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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
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.
Because birds can be so good at hiding symptoms when they’re sick, it’s important to give them regular check-ups to ensure they’re happy and healthy. This is something you can do at home, and it will help you become familiar with what is normal and healthy for your duck or cluck, so you can start to tune in to subtle changes that might indicate a health problem before it gets too serious.
Start with the head and look at both eyes to ensure they are clear and bright. I find it helps if you say “look into my eyes,” but that’s optional. There shouldn’t be any discharge from the eyes, and no foam or debris near the eyes.
Then look at the nares or nostrils of the beak. They should be clear of debris and should not be runny or have other discharge.
In ducks, you can often see clear through to the other side if the nares are clean.
Look at the feathers. They should be in good condition, with minimal breakage or wear. They should be shiny, bright and well kept.
Fluff through the face feathers a bit, and see if you can get a look at the ear. It’s a little further back than I’m showing here, but my other hand was on the camera. This is one good way to see if your birds have feather mites. They’re different in ducks and chickens sometimes, so this is a good way to see them in ducks. I’ve found that you have to especially watch for feather mites in any handicapped birds who spend more time on the ground than usual.
Check the feet for any scuffs, abrasions or cuts. Those can sadly get serious pretty quickly, so it’s important to keep your flock on soft, safe material as much as you can.
If you start to check feet weekly or every other week, you’ll start to get a good sense of what a healthy foot looks like, so you can be aware of any swelling or other changes.
I actually find the camera on a smart phone to be a good way to see feet when the flock doesn’t want to cooperate. With chickens, you’ll want to check all the scales on top of their feet and ankles. Scaly leg mites make these scales push out a bit and get dirt under them. If scales aren’t flat and tight against the foot, you may have scaly leg mites.
Take a look at the chest and belly of your duck or cluck. Feel along both sides of the keel – the hard cartilage that runs down the center of their chest. They should have some muscle on both sides of the keel. When they’re too thin, people say “this keel is sharp.” You’ll start to feel what’s normal if you keep checking. Here, Miles is missing a few belly feathers. That may mean he’s sleeping or napping somewhere that isn’t soft or clean. It’s something we’ll note and try to fix, then check again in two weeks.
Then you’ll want to move to the dark side of the duck or cluck. Take a look at their vent area. It should be clean and dry.
Check out their poo. It can vary with ducks because they swim a lot, but with chickens it should be firm with clearly visible urates (white goo). This example shows a bright green color that you should always watch for – that bright light green is a bad sign. Unfortunately, some foods like corn can make a similar poo color. But if you have a flock, you now need to pay attention to poo.
Chickens do tend to get a bit of poo stuck to their feathers now and then, but it shouldn’t be much. Too much can be a sign of problems.
With chickens, you’ll want to part the feathers near the vent and check for lice and mites.
Do this exam at least twice a month and you’ll start to learn the basic normal health status of each member of your flock. Then you are much more prepared to notice changes before they become serious problems. If you have an easy way to weigh your bird, that is also a great way to tell they’re eating consistently and feeling well. Once you’re done, pat the bird on the head and say “good birdie.” That’s it!
Here are a few links to further information on fun stuff like chicken parasites and illnesses.
Identifying chicken mites and lice: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/poultry-lice-and-mites-identification.html
Basic head exam for a parrot – helpful in showing how to find ears:
PDF chart of a basic bird exam for a cockatiel. Good details on what to watch for, including poo:
Lastly, here are some of the supplies I keep on hand to check feet, treat tiny scrapes if they’re caught early, and to treat any feather mites, lice or scaly leg mites.
