Saturday, May 23, 2009

Baby Duck Rescue

It was exactly two weeks ago today that I was lucky enough to rescue a duckling. I had just returned home after the end of the semester, and was still unloading the car when I noticed one of the cats playing with something. It turned out to be a Mallard duckling, and from its size, I estimated it to be less than a day old. I took it from the cat, which fortunately left it unharmed, and spent the next hour battling my way through the creek adjacent to our house look for its family. I did see a pair of Mallards, but they were without chicks.

I couldn’t abandon it, so I decided to care for it until I could hopefully locate its family. Fortunately, my Dad was willing to let me bring a terrarium into the kitchen, and he happened to have friends experienced in raising ducklings. While we were off at the story buying cracked corn for his diet staple (which also included fresh greens and small invertebrates) he ended up sitting in his water dish, and we found him shivering there when we returned. After he was dry and warm, I decided he needed a name, and eventually settled on Roger, this being a suitable upstanding name for a young duck. The gender of ducklings cannot be determined until their mature feathers grow or their voices change, the males having a raspier “whrank” compared to the female’s higher “quack”. I hadn’t settled on a name if he turned out to be a she, but we also called him “peep”, “fluffy one”, and “little guy”. That first day was long because it took him a while to start eating, but after a while we couldn’t get him to stop. He also gave us a scare the next morning when he burrowed into one of the old socks I put in the terrarium.

He became used to me taking care of him, and grew accustomed to being held. Eventually he would fall asleep in my hands. Everyone said I was sort of his mother duck, but I really preferred the idea of surrogate father duck, the good kind who’s not just there on weekends. I guess mother duck is fine. I brought Jenevieve (surrogate father duck) over to see Roger, and she absolutely loved him! He was perfectly comfortable falling asleep on her too, and the next day we went to the story and bought him a new water bowl and fluffy bed that was originally for hamsters but suited a duckling well.

Two days after we bought the bed, Roger mysteriously died. I got a call from my Dad midmorning telling me the sad news. He had ample food and water, and the lamp on one side should have kept him warm while leaving the other side cool if he needed it. Ducks can be funny; they don’t show any sign of illness until it’s almost too late. He could have been lonely; ducks are very social creatures, especially during the early stages. We buried him in a nice place in the yard, and I planted dandelion seeds (his favorite green) on top of the site. I’m still sad about his death, but I hope he was happy and lived somewhat longer than if I hadn’t taken him in. Most of all, I miss the fun I had taking care of him, and everything I was looking forward too (he was going for his first swim this week).

I hope this hasn’t been just a sad story from a lamenting mother duck, because it was all in all a wonderful experience. I would definitely do it again, and I hope to raise ducks in the future.

More to come as I get ready to go to Yosemite National Park in California! By the way, I got my plane ticket today. Thanks Dad!!!

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