Note: This post deals with rescued ducks, and mostly with domesticated handicapped ducks.
In the past week, we took in a rescued wild mallard duck from another local rescue group as a “last chance” for this duck. We don’t know his whole story, but we think the public turned him over to the group about 8-weeks-ago after they suspected a car hit him. The rescue group was preparing to euthanize him this week when a caring volunteer felt he deserved another chance and contacted us.
This little duck already had the public, the rescue group and a volunteer caring about him. They all had their hearts in the right place and did their best to do right by this duck. They were planning to euthanize him but gave him one last chance with me. In my opinion, as soon as I laid hands on the duck, I sadly thought he should be euthanized too. I made him a “quality of life” vet appointment as soon as I could, and kept him comfortable until then. The vet would help make the final determination, which as you may know, was to euthanize him.
So how do we make life and death decisions and what are the guidelines? How would someone know when to decide to let a duck live and when to help him die? How do we keep objectivity and perspective when we work so closely to help rescue and rehabilitate animals? This Little Man duck really made me want to find out the answers to those questions.
Strangely there is not a lot of good information online about when to euthanize and why it might be the right time to make that decision. For licensed wildlife rehabilitators, there are good clear guidelines about how to euthanize and how long to give wildlife a chance to recover and be returned to the wild. These guidelines can be helpful but they don’t directly address the question of when to euthanize. These are called “minimum standards” and you can read more about them here: http://www.nwrawildlife.org/content/minimum-standards
Let’s talk briefly about Little Man, the rescued handicapped wild mallard. Why was it important to euthanize him rather than keep him alive? He was injured in a possible car hit that left him unable to use his legs. We also think he suffered a foot injury at that time. As a wild mallard, Little Man was wild. He was skittish and very afraid of people. He did not like to be handled or even approached. In fact, when I’d approach him, he’d flail and fling himself against the sides of his pack-and-play to try and get away. That’s one key sign that it was time to say goodbye. A duck that flails in terror of being handled is not living a quality life. If a duck has a handicap that requires handling and a duck is so fearful of handling that they fling and flail around to avoid care, it’s time to say goodbye.
That guideline alone was a key one for Little Man. Unfortunately, he also had several problems that were probably caused by his skittishness that made his life quality even worse. Little Man had a keel sore that was nearly the entire length of his keel, about 5” long. The keel is the extension of the breastbone in between the middle of the chest muscles that runs down the center of the chest in ducks. Handicapped ducks that spend all their time sitting down are prone to keel sores. Keel sores are very painful.
So for Little Man, there were many reasons to euthanize him and set him free from his broken body. He was a wild duck. He was permanently paralyzed. He could not walk. He couldn’t fly. He had a chronic keel sore. He was terrified of being handled. He used his wings to “wing-walk” but could not get around well enough to feed himself or get in and out of water or shelter. Wing-walking hurt his wing edges. He was emaciated. He had an infected foot wound that ate away the bone. All of that unfortunately adds up to a poor quality of life. While it is never easy to say goodbye, and it is very sad, it is paramount that we prevent suffering at all costs. NOTE: With wild animals, sometimes fear or terror is misinterpreted as a strong will to live, or a fight to survive. The fight or flight response is not the same as a quality life or a joy for living. Joy for living is what you need to look for, not “fight.”
Life is terminal. It may seem obvious but it isn’t talked about enough. We’re all going to die. But we don’t all have to suffer. Suffering in animal rescue must be prevented at all costs. This is the key guideline to follow. The guideline is not “preserve life at all costs” but “prevent suffering at all costs.” Obviously that doesn’t mean euthanize everyone with an injury or handicap, so let’s talk more about quality of life.
The best guidelines I’ve found for euthanizing a cat or dog are to write a list of their 5-10 favorite things to do and then note if they can still do any of them. For a dog that might be eat, go for walks, ride in the car, run off-leash, play fetch and get up on the couch. When a pet can no longer walk or play, we may be able to help them for the short term. When they can no longer eat, that’s a poor quality of life. Pay close attention to the emotion of joy in your pets. Do they take joy in their day? Do they have moments of joy that you can see? Are they engaged with the world around them?
Each handicapped duck has different needs, but here are a few “must haves” for their quality of life.
FEAR. A special-needs duck must not live in fear or terror of being handled. Because they may need help getting around or eating or swimming, they must tolerate or enjoy human interaction. You need to be able to feed, clean, move and interact with your special-needs duck without causing them undue stress or fear. Growling, panting and flailing are all signs of stress and fear. This is one of the key reasons why wildlife rescue almost always means an animal that cannot be released must be euthanized. That’s a difficult reality for some people to accept, but when you see fear and terror in a wild animal, you understand why this is the ethical standard.