To check feet, sometimes I need to wash them. So I fill this tub with luke warm water and a drop or two of Dawn dishwashing detergent. Only Dawn. I use an old toothbrush to gently scrub off any dirt and then check the feet and ankles of the flock. The spray bottle has a very dilluted antibacterial spray called chlorhexidine. Always dillute it until it’s a very light blue. I also have nolvalsan antibacterial cream. Apparently it’s no longer available commercially but I get mine from our veterinarian. For any mites or lice, I use Happy Jack’s flea & tick powder. It’s what my vet uses too. You’ll want to wear gloves when applying it liberally to your bird. And it needs to be re-applied in 10-14 days to kill any eggs that hatch after the first application. You sprinkle it on the back, belly and under the wings and then rub it in. Birds will not like you after that, so you’d better bring treats.
That’s the basic duck and cluck exam we do here, much to the irritation of the flock. But it helps to keep them healthy and happy, and with regular exams, they also get easier to handle.
Quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
At least once a week, we get asked to provide veterinary advice on an injured or sick duck. Let me use a people example to illustrate why we advise people to never ask for veterinary advice online. Here’s a post my friend made on Facebook about her ear infection…
“I need tried-and-true home remedies to relieve the pain from an ear infection. I tried the numbing drops, but they aren’t working.”
And here is a partial list of the remedies she received:
A drop of olive oil and a heating pad
DoTerra essential oils
Basil or Melaluca on a cotton ball and insert it in the ear
Lavendar oil and/or warm garlic oil
Heating pad and Tylenol
Advil and Mucinex
A few drops of an onion
Real Sudafed (my suggestion to her)
Nasacort or Nasonex
Warm wet wash cloth
Stick a slice of onion in your ear
Cotton with vapor rub
Whew! Now, how confident are you in all of those suggestions? What do we really know about her ear, how it got infected, what other medications she is taking, what other symptoms she may have or whether or not she’s already tried some remedies?
This is pretty similar to the quality of feedback you’ll get online if you ask what’s wrong with your pet duck (or chicken). If you have a duck and your duck gets sick or injured, and you don’t know too much about ducks, how well are you really describing your duck’s symptoms? The only responsible diagnosis is made from a qualified avian veterinarian using diagnostic tests like blood work and/or x-rays. This is an in-person exam and real test results. Anything other than that is a guess. And because it’s a guess, it could potentially do much more harm than good. People are very eager to offer help, too. But the potential for harm is just too great. So please be cautious and think twice about asking for advice online for your sick or injured pet.
That said, there are a few very common problems we see in young ducks and clucks. We wrote up a synopsis years ago about some of them, which you can find on the Duck Rescue Network website:
In addition to what’s posted there, I’ll also note that we see a ton of reproductive issues with young ducks and chickens. Egg-related problems are far too common in birds domesticated to lay too many eggs. Reproductive cancers can occur before the first year even, and peritonitis, yolk coelomitis and egg binding are extremely common. Another egg-related problem is prolapse. That’s where part of the inside of the duck or chicken is exposed through the vent. This can also happen to drakes who mate too much or injure their phallus. They end up with prolapse that will result in infection, necrotic tissue and death if not treated promptly.
Ducks also get respiratory infections or other infections that often can be cleared up very easily with 10-days of the correct antibiotic. But it’s important to know what kind of infection you’re dealing with, so the treatment can be effective.
Lastly, birds are very good at hiding illness. Sometimes you’ll never know they’re sick until it’s too late. It’s part of what being a prey species is all about. You have to appear healthy at all times to remain safe. So by the time you notice symptoms, you may be dealing with a very serious situation. Here are some common symptoms of a sick or injured duck or chicken:
Keeping to themselves
Puffed up feathers
Off in a corner alone
Change in activity or routine
Poop stuck to the vent
Diarrhea or differently-colored poop (unless they just drank a lot of water)
Ragged, poorly-preened feathers
I wish we could provide simple, free answers for people with sick or injured ducks and chickens, but it just wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do. Hopefully the information here will be helpful for knowing what types of problems to look for, so you can catch them before they’re too serious. We’ll also post a “check-up” check list soon on how to monitor the health of your duck or cluck before they have a problem.
Oh! And if you need help finding an avian-certified veterinarian, try this website:
As always, quacks and clucks from the flock.