Every Easter, bunnies and ducklings are given to children as pets. Ducklings grow quickly. They eat lots of duck food, splash the water out of their little pools, and generally make an icky sticky mess of their pen. Cleaning a duck pen is no fun. Rabbits chew everything up, would rather run wild than snuggle, and toss “raisins” from their cage. They can be wonderful pets, but Easter pets are often impulse buys. When they become a nuisance, many people drive to a nearby pond or park and let these pets run free. Bad things happen to these abandoned pets. Ducks and Clucks wrote a detailed and descriptive article about a bunch of dumped ducks in Utah, so I won’t repeat what she said. Instead, I will tell you about my dumped ducks.
Melody the Mail Carrier spotted these pretty white ducks by the lake at a condominium complex where she delivers mail. She must have read the Ducks and Clucks article because she knows that these are domestic ducks, not wild ducks. They can’t fly. Melody contacted me and asked if I could help. I explained that I am too old and decrepit to chase around after ducks, but that I can take them into sanctuary here where they will be safe if we can find some duck wranglers to capture them. We put on our thinking caps for a day or so.
Melody continued to observe the ducks and learned that someone had been feeding them, but they had stopped when the food began to attract wild ducks. My son was willing to help capture them but wasn’t having much luck finding Associate Duck Wranglers- it’s wet and cold in the water in January.
When Melody the Mail Carrier returned after the long weekend, one of the ducks was missing. This probably meant that a predator had taken one. It would soon return for the remaining two ducks. I contacted Ducks and Clucks (in Utah) who recommended some duck wranglers here who might be available. We now had two local crazy duck-loving folks who were willing to get wet.
Meanwhile, Melody the Intrepid Mail Carrier made a discovery. Apparently, there are swans on this lake, and the maintenance crew is adept at “dealing with the swans.” If you know anything about swans, this is impressive. They were willing to capture the remaining two ducks. Our wranglers would not have to get wet! They were still willing to drive out to pick up the ducks and deliver them to us here.
Furthermore, there was more good news! The maintenance crew had already captured Duck #3 and had it penned up in a safe location! The bad news was that it had been struggling offshore, and that’s why they went out to get it. But, we still had three ducks! Our would-be-wrangler drove out, picked up the ducks and delivered them to us here at the sanctuary.
I quickly pronounced them to be three female ducks. Drakes have a little curly feather on their tail, behind their wings.
They also have a decidedly husky “quonk” compared to the duck’s shrill “quack!” There was a lot of excited quacking when they arrived here. Norman examined them while my old drakes quonked and postured outside the quarantine pen. I set them up with food, water, and free access to their own section of the barn. Two of the three looked great. Hope, #3, would need some time.
Proving me to be a complete dummy, Sunshine, aka Sunny, demonstrated his manly behavior to the flock. His voice is high, but maybe not so high as the girl’s. He has no curly feather at all. But he’s a guy, and and they can be rough with the ducks. Hope was already limping, so I put him out with my drakes and left Destiny with her for company. They all hang out together near the fence, but Sunny is thrilled to be out with the dudes. Norman readily accepted him into the flock, and the girls are somewhat relieved. Hope, however, continued to decline so I took her to the vet.
No wonder Hope limps! It is also not surprising that she got stuck offshore. This is not a duck that should be “out in the wild.” A blood analysis showed elevated white blood cell count, indicating an infection. For that she received two weeks worth of antibiotics. Not knowing the nature of the infection, she would return for a second blood draw near the end of the two weeks. She gets anti-inflammatories for the swollen ankle. She was also covered with creepy crawly lice. That means dusting with a very nasty powder that happens to be toxic to cats. Dusting would have to occur outside the aviary, gloves, mask, the whole hazmat treatment. Poor Hope!
Her white blood cell count looks great, so check antibiotics off the list. Hurray! The lice are gone, hurray! But that was the adults- the dust doesn’t kill the eggs, so I will have another dusting to do very soon. We will keep her on the anti-inflammatories for another couple weeks. She is already walking better and is much harder to catch at medicine time! I have developed a new method for catching her and now she stands rather patiently while I scoop her up. Next I will try to teach her to peck the tiny pill off the palm of my hand like Princess the Chicken did. Ha ha, maybe not, but in spite of it all, Hope trusts me. She will need special care her whole life, but she’s a sweet little duck, and I know we will become good friends.
Please don’t buy “Easter Pets” for your kids. All pets deserve to be special, not afterthoughts. Check Petfinder first because those pets have been placed there by responsible agencies for adoption. Next try your local shelter. They will mostly have dogs and cats, but bunnies are the third most available “used pet,” not really a positive distinction. They may also have guinea pigs, and possibly ducks, though I fear they mostly get dumped. Dogs and cats are easy to find, but the only universal locator for exotics is Petfinder. It’s always fun to “window shop!”
Please help pay for Hope’s vet bills! All donations are tax deductible.