Because birds can be so good at hiding symptoms when they’re sick, it’s important to give them regular check-ups to ensure they’re happy and healthy. This is something you can do at home, and it will help you become familiar with what is normal and healthy for your duck or cluck, so you can start to tune in to subtle changes that might indicate a health problem before it gets too serious.
Start with the head and look at both eyes to ensure they are clear and bright. I find it helps if you say “look into my eyes,” but that’s optional. There shouldn’t be any discharge from the eyes, and no foam or debris near the eyes.
Then look at the nares or nostrils of the beak. They should be clear of debris and should not be runny or have other discharge.
In ducks, you can often see clear through to the other side if the nares are clean.
Look at the feathers. They should be in good condition, with minimal breakage or wear. They should be shiny, bright and well kept.
Fluff through the face feathers a bit, and see if you can get a look at the ear. It’s a little further back than I’m showing here, but my other hand was on the camera. This is one good way to see if your birds have feather mites. They’re different in ducks and chickens sometimes, so this is a good way to see them in ducks. I’ve found that you have to especially watch for feather mites in any handicapped birds who spend more time on the ground than usual.
Check the feet for any scuffs, abrasions or cuts. Those can sadly get serious pretty quickly, so it’s important to keep your flock on soft, safe material as much as you can.
If you start to check feet weekly or every other week, you’ll start to get a good sense of what a healthy foot looks like, so you can be aware of any swelling or other changes.
I actually find the camera on a smart phone to be a good way to see feet when the flock doesn’t want to cooperate. With chickens, you’ll want to check all the scales on top of their feet and ankles. Scaly leg mites make these scales push out a bit and get dirt under them. If scales aren’t flat and tight against the foot, you may have scaly leg mites.
Take a look at the chest and belly of your duck or cluck. Feel along both sides of the keel – the hard cartilage that runs down the center of their chest. They should have some muscle on both sides of the keel. When they’re too thin, people say “this keel is sharp.” You’ll start to feel what’s normal if you keep checking. Here, Miles is missing a few belly feathers. That may mean he’s sleeping or napping somewhere that isn’t soft or clean. It’s something we’ll note and try to fix, then check again in two weeks.
Then you’ll want to move to the dark side of the duck or cluck. Take a look at their vent area. It should be clean and dry.
Check out their poo. It can vary with ducks because they swim a lot, but with chickens it should be firm with clearly visible urates (white goo). This example shows a bright green color that you should always watch for – that bright light green is a bad sign. Unfortunately, some foods like corn can make a similar poo color. But if you have a flock, you now need to pay attention to poo.
Chickens do tend to get a bit of poo stuck to their feathers now and then, but it shouldn’t be much. Too much can be a sign of problems.
With chickens, you’ll want to part the feathers near the vent and check for lice and mites.
Do this exam at least twice a month and you’ll start to learn the basic normal health status of each member of your flock. Then you are much more prepared to notice changes before they become serious problems. If you have an easy way to weigh your bird, that is also a great way to tell they’re eating consistently and feeling well. Once you’re done, pat the bird on the head and say “good birdie.” That’s it!
Here are a few links to further information on fun stuff like chicken parasites and illnesses.
Identifying chicken mites and lice: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/08/poultry-lice-and-mites-identification.html
Basic head exam for a parrot – helpful in showing how to find ears:
PDF chart of a basic bird exam for a cockatiel. Good details on what to watch for, including poo:
Lastly, here are some of the supplies I keep on hand to check feet, treat tiny scrapes if they’re caught early, and to treat any feather mites, lice or scaly leg mites.
To check feet, sometimes I need to wash them. So I fill this tub with luke warm water and a drop or two of Dawn dishwashing detergent. Only Dawn. I use an old toothbrush to gently scrub off any dirt and then check the feet and ankles of the flock. The spray bottle has a very dilluted antibacterial spray called chlorhexidine. Always dillute it until it’s a very light blue. I also have nolvalsan antibacterial cream. Apparently it’s no longer available commercially but I get mine from our veterinarian. For any mites or lice, I use Happy Jack’s flea & tick powder. It’s what my vet uses too. You’ll want to wear gloves when applying it liberally to your bird. And it needs to be re-applied in 10-14 days to kill any eggs that hatch after the first application. You sprinkle it on the back, belly and under the wings and then rub it in. Birds will not like you after that, so you’d better bring treats.
