Today we got a call from our vet’s office, asking if we could foster a duck if they could get him feeling better.
Sometimes when they call I can’t help. But today I could. And I love helping a sick duck, so I asked if I could help treat him right away.
This duck came to the vet with a bad infection that probably started with a scrape on his foot (our own handicapped girl Danny gets the same kind of scrapes on her feet). The scrape got infected and spread system-wide. It’s basically septic arthritis. The duck went home with some antibiotics, but he got much worse, and his family brought him back in to be euthanized.
Specialty vet care can be expensive, but it’s something to expect when you have a special pet. In this case, his family decided they’d rather euthanize him. But the vet didn’t want to do that, so she offered to take the duck and keep him to treat him.
By that time, he was dehydrated, hadn’t been eating and his infection had gone from bad to much worse. A normal white blood cell count (WBC) in a duck is about 10-13 (10,000-13,000). This duck’s infection is at 115 (115,000) which in itself could kill him. So he started intravenous antibiotics and he has thankfully started to improve. He’s now on injectable and oral antibiotics.
Even though he was very sick, it’s tough to euthanize a duck that just has a leg infection that went systemic. It’s not like he had an open belly wound or even broken bones. In the grand scheme of things, an infection is pretty easy to treat, but it can be expensive. A bum leg is no reason to take a life away though, especially when he’s such a young duck (probably less than a year old). So we’re glad the vet convinced his family to give him up.
His name was Crispin, but I thought that name sounded too much like Crispy, and I don’t like food names for pets. So I asked him if I could call him Teddy Crispin instead and he said “bwah.” I’m pretty sure that means yes. He’s a silver appleyard domestic duck.
The vet is paying for all of Teddy’s medication, so we don’t need donations for him. He’s here until he has recovered from his infection, and then we’ll start looking for a forever home for him. He’s not out of the woods yet because his infection is very serious. His white blood count is actually the highest I’ve seen. So keep your fingers and webbed feet crossed for his recovery. He’s in isolation right now, in the dining room pen. Once he’s feeling better he can move outside in his own space near the other ducks, which we think he’ll like.
So let’s welcome foster duck Teddy to Ducks and Clucks and make him feel at home. We’ll keep you posted on how he’s doing on our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/DucksAndClucks.
Quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
P.S. I’m not a vet, so the above description is my lay-person interpretation of what the vet said. Take it with a grain of salt.
If you remember, Si the foster chicken came to us in late November after having survived a raccoon attack that killed her friend. Both she and her friend were rescued after being dumped in a forest, but their pen wasn’t as safe as her rescuers hoped it would be.
So Si came here to recover from her eye infection and minor raccoon bite wounds. She needed to be here 7-10 days for treatment, but we offered to keep her until her pen could be made more secure.
A couple of weeks turned into a month turned into two months and, well… she’s still here.
Her eye is all better, her feathers have grown back in and she’s a happy little hen.
She’s a very friendly, talkative lap hen too.
But her rescuers have changed their mind and decided they aren’t ready to take on the responsibility of chickens right now.
As cute as this little rescued hen is, I was hoping we could give her back so we’d have room here to foster the next bird in need.
She’s been here too long now, and I think another adjustment just wouldn’t be fair to her. She’s become attached to me and is comfortable in her routine. I think we’ll be able to eventually move her in with the other hens, but it is going to take quite a while.
But she’s here for now and likely here to stay.
I haven’t broken the news to Carol yet though, so let’s keep this news between us.
Si is of course a wonderful, lovable and friendly hen. Hopefully we can just get her settled in soon so we can keep a space open for the next bird in need.
We never recommend backyard flocks to anyone because over half of all chicks hatched never make it to their first birthday. Most male chicks are killed at birth, either suffocated or thrown in a grinder. Other chickens are dumped (like Si and her friend), attacked, get sick or are surrendered to shelters after people tire of the work and mess they can be. In the past week alone, the Seattle Animal Shelter has received thirteen hens who need new homes. THIRTEEN OF THEM. Two were left in a donation bin at night, one of them so sick she had to hold a wing out to keep her balance. (The other 11 were left behind when people moved out of a home. They just abandoned a flock of 11 chickens unattended in their vacant yard).
Hens like Si can live to be over a decade old. Our rescued hen Olivia is somewhere north of 13-years-old now and still going strong.
