Aspergillosis In Ducks: How to Prevent & Treat

Fungal Disease Can Be Found in Backyard & Commercial Duck Flocks

by Erin Snyder
PHOTO: Erin Synder

Aspergillosis in backyard ducks can turn fatal, however, it can be prevented and treated with good management and help from an experienced veterinarian. Here’s how to prevent, treat, and diagnose this common disease.

What is Aspergillosis?

Aspergillosis is a common, noncontagious fungal infection known as Aspergillus spp. Although humans, livestock and all poultry species are susceptible, waterfowl are more vulnerable to this fungal infection than other species.

Aspergillus spp. comes in two forms: acute and chronic, with the latter being the more common in backyard duck flocks. Chronic Aspergillus usually occurs after ducks have been subjected to frequent antibiotics or have other health issues. Aspergillus affects the lower and upper respiratory tracts but can affect organs if left untreated.  This fungus is an opportunist found in air, dust, feed, grains, hay, soil or straw.

Common in warm climates with high humidity, this disease thrives best in conditions 77°F or above and exists worldwide.

Why Waterfowl?

Why are ducks and geese more susceptible to Aspergillus spp. than other livestock? Like all poultry, ducks and geese have sensitive airways and are prone to respiratory illness. However, waterfowl need water so they tend to live in wetter environments than chickens or turkeys, making their coop and run more likely to breed fungi.

Aspergillosis Prevention

Like many fungal infections, Aspergillus spp. is an airborne fungus that enters the airways through inhalation. So, keeping a tidy and dry coop and run can go a long way in preventing ducks from contracting this disease. However, you don’t need to go into a cleaning frenzy.  The tips below can help eliminate the risk of aspergillosis in your flock.

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1. Forgo the Hay

Hay is considered a green bedding material and has a greater risk of carrying Aspergillus spp. and other mold spores than brown bedding.

Lots of straw in a red color bucket
a straw bed for duck

2. Say Yes to Straw

This brown bedding consists of dead grain stalks, such as barley, oats, or wheat, and while it can carry Aspergillus spp., the risks are considerably less than using hay or other green bedding.

3. Check the Feed

While providing ducks with a well-balanced feed, with supplements as needed, is one of the best ways to prevent Aspergillosis, did you know that even good feed can go moldy? Before feeding a new bag of feed, check to make sure the feed is not moist, wet or moldy.  Store feed in metal trash cans to help preserve shelf life and keep feed dry.

5. Clear the Table

Allowing ducks to feed for 20 minutes in the morning and again in the evening will prevent overeating, reduce feed spills and cut down on rodent populations. Daily cleaning up spilled feed, leftover table scraps and uneaten fruits and vegetables reduces the chance of fungi growing in the coop or run.

6. Clean, Clean, Clean!

Once a week, removing wet or soiled bedding from the coop will help keep ducks dry and reduce any chances of Aspergillus from entering the coop. Scrubbing water buckets and food bowls will also aid in the prevention of bacteria, yeast and molds from growing. Always dry food bowls or feeders before refilling with fresh feed.

Other ways to prevent aspergillosis from taking up residence in your flock include maximizing ventilation and not overcrowding the coop or run.

Aspergillosis Symptoms

Aspergillus spp. is a serious respiratory condition that can be difficult to diagnose. If your duck exhibits any of these symptoms, take them to a qualified veterinarian immediately. Symptoms include the following.

  • convulsions
  • coughing
  • gasping for air
  • labored breathing
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • open-mouthed breathing
  • organ failures
  • paralysis
  • rapid weight loss
  • voice change
  • wheezing
A duck in between green plants
Erin Synder


The only way to successfully treat Aspergillosis is with help from a qualified veterinarian. This condition can become deadly if not treated properly, so treatment should be started as soon as possible.

A veterinarian will look for clinical signs and perform a thorough exam to determine the risk of Aspergillosis. If Aspergillosis is possible, radiographs and a fungal culture will be performed.

After a duck has been diagnosed, treatment will begin right away. Your vet will prescribe anti-fungal medication and nebulizer treatments to keep the duck’s airways clear.

During recovery, your vet may suggest moving a sick duck into the house to prevent more mold from entering the airways. Be sure to follow all instructions from your veterinarian to ensure your duck recovers quickly.

If one or more of your ducks are diagnosed with Aspergillosis, thoroughly clean the coop, run, water buckets, and food bowls to eliminate this mold from your coop and run. Be sure to wear a mask and protective eyewear while cleaning contaminated areas.

Aspergillosis may be a common threat to backyard duck flocks, but it doesn’t have to be. With proper management and good nutrition, you can significantly reduce any chances of this fungus taking up residence in your flock.

Two ducks are drinking water in a blue bowl in a ground
ducks drinking water

This article about Aspergillosis in ducks was written for Hobby Farms magazine online. Click here to subscribe.

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