That’s the basic duck and cluck exam we do here, much to the irritation of the flock. But it helps to keep them healthy and happy, and with regular exams, they also get easier to handle.
Quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
At least once a week, we get asked to provide veterinary advice on an injured or sick duck. Let me use a people example to illustrate why we advise people to never ask for veterinary advice online. Here’s a post my friend made on Facebook about her ear infection…
“I need tried-and-true home remedies to relieve the pain from an ear infection. I tried the numbing drops, but they aren’t working.”
And here is a partial list of the remedies she received:
A drop of olive oil and a heating pad
DoTerra essential oils
Basil or Melaluca on a cotton ball and insert it in the ear
Lavendar oil and/or warm garlic oil
Heating pad and Tylenol
Advil and Mucinex
A few drops of an onion
Real Sudafed (my suggestion to her)
Nasacort or Nasonex
Warm wet wash cloth
Stick a slice of onion in your ear
Cotton with vapor rub
Whew! Now, how confident are you in all of those suggestions? What do we really know about her ear, how it got infected, what other medications she is taking, what other symptoms she may have or whether or not she’s already tried some remedies?
This is pretty similar to the quality of feedback you’ll get online if you ask what’s wrong with your pet duck (or chicken). If you have a duck and your duck gets sick or injured, and you don’t know too much about ducks, how well are you really describing your duck’s symptoms? The only responsible diagnosis is made from a qualified avian veterinarian using diagnostic tests like blood work and/or x-rays. This is an in-person exam and real test results. Anything other than that is a guess. And because it’s a guess, it could potentially do much more harm than good. People are very eager to offer help, too. But the potential for harm is just too great. So please be cautious and think twice about asking for advice online for your sick or injured pet.
That said, there are a few very common problems we see in young ducks and clucks. We wrote up a synopsis years ago about some of them, which you can find on the Duck Rescue Network website:
In addition to what’s posted there, I’ll also note that we see a ton of reproductive issues with young ducks and chickens. Egg-related problems are far too common in birds domesticated to lay too many eggs. Reproductive cancers can occur before the first year even, and peritonitis, yolk coelomitis and egg binding are extremely common. Another egg-related problem is prolapse. That’s where part of the inside of the duck or chicken is exposed through the vent. This can also happen to drakes who mate too much or injure their phallus. They end up with prolapse that will result in infection, necrotic tissue and death if not treated promptly.
Ducks also get respiratory infections or other infections that often can be cleared up very easily with 10-days of the correct antibiotic. But it’s important to know what kind of infection you’re dealing with, so the treatment can be effective.
Lastly, birds are very good at hiding illness. Sometimes you’ll never know they’re sick until it’s too late. It’s part of what being a prey species is all about. You have to appear healthy at all times to remain safe. So by the time you notice symptoms, you may be dealing with a very serious situation. Here are some common symptoms of a sick or injured duck or chicken:
Keeping to themselves
Puffed up feathers
Off in a corner alone
Change in activity or routine
Poop stuck to the vent
Diarrhea or differently-colored poop (unless they just drank a lot of water)
Ragged, poorly-preened feathers
I wish we could provide simple, free answers for people with sick or injured ducks and chickens, but it just wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do. Hopefully the information here will be helpful for knowing what types of problems to look for, so you can catch them before they’re too serious. We’ll also post a “check-up” check list soon on how to monitor the health of your duck or cluck before they have a problem.
Oh! And if you need help finding an avian-certified veterinarian, try this website:
As always, quacks and clucks from the flock.
We wrote this list a few years ago, and since then, many people have had varying reactions to it. Some find it off-putting, but others have thanked us for the honesty and candor. So before you think of adding a flock to your family, please read on…
1. Ducks reach full size in about 5 weeks. They are cute and fluffy for 2 weeks and then they grow up. Ducks can live 10-20+ years, depending on the breed.
2. Ducks poop everywhere. You cannot train them.
3. You cannot raise a duck and “release it to the wild.” Mallards are wild ducks. Most other ducks were domesticated by humans. That means they no longer have wild instincts, can’t migrate and are usually too fat to fly. It is illegal to own wild ducks without a permit and illegal to release domestic ducks on public land. In some areas it is considered abandonment and can result in cruelty charges. It’s also a death sentence, as ducks raised by humans can’t fend for themselves in the wild. Did you know bread is bad for ducks? It lacks the basic nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
4. Qualified avian veterinarians to treat your special pet are few and far between. You can find a vet who treats parakeets, but not one who will treat your duck. If you do find one, expect to spend about $80-$120 for a basic duck check-up.
