It started out like a nice easygoing day. I was in the house reading a book on the couch with the cats all around me, all snoozing contentedly. I became aware that some of the ducks and geese had come back up from the pond to the duck house, situated right across from the house, as the geese were squawking their arrival as they normally do. However, something was different; the geese continued to squawk for several minutes as opposed to the usual few they normally belt out. I was concerned that a dog or fox was roaming about, so I went through the gate and out to the duck yard to see what was bothering the geese. Nothing looked unusual until I was closer to the duck house. That is when I noticed one of my Ancona ducks (Cocoa) was all by herself and was sitting with her head down and not moving when I approached. Much to my horror, I also noticed she was bleeding from two wounds on her pretty white neck. One at the back of her head that was about a half inch long and looked like a tear and the other one was about 1 1/2 inches long and looked like a tear as well.
After thanking the geese for being so vocal, I picked Cocoa up and rushed her to the house. The geese and ducks immediately went back to the pond. In the house, I grabbed a dishtowel on the way to the garage to get a bigger towel. I needed to examine her wounds and figure out whether or not Cocoa was going to live through this trauma. My heart was really racing at this point, as I feared that Cocoa’s injuries were going to be fatal. I placed Cocoa on some towels on the dinner table, where I could better see her wounds and began applying pressure to stop the bleeding on both wounds. After several minutes, I noticed that there were no more active bleeding spots, which was very encouraging since I did not want this little girl to die.
Now that I had the bleeding stopped, I needed to get the clumps of clotted blood off her so I could examine her further and decide how I was going to fix this mess. Since Cocoa was being such a good patient, I took her outside to the front of the house and used the garden hose to rinse the wound areas clean of clots. After getting that done I saw to my relief that only the skin had been torn and no muscle tissue was damaged on her neck, whew!!! Her beak had a crushing type injury so It was then I figured that she most likely had been attacked by a snapping turtle on the pond. Poor girl! I was also able to examine her left eye at that time and found that the injury she sustained to her eye last winter has caused her to become blind in that eye.
Now what do I do? I knew she needed stitches but on Memorial Day I was not about to call a veterinarian to stitch her up. That would be entirely too costly. Having read numerous articles written by homesteaders that do their own first aide on their animals, including stitching up skin tears, I decided that perhaps I could do the same thing. However, I would need to wait until my husband got home from work. Unfortunately, as bad luck would have it, he was being held over for several hours into the evening.
In the meantime, I got Cocoa cleaned up and applied globs of Antibiotic ointment to her wounds. Then I fixed a nice straw nest in a fenced area in the barn for her with food and water that included electrolytes for ducks. Next, I went online to find out any information about stitching up Cocoa. I discovered several sites that have complete instructions on how to stitch up wounds, Yeah! I used to work as a dental assistant so I’ve seen a lot of stitches, but I needed a refresher since that was a long time ago. I also found some articles related to duck injuries which reminded me that since a ducks normal body temperature is around 107 degrees, infection shouldn’t be a big concern, as bacteria do not like temperatures that high. Another Yeah!!!
Next, I gathered my materials needed to stitch up Cocoa. A common needle from my sewing kit, good and strong poly / cotton thread in a dark color since her neck is white, hemostats and bandage scissors from my first aid kit. I cut a few lengths of thread about 12 inches long and boiled them for 10 minutes to disinfect them. I then scrubbed my hemostats and scissors with soap and water, and then boiled them for the same amount of time to disinfect those as well. I got the thread out of the water after 10 minutes and placed them on a paper towel, wrapped them in another paper towel and placed those in a zip lock bag. The scissors and hemostats went into another zip lock bag.
When Bill got home, I gathered all the materials I needed and Bill and I headed to the barn to fix up little Cocoa. She was still being pretty cooperative and we saw that she had been attempting to eat and she had been drinking her water with electrolytes – a very good sign. With Bill holding her in a towel, I began by using scissors to trim away as many feathers as I could since I don’t have any clippers. I also had to pluck some feathers but Cocoa didn’t seem to mind. Then I used the information I found online, cleaned up the wound again and began stitching her up. Bill was a bit squeamish about this part and we had to take a break so he could regain his composure, LOL!!! She got 3 stitches on the longer skin tear at the base of her neck which seemed to be enough, and I left the smaller one at the back of her head without stitching as it looked like a puncture wound that may need to drain.
I was then able to get a better look at her beak. It was definitely a crushing type injury on the top with a tiny little tear. Those snapping turtles are brutal! Cocoa’s nostrils were clogged with blood so she was breathing through her mouth. I was not able to clean them out but I knew, in time, she would be able to using the bucket she has for drinking water. All her wounds got a generous glob of antibiotic ointment, more to keep the flies off her wounds than anything else. Last, I gave her a nice Reiki treatment and we put her back in her recovery area.
The next morning we found that Cocoa was still with us. She had been drinking and had eaten a little from her food bowl, Woo hoo!!! We spent the next week, twice a day, cleaning her wounds with Betadine, using the antibiotic ointment to keep the flies off and giving her Reiki treatments. After a couple of days Cocoa was finally able to get one side of her nose cleaned out in her water bucket and she was breathing more normally again. Funny, she was still laying eggs during her healing period. I told her she needed to conserve her energy, but she didn’t listen. By the way, It took about a week before Cocoa was able to get the other nostril cleaned out and I was so happy to see that!!! Both nostrils looked just fine when they were cleared.
Two days into Cocoa’s recovery, I was concerned that Cocoa could become estranged from her little pod of ducks so we set up a small area with fencing in the duck house that would allow her to be in the company of her fellow ducks during her recovery period. That really seemed to perk her up and she began eating even more. She was even attempting to squawk through her painful beak!!!
After 7 days, we took the stitches out and her wounds looked great with only some residual redness and the lack of feathers of course. For a few days after removing the stitches, we continued to treat with the antibiotic ointment, just for good measure. We also kept Cocoa from other ducks for several more days because when they breed the drake grabs a hold of the ducks neck right where her injuries were.
Cocoa had the whole duck yard to herself during her recovery period until I felt she was ready to mingle again. It was so sweet to see that Cocoa’s pod of ducks stayed nearby during her recovery. When that time came, her pod came into the duck yard and treated Cocoa no different than if she had never been attacked, and they immediately resumed their normal activities. Since her injury, Cocoa has become faster on her legs and now outruns most of the drakes. It’s nice to see that her own drake is very protective and does not allow the other drakes to come near her. It’s normal behavior, but still nice since an aggressive drake could have re-injured those wound sites. Today, Cocoa is a happy and healthy Ancona duck. She’s blind in one eye from a past injury but she lived through her encounter with that snapping turtle. It is definitely a ducks life at the Patchwork Prairie.
Cocoa with her pod. She's the Brown and white one in front. The others are Miloe the Rouen drake, Maggie the Black and White Ancona and Tawney the Runner.