It’s been two days since Baby was injured. He still can’t stand or walk on both legs. When he tries to run after his siblings, he flops around on his belly, using his bill and the other (previously sprained) leg to drag himself forward. It’s painful to see him like this. We are hoping there is no permanent damage and that he will quickly heal like ducks are reputed to do.
We still can’t allow Baby in the yard on his own, as he’d try desperately to keep up with his brood siblings, straining to follow them wherever they go, and won’t rest enough for the leg to heal properly. To force him to stay still, I’ve put my old cat carrier bag into use – padded it with newspaper and straw, and stuck the unhappy duck inside.
I have been trying to keep him near his siblings as much as possible during the day, without letting him physically join in their activities. If they were swimming in the pond, I’d place the carrier nearby so he could see them through the mesh sides. If they were napping on the grass, I would even let him out of the carrier to snuggle up with one of his siblings. He seemed to like this very much but I had to pay close attention and get him back in his bag if they looked like they were going on an excursion somewhere he could not follow.
Young ducks suffer easily from separation anxiety, and will freak out if left alone. Baby is no exception – he got frustrated and unhappy whenever his siblings went off without him. They actually seemed to forget about him and silently sneaked off together without even waiting or calling for him like they did a day or two ago.
After they did that a few times, I noticed Baby turned himself around in his carrier to face away from his siblings, as if he were sulking and did not want to look at them anymore.
So I’ve started taking him away from the others and bringing him into the house or around with me for part of the day instead. This seems to work well as long as I keep the bag constantly at my side. If I even step away from him for a moment, he starts panicking and cries very loudly and incessantly – it’s a sound you simply have to respond to!
Last night before dark, I managed to get all the ducks indoors and into their old cage, for the 2nd night in a row since Baby’s injury. Baby can’t stay outdoors overnight safely, and I thought the rest wanted to be with him. I was wrong. They refused to endure a 2nd night of this “torture”, protested vociferously and struggled against the cage bars so violently for such a long time, that I was forced in the end to let them all outdoors again, otherwise none of us would have any peace.
In the end, Baby spent the night with us in our bedroom, sleeping in his own cardboard box. It took him a long time to calm down and stop trembling – he lay on my lap in the dark and I stroked him till consented to go into his box without trying to jump out. Even then, he complained and chattered until both H. and myself were in bed and he could hear our voices near him. From time to time through the night, we would hear a questioning chirp or peep from him, and we’d answer him with a “peep”. This would assure him that we were nearby and that all was well, and he’d settle down and sleep again. In the morning, we found him sound asleep on his belly with his neck and legs all stretched out – you never saw a more relaxed duck! I hope all this enforced rest will help him recover his strength and use of the leg.
As I write this, I have had Baby on my lap for hours, his bill snuggled into the crook of my arm. I told H. I am trapped here with the duck the whole day – but he said I should enjoy the cuddling while it lasts! I am sure Baby is letting me hold him only because he is in pain and feels vulnerable. He’s kind of regressed into a infantile state, like how our ducks used to be when they were just a few days old, rushing to snuggle up with me when they were cold or afraid.
I am staying home today with Baby – we still do not know the extent of his injuries. There is not much you can see externally: no obvious broken bones, swelling or open wounds, but he has still not moved his right leg – he just drags it around behind him as he scoots around on his belly. We hope he will improve after some swim therapy, otherwise we may have to bring him to a vet, assuming we can find one who will treat a wild duck!
Caring for the ducks had just this week started to become easier, since they are becoming more independent every day, but this accident of Baby’s has been a setback for us. Now we are facing the possibility of having to care for a disabled duck – I certainly hope that’s not what he will become. It’s no life for a wild duck to be unable to run, swim and fly freely in the open.