BODY CONDITION. A handicapped duck must keep good body condition. Handicapped ducks can have difficulty preening, so they don’t often look as neat and tidy as healthy ducks. But they need to maintain a reasonable weight and not get too thin. They need to have clear eyes and clean nares (nose holes), even if that means you help them. If their nares are chronically clogged or their eyes are constantly draining or runny, they need more help or you need to say goodbye.
KEEL SORES. Handicapped ducks cannot have keel sores. This is critical. Keel sores are very painful. This requires weekly monitoring. A very soft substrate is required to keep duck keels healthy on special-needs ducks. Here we use wood shavings for Danny girl’s nest, about 4-6” of them, packed tightly. When a new rescue is in quarantine, we use pack-and-plays with fleece blankets and towels. If your duck develops a keel sore, treat it and fix it within days, and fix their environment to prevent it from happening again. If the keel sore cannot be resolved in days, it is time to euthanize.
WASTE. Handicapped ducks cannot sit in their own waste. A handicapped duck needs to be able to move well-enough to get themselves out of their own waste. Alternatively, they need enough help from caregivers to prevent urine burns and loss of butt feathers from urine/feces burns. A duck that has missing feathers and raw, red skin from urine or feces burns that cannot be fixed within days needs to be euthanized.
ANKLE/FOOT HEALTH. Special-needs ducks that sit a lot may get ankle/leg/foot sores. This can happen, just like a sore keel. But it needs to be fixed and their environment changed to prevent it from happening again within days.
PAIN. Pain is a tough one. A new rescue in pain should receive vet-prescribed metacam and/or pain medication until they are comfortable. Watch for fluffed feathers, sick-looking eyes and/or shaking. Those are all bad signs of pain. Chronic pain from arthritis is pretty common in older ducks. I have some gimpy rescued ducks with bad joints who limp. My advice is to consider how much joy they have in their lives. If they limp but quack, play, swim, eat, have good body condition and have joy, they’re probably fine. If they can walk but choose not to, they may be in too much pain to have a good quality of life. Soft substrate and easy access to a pool deep enough to hang their legs and float can really help. Warm housing in the winter cold can also help.
YOU. How much time do you have to devote to a handicapped duck? It is a daily commitment, day in and day out. Be realistic with yourself and your limits. Be careful not to take on too much that might result in suffering for animals. A good rule is the 80/20 capacity rule. Take on 80% of what you can handle. Leave 20% room for the unexpected. If you take on 80%, the other 20% often just shows up in emergencies, an illness, unexpected travel, money issues, etc. If you’re maxed out at 100% all the time, you’re headed for burnout. Self-care is critical to animal rescue work. So take care of yourself and know your limits.
There will come a time when you will need to euthanize your handicapped duck. With dogs and cats, I’ve heard people say “you’ll know when it’s time.” I disagree. You may not know when it’s time. It’s difficult to stay objective when you’re so close to the day-to-day life of an animal. When I find myself unsure of a duck’s quality of life, I take them to the vet for a “quality of life evaluation.” A few months ago we euthanized Lester Leroy our rescued handicapped crested Cayuga duck. In his case, I think I waited a little too long. I learned some great tips to prevent this from happening again. Even with a quality of life evaluation, many veterinarians will be hesitant to recommend euthanasia. They want to be agreeable and supportive of their clients. The trick is to call a few days after your appointment is done and ask for your written records. A vet will often put down in writing what they were reluctant to tell you in person. One of the chief complaints of veterinarians is that their clients don’t understand suffering and don’t take action to stop it. Yet they’re often bad at being clear and straightforward about discussing death themselves. Ask questions. Make them be honest. Get your records after the fact. They know suffering when they see it. Find out if they see suffering in your pet or rescue.
Do your best. I have had to euthanize quite a few rescues in my 11+ years of rescue work. Most of the time, thankfully, it has felt right and it has been as easy as a difficult situation can be. Once in a while I feel like I’ve waited too long. Once in a while I feel like I did it a few days too soon. I have been yelled at by strangers who’ve never met my rescues and I’ve been called “the Angel of Death” for my decision to euthanize a rescue. But I wholeheartedly believe that every rescue I have cared for knows that I did my very best.
These guidelines were researched by asking fellow rehabilitators and rescuers how they make these kinds of tough decisions. This blog post will probably evolve over the next week or two as other rescuers or veterinarians weigh in with their experience and expertise. I invite those with direct experience rescuing and making euthanasia decisions to contact me with additions or corrections. We’ll try to keep this post up to date because we haven’t seen anything similar to it online, and we think it’s an important topic to consider. If you’re interested in knowing what the euthanasia process is like, write me a Facebook comment or an email and we’ll cover that in a future blog post.
As rescuers, we do our best. We’ll never be perfect. Accidents happen. Sores develop. Ducks decline or get ill or injured. But we can learn and prevent the same issues from happening again. Our little feathered friends are counting on us to do our best.
