Ducklings Week 6: Baby goes to the vet

We brought Baby to the vet today in the city. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long to see the doc – he’s an elderly, friendly guy and we liked him straight away.  However he didn’t seem to realise that Baby was our own hand-raised ducky. He said “There are so many ducks at our town park – why don’t you just get another one?” I think he meant, we should get one that isn’t already damaged!

He felt Baby’s leg and said it wasn’t broken and that Baby should be able to walk again but it will take time – probably 2-3 weeks. He would not take any payment, since he said he had not actually performed any treatment, but H. gave him a big tip. He then went to his cupboard and took out a box of powdered vitamins for our ducks!

The injured ducky leg

The injured ducky leg

On the way home, we went grocery shopping.  H. stayed in the car and hummed to Baby while I was in the store. This seemed to calm him enough so he wouldn’t panic and cry for me. We were quite surprised how good he was with travelling in the car – he did not get scared at all by the noises and vibrations or the traffic around us. As long as I sat next to him and stroked him with my hand, he was completely happy to just sit in his pet carrier.

I am very relieved to know from the vet that Baby won’t be permanently disabled, and that he will probably be walking again real soon. The doc only felt along his leg and didn’t take any x-rays, but he is probably right that it’s a sprain and not a break. The leg would be swollen if it was broken, and there isn’t any swelling. Anyway, only time will tell. In the photo above, you will notice that Baby’s foot is still dark gray like a duckling’s; his sibling’s legs are already turning quite orange – so he is somewhat behind in his physical development; if that has something to do with his injury, I can’t tell.

After getting home from the vet, I spent most of the day trying to keep an eye on Baby while doing other chores. At first I let him out of his pet carrier to spend time with his siblings in the garden and to swim pond since he needs exercise, but I noticed he was having real trouble keeping up with the others on land, hopping on one leg, although he was managing fine while swimming. Unfortunately the ducks were very active today and were frequently leaving the pond to go forage around the garden.

Baby had a hard time following his bigger and stronger siblings, but he tried very hard to anyway and wouldn’t let me stop him, screeching at me if I held him back. We had to rescue him several times when he got stuck going up or down the steep slope of the small hill behind the pond. I have the feeling his siblings are a bit leery of him because of his disability, and they have started ostracising and chasing him away especially during feeding time. Maybe it’s a survival thing, since he puts the group in constant danger by not being quiet or fast enough when they go on their little expeditions and having to be constantly waited for, called or rescued. They have started seeing him as a liability to the group.

We also noticed a change in Baby’s behaviour – he has been quite aggressive towards his siblings recently, lashing out at them when they are sleeping suddenly for no apparent reason, maybe because he’s frustrated with his injury. There are probably also other factors at play that we will never understand. Anyway it’s no wonder they don’t complain any more when I take him away from them in the evenings to sleep with us indoors.

The other ducks check out Baby's mobile home

The other ducks check out Baby’s mobile home

Baby has been acting like a baby (he is quite aptly named, although we had never foreseen all this happening) since his injury – constantly needing reassurance, cuddles and being held in my lap before he would calm down and stop screeching all the time after I bring him indoors. He completely freaks out if I even leave the room or walk away from him for a few seconds. Also every 20 minutes or so, he would start complaining, demanding petting, food or water and I always have to guess which. Usually I just give him everything! I have been carrying him everywhere I go, even the toilet, just so that he stays calm. Sometimes he gets so worked up, I swear I can hear his heart beating in the silence of the bedroom at night. He also seems to vibrate all over, and he will also nod his head repeatedly. I read that these are signs of excitement (in his case, probably stress). I guess I would be terribly stressed too, if I were an injured duck,  couldn’t walk, and were taken away from the family and the environment I am used to – even if I trusted my human carers.

I realised after a while that Baby won’t sit still in his carrier, unless I am sitting still as well. When I try to do house chores or cook, he reacts to my rapid movements around the kitchen, and tries to get out of his carrier and hop around too. I guess ducks are hard-wired to mirror what their flock-mates are doing, since they are highly dependent on each other and must stay in sync and move together otherwise one may get separated from the flock and be eaten by a predator.

Well at least he isn’t dragging himself around on his stomach using his bill. He can now hop on his good leg quite well for short distances. Fortunately for me, he also seems to understand he needs a lot of rest, and mostly sits in his carrier without complaining (so long I am nearby!).  When we are in the kitchen, I leave the carrier on the floor with one end unzipped so he can sit partly in the open and see what I am doing. I only zip him in, if he starts freaking out for whatever reason.

It’s night time now and Baby is sleeping in his cardboard box next to my bed. It’s sweet in a way to have a needy pet, but I rather he gets better real soon, it’s getting tiring and stressful to have to tend to him 24/7.  At least we’ve found he doesn’t mind travelling around in a car. We could simply bring him out with us when we have to go down town and I won’t have to worry about him being alone at home at the mercy of his bullying siblings or predators!

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