Monday, October 4, 2010

Duck intensive care

Last night when David went out to close up the duck coops, he found one of the Blue Swedish drakes under the willow tree, apparently unable to walk. The duck had just come up the hill from the bog with the other ducks, then for some reason just couldn't make it all the way into the duck yard.

So David brought him into the house and put him on my lap, asking me to take a look. The poor guy tried but couldn't quite even stand up, and seemed very weak. It was obvious something was wrong, especially since he was totally quiet the entire time; we heard not a single quack or any noise at all from him. I looked him over and couldn't find any obvious trauma like broken bones or bleeding. He was just quiet and weak. I offered him some water, and he dipped his bill into it, but couldn't seem to swallow.

That, I thought, was a clue. I felt around his throat and down to his crop, wondering if perhaps his crop was impacted with something (not uncommon in poultry). It would explain why he was having trouble swallowing, and why he wasn't quacking. Judging from his weakness, presumably he hadn't been eating for some time. The crop did feel full and a little too firm.

Going pretty much on instinct, I gently massaged the crop, trying to loosen whatever it was in there. After a little while the lump did seem to be a bit softer. Then, when I offered him the dish of water again, suddenly he dipped his bill into it and swallowed! That was encouraging.

David called up our friend Jaye from the Northwest Raptor Center in Sequim, to ask her advice. She said just keep massaging the throat and keep the duck warm. We established him in a box next to the wood stove, gave him a dish of water, and just kept an eye on him for a while. He drank quite a bit of water, which made me suspect he hadn't been able to swallow for quite some time. (Ducks drink copious quantities of water every day, so they can quickly become dehydrated.)

The duck made it through the night, always a good sign. I might try him on a little food today and just see how it goes. You know, I probably should be embarrassed to admit this, but I do like having birds in the house!

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