Thanks and quacks,
Tiff and the flock
As of June 27, 2015, our current cast of characters includes a motley crew of misfit rescued ducks and one special-needs goose. All of them came to us from different circumstances. Here are their rescue stories.
Frankie was one of two ducklings bought by college students in a feed store. After a day, the kids realized they couldn’t care for ducks, so they planned to release them to a park, which would have been a death sentence. Frankie is a buff orpington duck and his estimated hatch date is March 1, 2015.
Lionel Ernest is a little saxony bantam-like duck who came to us from PAWS in Lynnwood, WA with a severely infected foot. He was dumped at Country Village in Bothel, WA where he was injured after flying into a glass window. We’ve had him since May 2012 and he was fully-grown then, so he’s probably at least 5-years-old. He has a permanent limp from his foot injury.
Ruby Tuesday is a rescued magpie duck. She was found abandoned on the side of the road in Carnation, WA and brought to us in Seattle in December 2012. She was fully grown but likely young, so we estimate she was born in the spring of 2012 and is probably about 3-years-old.
Lulu and Beaker were bought at a feed store and placed in a box on a girl’s porch as a gimmick to ask her to a school dance. After the dance, no one wanted the ducklings or all the work of caring for them and keeping them safe for their long lives. So they came here in spring 2015. Their estimated hatch date is March 19, 2015. Lulu is a rouen duck and Beaker is a pekin duck.
We adopted Petunia Peach from another rescue group in January 2006. She was fully-grown so we estimate her hatch date to be in spring of 2004. That makes her over 11-years-old now. She is a muscovy duck. She was adopted with her friend Phoebe Kay who passed away in fall 2008 of egg yolk peritonitis, an all too common ailment of ducks bred to lay too many eggs.
Benny Greenjeans was dumped at Daybreak, UT where he developed an infected foot injury. He was captured and surrendered to a local veterinarian for treatment. He is a cayuga duck. We adopted him from the veterinarian’s office in January 2015. He has a slight limp from his foot injury.
Penny Pumpkin, aka Juliet, is a rescued embden goose. She was originally dumped at Decker Lake in Salt Lake City, UT then moved to Wheeler Farm park. Overpopulation there forced her to be moved to a sanctuary pond in Orem, UT in 2013. There she was shot in February 2015 by an unknown shooter six times, in an attack that killed over a dozen ducks, geese and coots. Juliet is permanently handicapped from her pellet gun wounds and requires extra protection and care for the rest of her life.
Chester Sugarmont was dumped at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City, UT in the summer of 2014 with at least 6 other domestic ducks. By fall, he was starving. As a dumped domestic pekin duck, Chester couldn’t fly to find good food, and bread handouts from people left him suffering from malnutrition. Starving and covered in louse, he was unable to stand or walk. We simply reached down and picked him and brought him home. With a vet visit, good food and delousing, he recovered in a matter of weeks.
Teddy Crispin was surrendered to our Seattle veterinarian in early 2014. He had a severe leg infection that was left untreated and went systemic, leaving him severely septic. His white blood count was the highest we’ve ever seen in a living duck at 115 (a normal WBC is between 8-13). He was too weak to stand on his own and his infected leg was quite painful. We originally took in Teddy as a foster, but after 4 months of antibiotics to clear up his infection, we decided he should stay. He needed another round of antibiotics when his infection returned, but since then he has been healthy. He’ll always have a limp from the damage done to his untreated leg.
Wheeler and Hopper were dumped as 3-4 week old rouen ducklings at Wheeler Farm park in Salt Lake City, UT. We estimate their hatch date to be April 23, 2015. They would not have survived the night as they were alone, had not yet grown any feathers and were following people and dogs. Raising and releasing domestic ducks at parks or in the wild is both illegal and cruel. Domestic ducks have none of the instincts of wild ducks and are too fat to fly. They cannot avoid predators or find suitable food and water like wild ducks can. Never raise and release domestic ducks.
Little Quack came to us in June 2015 after being found with only one foot at a pond in Herriman, UT. He is a call duck mix. He was being looked after by a family, but they noticed he was having increasing difficulty competing for food and avoiding conflicts with only one foot. We don’t have snapping turtles here, so it’s likely he lost his foot through some other trauma like a fishing line injury.
Lenora Bea came to us from the Seattle Animal Shelter in November 2012. She is a muscovy duck. She was found as a stray and surrendered to the animal shelter. She was fully grown when found, so we estimate her hatch date to be spring of 2011 or earlier. That makes her at least 4-years-old.
Miles is a rescued rouen duck who was treated by South Sound Critter Care in Washington before coming to stay with us in January 2012. He was a dumped duck who developed a severe leg infection before his rescue. After several months of antibiotics his infection was gone, but he is left with a very severe limp from his leg bone being eaten away by infection. He was fully grown when rescued so we estimate his hatch date to be spring 2011 or earlier. That makes him at least 4-years-old.
