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Niacin Deficiency

Vitamin B3 Deficiency, Pellagra

Ducks require almost twice the amount of niacin or vitamin B3 then what is required for chickens. This increased requirement is related to their inability to synthesize niacin from tryptophan efficiency, resulting from the presence of high amounts of enzyme, picolinic acid carboxylase in the liver.

Causes of Niacin Deficiency

Ducklings are at risk of niacin deficiency if they are fed a poor quality diet which does not provide enough niacin, such as feed intended for chickens.

Niacin Deficiency Symptoms

Clinical signs of niacin deficiency in ducklings vary depending on the severity of the deficiency. Most typical signs include bowed legs and/or enlarged hock joints. These birds will ultimately become so crippled and weak that they cannot walk.

Dietary Sources of Niacin

Niacin is widely distributed in feedstuffs of both plant and animal origin. The best food sources of niacin include distiller’s grains, Brewer's yeast, beets, fish, various distillation and fermentation solubles, sunflower seeds, and certain oilseed meals. The availability of niacin in grain and grain by-products is very low. Other sources of niacin include tablets or capsules in both regular and timed-release forms.


Enlarged hock joints
Pigeon-toed stance
Bowing of legs
Inability to walk


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Diet analysis


MethodMethod Summary
Supplemental Niacin in diet80-100 mg of niacin per kg of feed.
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.


  • Ensure that ducks, especially ducklings are given a commercial feed intended for waterfowl and their appropriate stage of growth. Ducklings require at least 70 mg of niacin per kg of feed and breeding ducks 50 mg of niacin per kg of feed.
  • Brewer's yeast is a good source of niacin.


Age Range

Newly hatched ducklings are more at risk of niacin deficiency

Risk Factors

  • Feeding ducklings feed intended for chickens.