5. There is a reason for the saying “sitting duck.” Ducks need predator-proof pens with hardware cloth on all sides, top and bottom. They must be in these secure pens from dusk to sunrise in some areas, and at all times in other areas. Good pens that you build yourself start at around $300. Your home is not an exception because you haven’t seen a predator or you live on a pond. Raccoons reach through chicken-wire and climb over chain link with ease. Eagles and hawks don’t need to carry off your duck, they just grab a piece.
6. You won’t be able to take a vacation for the next 10-20+ years because there is no such thing as a duck sitter. You will realize this too late, when your vacation is already planned. Ducks require complicated care. Note: None of your friends or family wants to watch your duck while you are on vacation. They asked me to tell you that.
7. Ducks are more maintenance than the space shuttle. Bob Tarte wrote that line in his book, “Enslaved by Ducks.” Believe him. Don’t get a duck. Just read his book instead.
8. Ducks are extremely emotional. More emotional than cats or dogs. If you raise one duck and that duck depends on you, you cannot leave that duck alone for even one day without that duck missing you and getting upset/depressed/scared when you are gone. Don’t do that to a duck. Ducks need duck friends.
9. Ducks are time-consuming. They need twice-daily care, for at least 1/2 hour each time, every day of the year, rain or shine. They won’t thrive unless they get much more of your time than that. But that is the bare minimum amount of time required twice a day, every single day, without fail.
10. Ducks don’t believe you should have hobbies. Want to meet friends for dinner? Have to put your ducks away before dusk first. Want to have brunch on a Saturday? Need to clean the duck ponds first. Like to knit, sew, paint, listen to music, see movies, watch TV, play games, ride a bike? Forget it. Your sole hobby if you have a duck… is your duck. End of hobbies.
11. Do you live with your parents? Absolutely do not get a duck. You think you’ll keep the duck forever, but you will grow up and get interested in your friends or go to college. And you cannot keep a duck in your dorm room. Your parents absolutely do not want to care for your duck while you’re on a date or away at school. Your parents will tell you your duck died and give it away. Seriously. They told me to tell you that. Do not get a duck until you own your own home, can pay vet bills on your own, and can afford food and amenities for your duck.
12. Do you rent your home or live in an apartment? Every year thousands of people get ducks only to give them up because their landlord/girlfriend/boyfriend/parents/neighbors complained. Giving up a duck means that duck will probably be euthanized or suffer. Do not get a duck first and THEN research whether or not you’re allowed to have a duck. Some ducks are extremely loud. Too loud for neighbors. Way, way too loud. Trust me on this.
13. Have a dog? Think he’s old and friendly and wouldn’t hurt a fly? You’re wrong. Your duck will spaz out and flap in a way that will engage your dog’s innate prey instinct. Your dog will pick up your duck and shake it to death while you watch in horror. Yes. Your sweet little dog will do that. Your dog is not an exception. And it will be your fault, not your dog’s fault. Your dog is just being a dog. Do not get a duck if you have a dog. Your duck will taunt your dog. Your duck will chase and bite and taunt your dog until your dog bites it. That will also be your fault. Your duck is just being a duck.
14. Your duck is social and needs duck friends. Your duck does not want to live with just you. Your duck needs other ducks and more ducks means more poop. (See #2).
15. Every duck is a unique individual. Ducks are particular, and don’t automatically get along with other ducks. Two male ducks can kill each other. Too many male ducks can kill a female duck. Larger ducks will pick on smaller ducks and stronger ducks will try to kill weaker or injured ducks. Ducks act like dinosaurs much of the time. Cranky, cranky dinosaurs.
16. Ducks bite. Some male ducks bite all the time. They do not bite because they are mean. They bite because they love you. They bite hard. They bruise. They constantly bite your ankles, hands, arms, feet and face. You must wear long sleeves and long pants and socks and shoes to visit your ducks. 100 degrees outside? Make sure you’re wearing long pants and long sleeves to visit your ducks. Muscovy ducks have a ridge to their beak that can tear your skin off. Muscovy drakes often also protect their territory or decide you are a threat. Then they attack you. They fly at you and beat their 6-foot wing span wings at you, bruising and welting you. Their talons can be 1 1/2″ long and they will try to claw at you in mid-air. They bite and tear at you and chase you down, faster than you can run away.