Danny girl came to us from PAWS in Lynnwood, WA in December 2011. She had eaten a large slug of metal and was dying of lead poisoning and infection. She is an indian runner duck with a hatch date of spring 2011 or earlier. That makes her at least 4-years-old. She is permanently handicapped from her metal poisoning but gets along okay with special care and feeding.
O’Malley Jr. is a rescued mallard duck who was found in an alley as a days-old baby duckling. She came into our care at the same time as Wheeler and Hopper and has bonded with those buddies as well as the other Lulu. When her hormones kicked in after she grew up, she “wilded up” and released herself back to the wild. We will miss her but we’re happy she gets to live the life she was meant to live, in the wild.
Zoe is the companion duck to Frankie. She was one of two ducklings bought by college students in a feed store. After a day, the kids realized they couldn’t care for ducks, so they planned to release them to a park, which would have been a death sentence. Zoe is a super pekin duck and her estimated hatch date is March 1, 2015.
Little Lester Leroy came to us from our veterinarian in Seattle in December 2010. He was fully grown and didn’t seem too young, so my guess is he was maybe born in Spring of 2009.
He was a very scared, sick, handicapped but fierce little guy when he arrived.
He didn’t much care for people, including me. But luckily he liked Flapper. Flapper was in his last few months of life and spent much of his time in the house in a playpen by then, as he was old and had heart failure and arthritis. It limited his activities but he was still a happy guy. And they both liked having a buddy around for company.
When Lester first arrived, his damaged, infected leg was stuck in an odd position, making it difficult for him to sit normally, and impossible to stand. The story we heard was that he was dumped a park, attacked by a dog and kept untreated by a family for a week. When they realized he was dying, they dropped him at the Seattle Animal Shelter. The shelter took him to our vet to be euthanized, but our vet tech thought he might be able to be rehabbed, so they called me.
We did daily physical therapy on his leg, stretching and bending it again and again.
Eventually, it did improve enough that he could stand and hobble around quite a bit.
After Flapper passed away, Lester spent a lot of time near the other ducks, but not with them, for his own protection. He was never able to get in and out of a pool on his own, and could never be left unattended with other ducks. When Danny girl came along, he finally had a companion and a girl to love.
And he sure did love her. He loved to protect her from the other boys and be her bodyguard. He loved to talk with her and listen to all of her chatter.
He loved to play in the pool with her too, even if that did require some help from me. They were a wonderful couple and good companions to each other.
Lester’s quality of life was pretty good most of the time, but now and then he’d have a tough time, and we considered euthanizing him several times over the years.
For me, a handicapped duck needs to be able to get themselves around well enough to get food, water and shelter. Even if getting around isn’t easy, and even if we provide a lot of help and simple set up, they need to be able to move a bit to stay comfortable.
They also need to be kept happy, safe, clean and not develop any pressure sores or other problems. And they need to maintain their weight. All of that is mostly my job, but it’s not always easy.
This January, we took Lessie to the vet for a “quality of life” evaluation. He was making a repetitive stress movement that really left him in an unhappy state, and nothing seemed to help. This was a last chance for him. If we couldn’t get him happy, we wouldn’t want to keep him in a stressed out state for very long.
Thankfully, Lessie improved with medication and a change to his pen, and did well for a few more months. But his ability to move and hobble around was declining more and more. By April, he was unable to move himself to food or shelter on his own. We would set up shelter wherever he was, and move the shelter and food around for him if we found him in a new spot. Unfortunately, in his last days and weeks he could only move backwards, and it frustrated him and left him in tough spots when we weren’t around. He wasn’t happy anymore.
It’s never an easy decision to euthanize a duck, even one as handicapped as Lessie. But in the end his passing was very peaceful and felt “right.” He didn’t struggle at all, he wasn’t stressed and he seemed to understand. He doesn’t much care for car rides, but I kept my hand on him during the last ride to the vet and he was calm and relaxed the whole way.
I figure I spent about 20 minutes every day caring for Lester, for nearly every day in the past 4+ years. That’s about 500 hours spent directly caring for Lester, with many more hours watching him with the rest of the flock. Overall I think he had a good quality of life a great deal of the time, in spite of his handicaps.
Lester was a duck’s duck. A very good and faithful gentleman to his Danny girl. A sweet and independent little guy who didn’t take any gruff. We’re so sorry to see him go, but thankful that we had as much time with him as we did, and that we were able to help him peacefully go when it was time. Much love, little Lester. And safe travels. XOXO
Olly Astro, our rescued australorp hen, came to us in 2010 after being surrendered to our veterinarian in Seattle. She had pneumonia that wasn’t getting better, and her owners were tired of trying. So the vet kept her and treated her for 8 weeks to clear up her infection. Once she was finally feeling better, she came home with us.
