A month ago, our little silver Swedish duck hatched out four ducklings. About few days later, we received a text from our farm-family neighbors, who were out by the pen watching the babies' first outing to the pond. "One of them is stuck," he wrote. "He needs help."
I went out to the pen to find that one wee baby was indeed left behind and struggling in the long grass. Her mama and the ever-present guardian geese weren't alarmed, which should have been an alarm bell for me, but I was too focused on getting her back to her nest to think about it. I helped her to the duck house to join her family, and that's when I realized that she wasn't stuck at all. She was unable to walk. She struggled around the house in an attempt to get back to the warmth of her nest, but could only flail in circles. Eventually she rolled out through the fencing, back onto the cold ground outside the duck house. I scooped her up and took her inside to a brooder box.
She had no apparent injury, but her legs didn't seem to want to work. She'd flop onto her back and flail her little feet, then shoot herself across the box once her toes got purchase on the bedding. When she tipped her head up to drink, her neck flopped sideways and over she went. She couldn't hold herself up to eat or drink - she could only flop into the dishes, then flop out again - but if I held her still she was ravenous, so clearly she wasn't ready to give up. I bought vitamins to counteract a possible niacin deficiency, held her at her dish when I could, and gave her the stand-by stuffed moose that had comforted two other abandoned -lings in the past (goose Elinor and Dudley success story, the abandoned duckling Pip).
I gave her a couple days, but because I could not be with her all the time, I watched her decline and, finally, decided it was time to let her go. The problem then turned to how to put her out of her misery, when she clearly wanted to survive. As I was struggling with this conundrum, (farm family) Jess came by to visit. She took one look, heard my verdict, and announced, "I'll take her."
I will be totally honest: my unspoken response was "there's nothing you can do to help." Nature was just not on this little duckling's side. But I didn't count on the determination and love of Jess, who is most definitely was on her side. Jess named her Stevie (the jury is still out about her gender, so it's a good goes-both-ways name), wrapped her in a towel, tucked her under her chin, and took her home.
It's now three weeks later, and although Stevie still isn't fully right, she is growing under Jess' amazing care. Like Pip's savior Randi last year, Jess has stepped in as a guardian angel for this little duckling. She's still not able to walk properly, but she's eating and getting a lot of loving support from Jess. Stay tuned for updates on her progress! #ducklingstevie
Ray is part of the Ray and Randi duo, who actually don't live on the farm. They have a micro-homestead in Gilmanton, but are VERY active over at IFP and are guest bloggers for them.
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