Ducklings Week 6: Nursing an injured duck

Baby duck in pet carrier.

Baby duck in pet carrier.

I thought of confining Baby to his box indoors this morning when the other ducks insisted on going outside. But he was unhappy to be without his siblings and cried loudly for them after they had gone to the pond. He couldn’t walk at all and tried to drag himself on his belly towards the door, using his left leg to push himself around.

Unable to watch him moving in this painful way, I carried him outside and put him in the pond with the others, since I’d heard ducks normally swim well even if they have injured legs, and may even benefit from the exercise.  He doesn’t have open wounds, so I was not afraid he might get infected or something. I am just not sure if only his toe is broken or the rest of the foot/leg is too – I read up last night on feeling birds’ legs for broken bones but I don’t dare touch the leg in case I make it worse.

He swam with his good leg and followed the others around – but had a terrible time getting out of the pond. I tried to help him get out from the side, but he won’t let me near him or use any of the ramps or aids I tried to build using towels, rocks, planks etc. at the pond edge. I guess he wanted to get out the usual way,  which was to simply jump out from the side, but couldn’t understand why his leg was not working.

For some minutes, he kept swimming back and forth along the edge of the pond helplessly. His duck siblings tried to show him how to get out, by jumping back into the water, swimming with him and then jumping out again. This behaviour of the others was fascinating – they obviously were making up for their lack of a mother duck, by mothering each other. Unfortunately, even that didn’t help much and the small duck was getting tired, desperate and stressed out. In the end I pushed him gently onto a shallow plant shelf with the pond net, grabbed him with my hands and put him on the grass where he spent the next few hours lying in the sunshine resting.

Baby sits in my lap holding his injured foot out.

Baby sits in my lap holding his injured foot out.

Seeing how helpless he is makes us really worried about him but I can’t see what else we can do but to stay close by to make sure he is safe. He is definitely much more contented and calm when he is near his siblings. At night however he would be easy prey for a predator like a cat!

Speaking of cats, a day or two ago when I took the ducks out on the street for a short walk, a cat tried to attack the ducks – I had to chase it off several times. I do not know if this cat or some other one comes in our garden at night, it may explain why Baby sprained his other leg last week – it could have happened while they were trying to run away from something that scared them.

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