When we went to pick Olly up, we found out she made a friend while she was in the vet hospital. Chickens are well known for their good networking skills. So Olly Astro came home along with her friend Janet.
Our only hen at the time was Olivia, who just passed away this past December. Olivia was none too keen on having new lady hens around, and she spent her every waking moment making sure they knew she did not approve of their antics. It was good for her to have a new distraction and hobby, even if her hobby was taunting Olly and Janet.
In time, all three hens became good friends, and Olly actually took top spot in the flock for a while. She got along well with most everyone. While she liked people and their treats, she was never much for being held or petted.
Her favorite thing to do was hunt for bugs while keeping a perfect triangle shape as she dug in the dirt. She was a great, great triangle.
Every chicken has their own sound, and Olly’s sound was “hoppah.” Janet made a “gu gu gu gaaaaah” sound which reminded me of the song “I gotta be meeeee!” And Si Si made a sing-song sound like “Gaboooo” which reminded me of “helloooo.” Olly’s “hoppah” was very matter of fact, kind of quiet and a little serious. There was no sing song to her talk. She was all business.
Olly had a sweet, kind and laid back personality. A little bit quiet but she did make sure she got her share of treats. Over the years she had her share of health problems. In addition to recurring respiratory infections and breathing issues, she got the last egg of the season stuck inside her once, and laid 21 internal yolks the following spring.
She had partial spay surgery in hopes to reduce her reproductive issues, as well as having all the yolks removed. She continued to have issues each spring, but never as bad thankfully.
Our records show she was likely born in July of 2009. That made her 5 years and 7-8 months old. For an egg-laying hen, that’s pretty average or even on the old side a bit. I wish she could have lived to be as old as our bantam Olivia lived, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Last week I noticed she was straining a bit to poop, so I took a good look at her. Her belly felt okay, so I gave her some extra water and watery treats. She continued to have trouble, so we got her into the vet’s office. Unfortunately, her abdomen was so full of reproductive tumors that they were pushing her other systems out of the way, making it difficult to expel waste.
Sometimes with old hens, the vet will let me bring them home and let them pass naturally. But in this case, the vet was very clear to say she recommended euthanasia because waste backup would be very uncomfortable for Olly. We agreed and asked to be with Olly when she was euthanized.
I brought some fresh corn treats for Olly and sat with her in the lobby of the vet clinic while they prepared for her. She was in good spirits and loved her corn treats. She perched on my crossed leg and let me tell her what a wonderful, sweet hen she was… my little hoppah.
Then it was time to give her a sedative and let her go to sleep. She needed two sedatives, but she let me hold her in my arms until she was fast asleep and limp. At that time the vet administered the euthanasia drugs and Olly flapped her wings and was gone.
Olly Astro, in spite of her recurring health troubles, was never any trouble. She was always a sweet, wonderful and beautiful hen. A good kid who enjoyed life and loved to hunt for bugs. She made many friends in her life, and I know they will all miss her.
Rest in peace, my little hoppah triangle. I love you.
Some time around February 6th, an unknown monster began illegally shooting rescued ducks, geese, coots and other shore birds at the community pond where we placed the rescued Sugarhouse Park ducks. The pond was also home to domestic geese relocated from Wheeler Farm as well as a whole group of rescued pekins and more. Residents who feed and care for the rescued flock were devastated to find their beloved rescues dead and injured. Both Orem Police and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are working to find the criminal(s) responsible for this senseless, disgusting tragedy.
As we learned of the tragedy, we went down to the pond to see how we could help. Birds that weren’t killed instantly by airgun pellets have now started to succumb to their injuries. We were able to catch a pekin named Sherman, and pick up a goose named Juliet-Pumpkin. These two are very seriously ill and now in our temporary care.
Sherman duck and Juliet-Pumpkin goose have already racked up $239 in emergency veterinary bills, and tomorrow I expect it could cost another $500+ as Juliet-Pumpkin has surgery to remove SIX pellets from her face, wing, body and knee… and Sherman returns to the vet for a scope to see why he’s not eating.
If you can help support Sherman and Juliet-Pumpkin through their recoveries, we would all be very grateful. We are coordinating their care and recovery, so you can donate via PayPal through us. But please note, we are not a non-profit, so your donation is not tax deductible. Your deduction will go directly to their vet bills though, in its entirety.
You can also donate directly to their veterinarians on Tuesday, February 16th only, from 9am-1pm by calling 1-801-943-3367 and saying you’d like to donate to “Tiffany Young’s care of the duck and goose from the Orem shootings. Dr. Laurel Harris and Dr. Lindsey Woods of Wasatch Exotic Pet Care are treating Sherman duck and Juliet-Pumpkin goose at a great discount. They aren’t billing for their time, just for the cost of supplies, diagnostics and medications. This is a great help to us and we’re so thankful for their generosity.