Please do me a favor. Do Si and her chicken friends all a favor and DON’T HATCH CHICKS this year. Tell others to avoid a flock all together, or adopt. There are thousands upon thousands of egg-laying hens available for adoption right now on PetFinder.com. Just enter your zip code and read all about them.
And while it wasn’t what I was expecting, please join me in officially welcoming Si to the family. She’s a wonderful, sweet, darling kid… even if Carol doesn’t agree.
Welcome to the motley crew, Si. Make yourself at home.
This is “Agoostus.” He was dumped at a park in Kent, WA. Some blog friends of ours who rescue pigeons saw him and brought him to me, as he was too friendly and domestic to leave at the park. Agoostus was likely hand-raised, and his nails are even trimmed, so someone obviously cared about him until they threw him away. He is extremely sweet and friendly, and would not have survived at the park.
We are keeping Agoostus until we can transfer him to a forever sanctuary tomorrow. Agoostus is likely young and could live up to 20 years. The care and feeding and housing for 20 years for a goose gets very, very expensive. Could you help us send Agoostus on his way with a little trust fund for his long-term care? His rescuers have already chipped in, and we’re hoping we can raise $500 for him.
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 Agoostus this holiday season, it would mean a lot. Thank you!
We’ll update the total all evening. Thank you!
WE HAVE MET OUR GOAL AND THEN SOME! THANK YOU!!!!! You all are a wonderful community of compassionate people!
Quacks and clucks, and heps!
Tiff and the flock
Okay everybody. It’s Thanksgiving today, so why don’t we go around and share one thing we’re thankful for this season? O’Malley? Why don’t you start.
“I am thankful that my wings grew back!” – Me too, O’Malley
“And I am thankful for a warm nest, and a safe pen. – I’m glad you like it, Petunia
“I am thankful for all of the bugs that have gone into my tummy this year.” – And some cookies too, Lenora
“I am thankful that the contractors are done working in the house. I do not like them!” – Oh I bet you are really thankful for that, Simon
“I am thankful that you give me my very own food bowl, so I don’t have to share with Carol.” – Happy to help, Olivia
“I am thankful for quality face-pet time with my people.” – I am thankful for that too, Carol
“I am thankful for long swims in a fresh pool on a warm day.” – That’s a good one, Danny girl
“I am thankful for the sun that makes the grasses grow, and the rains that make the worms pop up from the ground.” – That’s deep, Olly
“I am thankful that you help me out of jams when I get too angry and bite someone.” – I know you try to be good, Miles
“I am thankful for the kibble you give me when I bop you on the head.” – You’re welcome, Crow crow
“I am thankful for naps in the warm sun on the green grass, and for Ruby.” – That’s sweet, Lionel
“I am thankful for doodling in mud puddles and for my Lionel.” – You two are too cute, Ruby doo
“I am thankful that you help me wash my face sometimes, and scratch my head.” – I’m happy to help, Lester
“And I am thankful for all of my feathered and furry family, and all they teach me about being still and quiet, and listening carefully.” – Silly Human
“So, what are you guys thankful for?”
These two young hens were abandoned in Sammamish, WA and need a safe, happy forever home that will keep them as pets.
They like to forage for bugs and are good friends with each other. Do you have room for these two lovely ladies? Contact Lora at email@example.com if you’re near Sammamish, WA and can provide a safe forever home.
Separately, this little guy is also looking for a safe, forever home.
His name is Mr Rhett Butler. He is a fine upstanding rooster citizen and would happily protect a flock of lovely hens. He would even be an only child if you have a safe forever home.
He’s not too picky, but he would like to be safe and happy. That’s not too much to ask now, is it? If you can help Rhett out, and you’re near West Seattle, WA, contact Anna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
And now for something completely different!
You may know that with all the rescued animals here, I’m vegan. That means for 4+ years now I’ve avoided all animal products as much as possible. (I was also vegetarian for several years before going vegan). But before all that, I used to looove korma. True korma is a sweet/spicy, yogurt-based Indian yellow curry. My favorite korma was from a restaurant in San Francisco called India Clay Oven. I rarely met a korma I didn’t like, but their recipe was my favorite. After missing korma for over a decade, I recently decided to find a good non-vegan korma recipe and try to vegan-ize it.
