Niacin is also known as Vitamin B3and is vital for good health and growth in waterfowl. Compared to chickens, waterfowl need 2 to 3 times the amount of niacin in their diet during their initial growth period, hence the occasional problem with low niacin levels being fed to waterfowl. Once they are grown, a niacin deficiency is very rare. Most owners do not know that there is a niacin problem until signs of a niacin deficiency occurs.
How to Identify a Niacin Deficiency
A niacin deficiency can be seen in the legs of the bird. If the legs are bent or “bull legged”,are pigeon toed, splayed to the sides, or are unable to support the weight of the bird, there is a high likelihood that it is due to a niacin deficiency. Such legs make it very difficult for the birds to move, preventing them from getting adequate amounts of food and water.
Remember, ducklings do the majority of their growing in the first 10 weeks of life. About 90% of niacin problems occur during this time.
Causes of a Niacin Deficiency
Typically poultry feed has enough niacin in it. If it doesn’t that means a mistake was made in making the feed or the feed is not formulated with enough niacin for waterfowl. Unfortunately poultry feed manufacturers are not required to put niacin levels on the feed tag. If you have a concern that your feed is low in niacin, you can phone the feed manufacturer and ask them how much niacin is in the feed. The feed store will probably not know, you will need to contact the feed manufacturer directly.
How to Fix it
Chicken feed, while it can be used as a starter, sometimes needs to be supplemented by niacin in one form or another. Supplements include niacin tablets, Vitamin B3 drops, and brewer's yeast. These supplements can be found at your local feed and vitamin stores.
Determining how much to supplement with niacin tablets, vitamin B3 drops, and brewer’s yeast will be covered in a future post.
Customers have said that a limping problem has been fixed after supplementing with extra niacin. However, if you do not correct the problem immediately and the bones become deformed, the legs cannot be straightened once you start supplementing with extra niacin. Hence, you must supplement as soon as you are suspicious you have a niacin deficiency.
We have been asked if it is possible to overdose on niacin. Because of how small the amount is, it is easy to think you can give your birds too much. The answer is that you would need a lot to overdose. We don't have an exact amount to point towards, but humans can overdose on niacin and that can cause bowel problems. If your birds start having digestive issues, then it's a possibility, but is unlikely.