Thank you for helping us do all we can to help these two surviving individual birds, whose lives matter to so many community members.
This spring, we’ll be handing out packets of healthy duck treats to anyone feeding bread to ducks in the local parks.
The packets will contain cracked corn along with a pamphlet with lots of fun duck info on it, including information on wild v. domestic ducks and suggestions for being good wildlife stewards in public parks.
There’s even a duck diagram and some interesting factoids about ducks.
You can help ducks by making your own packets to distribute in local parks as well. Here’s a .pdf file of the pamphlet to download:
Quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
Olivia hen passed away peacefully in my arms on the morning of December 17, 2014. She was rescued in 2009 and reportedly born in 2001, which made her about 13 years and 8-9 months old. This is the story of her life.
In 2009, we took in Olivia hen, Racquel L’Oreal hen and a handicapped duck named Sunny. We were asked to take in the duck, but we agreed to take the chickens too when we saw their living situation. They were kept safe, but in a hot dark shed. Their caretaker was injured and having difficulty caring for them while recovering.
All three had multiple parasites, and Racquel L’Oreal and Olivia had respiratory infections. Racquel also had a prolapse and GI tract inflammation. They were a mess, but it was Sunny who was worst of all.
Sunny had a badly healed previous injury that left her unable to walk or move well. But her chickens loved and adored her. Here Olivia cleans her face for her.
Sunny broke my heart. In her previous home, she was in a small shed with her two chickens. But at our house, the chickens quickly learned to love the grass and loved to roam around and hunt for bugs. Because Sunny was handicapped and couldn’t walk, she would cry and cry for her chickens to come back to her. She didn’t like them to be away from her side, but they wanted to roam and play. We kept Sunny on pain medication for a while, but unfortunately we decided to euthanize her when her quality of life deteriorated. She couldn’t move well-enough to keep herself fed and watered during the day, and I’d often come home from work and find her stuck in her water dish or in the same spot she’d been in all day long. It was a very sad time.
Racquel and Olivia did well after saying goodbye to their duck friend Sunny, and they stuck close together in the yard.
They both took a liking to Chewy duck, and would hang out with him and Flapper in one side of the aviary while the muscovy ducks shared the other side.
Olivia was a beautiful little chicken with golden-laced feathers. She was a protector to her fuzzy muppet friend Racquel L’Oreal.
Back then, she was a pretty serious little hen, and very business-like. She wasn’t too affectionate for a long time, but she did learn to talk to me for treats. She was a good conversationalist.
When Olivia’s friend Racquel passed away of old age in June 2010, we soon took in two new rescued chickens to keep her company, Janet and Olly Astro.
I thought Olivia would like the company of new friends, but she spent several months threatening them through a fence before she let down her guard.
Olivia eventually learned to tolerate Janet and Olly Astro, as long as they let her be top chicken.
Olivia was over 8-years-old when she came to us, but she still laid an egg every now and then. I could always tell her eggs because they were tiny. Even this past year at age 13 she laid one single egg.
Over the years, Olivia lost her spot as top chicken as new rescued hens came along. Janet passed away, Carol hen and Cindy Buttons came on the scene. For a while the four hens did well together, as long as everyone stayed out of Carol’s way.
As Olivia aged, she let me care for her more and more. One year she ended up with leg mites since she couldn’t perch any longer (she was too old to jump up high). She let me treat her legs and feet after that, and even seemed to enjoy the special care.
Olivia was never particularly affectionate, but she did let me hold her once in a while.
I was a little concerned about how this old girl would make the transition from Seattle to Salt Lake City, but she traveled like a champ.
Olivia liked the new aviary, especially since it has so many places to stay away from Carol.
Olivia’s most recent close friend was Si, our rescued hen who passed away in October. Si and Olivia spent a lot of time together over the summer and really liked each other.
They would sleep and perch together each night.
And Olivia would take care of Si and preen her face. I think Olivia knew that Si was old and would soon pass away. She was always very gentle with her.
In Olivia’s final week, I brought her inside to keep her warm and well-fed. I knew she was slowing down but she was so lively and perky that I thought she might have more time left. On her last evening, she was vigorously eating tortilla treats with me. At 6:20am the next morning she was passing on.
While it is never easy to say goodbye, it is always easier when a rescue lives a good long healthy life and doesn’t suffer. Olivia would want her life to be celebrated, because she was a grand old dame. This New Orleans funeral march seems perfect for her, and I like to imagine her strutting along on her way to whatever is next for her.
Rest in peace, beautiful little Olivia hen. You were a joy and a pleasure to have in our lives and in our aviary. Take care and much love. XOXOX
O’Malley Peepers passed away from old age and lymphoma complications on December 10, 2014 at 9 years, 3 months and 2 days old. He was a wonderful lovable snuggly bitey dinosaur of a duck and I miss him terribly. This is the story of his life.
