Jules – The Special Duck September 9, 2020

Do you have a “special” member in your flock? You know, that one chicken, duck, goose (or hey, any other member of the flock!) that you nursed and nurtured through thick and thin? The one you count heads for every day to be sure they are still there? Yeah, I thought you might! Today I want to share the story of Jules, my “special” duck. She is just that kind of gal, my baby, my darling, all the kid’s favorite sweetheart… And I almost lost her.

A flock of ducks on grass including Jules, the special duck
Jules, the “special” duck.

The story of Jules, the special duck…

See, Jules was one of 10 ducklings I ordered for this spring. I used to have ducks but sadly lost the flock to predators. So I was really excited about these babies! I ordered two each of the White Crested, Silver Appleyard, Blue & Black Swedish, and Caygua. Seriously, who wouldn’t be excited about ducklings (everyone say awwww…)? Let’s not forget about the eggs perfect for baking the most amazing cakes and breads imaginable?!

Okay, so the ducklings arrived and were great. Shipping was right on schedule. They arrived on day three right to my door (even though I had told the post office to hold them for pick up!). I peeked into the box and got a nibble on my nose for my curiosity! As soon as I pushed the lid back they were all clamoring to get out. It was adorable and of course, I was smitten!

a shipping box of ducks
The baby ducklings are here!!!!

Growing up

The babies grew as expected and by three weeks old I had to move them to a special outdoor brooder in my barn. They loved that, lots more room to play, and our barn cats actually kept them company. Then one day when I went out to sit with my babies I noticed one of the Black Swedish spinning in circles. I could only guess she must have gotten hurt somehow since she had been fine previously. After watching her respond (or not) to things around her I was able to tell she could not see in one eye. There was a little drainage but it was clear, like from an injury. Despite this, she would find the others by sound and follow them to food and water.

All was well enough and Jules grew. Albeit slower than the others and with some leg trouble from spinning in circles so often. They moved to the big pen once they were all feathered in and they loved the free access to bugs and grass.

An unplanned swim…

One morning I went out and found Jules in the rubber container the ducks would swim in. It’s about 12-inches high and Jules had never gotten in it. She couldn’t stand all that well and I never imagined she could climb in!

Jules was soaking wet, feathers water-logged and her back raw from the other ducks pulling at her feathers. She was barely keeping her head above water and shivering horribly. I got her out and dried off then put her in the warm sunshine to recover. Just two hours later when I went to check on her she was covered in horrible, flesh-eating, vicious ants! She had tried to crawl away but her legs were too weak and my heart just broke to think I had left her and she was suffering so.

Feather damage on the back of Jules, the special duck
Jules feather picked back

In an attempt to get the ants to stop biting her, I grabbed a bottle of veggie insecticide typically considered safe and dusted her with it. The ants fell off instantly and she lay there, barely any sign of life left. I admit I was not very hopeful. While crying, I put together a cage for her in one of the rabbit hutches we were no longer using. She would be dry, off the ground, and safe there. I tried to get her to eat some mash, mixing the feed with water, but she wouldn’t, she would barely even drink. I checked on her every couple of hours for days…

Black Swedish duck lays in her coop

Jules the special duck recovers!

About two weeks later when I went out, Jules had moved on her own! She had started eating a little each day but only if I hand fed her. I exercised her legs, moved her, cleaned the soft hay I was using as bedding, everything I could to help her regain feeling. To find she had moved on her own brightened my day and gave me hope.

Jules is feeling a little better!

Another week passed before I went out and, finally, found her standing! She quacked her happiness at seeing me and waggled her precious tail. I made her stay in the hutch a few more days before allowing her to go back with the flock. I was really worried, but she wanted to be with them so badly! When I put her in the rest of the other ducks ignored her but she was happy to just be near them.

Happiness on the green grass

Tonight I went out to put the flock to bed. I counted heads as usual… Jules was missing again. I went out and scoured the pasture calling her name as nearby I heard an owl calling. After some searching I saw a faint black shape in the grasses, a long head popping up out of the grass. It was Jules, taking her half-waddle-turn steps trying to find me in the near dark. I went over and scooped her up and she snuggled into my arms and chuckled at me, telling me she knew I would come looking for her. I admonished her for going so far from the shelter and water and food and carried her home to tuck her and the others in for the night amid the honking of the geese and quacking of the other ducks. As I shut the gate I smiled… my Jules had enjoyed another happy day on the green grass doing what she loved.

Jukes the special duck relaxing on grass
Jules happily relaxes in the grass.

Do you have a special needs duck or chicken in your flock? Comment below to share with us.

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Julia September 9th, 2020

I love Jules’ breast marking – it’s so pretty. And I’m glad she was able to make a good recovery from her early trauma.

Since you mentioned ducks and geese, I wanted to ask: which of the two do you think is more “beginner friendly”? I’ve been planning on getting some waterfowl, but I’ve never kept birds of any kind before, so I want to make sure I’m not inadvertently starting at the expert level. =D

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