Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Post I've Been Putting Off Writing

Well, this is the post that I've been putting off writing as it was hard to bring myself to do it.  Normally, I love blogging and posting my thoughts, but this subject is so painful, I've been dreading it.  We lost three out of four of our ducks this weekend.  Just like that, five months of work and happiness GONE in one day.

I guess we were pretty naive in thinking that our duckies were safe in their pen.  I hadn't seen any scratching or claw marks on or around their pen, so I assumed that we didn't have any predators around.  Plus, with cats running around the yard, I simply thought they and/or their urine, would deter any predators.  Boy, was I wrong.

I got up as usual on Friday morning and looked out the window to see if Hubs had let the ducks out before he went to work.  Surprisingly, the door to the pen looked as if it was still closed, so I threw on my backyard shoes (Crocs) and headed down to the duck pen.  Now usually in the morning, even before I reached their pen, my "wackies" (named due to their wacky antics as ducklings) would see/hear me and start honking and quacking loudly.  Almost as if they were saying, "Hurry up, lady!  It's about time you got down here!"  I didn't hear anything this morning and that was unusual.  At first, I thought they'd somehow gotten out of the pen and were loose in the yard.  But then, as I approached the pen, I looked down in horror to find Chico's body stretched out in the straw.  I could immediately tell he was dead.  I looked around the rest of the pen and found Daisy's and Delta's bodies lying stiffly in the back corner of the pen.

I only saw three ducks at first, then I noticed a small movement in the dog kennel that the ducks used to sleep in at night.  Lily was alive!  She was too scared to honk at me and too scared to come out of the kennel.  I finally got her out by using a small stick to push her out.  My heart literally was breaking as Lily had to step over Chico's body in order to get out of the pen.  I quickly grabbed her up and took her immediately to the bathtub upstairs so I could shower her off and check the extent of her injuries.

Once I washed all of the mud and blood off, I realized her injuries were very serious.  As someone who trained as a Veterinary Technician, I knew she would need immediate veterinary care.  The predator had ripped open the back of her head, leaving a gaping 3" long x 2" wide wound.  It had also bitten through her bill leaving her a bloody mess.  I was able to secure an immediate emergency appointment at our local vet (the one we take our cats/dog to) and so I put Lily in a cat carrier and we were off to the vet.

From what he saw and hearing my description of how the other ducks were mauled, the vet deduced the predator had to be a fox, rather than a raccoon.  Apparently, foxes will almost always go for the bill and the back of the head to immobilize the bird.  After a quick examination, the vet determined that he could stitch up the back of Lily's head and glue her bill back together.  We left her in his care and went home to await a call back on her progress.

Five hours later, one of the techs called and said we could pick up Lily.  They had to sedate her in order to shave, then clean, and stitch up the back of her head and she had fluids to help prevent dehydration.  The vet used super glue (!) to repair Lily's bill.  He was optimistic about her chances and prescribed Baytril (antibiotic) and Metacam (pain medication) for her treatment plan.

I had Jeremy clean out the bathtub so we could put Lily in it until she's allowed to go outside again--about 10-12 days.  She's in there as I'm writing this, curled up on a towel.  At first, I was concerned that she wasn't eating as it looked like it was painful for her to put her neck down to eat.  I coaxed her along with some pureed peas (baby food) and some canned peas.  After three days, she seemed to be doing a LOT better, so I was able to fill up the bathtub with water so she could take a swim.  That really seemed to help out in her recovery and she looks so much better.

The only downside to all this is that everyone now showers in our bathroom as it's not a good idea to take a shower with a duck in there with you (soap!).  Also, while we love Lily to death, she's not exactly the most helpful patient.  Getting her to take a pill takes two people and an inordinate amount of patience and persistence.  One person holds her so she can't beat us up with her wings, while the other person pries open Lily's bill, shoves the pill down her throat, and then closes her bill and rubs her throat to make her swallow the pill.  We are usually successful 50% of the time on the first try usually 100% on the second or even third try.  I didn't realize ducks' tongues were quite so long or that the serrated edges on the insides of their bills could be so painful.  I know that now!

We've heard from several other duck moms & dads that because ducks are such social animals, we really should get some more friends for Lily to keep her company.  And, we don't want to be defeated by one predator in our duck-raising exploits.  So, while it was bittersweet to do so, we went ahead and ordered more ducks.  Nobody here in MD was selling baby Khaki Campbells (the type of duck Lily is and Delta & Chico were) so we bit the bullet and ordered them online from a company called Purely Poultry.  The ducks only cost about $5 each, but the shipping was $40.  I guess it's because of the way they are shipped--they will get to the post office and then the post office will call me to come pick them when they get there.

We decided to get another Khaki Campbell to keep Lily company.  The best thing about ordering the ducks online was that we got to choose from several different breeds AND we got to choose male or females.  With our original ducks, we got lucky with two boys and two girls, but I've heard people say they've gotten all males in a "straight run" brood--this means you get your ducks un-sexed--basically getting potluck.  We didn't want to take any chances this time, so we ordered the sexes we wanted.  I got an email yesterday letting me know that our ducks will be shipped out to us on August 29th, can't wait!

We ended up ordering five ducks.  A Khaki Campbell male, a male and female Cayuga ducks, and a male and female Indian Runner ducks.  Here is a picture of what the ducks will look like as grown ups:

Cayuga Ducks, note the bright green color

Indian Runner duck

Here is a cool story about Joe the Truck and Frank, his pet duck. Joe offers the very insightful tidbit, “As stupid as it sounds, maybe if everyone had a duck in their life, people wouldn’t be so mad at each other.” 

 I agree with Joe, everyone needs a duck in their life!

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