O’Malley was born on about September 8, 2005 and found alone at a park in Gig Harbor, WA. In his first days of life, he was taken to a wildlife rescue organization called PAWS in Lynnwood, WA where an intake volunteer placed him with all the rescued mallards. The next morning, the staff at PAWS realized he wasn’t a mallard and called me. When I arrived to get him, I reached my hand into the mallard pen and all the baby mallard ducklings ran to the other side, as far away from my hand as they could get. O’Malley ran straight to my hand and sat on it. He was a snuggler from the very first moment we met.
O’Malley came to work with me each day for nearly two months. He seemed a little fragile and I didn’t want to leave him home alone all day while he was a baby duck.
He did really well at the office and got a lot of work done. He was responsible for implementing a “Pet Fridays” policy and also responsible for the company winning an award for “Most pet-friendly workplace in the Northwest.”
When O’Malley was big enough, he joined the other ducks in the yard, though he always remained extremely lovable and snuggly.
He grew so fast and so big that he quickly became the top duck in the yard, and nobody messed with him. He also had a reputation for being a biter, so when the Malley train was coming, everyone got out of his way. Woot woot!
O’Malley liked to snuggle every single day. He would get impatient and cranky if his snuggle time was not a top priority, so I tried to make time for him whenever I could.
If I didn’t make time for him, he would chase me down and bite my ankles until I picked him up and held him. This made it pretty difficult to do chores in the yard like feed the ducks and clean the pools.
But the snuggles made all the bites worthwhile.
There really was no end to the snuggles with O’Malley. And that kept us really close to each other over his 9+ years. To have a duck who chases you down to love you each day is a great gift.
While I miss many things about my boy O’Malley, one of the things I miss the most is his physical presence. The weight of him sitting on my lap and the feel of his head in my hand.
The sound of his huffs and “bup bup bup” and our daily conversations. The smell of his feathers and the warmth of his body. His presence was even larger than his physical self.
He was a giant, sensitive, wonderful personality that I counted on every day. As someone wrote on our Facebook page, “there’s a dinosaur-shaped hole in the universe” now that he’s gone. It’s so true. There’s a hole in my heart now.
O’Malley was loved and adored by me, but also by his girl Petunia. They were a couple for most of his life, even when new girls like Ramona and Lenora came along.
And O’Malley loved Petunia just as much as she loved him. He would sing to her every day.
He was a really good singer and a happy, joyful guy.
We’ve known O’Malley was sick for quite a few months, and he had a large lymphoma tumor removed in May before we left Seattle. So Petunia and Lenora knew he was in decline. I think they knew he was in his last days and they’ve been doing okay since he’s been gone. They stick close to each other for support.
We will remember him for the giant super dinosaur he was. The lovable goof with the giant head crest. The big biter in the yard.
And for me, personally, I will remember him for every snuggle he shared with me. For every time he sat with me and let me hold his head. For every time we chatted and I scratched his chin and pet his face.
There will never be another snugglesaurus like O’Malley Peepers. Rest in peace, giant dinosaur. You were the very best duck. I love you. XOXOX
NOTE: Comments section isn’t working presently, sorry.
Today we took the Sugarhouse ducks to their forever home.
Thanks to everyone who made donations, we were able to write a check to the caretakers for $500 for feed for the ducks and geese at the private pond, as well as pay back ourselves for the fencing and materials bought to rescue the ducks. We also have a reserve that we’ll save ’til spring to make sure the ducks have long-term feed and also a veterinary fund in case one gets a sore leg or whatnot.
The ducks were super happy to be at their new digs. They looked around a little bit and then promptly jumped into the pond. They splashed around quite a bit and then started exploring. Where I’m standing is the caretaker’s yard, the family that owns the entire pond and holds all rights to its use. They are the ones who feed the rescued ducks and geese placed there. These 6 Sugarhouse ducks join 18 rescued geese placed here by Ching Sanctuary and 6 other rescued domestic ducks. The private pond has an island that the ducks and geese can sleep on for protection. And unlike the Sugarhouse park pond that froze over, this private pond is fed by a natural spring that never freezes.
A note about placing ducks:
A private pond with an island for safety and twice-daily feeding is a good setup for park-savvy domestic ducks like these. It is the standard for large-scale sanctuaries and is the preferred setup of many of our rescue friends across the country, from large organizations to small one-person backyard ponds. Unlike my own flock of handicapped, old, limpy ducks and clucks who stay in an aviary, the Sugarhouse ducks are young and in good health. They are extremely skittish around people and would not enjoy a small backyard setup with tiny pools, people and kids. They don’t want to ever be held and they prefer to be away from all people. They are not pets.
