Compassion in World Farming

Monday, 6 July 2009

Duckling SOS!

At about 10pm yesterday evening we were disturbed by my next door neighbour Mary shouting loudly for me, obviously in some distress. Thinking something had happened to either her or her husband I went running out to her. She told me she had seen 4 tiny ducklings in her garden with no mummy in sight & didn't know what to do with them. Now Mary loves birds & used to keep ducks & hens at her old farmhouse but bizarrely she has a feather phobia. She can't stand to touch feathers at all! She apologised for disturbing me, but said she knew that I would be able to do something for them. So there were the two of us searching her garden trying to find said ducklings in the rain & rapidly failing light. I was just beginning to wonder if my neighbour had been at the wine again & whether said ducklings even existed, when we found them shivering behind a flowerpot. They were very tiny! I'm guessing not even a week old. I know that very often the best advice is to leave baby birds alone if you find them, but it was clear that these little ducklings with no mother duck in sight needed our intervention if they were to survive the night. I gathered them up into my arms & hugged them to me to give them some warmth. Two of them immediately calmed down & seemed to snug into me, but the other two were very frightened & were so squirmy that unfortunately I dropped one little fellow! What a disaster! How were we going to find one little duckling in amongst all the plants & pots in the gloom? I rushed the three I had hold of home & hubby helped me get one of the cardboard hen carrying cases that we bought from the Domestic Fowl Trust out of the garage & rather unceremoniously plopped them in, left them in hubby's care & went back to search for the lost duckling. Well if you didn't know what was going on it must have been quite a sight to see Mary & I crawling around her garden on our hand & knees, peering into every nook & cranny, looking behind every plant pot & under every bush! Mary's husband Mike was in charge of keeping their dog safely indoors! Finally, thankfully, we heard pitiful duckling pips coming from the general direction of the decking steps. So there I was in the wet on my belly trying to crawl under the first step to see if I could find it. Hurray! There it was right in the far corner, so with a bit more wriggling & some cursing & wishing I hadn't eaten quite so much chocolate recently I finally managed to get hold of one very frightened duckling. Well I hugged Mary & she hugged me & Mike hugged the both of us. It was such a relief! We were very emotional!
Mary asked if I would be able to look after them & I reassured her I would take good care of them. I reunited lost duckling with its siblings who greeted it with loud cheeps. I knew it would be pointless trying to feed or water them while they were still frightened & at such a late hour so I left them to settle in the cardboard carrier with some chopped straw as bedding. Our four dogs, although bursting with curiosity as to what was in the box, were incredibly good. It reminded me that somewhere I still had Mabel's old heatable bean cushion that she had for comfort as a puppy. After some rummaging I found it, heated it just for a few seconds in the microwave & put it in the box with the babies. I wondered what an earth had befallen the mother duck. We do have foxes & stoats about in the local area, also a big tabby farm cat who prowls menacingly across the fields. So I guess the little family must have been disturbed in some way with the result that the four ducklings had got separated. I praised my dogs for being so good, collapsed in a heap on the settee for a bit of a wind down, then hubby & I carried the box of precious cargo down to our bedroom with us for the night. I don't think either of us got much sleep!
This morning I filled a little mushroom drinker for them & ground some of Tom & Cherry's duck grower pellets down in a pestle & mortar. I telephoned work & asked if I could have an emergency day's holiday (they are quite used to how mad I am about animals!) & then scratched my head as to best house them. In the meantime, two of the ducklings had somehow managed to scale the cardboard walls of the box & were loose in the bedroom! This wasn't going to be an easy job! Having caught the escapees I devised some secure housing for them out of an old guinea pig run with our dog / rabbit / hen / duck cage laid over the top of it to prevent further escapes (very useful that cage has been!). I placed this in our utility room as the boiler in there makes it quite cosy. I put an old towel down on the floor of the run to stop their feet splaying on our tiled floor. I boiled an egg & mashed it up very finely for them, popped a teddy bear in for them to cuddle up to & left them to settle.
They seem to be OK. They are quite active, have drunk some water & have eaten a little food so I think they will be just fine. It's off to Countrywide now to buy some unmedicated chick crumbs & a chick feeder to stop them trampling in their food. I don't think there's much else I can do for them, except hope they will survive their trauma & adapt to their new home. I'm guessing they are mallards - I'll post some pictures when they have settled in a little bit. In the meantime if anyone has any suggestions or advice I'd be very grateful.


  1. This had me glued to my seat! We kept ducks many years ago. Have you looked for the mother? A good time is dusk or dawn, listen out for her calling. Also a broody hen may help out.

  2. Hi! Yes, we looked out for the mother last night when we found them & also have kept an eye out today, but I'll make sure to listen out as well. Thanks for your comment. I'm not sure any of my hens or ducks would take care of them as none of them have been allowed to go broody before. The ducklings do seem to be doing well though. They have eaten all the duck pellets I ground up for them & some mashed boiled egg. Now I have got proper chick crumbs for them, so I'm very hopeful that the little mites will pull through OK even if we can't trace mum. At the moment I'm trying to leave them alone as much as possible until we're sure there isn't a mummy duck about, so that they don't imprint on me. Fingers crossed that this rescue will be a success one way or another.

  3. have they got a heat lamp on them sara? ducklings are more robust than hen chicks but they should have some heat source if possible
    good luck with being mom....I once had 14 ducklings in the kitchen...and very nearly got divorced!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. I see into the future, i see a sign post, i see adverts in papers, i see......yes i see very clearly, SARA'S COMPLETELY QUACKERS DUCK RESCUE CENTER!!