17. Ducks make a huge mess when they eat. Duck food attracts rats and mice. In some areas, mice attract snakes. LOTS of snakes. Duck poop attracts flies. Having a pet duck means having rats and flies. It’s a package deal. Your neighbors will love that. Think you can kill the rats? Poison them and they will die in your duck pond, poisoning the pond your ducks drink from. Or their carcasses will attract predators. Try to trap and release them instead. Come winter time you can find them conveniently living in the roof of your house, or in your basement, for warmth.
18. Having a duck means hearing awful horror stories from everyone around you. People will think that because you have a duck, you must really want to hear their story about how a duck flew into their windshield. Or how their dog brought a duck in through the doggy door and splattered blood all over the walls! Or how their neighbor’s kid had a duckling but dropped it on its head and it had seizures and threw up before dying. Or how your neighbors had ducks but raccoons climbed into their pen and ate them. Or how their grandma had ducks and killed and plucked and slaughtered and cooked and served them for dinner. Or how a hawk flew down and ripped into a duck but no one ever took it to a veterinarian. Or how there’s this duck at the park that limps and drags itself along but that’s just nature! Gosh, aren’t those stories great? People can’t wait to share their duck stories! (All of these story examples are actual stories told to me by people who could not WAIT to share their wonderful duck anecdote!)
19. Horrible duck stories will give you nightmares. Only you’ll dream that your own duck is suffering or in danger or being eaten or maimed. You will have this nightmare a lot.
20. You will worry about your duck every day that you have it.
Lastly, if you’ve made it to the bottom of this list and you STILL think you’re the awesome saintly exception who is going to provide a super safe, loving home to a flock… please think of adopting or rescuing instead of hatching or buying. There are a ton of homeless ducks in need of great forever homes.
Thanks and quacks,
Ducks and Clucks
We have now been rescuing and rehabilitating ducks and other birds for over 9 years. In this time, we’ve had nearly 100 big personalities come and go, and our motley crew is constantly changing. Sometimes we worry that sharing our rescue work may inspire people to get ducks or chickens, which isn’t something we encourage for most folks. About half of all ducks and chickens hatched each year never live to see their first birthday, so adding a flock to your family is not something to take lightly.
All of our feathered and furry family members are rescued. Most are cast-offs of the urban farming craze, and others were injured or dumped. If anyone is considering adding a flock of chickens or ducks to their family, we strongly encourage adoption and animal rescue. So, so many ducks and clucks need safe, forever homes, and there are never enough good homes. Please don’t breed or buy animals.
Here’s a little update on our current cast of characters, including how they came to live at Ducks and Clucks.
1. Lester Leroy is a crested cayuga or runner duck who came to us in January 2011. He is one of our most handicapped ducks. He was attacked by a dog and left untreated for nearly two weeks. Then he was surrendered to the Seattle Animal Shelter. He was recommended for euthanasia, because he couldn’t stand or walk or even sit normally. But we agreed to try and rehabilitate him. With physical therapy, he can now sit, stand and walk all on his own. It isn’t graceful, but he gets around just fine with some extra protection from the other more aggressive ducks. Lester is smitten with Danny girl and very protective of her.
2. Miles is a domestic rouen duck, very similar to a wild mallard but larger and unable to fly far. He was dumped in a park and developed a very serious leg infection. South Sound Critter Care in Kent, WA rescued him. But since he’s domestic, handicapped and can’t be returned to the wild, he came here to stay. Miles is also smitten with Danny girl, but a little too aggressive to live with her as a companion. So he loves her from the far side of the fence. He came to us in January 2012.
3. Danny girl is an Indian Runner duck. She was surrendered to PAWS in Lynnwood, WA in a very bad state. They only treat wild animals, so we were called to help. An x-ray determined that she had swallowed a very large slug of metal. Danny underwent antibiotics for an infection and months of chelation medication to safely dissolve the metal that was poisoning her. She was left with some permanent damage from the metal toxicity, but she gets around okay and is a very sweet girl. She loves both of her good buddies, Lester Leroy and Miles. She has been with us since December 2011.
