This week was the first (and the last) time Gene has left the farm for over a week. It didn’t take long for things to fall apart, just a few days. It all started on Thursday night. I got home from work to find the biggest duckling, Jack, tipped over on his back in the brooding box. He had been fine when I checked on him in the morning, so I wasn’t too concerned, although the frantically waving webbed feet was the definition of pitiful. I flipped him over, in the process learning that ducks have claws. (Who knew?) He didn’t seem able to remain upright, though, and immediately fell back over. Since my experience dealing with duck medical emergencies is pretty much limited to recognizing which end should be pointed up, I called my own personal animal 911 – my friend Abigail. She works part time at a vet, so it’s basically the same as calling a doctor.
She came over, and together we made the executive decision to check Jack into the hospital, otherwise known as the bathroom tub. We gave him food and water, and lined the tub with towels, since we didn’t want him to bonk his head if he fell over again. We also brought in one of the little Indian Runner Ducks, named Daniels. I thought it would be easier if he had a buddy, since they like to cuddle so much. After two days in the hospital, Jack recovered to the extent that I could put him back in the brooding box today. My guess as to what happened is that he got turned on his back, then struggled so much he got tired out and dehydrated. He just needed a little vacation, and now he’s back to normal. On a side note, the mess that two ducks can make in one bathtub is unreal. UNREAL. I had to take the 15 towels we used (I really didn’t want them to hit their heads, and most falls occur in the bathroom) outside and hose them off, then run them through the sanitation cycle in the washer with tons of bleach. I used our guest towels, since I figured Gene would be vexed that I used towels at all, but at least I didn’t use his. Still, if any of you come to visit and decide to make it BYOT, I won’t be in the least offended. It took me another hour to disinfect the bathtub.
After I finished Lysoling the tub (Lysolitizing?), I went outside to feed the chickens. I noticed that poor Puff Daddy couldn’t put any weight on his right leg, and the other chickens had knocked him over into the mud. Abigail came back over, and we put him in the kitchen sink and hosed him off. He didn’t seem to mind his day at the spa, although seeing his dark blue body shining through his sodden white feathers was a little creepy. So less than an hour after Jack and Daniels were discharged from the hospital, Puff Daddy took up residence. He at least should be a little cleaner, since he’s in a cardboard box with straw, food, and water. He seems quite happy – he was chowing down at his buffet for one the last time I checked on him.
After getting Puff Daddy situated in the hospital box, I went back outside to feed the chickens and change out the waterers. As King Julian went to hop up into the coop, I noticed he was limping. My first thought was entirely selfish – you can’t put two roosters in the same hospital room, so since we only have two bathrooms, that leaves me without a chicken-free shower option. But then I looked more closely at him, and realized he had somehow gotten a string from one of the feed bags wrapped around his feet, like someone had thrown a bolo at him. He actually let me hold him and cut the strings off; I was quite impressed. Once he was roosting contentedly, I resumed my mission to refill everyone’s waterer.
I carefully opened the door to the turkey kennel and successfully snatched the near-empty waterer out before Thanksgiving could decide to chomp on me. I don’t usually let them outside when it’s raining, since their feathers get so muddy, and taking Thanksgiving to the kitchen spa is out of the question. Once I had filled the waterer back up, I was walking up to the kennel when Christmas started furiously flapping. I thought her head was stretched through the gap that rings the door frame so that she could get some spilled food, but no. She was stuck. Like a kid putting his head through a banister. My first thought this time was, OMFG, really? Followed closely by, oh, crap, my wrists are still broken so how am I going to pull the heavy-gauge wire enough for her to get her head back out? Just like Thanksgiving puffs up when he’s fussed, Christmas’s neck was doing the same thing. No matter how I moved her head, it was too swollen to push it back through. I went and got a wooden stick for leverage, and I was finally able to push her head back through. She seemed no worse for the wear – she immediately went to her food bowl and started gobbling down her dinner. Thanksgiving, on the other hand, seemed to think it was my fault his wife got stuck in the door, and he took a chunk out of my leg when I put the waterer in the kennel. It scares me to no end that he can draw blood through denim. Thankfully I got through the rest of the farm chores with no more drama, although I did have a slight limp.
In non-hospital related news, before he left Gene completed work on the Maisson De’ Duck, which is French for duck hut. It’s absolutely palatial in scope, and just what the rescue ducks had hoped for. They opted for a sloped-roof cedar rambler, waterfront, of course, and even commissioned some one-of-a-kind artwork on the front door and porch. It will be more than enough for the four rescue ducks and the five ducklings, as soon as they’re old enough to join them. The roof is hinged, and flips open for easy cleaning. The floor is covered with a thick rubber mat, so they can spill all the water they want and the straw doesn’t get too damp. They’re so happy I even got my first duck egg yesterday! They are in much better spirits, although they don’t seem to have gotten back their waterproofing yet; rain doesn’t run off their feathers like it would with healthy ducks. They’re getting there, though. I think it will just take some time and spoiling.
Since Gene didn’t want the goats to think the ducks were getting all the preferential treatment, he built them a three-bucket feeding station, and hung it from the fence. Since I’m still boarding Abigail’s goats, Jack and Sam, in the hopes of finding love in the air, feeding time at the zoo gets a bit frenzied. With the new bucket system, I can feed them from the other side of the fence, so they can’t knock the scoops out of my hands anymore. Watching them eat reminds me of a raucous game of goat Twister, with heads and legs sticking out of brightly colored circles in every direction.