Back in April, I was called about a duck that was impounded at the local animal control. I knew nothing about ducks, but this one was in need of help and I knew I was gonna at least try.
I picked it up, and we drove over to my fabulous vet who always makes time for the strays, rescue dogs, former fighting roos, and all my special needs animals. He’s truly amazing. Turns out, this duck was a male and I named him Quack Nicholson.
Quack Nicholson was a trip. He had the best little personality, however he couldn’t walk. His leg joints were huge, and the diagnosis was a degenerative joint disease. He’d never get better, and sadly the disease would progress. He got some pain meds, anti-inflammation meds, and we were sent on our way.
The first few days he splashed around and was so happy in his teeny tiny ‘pond’. Then we upgraded him with a pool. Than a bigger pool. I started really learning everything I could about ducks so that I could give him a life worth living despite his disability. I even figured out that he loved ‘flying’, and I would let him fly from his little overnight apartment in the barn (a large airline pet carrier), to his day yard - a spot of lush grass where he also had his pool, and then we would nap in the hammock together like I did with the rescue roo…
After about a week I started noticing he was less energetic. I was concerned his feed wasn’t right, or he was getting sick… but he was healthy when I got him aside from a little dehydration and his inability to walk…
Then I learned it was depression. The chickens were no satisfying company for him. He needed a friend he could socialize with… I thought long and hard because I really didn’t plan on adding a new species to the farm, and his depression was the issue I needed to fix. Getting a perfectly normal duck who could walk, explore, get around better - might not help him in the long run - or could possibly pick on him. What to do, what to do….
I found a duck rescue almost 3 hours away and they were able to answer my questions and they actually had an entire run dedicated to disabled ducks. They said no one ever wants to adopt the disabled ones, so they were grateful that’s what I was looking for. The lady had a bonded pair of female disabled ducks that was surrendered to them and asked if I would be willing to take two instead of just one… they weren’t doing well in that environment and looked like they could definitely use the attention and help, so I took them. The rescue informed me on the feed that was nutritionally exceptional for these types of ducks with joint disabilities.
These two didn’t come with names, so I named them Quackaroni and Cheese. Cheese was much smaller than Quackaroni, and upon bathing them I discovered she had mites. The next day they all got a vet visit and treated for mites and started settling in.
Cheese now had a healthy coat, but was still much smaller than Quackaroni. I couldn’t get her to gain weight, despite her eating…she seemed happy though, so I just thought maybe she was just smaller… then a few months later I found her dead in her overnight quarters. I had no idea what had happened, but buried her on the property. I was worried about Quackaroni since they shared sleeping space, but she seemed ok and seemed happy getting to know Quack a little better. They would play with each other, using their bills to poke each other in the chest and then splash heavily like they were playing some kind of competitive game. It was really cute…
Then about a month later, I noticed a lot of flies around Quack when I was closing everyone up for the night. I had remembered this happening to Cheese as well. I didn’t think much about it with her, but was starting to connect the dots and was getting worried. I put up Quackaroni first, then scooped Quack up and started looking all in his feathers. That’s when deep in the fluffiness I saw it.. a raw open lesion about the size of a quarter and so many maggots inside. It made me nauseas but I knew I had to act fast. Upon a quick web search of “maggots duck wound” I discovered this was called ‘fly strike’ and it was quite serious and if not treated properly, it WOULD result in death. Per internet advice, I soaked Quack in an epsom salt bath for 20 minutes. That may not seem like much of a task, but it was verrrry difficult. Keeping him from drinking the water, holding him in a weird position to make sure his buoyant booty was under water, and having to ask Christian for help all at the same time while seeing the maggots floating in the water that I was also having to be in - oh gosh. It was rough. I scrubbed him and felt like I at least got him to a point that he’d be ok until morning when I could get in at the vet…
The next morning I gave him a good looksee and saw no maggots and the wound looked to be healing already! It was kinda crazy but I guess that’s the power of epsom salts… then that afternoon we went to the vet. The area already looked so much better and the vet said they’d never seen such a great cleanup of fly strike, and that there was nothing more they needed to do, but to keep an eye on it and soak daily for a few days.
It was the middle of summer so flies were rampant and the fact the ducks couldn’t move too far from where they pooped meant flies were attracted to h the air area more than normal. I bought a mesh “playpen” that was flyproof and had to keep them in there until Quack was completely healed - about two weeks. That was lots of extra work, but he got over it and I found a fly spray that I could use on him and both the ducks were happy to be out of the playpen when he was healed.
In hindsight, when I was burying Cheese, I noticed little yellow clusters around her limp neck when I was moving her to the ground and at the time, I just assumed it was duck dander or something similar and didn’t give it much though. However now, I suspect it was fly eggs and that she must have had flystrike that I just never noticed, and potentially that is what killed her. I hate that I wasn’t aware of this when she wasn’t gaining weight, to really dig around in her feathers, but at least now I know what to look out for.
Fast forward to today. I was on my phone deleting photos that I didn’t need to keep, so that I could free up some space. I came across one of the first photos of Quackaroni. Wow. She really blossomed here with us and I’m so proud that I was able to make that happen. So here is her before:
And her after:
She had zero waterproofing in the first photo, which is why her feathers look so bad. She had just gotten that first bath and was completely water-logged.
I’m grateful that I have the abilities to help animals in the way that I do. I’m grateful that I’m willing to learn what they need, even when initially I may have no knowledge or experience. God has given me the drive and the passion to help where I can, and the reward is an unconditional love that is pure and true.
Thanks for reading through all this! I’m off to bed… my hope is to blog early morning tomorrow - maybe a want/need post for old times sake!