4. Carol hen came to stay with us in April 2011. We went to pick up a fluffy rooster who needed medical care from the Seattle Animal Shelter, and Carol was there as well, so we brought her home. Fabio the rooster went to another sanctuary when he was better, but Carol was here to stay. She wasn’t injured, just homeless. She had been found wandering a neighborhood in North Seattle and was picked up by animal control. She is a fierce, cranky hen who has grown into a lovable but noisy sweetheart.
5. Olivia is a sweet old hen who came in with another hen and a handicapped duck in July 2009. Both she and her friend Racquel L’Oreal, who has since passed from old age, came in with parasites and respiratory infections from living in unsanitary conditions. Their duck friend was euthanized after her handicaps became too severe and her quality of life declined. Olivia is estimated to be over 12-years-old now, which is a good reminder to anyone thinking of getting chickens. They can sometimes live for well over a decade with good care and nutrition.
6. Petunia Peach is a muscovy duck we adopted from another sanctuary in January 2006 to help even out our flock when we ended up with too many drakes. She is probably almost 9-years-old now and still doing well. She came to us with a sister named Phoebe Kay, who passed on from yolk coelomitis, which is unfortunately a common reproductive problem with ducks and chickens bred to lay many eggs. Petunia has been O’Malley’s companion for many years.
7. Lenora Bea is a muscovy duck who came to us in November 2012 from the Seattle Animal Shelter. She was found wandering in a South Seattle neighborhood. Many ducks and chickens are surrendered to the Seattle Animal Shelter, and we don’t always have room to help. But this time it was the right time and the right kind of duck to fit right into our flock. She is O’Malley’s new companion, and she helps keep him on his toes.
8. Olly Astro hen came to us in August 2010 after being surrendered to a veterinarian. She had severe pneumonia that required 8-weeks of antibiotics to treat. She is still prone to respiratory infections, but has done well here. She also has recurring egg issues and was spayed to help cure her chronic reproductive infections. She came in along with her friend Janet who has since passed on.
9. O’Malley Peepers is a muscovy drake duck who arrived in September 2005 as a baby duckling. He was found abandoned and alone in a park in Gig Harbor, WA and taken to PAWS in Lynnwood, WA for rehabilitation. Within a day, they realized he was growing faster than his mallard cohorts and too friendly to be a wild duck. So we agreed to take him in. He is our big boy, and the flock member who has been with us the longest right now. He loves his two ladies Petunia Peach and Lenora Bea, but he also loves his people.
10. Simon is our only furry family member right now. He was adopted from the ASPCA in NYC years and years ago, and he’s about 17-years-old now. He has lived with us in New York City, San Francisco and now Seattle. So he’s a well-traveled rescue kitty.
11. Ruby Tuesday is our newest rescue, a magpie duck found abandoned by the side of the road in Southern Washington in December 2012. A good samaritan drove her 3 hours to us, because they wanted to find a safe home for her. She is likely young, and she’s healthy and happy. She had a brief love affair with Miles but has since settled down with her steady beau, Lionel.
12. Lionel Ernest is a bantam saxony duck or hybrid pastel call duck who was dumped at Country Village stores in Bothell, WA in May 2012. He was taken in by PAWS in Lynnwood, WA and transfered to us for medical treatment. He had a severely infected and painful foot when he arrived, and he was really worried and scared. But now he’s doing well. He loves his lady duck Ruby and follows her everywhere, pointing out treats for her and protecting her from imaginary dangers.
Whew! That’s a little background info on each of our current cast of characters. Sometimes needs change, and we work with other local rescue folks to try and bridge the gap for these birds in need. As we mentioned, for anyone considering ducks or clucks, we encourage you to do thorough research and find sources that DON’T sell animals to get the full story on their care and maintenance. We also encourage people to rescue and adopt, and never buy or breed more animals while so many await safe, forever homes.
Quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
This is Sarge and Rusty.
They are two roosters who came into the Seattle Animal Shelter as buddies.
They are little dudes, but have big hearts.
They’re active and curious, but also pretty friendly and with good temperaments.
They’re looking for a long-term commitment from a safe forever home, somewhere OUTSIDE the Seattle city limits. If you’re interested in these two and prepared to give them a safe forever home, find out more about them on Petfinder:
Good luck to them both on their search for a great forever home.
This Mother’s Day, our friends at LiberationBC.org are again featuring stories about mother and baby cows on their blog. Visit their site to read stories about Poncho and Jasper, two baby calves rescued from a factory farm. And learn more about the Cow Ribbon Campaign to support and honor baby calves who will never know their mothers because of factory farming.