In my own past decade of rescuing ducks, I have placed dozens of ducks in all sorts of setups. In the beginning, I looked for single-family homes with predator-proof night enclosures. But year after year, the ducks that did best and survived the longest were the ones who had access to a large body of water, especially if they were also placed with geese. So with three references and an in-person inspection of this private pond, I’m inclined to trust the local sanctuary who helped us find this placement, the other people who helped rescue and place the domestic geese at the pond and the caretaker/owners of the pond. It breaks my heart a little bit every time I rescue a duck and have to place it somewhere other than my own aviary. But I do my very best to find the right placement for every duck or group of ducks. For anyone who disagrees, I invite you to head to your own local park and look for dumped domestic ducks that aren’t doing well. Some can do okay after being dumped in parks. But with winter and ice, there are so many that need your help, and the more rescuers there are, the better.
A very special THANK YOU goes out to everyone who helped rescue these ducks from the ice at Sugarhouse park as well as everyone who made a donation to ensure they will have long-term food support. Also a special thanks to Ching Sanctuary and the private pond owners for offering help in placing these ducks.
Back home at the aviary, Lionel seems a little bored now that he doesn’t have the Sugarhouse ducks to haze any more. But Olivia hen, who had spent many days alone in the garage winter pen, finally came back out into the aviary after the Sugarhouse ducks were gone. (I think they were just a little too much for her in her old age.) Chester, who was the starving, stumbling Sugarhouse park duck we rescued a few weeks before the rest, will stay here with us. His walk has improved but it is not normal, and he seems content with his uncle Teddy.
That’s it for the saga of the Sugarhouse Park ducks. But we’ll post updates and photos about them whenever we can so we can keep up with them in their new space.
Quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
If you remember back a few weeks, we’ve been watching the dumped domestic ducks at Sugarhouse Park to make sure they’re doing okay.
Last weekend, the pond froze over and the park drained the pond so kids wouldn’t play on it and fall through the ice. That left the domestic ducks completely unsafe. With no water to retreat to, they couldn’t avoid off-leash dogs or other predators at the pond. A sure sign they were in danger was that they were the only birds left in the park. All the Canada geese, mallard ducks, gulls and pigeons left when the pond became unsafe. But since domestic dumped ducks can’t fly, they couldn’t move on to a safer spot.
So we organized a duck rescue. We put the word out on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram, and 5-6 ladies showed up to help corral the ducks off the pond. Later, a high-school friend and her kids showed up to help too.
The dumped domestic ducks were scared though, so they retreated to the middle of the ice-covered pond. After a long, cold slog across the pond in 18″ deep grassy, icy sewage, I was able to move them onto land on the far side.
There, the other volunteers used the fencing to create barriers so the domestic ducks could finally be caught. It was quite a team effort and we’re thankful for all the last-minute, early-morning help that arrived to save these ducks.
The foster ducks are here with us for a little bit while we ensure they’re in good health. Thankfully they’re all doing great. So this coming weekend, they will head to their new forever sanctuary.
The rescued Sugarhouse Park ducks will join an established rescued domestic flock at a private pond in Orem, UT. Thanks to the generous offer by Ching Sanctuary, these ducks will get to stay together and live with a rescued flock of 18 domestic rescued geese (from Wheeler Farm) and 6 other domestic rescued ducks.
We’re told the domestic geese are very protective and help the visiting wild mallards raise their babies in the spring. The pond has had rescued domestic ducks and geese since 2005. And since it’s on a natural spring, it never freezes over.
The family pond has a 24/7 owner/caretaker who feeds the geese and ducks twice a day. It’s a beautiful place.
That’s where you come in.
We’d like to send these sweet kids off to their forever sanctuary with a trust fund. It’s not cheap to feed a rescued flock of birds, and we don’t want these Sugarhouse Ducks to be a burden to their forever home. Also, we’d like to reimburse the Ducks and Clucks fund for the cost of all the fencing, rope and other materials needed to catch and save these ducks off the icy pond. The fencing can be re-used again and again, so it’s an investment in future duck rescues.
What do you think? Do you have a few bucks to make sure these kids eat well and live happily ever after in their new home?
Could you help make sure the only thing they have to worry about is doodling in the mud and floating on the pond?
Could you would you?
We appreciate that money is tight for many people, and we appreciate ALL of our friends and followers. But if you can help us help us help the Sugarhouse Park ducks this holiday season, it would mean a lot.
Click here to donate via PayPal or credit card.
(Then click the image of Kozmo that says “For a good Koz!”)
We’ll keep the fundraiser thermometer updated over the next several days. And we’ll keep you posted on the foster duck’s big move!
UPDATE: THE GOAL HAS BEEN MET AND EXCEEDED! NO MORE DONATIONS NEEDED AT THIS TIME. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE!
Thanks and quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock