Day 197 of 365
Today, I was giving the heels from Ron’s homemade bread to the ducks. It’s true that you don’t want to feed ducks too much bread, but this is whole grain bread. I have seen it help heal an injured duck who wouldn’t eat anything else, so I keep giving them whole grain bread as a snack sometimes. Plus, they love it.
I have noticed, however, that one of our ducks seems to have vision issues, and this breaks my heart. It’s Anna Maria, and she has a very special story. I have been meaning to write it for some time. Today, after watching her struggle, I decided to tell her story.
I met Anna Maria shortly after my Poe died. A farmer friend had a female duck who had been over-mated pretty badly. The duck had nearly died, but they were able to save her. When my farmer friend asked me about rehabilitating the duck, she told me the duck was set to be picked up by someone who culls. If I thought she was too much for me, I could pass.
Culling is a reality for badly injured animals. It’s better than suffering. One time, my Broody Hen was so sick, I thought we might have to cull her. Ron had taken our son to orchestra, and her little head was so swollen. I was Googling the most humane way to cull a chicken. Sever the spinal cord. Quickly. I read about the broomstick method. I decided to give her just one more round of meds and a few more hours. The swelling went down a little, and Broody Hen would live three more years. I tell that story just to say that I have no judgment for my farmer friend considering culling. It’s a reality of farming.
My friend told me the duck’s name was Anna Maria, and before I even met her, I wanted to save her. It felt like it was meant to be. I had just rehabilitated one of our ducks who broke her leg on the ice–Anna Sophia.
But then I met Anna Maria. She looked terrible. She had no feathers on her neck, and her skin was rough, kind of scaly. Her skull had been showing before I met her, but her skin had grown back over her skull by the time I saw her–but just barely. Her skin on her skull was so tight that her eyes were pulled back. She had a sinus infection and bubbly eyes.
I was a little scared. I didn’t know if I could handle it, but when I reached down to talk her her, she just came to me. This is HUGE for a duck, especially an Indian Runner duck. They are skittish ducks. But she just came to me, and then I held her the whole time I was at my friend’s farm. She just leaned into me, so calmly. She let me pet her little scaly head. I couldn’t believe it. It was like some kind of miracle. It was like she knew I was there to save her. What could I do but try? It was like something out of a movie.
Little did I know Anna Maria was setting me up. Of course, I am so glad she did, but the first few weeks Anna Maria came home with me, I was exhausted. Her sinus infection had to be treated. She needed medicine. She also needed soaks to help her skin. And she wouldn’t eat the things our other ducks loved. She was wild, out of control. I could calm her down with classical music but not like with our other ducks. The music just kind of took the edge off. And, oh my goodness, her edge was sharp. She attacked me. She bit me–a lot. I was covered in bruises. And she would run from me when it was time for medicine or soaks. I had to dive to catch her. I was middle aged. It was not easy.
But, somehow, over time, she started to heal. Her eyes were no longer tight, but it would be months before she was strong enough to be put with our flock. Our male duck would try to mate with her, and she had to be strong enough to handle it. Ron built her a little shed and a fenced area next to our ducks. Every day, during the day, she could hang out with them through the fence, but she was protected from our male, Antonio.
One of the things that I noticed about Anna Maria during that time was that she didn’t get into the little duck pool I had for her. Our ducks love the water, so it was confusing to me that she didn’t want to get into the water, but she didn’t. How was that possible for a duck?
One day, I decided to start putting one or two of our females in the fenced area with Anna Maria, so she could start to make friends and not be so lonely. I saw her watching as the other ducks would get into the pool and splash around, but she never got in.
And, then one afternoon, the sun was setting and I looked out the back window just in time to see Anna Maria get into the pool all by herself. I watched in awe as she splashed and splashed. Ducks make a move in the water where they put their heads in and then raise up, and the water runs down their backs. As Anna Maria made these moves, I watched the water droplets glisten in the sunlight. They looked golden, and Anna Maria looked magical. She had healed. It was breathtaking watching her enjoy herself for the first time I had ever seen, maybe the first time in her whole life.
Fairly soon, she was able to move in with the rest of the flock. It was stressful at first, but she handled being mated. And, since we have just one male for six ducks, he moved on. She was in the flock, in the club, and she had good home where she had lots of space, a kiddie pool, and peas every night before bed. Oh, and whole grain bread snacks.
Anna Maria is now the favorite duck. Ron adores her, and she loves Ron. She will come running when he calls for her and quack and quack while she talks with him. She still holds a bit of a grudge against me for all that medicine, but it’s not too bad. She will come to me for treats and knows how to tell me what she wants.
I learned a tremendous life lesson from that duck. I learned about loving others on their own terms, not mine. It was a lesson I was going to need very soon as a mother. I like to think that Anna Maria came into my life to teach me that lesson. Hopefully, I have been as good for her as she has been for me.
I am heartbroken that she is having such terrible vision issues. Ron and I started to suspect she wasn’t able to see very well this summer, but today, when I threw the bread snacks right in front of her, she couldn’t find them. In about 20 pieces of bread I threw at her feet, she got one. I just wanted to hug her. Of course, she would hate that.
I looked it up today, and apparently over mating can lead to vision issues. I couldn’t find anything related to long-term vision issues and blindness, but it makes sense that the damage could cause problems later in life. She does well getting around and knows where the peas are. Hopefully, that beautiful duck who has been through so much, even if blind, can have a long, wonderful life.