photo taken October 30,2012
Things have been going pretty good for Lucky....today he joined the herd! Here's a little run down on how it's been going...
The first thing I did was put Lucky in his own section where the other ducks couldn't get near him. I made sure he had food and water. If I came near him he would become agitated and try to flutter away (he was using one leg and his wings to get around), so I backed off and just kept an eye on him from my bedroom window. I thought I was doing all the right things...that he was just holed up, not moving around much and healing, but I could tell he was getting weaker. Then I saw him struggle and use his beak and wings to pull himself over to the food bins and eat the crumbs that had fallen to the ground. He did not know there was food in the bins attached to the wall. I felt so bad, and ran out and put a container of food on the floor where he had been eating crumbs. Back inside from my window again I saw him flutter over to the food container and start gorging himself! But he wasn't drinking. That's when I realized he didn't know where the water was! I know that when you get a baby duck the first thing you need to do is dip their beak in the water so they will know where the water it is, but I figured he was old enough to "smell" the water or something and know it was there....apparently not! So I ran out and moved the water closer to the food and then caught him and dipped his beak in the water a few times. Back at my bedroom window I watched him drink and drink and drink. He didn't move away from the food or water all day. WOW! I'm so glad I caught that in time! He went about 48 hour without food or water. No wonder he was getting weaker.
After that Lucky seemed to get stronger, but he still wasn't moving around as well as I though he should, so I caught him and put him in the pool while the other ducks were out in the yard. A little water aerobics are good for anyone! He liked it, but I didn't leave him in there for long. He seemed "wetter" than he should be. Ducklings that are hatched by a mother duck naturally get oil all over their feathers from the mother. They don't start producing oil on their own for about 6-7 weeks, so if a motherless duckling gets in the water it gets too wet....and it is November! So for a couple of days I would catch him and put him in the pool area for a half an hour or so and if he had enough he would crawl off to the side, out of the water. I would then catch him and put him back in his section. After just a day or two of this he really got stronger and was spending more time in the water and even starting to preen himself.
The next step was to open his door and then "drive" him into the pool area on his own. (Ducks are always a little confused the first time they do this and just want back into their "safe" zone.) Once he was in the water he was fine, and then when it was time to go back I "drove" him back and locked him back in. From that day on all I had to do was open the door and back off and he went to the pool himself. I was letting him in the pool longer and longer and then one day I opened the door to the outside world and he saw me do it and bolted right out! Normally ducks take a couple of days to work up the nerve to venture out the door so I was really surprised! Well, right away some of the females started to slowly chase him and he ended up down by the road by himself in the natural pond. I didn't really like the situation so I went down and "drove" him back up to the hutch. He was limping pretty bad and it seemed like he was getting really tired by the time we got up to the hutch but he squirted past the door to go down to the road again, so I had to make a lunge for him and catch him. Poor guy, what a work out! I didn't let him out for a couple of days after that and he started doing a little pacing and staring at the herd like he wanted out, so....
Today I opened the door to the outside world and then let him into the pool. He didn't notice that the door was open but after an hour or so the herd saw that it was open and went in with him!!! and then chased him out!! Now he was outside and the herd came out too. There was a little pecking and a little chasing, but that is inevitable no matter how long you wait to introduce them. He seemed to be handling it okay. I kept an eye on him all day and they got along better and better as the day went by. Eventually I could hardly tell which one was him. Especially if I went outside. When there is a" threat" they all band together in a tight cohesive group no matter what their differences are until the threat is gone. So when I am outside they get along fine, but when I am inside they do their "hen-pecking".
The last obstacle I was worried about was whether or not he would be in the hutch with the rest of the herd tonight when I went out after dark to feed them. See, ordinarily they put themselves in the hutch once it is dark and then when I come out they are all in the pool quacking for me to feed them. A duck that is new will sometimes refuse to go in at night because they don't know what to do or the rest of the herd is mean to them and they feel trapped or just because they don't want to. It is not fun to chase them around in the dark. You can't hardly catch them with your hands and if they don't want to go in they just won't go in! Sometimes I have to line up buckets for walls to funnel them in! Well, I was very relieved to see them all in the pool together just as happy as clams!
I hope he has a good night. I hope the other ducks don't peck him all night. There really is nothing I can do about it other than go out and get them all stirred up and catch him and put him back in the safe zone. But, he has to work it out on his own. When you separate one duck from the herd the herd sees him as strange and he becomes a target when they are all put back together. So.....wish him luck!
Good luck, Lucky!