Duck Watch 2010

Employment obligations forced us home after nine days of honeymoon, but we were excited to be re-united with our four legged and feathered family. My human family cared for the barnyard in our absence and did a wonderful job. Thank you. Especially Dad.

There was a single injury to one of the ducks that took a few days for the story to unravel. We found Mr Grey Smith limping and bleeding in the barn. We weren’t sure how he got there, but my dad explained that the ducks were flying over the fence and could be found all over the farm. Did one of the cats chase the duck? I doubted it. Was it a fox or coyote? I don’t think he would have survived such an attack. Hmmm….

Mr G had big trauma to his tail area which was mutilated and full of maggots leaving him sour smelling and rotting. His left leg seemed sore, but there wasn’t an open fracture. We brought Mr G into the house and it took us over an hour to clean out most of the maggots, wash the area with antibacterial soap and then spray with a gentian violet solution that turned everything purple. We also needed to figure out how to inject him with antibiotics and we debated splinting his left leg. It was surprisingly easy to inject a duck, but this was one of the few times the internet was not helpful. When I googled “how to inject a duck” many websites came up about how to cook a tasty duck. I quickly stopped searching and used my medical training and animal experience. For anyone who needs to know: Under the wing, pull the skin and inject subcutaneously.

Friday, October 1, 2010 was the first night of treatment and his first night in the house at the farm. It was touch and go. He was lethargic and sat unmoving as we cleaned his wounds and injected the antibiotics. We sent out a little prayer and hoped that Mr G made it through the night.

On Friday night I discovered that Mr G had been hit by a car Wednesday, September 29, 2010 and survived on his own for two day before he was discovered and treatment was started. It certainly explained the severity of the injuries.

Poor Mr. G.

By Sunday Mr G seemed a little more lively and we decided to let him have a swim in the bathtub. He made a huge mess an had a blast. A digital video camera was a wedding present and we took a video, so have a look on youtube:

There’s also a video of Taz and Gizmo having a stellar Big Bear Fight.

By Wednesday we decided to let Mr G have a little fresh air and a wander around the backyard. He stretched his wings and started limping around enjoying the bugs in the grass and the softly falling rain. After a few minutes Mr G spread his wings and started flying. He didn’t make it over the fence, but he flew about twenty feet. This filled me with anxiety.

On Monday we built an aviary for Mr White Smith (just Smith now), so he couldn’t wander onto the road. He would fly over any fence without any trouble. He never flew more than six feet off the ground, but it was enough to put him into the dangers of the eighty kilometer per hour road. We confined Smith to the new 20×30 aviary much to his disgust. After two days he seemed unhappy, and as he watched Mr G wander he seemed agitated.

We began our discussions about the pros and cons of clipping their flight wings. We couldn’t let Mr G out for rehab because we were afraid he fly over the fence and we couldn’t catch him, but maybe something else would. Smith was a danger on the road, but if we clipped those precious six feathers they wouldn’t be able to fly from danger.

We’ve never had trouble with foxes or coyotes here at Beaver Creek Farm, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t happen. If we did clip their flight wings we’d have to lock them up at night. More confinement, but at least during the day they could wander the spacious pond area that was secured with a four foot small animal fence.

Pros and cons to both. In the end…

We clipped their flight feathers. It was an easy process. We clipped one side and only took six feathers careful to avoid the blood feathers. Muscovy and mallard ducks only need to be clipped once a year when they molt, so in a year we can re-think and decide if clipping was the right thing to do.

It was a relief. I could let Mr G out into the immediate backyard and not worry that Smith was going to fly the fence and attack him or that Mr G would fly out and wander off. I let Smith out of the aviary and he went immediately to sooth himself in the pond. Smith looked happy again.

Post-clipping I would say both ducks came out on top. Smith got to soak in his pond and Mr G could wander happily around and sit in the yard. We’re going to have to be more responsible in locking these two up at night to ensure their safety. I don’t think it will be a problem until the snow falls and the predators get desperate for food. February.

After an hour of the backyard I found Mr G making his way towards the back porch. I opened the three doors needed to get him back into his recovery area. It was funny and familiar to allow Mr G to walk into the house and settle into his crate happy as a … duck.

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