With 4 versions tried and eaten over the past month, I’m finally confident that this recipe is super tasty. It’s a little simpler than the recipe I started from, so I call it “Otter’s Vegan Korma Curry.” I tried versions with Beyond Meat and Gardein, but in the end, I prefer this combo of mushrooms, cauliflower and tofu. If you try this vegan recipe yourself, please comment and let me know what you think!
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of a garlic bulb, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne/red pepper (for medium; 1/2 tsp for mild, 2 tsp for hot)
2 tsp Indian garam masala
2 tsp Indian ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 pint sliced fresh crimini mushrooms
6 oz super firm tofu
1 chopped tomato
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 15oz (regular size) can coconut milk
1/2 cup cashew nuts or almond slivers
2 cups basmati white rice
Break the cauliflower into small florets and steam or boil until softened but not soggy (12 minutes steamed).
Start the rice. Use basmati rice, preferably from Pakistan. It makes a big difference. Follow directions on package using about 2 cups of rice. It likely takes about 20 minutes.
Using a high-sided pan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic to your olive oil and cook for 1 minute.
Add the spices: turmeric, cayenne, garam masala, cumin, salt, and coriander. Stir for 1 minute.
Add the chopped tomato and ginger, and then the tofu and mushrooms. NOTE: Adjust heat or add a bit more oil to ensure your spices aren’t burning.
Cook until the mushrooms and tofu soak up the spices (2-4 minutes). Add in your steamed cauliflower and cook another 1-2 minutes.
Stir in the entire can of unsweetened coconut milk. Let it all simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Right before serving, add the cashews or almond slivers. NOTE: Without the cayenne, you’ll need more salt. This recipe is a bit undersalted because of the variance in cayenne… adjust to your own taste.
Garnish with a bit of cilantro and serve over basmati rice.
Makes 6-8 servings. Re-heats well in the microwave and is great for freezing.
Cooking time: 25 minutes.
“What’s that, Danny girl? Lionel is being dorky!? I will save you!”
“Now how do I cast a spell again? Oh that’s right… Ducks and clucks and muddy muck. Make Lionel behave like a GOOD duck.“
“Did it work? Is he still being dorky?”
“I’m pretty good at this.”
“Okay, I’m done being a Wizard. Take this off.”
You got it, Lessie. Thanks for playing along and dressing up. You make a GREAT wizard!
Lester dressed up very briefly so we could share a photo with his veterinarian. They’re running a contest and the prize is a free nail trim. Since Lessie is handicapped, he doesn’t walk enough to wear down his nails. So that would be a GREAT prize for him!
HaPpY HaLLoWeEn everyone!
If you haven’t already heard, our foster duckling Francis passed away unexpectedly on Saturday afternoon. Francis started limping on Thursday, went to the vet Friday and died Saturday. We all thought he had a sprained leg, but when he died suddenly, we had his remains necropsied by the vet to determine why he passed.
Francis’ necropsy showed severe kidney and liver disease. The vet said “it didn’t have anything to do with you in any way” which was a relief for us to hear. Unfortunately, Francis never had a chance. The liver damage was so severe that he bled internally, even into his muscles. If he were older, it could be a common problem in ducks called amyloidosis, which is sort of an immune-related disease. However, since Francis was so young (likely only 5 to 6-weeks-old) we’re having tissue samples sent out to a special lab to determine if the liver and kidney damage was caused by a virus or bacteria.
The good news is that it wasn’t caused by another duck picking on him here with us and he didn’t have a sprained leg. He was safe here like we thought he was, and he wasn’t hurt by the other ducks. It’s also good for me, as I don’t have to feel guilty that I should have done more to keep him safe. He was safe. I feel much better about that.
It’s also good that Francis was a feisty, active kid up until Thursday afternoon, and he died two days later. So he was pretty happy and rambunctious right up until his last two days.
The bad news is just that Francis is gone, and there’s nothing that could have been done to save him. We will share the results of the tissue sample analysis when we get that back, but it will likely be quite a while – two weeks or more. It might shed some light on why he was afflicted with kidney and liver disease so young. Hybrid ducks are known to have many problems, so it’s possible it was congenital or genetic. We’ll share when we know more.
I know his death came as a shock to many of the people who followed his short journey with us. It was especially hard for me, because I thought I might have let him down. When his limp was worse Friday morning and I made an appointment for the vet, Francis did something that a few other animals have done with me in the past. He directly asked me for help. I can’t explain it because it’s subtle, but Ramona did it in the past when she had aggressive lymphoma. Ramona, who was normally skittish and mostly ignored me, walked right up to me and stood in front of me asking for help. In her case, I was able to listen and the vet was able to do surgery and treat her with steroids which gave her a few extra months of great life before she succumbed to the lymphoma.
