8%
w/v by Vetrepharm (now Alpharma). Be very
careful with this product. It can be absorbed through your skin
Ivermectin pour-on is applied to the skin. Skin
is difficult to find on ducks, due the abundant down. The back of
the duck’s neck can be used, but also look under the wing where
it joins the body; sometimes the fluff is thinner there. Recently,
the vent area of a chicken has been recommended for application of
ivermectin in that species, because of the absence of feather. I
would be wary of this in ducks; they may ingest the product, and
they would have to be housed after the application so as not to
remove the product. As with the pyrethrum powder, ivermectin has
to be applied at least twice, and preferably three times, at
weekly intervals, to kill all the parasites.
In the unlikely event that your Call ducks or
their eggs are to be eaten, observe the appropriate withdrawal
times as stated on the labels of the above products.
USE ALL THESE PRODUCTS WITH CARE
AND DO NOT GET THEM ON YOURSELF, ESPECIALLY IVERMECTIN WHEN YOU
For further information on the use of veterinary
medicines please contact your Vet or visit the website of the Veterinary
Medicines Directorate www.vmd.gov.uk
who are the regulatory authority for veterinary medicines in the UK.