Duckling Update: A few of you may have known that I found a deeply hypothermic duckling this morning. It had fallen into cold water. While adult ducks are nearly impervious to weather, ducklings are very vulnerable to wet and cold, not having the nearly waterproof feathers and oil of adult ducks. It was so hypothermic that when I found it, I thought it was already dead because itt was stiff as if in rigor. As I was carrying it out to the forest to leave for the scavengers, I saw it barely move an eye. I figured it was just a reflex of a dying nervous system but brought it inside. I had no real hope for it, but I dried it as best I could without injuring its tiny, fragile body, held it between my hands for a few minutes and tried to gently warm it without getting the blood flowing too quickly so that cold wouldn’t rush into its little heart. It partially opened its mouth and I knew it still had a tiny flicker of life left.
I am not an animal rehab expert, and short on ideas, I put it in the incubator which has a few duck eggs in it just now. An hour later, it moved its head. Two hours later, it sat up. But I still had no hope. I’ve seen this happen with chicks and wild songbird hatchlings, and a couple times even people. They seem to be recovering from deep hypothermia then suddenly go into shock and die.
I left it in the incubator until its fur was fully dry, then a couple more hours for good measure. I would have left it longer but an incubator is a potent dehydrator and a duckling can die in as little as six hours without water, so I prepped the brooder where we have some meat chicks by wrapping it in blankets to hold heat and putting on a heat lamp. I put the duck in there with 50 chicks.
The duck went straight to the water and drank a good deal, then to the food and ate a bit, then went to lie down. It seemed to be doing well, but hypothermia is vicious. It always kills just when you think recovery is happening, and I thought for sure it would go into shock and die shortly after.
It is now 15 hours since I found the duckling and it is romping around the brooder with the chicks, feeding and drinking vigorously and it is again well coordinated. If it were going to go into shock, it would be dead by now, I think. I believe this is one lucky duckling and it might live to join our little flock by midsummer.