Francis did the same thing. He came to me on Friday morning, and when I picked him up, he melted into me and asked me for help. I knew at that moment that he could be in serious trouble. He was so wild and feisty up until that moment, and then he just made a choice to trust me because he needed help. It breaks my heart that there’s nothing I could do to help him. We took him to the vet, and it seemed that it was probably just a sprain after all. But my gut was in knots. I couldn’t figure out how a sprain could have happened. We chose to treat him with antibiotics just in case, to give him the best chance at a fast recovery. He came home with us and swam in the baby pool and ate.
Less than a day later he was gone.
It is always difficult for me to take in a foster duckling. I don’t have room to keep a new, healthy duckling forever, and yet I get attached and want to make sure I find the safest, best forever home possible, which is never a guarantee that he’ll live a long and happy life. Francis was only with us a little more than a week, but he captured our hearts with his larger-than-life attitude and his bossy, feisty personality. We had big hopes and dreams for him, so it was hard to say goodbye so soon.
Rest in peace, little Francis. We wish we could have done more for you in your short time on Earth, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Lots of love, baby Francis.
P.S. Special thanks to everyone for the good thoughts and condolences on the loss of Francis. I know many of you got attached to him too, and it was a shock to see him go. Thank you for the support.
SPECIAL NOTE: This time of year, through the end of November, is often a very active time for raccoons in the Northwest. Take EXTRA care to keep your flocks safe and do not underestimate raccoons. They can attack any time of day or night, can reach through chicken wire, easily climb over fences and even turn locks and doorknobs. Double check that your flock is secure, and stay safe out there!
“What are you looking at?”
You, furface. Take a hike. You’re not welcome around here.
“Oh? I didn’t realize you were Queen of the Entire Planet, lady. Why don’t you go suck a latte.”
A smart mouth, eh? Well take your smart mouth and your ringed tail and hit the road, jack.
“I’ll think about it.”
Yeah you do that. How about you walk and think at the same time?
“Oh look! I think Mayor McGranola installed another bike lane. You’d better go check it out, hippie.”
I’m not falling for that, raccoon. Seriously, I’m losing my patience now. Get lost.
“You’re kind of a jerk, lady.”
I’m actually super unpredictable and could go bath-salt crazy on you at any moment. So don’t mess with me.
“That’s really messed up.”
“I’m just going to chew through this tarp and eat some grubs underneath and then I’ll go. When I’m ready.”
I don’t think the neighbor would appreciate you chewing through their tarp, raccoon.
“Man, you really have some weird impression that I care what you think, lady. I’m almost done and I’ll leave when I’m ready to leave.”
So that’s the raccoon story for today. The crows alerted me to the raccoon and Ruby did too. Thankfully I was home. The flock is pretty safe in the aviary because it’s covered and hot-wired where a raccoon might try to climb on top. But nothing is fool-proof. This was at 3pm today. A perfectly-healthy raccoon just out foraging for a meal. It’s important to know that they’re around day and night this time of year. So keep it in mind and keep your flock safe.
Quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
The backlash continues to grow against the urban farming trend when it comes to backyard flocks. In recent years, cities across the US have revised land use codes to permit backyard flocks. But now those same cities are seeing an increase in neighbor complaints, dumped and surrendered chickens and even rat infestations.
It’s a complex issue with emotional and political implications including social justice, personal freedom and self-sufficiency. But animal shelters and rescue groups will tell you it’s just gotten out of hand.
I have been rescuing and rehabilitating ducks and clucks for over nine years now. There hasn’t been a single day in that time when I am not at or beyond capacity. I don’t know of any reputable, safe sanctuary in the entire NW that isn’t also at capacity and constantly seeking safe homes for dumped poultry. Not one. It’s becoming a crisis and the animals are suffering.
One of the biggest problems we see when people decide to get backyard chickens is the information available is almost entirely skewed towards the positive aspects of urban flock keeping. Just look at this beautiful spread of chicken coops and accessories by Williams Sonoma:
You know what’s missing from those professionally-photographed and beautifully-styled yuppy urban farms? A LOT. A WHOLE LOT.
