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Broken Leg

Leg Fracture

A broken leg is very painful for ducks, and should be considered an emergency. Affected ducks are usually very lame, reluctant to walk, or simply can't walk. The surrounding area of skin may be swollen and discolored.

Types of Bone Fractures

There are several different ways a bone can break--some are more serious than others, depending on it's location, how it broke, and whether any of the surrounding tissue is damaged. Four of the most common types of fractures seen in ducks include:
  • Comminuted fractures: Occurs when a bone has broken (shattered) into several pieces.
  • Displaced fractures: Occurs when two parts of the broken bone have moved apart (misaligned).
  • Open or compound fractures: Occurs as a complicated break, where the bone has broken through the skin, or the initial injury has exposed the broken bone.
  • Undisplaced or hairline fractures: Occurs when a fracture through the bone with little damage to the surrounding tissue.

What to do

If you suspect your duck may have broken a leg, you should call and make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Try to minimize movement of the injured leg, and cover any open wounds with a sterile dressing clean cloth, or clear item of clothing; maintain direct pressure on the wound if it keeps bleeding.


Your veterinarian will likely take radiographs (xrays) of your duck's leg. These are needed to see the extent of the fracture. Their recommendations for treatment largely depend on the type and severity of the fracture. If the bones are severely misaligned, your vet may refer you to an avian specialist for orthopedic surgery. A surgeon will need to realign and fix your duck's broken bones, using metal wires, plates, screws or rods. Sometimes an external frame (external fixator) is attached to the broken bones with metal pins to help keep them in place. This is removed once the fracture has healed. Following the surgery, your duck's leg will be specially bandaged to help protect the leg while it heals.

Follow up Progress Appointments

Your duck's broken leg may take 3 to 6 weeks to fully heal, depending on the severity of the fracture, method used to mobilize it during healing, and whether there were any complicating factors. The only for your vet to monitor how your duck's fracture is healing, is by taking X-rays. Usually the first progress X-ray is taken two weeks into recovery.


Difficulty walking
Reluctance to stand or walk


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiographs


MethodMethod Summary
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own duck "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Splinting and RestSplinting the leg combined with rest and supportive care may all that is needed for mild, uncomplicated fractures. However, the only way to know for sure is by taking radiograph images. So regardless, call your veterinarian.
Orthopedic surgeryMay be needed in some cases. Your veterinarian may need to remove the excess bone and realign the bone so that the injury can heal properly.
Physical therapyYour veterinarian will provide a customized rehabilitation schedule for your duck. This may include different combinations of physical manipulation exercises, aquatic sessions in the water, and/or other methods to gradually allow the duck to build back up strength in the injured leg.


  • Ensure ducks are securely protected from predators
  • NEVER try to capture a duck by grabbing them by their legs
  • Don't let domestic pets chase your duck
  • Separate flock members that don't get along and chase another duck away constantly



Risk Factors

  • Not protecting ducks from predators
  • Chasing ducks
  • Scared ducks

Case Stories

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