Can My Ducks Get Fleas? What Should I Do?

Compared to chickens, ducks tend to be remarkably healthy. Given even a little bit of care and good nutrition, they rarely get sick and usually prove to be easy to take care of.

ducks bathing in pond on the homestead
ducks bathing in pond on the homestead

Still, ducks can still fall victim to many kinds of internal and external parasites, and external parasites in particular can be highly problematic for them once they get past those water-repellent feathers.

When it comes to external ones, there are several kinds that duck owners should be aware of. How about fleas? Can ducks get fleas, and what should you do about them?

Yes, ducks can get fleas, though they aren’t as common as mites and lice. Fleas can cause major problems, though, and should be treated with a combination of medicated powders or liquids and extermination efforts around duck living areas.

Fleas might not seem like a big problem at first, but if you don’t deal with them, your ducks will start losing feathers, and getting sick, and they might even stop eating. In extreme cases, they might die from them!

You don’t need to worry though, because this is something that you can handle yourself if you know what to do. I’ll tell you everything in the rest of this article.


Are Duck Fleas the Same as Dog and Cat Fleas?

Not usually, though they can occasionally fall victim to the same kinds. The kinds of fleas that typically infest ducks are ones that are more associated with birds and poultry generally.

Sticktight and chicken fleas are the usual duck attackers, and anyone who has owned chickens is probably already familiar with them.

There are other types besides, but the differences, practically speaking, are mostly superficial. Flea infestations are always bad news for ducks and must be dealt with.

Is it Common for Ducks to Come Down with Fleas?

No. You might think that because ducks are outside all the time, they would be infested with fleas as a matter of course, but that just isn’t the case.

For starters, ducks are naturally somewhat resistant to the attention of fleas, partially because of their propensity to be in the water at least some of the time, but also because there are other parasites that have made it their business to be specialized duck predators, in a manner of speaking.

As a duck owner, you’ll need to be more vigilant about mites, lice, and, in some areas, ticks compared to fleas. All of these blood-sucking nasties are highly problematic and demand the same kind of treatment if you want your birds to stay healthy.

What Will Flea Infestation Do to Ducks?

Anything more than one or two flea bites is seriously bad news for ducks and will gradually and increasingly impair their health and negatively impact their quality of life.

In time, a flea infestation can result in severe feather loss, increased vulnerability to illness, major skin conditions, hypothermia, anemia, and eventually death. No joke!

As fleas continue to feed on ducks by sucking their blood, and ducks continue to preen and scratch and scratch and scratch at the itchy welts that they leave behind, their feathers will become compromised and fall out, their skin will get ragged and vulnerable to infection, and a loss of blood volume and iron can eventually cause anemia and subsequently death.

How Can You Tell Your Ducks Have Fleas?

It’s not too hard to tell if your ducks have fleas. Look for the following symptoms and indicators.

Constant Scratching

If you’ve ever been bitten by a flea, you know how itchy they are. It’s the same way for your ducks, so if you notice particularly aggressive preening or scratching, and especially in the same spot, that might be a telltale sign that fleas are the cause.

Noticeably Shabby Feathers

This sort of carries over from the previous symptom. Ducks constantly preen their feathers, but they do so gently in order to keep them tidy and waterproof.

Relentless scratching to get at flea bites will leave their feathers looking tattered and shabby. If your ducks aren’t looking their best, particularly on their flanks and wings and around their neck, look closer.

Watch for Feather Loss

The terminal result of this relentless scratching in an effort to gain relief from flea bites is feather loss. When your ducks start losing feathers due to all the scratching, you know that a flea infestation has gotten pretty bad.

Welts and Broken Skin on Bald Patches

If you spread their feathers apart or look at the bald patches resulting from feather loss, you should see small irritated bumps and broken skin; this is another certain indicator of parasite activity, and in our case, likely fleas.

Loss of Sleep

Fleas are so annoying that ducks will start losing out on rest and sleep, and this will start to negatively impact their attitude and health overall.

If you notice that one or more of your ducks are active during periods when they should be resting, especially if they are scratching at themselves, it means fleas are likely.

Disrupted Eating

In the same way that all that scratching can interrupt sleeping and rest, it might deter ducks from eating! Severe itchiness can drive them mad, and they will even refuse food!

Decrease in Normal Egg Production

The stress and irritation caused by fleas can cause hens to slow or even stop laying eggs. Should you notice that one of your otherwise healthy and productive girls slows down or halts entirely, check her over thoroughly for fleas or other parasites.

Visible Fleas on Duck or in Bedding

You might catch fleas red-handed if you look closely at your ducks: fleas are tiny, dark brown insects that will congregate near their eyes, around the head, on the neck, and under their wings. Also, be sure to check their bedding area closely for the same critters.

Dealing with the Flea Menace

Knowing what to look for, you’ve confirmed that one or more of your poor ducks are infested with fleas. Now you need to deal with them.


First things first. Check all of your ducks carefully for the presence of fleas. If one has them, others likely do as well.

Separate the affected ducks from the rest of the flock to prevent fleas from spreading. You must assume that at least a few already have, and they will begin to multiply in short order. Continue checking on your ducks regularly.


Flea infestations great and small must be treated by using the right insecticidal products. Resist the urge to give your ducks a soap and water bath because this can do more harm than good for feathers that have likely already been through the ringer due to scratching.

To get rid of flea infestations on your ducks, administer Trichlorfon or Malathion powder or sprays, or any other flea treatment that is prescribed specifically for the purpose. Consider talking to your veterinarian if needed and follow their instructions.

Whatever product you are using, don’t deviate from the instructions prescribed for administering it! Some of these countermeasures have side effects and can be harmful to your birds if they ingest them or get in their eyes – so be careful.

Continue treating and checking your ducks until you are sure that all of the fleas are gone. A good baseline for most flea treatments is about 2 weeks of continuous application, but you must check the instructions on your product for the duration and schedule of treatments. Don’t stop short just because you cannot see any more fleas; that might let the little buggers re-infest your poor duck!


If fleas get on your ducks, that means they are in the nearby area where the ducks frequent. The coop or duck house and their bedding are priority areas for investigation because flea populations tend to skyrocket here.

Pull out all bedding, clean the coop and surrounding area, and replace it with fresh. Once you’ve treated your birds and eliminated or suppressed fleas in the immediate area, your flock should finally get some relief.

As Ever, Prevention is the Best Medicine

The very best thing you can do to help ducks that have fleas is prevent them from getting them in the first place!

Easier said than done considering how tiny and persistent they are, but a general program of cleanliness and hygiene on your property should be sufficient to make flea problems a thing of the past.

Keeping your property picked up and animal waste controlled is a hugely important part of flea suppression.

You can also consider painting or coating the coop or duck house in a duck-safe flea repellent like creosote. There are commercial products that are available for the same purpose, too.

And, as ever, dust duck bedding, floor covering, and the area immediately surrounding the bedding area with diatomaceous earth, or DE.

This stuff suppresses insect populations over time by slowly killing them, and best of all, it does this without any poisons whatsoever that could possibly hurt your animals. It has lots of other great uses besides, so make sure you check out our articles on it.

Can Duck Fleas Bite People?

Yes, they can! However, these fleas prefer to live on ducks and other animals, not on us, but you can and will get bit if you are handling ducks that are infested.

Make sure to wash up and consider changing clothes after handling ducks that have fleas or after dealing with infested bedding and other material; you definitely don’t want to bring these fleas into your home.

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