Here’s our collage of the reality of many backyard flocks. This is just a few snapshots of what happens every day with backyard flocks. Not quite as romantic and beautiful as the Williams Sonoma catalog, is it?
This collage includes aggressive ducks or roosters that bite children, infected wounds from dumped geese attacked by dogs, chicken $#!t covered in flies, an injured rescued rooster covered in lice, a raccoon bite down to the vertebrae, raccoons, bloody wing from raccoon attack, hawks, $#!t-covered deck and porch, and rats… lots of rats.
So obviously we discourage backyard flocks. You don’t rescue over 100 birds in 9 years and come out thinking backyard flocks are an awesome idea. This isn’t to say that everyone is doing it wrong. But enough people are regretting their choice to get flocks that it’s causing a big problem for shelters and sanctuaries, and way too much unnecessary suffering for the animals caught in the middle.
So here’s our list of tips to seriously consider before ever taking on the commitment of a backyard flock. But honestly? Just don’t do it.
Tip #1: Protecting urban chickens is costly but required. Chicken wire is not predator proof. Hens are extremely vulnerable to predators like hawks, eagles, raccoons and dogs. Raccoons can reach right through chicken wire to eat hens through the wire, and often work in groups. Eagles and hawks don’t pick up hens and fly away with them, they just take a piece. Roomy coops with hardware cloth on all sides, top and bottom can provide safety for urban hens.
Tip #2: Roosters may be illegal where you live. When hatching chicks, what will you do with all the male chicks? There is no local or state agency to help with animal control issues for urban flocks. Resources at local shelters are very slim and most aren’t well-equipped to house poultry or other farm animals. Two roosters will fight and injure each other. Factory farms and hatcheries routinely grind up male baby chicks while they’re still alive. It is difficult to acquire hens without taking part in the cruelty that male chicks face. Ask before you buy, “What happens to the male chicks?”
Tip #3: Hens get sick. What will you do? When a hen is sick, do you know where to go for urgent treatment? It is important to ensure that even backyard hens are free from suffering and neglect. Basic veterinary care for infections, parasites or injuries can start at $80 and run into the hundreds of dollars. Birds are much better than dogs or cats at hiding illness, so it is critical to get them care quickly. Are you prepared to ensure your birds don’t suffer?
Tip #4: Chicken feed attracts rats and chicken droppings attract flies. Cleaning and maintaining urban coops on smaller lots can be difficult and time consuming. Flies and rats bring parasites and illnesses with them that can infect hens and other household pets. Rat populations can easily get out of control and often damage homes.
Tip #5: Hens don’t lay eggs every day. Many urban farmers get hens to ensure their families have humanely-raised, fresh eggs to eat. But hens have natural cycles that change as the seasons change, and sometimes they don’t lay eggs. Laying an egg every day takes a lot of nutrients, especially calcium. Poor nutrition or poor breeding can cause many hens to be prone to reproductive cancers and other maladies like prolapse and egg binding. First-time farmers often need to be reminded that hens are not egg-laying machines and each hen is an individual. Egg-laying hens reach their peak at 18-months but can live more than 10-years.
Tip #6: Hens crow too. While generally not as loud as roosters, hens crow too. Hens cluck in the morning quite early to be let out of their predator-proof nesting areas. In the summer when days are long, the hen crows can begin at 4:15am. Neighbors will tend to think you are illegally keeping roosters if they hear crowing, and may complain. Also, some hens cluck loudly when they lay eggs. It is important to keep in mind if you have close neighbors.
Tip #7: Each hen has a unique personality. While some breeds have specific characteristics, every hen is her own chicken. While they can be charismatic, emotional and interactive, some hens will attack and injure less dominant hens, especially if space or food is limited. Other hens will eat their own eggs. Some will chase other household pets or pluck out their own feathers. They are unique individuals and don’t always get along.
In summary, because hens are easy to hatch and cheap to buy, they are often treated as disposable animals. And hens that no longer lay eggs are considered useless. But when it comes to suffering, all animals are created equal. With proper care and attention, hens can live up to 10+ years. Before becoming responsible for the care and happiness of any living being, do all the research you can, and be wary of anyone who makes urban chicken coops seem simple and easy. It is a years-long commitment with daily, required care.
P.S. If you still still STILL think a backyard flock is for you, ADOPT! Please adopt. Do not buy or hatch while so many healthy, beautiful, loving, friendly birds languish in shelters.