Today we took Danny girl and Olly Astro to the vet. I had originally planned to take Olly in because she has had egg issues in the past, similar to what killed Cindy Buttons. I wanted to be sure she was okay since I was so shocked by Cindy’s sudden death. So I booked her for a check-up today. But then I noticed that poor Danny girl has a very swollen inside toe on her left foot. So she came along as well.
I wish I had noticed Danny’s swollen toe earlier, but hopefully it will be okay. She has antibiotics and anti-inflammatories, and we’ll keep a close eye on it.
Danny girl has also lost some weight, which isn’t good. I noticed she wasn’t feeding herself well yesterday, and that worried me.
So I brought her inside for the night, along with her buddy Lester Leroy, where I could watch her more closely. When Danny girl is feeling weak, she has trouble lining herself up with the food dish. I noticed her struggling with this tonight. If I grab her and hold her, she eats like a champ. But if she tries to get to the food dish by herself, she stumbles and gives up. This is partially due to her handicap left over from her metal poisoning, before she was rescued, but it could also be because she’s weak right now from her toe infection.
The good news is, she’ll eat really well with some help. So she’s not so weak that she has stopped eating. I think that in addition to her toe, the aviary is just too big of a space for her. She did well in winter because she was mostly in her confined night pen space, with her nest and her food area. In the aviary there’s more room to hide, and she ends up not getting to the food and water dish all day long. She has also been sharing space lately with Miles as well as Lester.
She really likes Miles, but I think he can be too aggressive sometimes, though I’ve never witnessed it. Also, she walks around more in the aviary, which I thought would be good for her. But because of her handicap, she drags her legs a bit, which is what caused her to scrape the top of her toe and get an infection there.
So she’s in the house at night for a while, and Lester is keeping her company. Once she has gained back the weight and her toe has improved, we’ll see if she can stay in a smaller space of the aviary with Lester, near – but not with – her buddy Miles.
As for Olly Astro, she was wrapped up at the vet’s so they could draw some blood. She got a pretty blue bandaid and we’ll know the results of the blood work in a few days.
Overall, she did very well and she looks pretty good. So that’s great. She was kind of mad about having to go to the vet’s office, but very happy to be home.
Lastly, we ran into this guy Buddy at the vet’s office. He’s a bird of a friend of ours, but we didn’t know he’d be at the vet while we were there. It was nice to say hello to a fellow bird nut.
We’ll keep you posted on Danny girl as well as Olly’s test results. Everything looks pretty good for now though. We’re just being cautious with Olly and Danny girl’s toe should mend up pretty quickly.
Quacks and clucks,
Tiff and the flock
Little Cindy Buttons passed away on Wednesday, April 24th after a very sudden illness that the vet has confirmed as “egg yolk coelomitis” or peritonitis, which is basically an infection that caused her to lay yolks internally. She was only about 2-years-old. This is the story of her life and times here with us at Ducks and Clucks.
Cindy Buttons came to us in July of 2011 at about 3-months-old. She had been bitten by a raccoon and lost a chunk out of her posterior region. Her owners surrendered her to the veterinarian rather than pay for her care.
She was actually a “surprise” rescue for us, as we were at the vet’s office to pick up these two characters. Remember them? Toro Roo and Persephone Kerfuffle were a broiler rooster and domestic turkey that were confiscated during a domestic dispute. (They have both since passed on from natural causes due to their breeds). When we went to the vet’s office to pick them up, we were in an exam room waiting and heard this conversation outside the door.
“Does Tiffany want this chicken, too?”
“She’s taking those other two.”
“Two… three… let’s just set her out on the floor and see what happens.”
I remember being in the room, hearing them talk outside and thinking “how can I climb out this window so I don’t have to see whatever they’re out there suckering me into taking home?
Of course, the instant I saw this goofy face I had to bring her home. And what an amazing stroke of good luck that was, since she turned out to be the most amazing little hen ever.
Even though her original family wouldn’t pay for her care, they must have treated her well. Whenever I sat down in the yard, Cindy Buttons hopped up on my lap, like that was just the thing all chickens do.
And though her raccoon wound healed, she never did grow a tail. She’s naturally a rumpless breed, which we weren’t sure of at first.
As Persephone the turkey and Toro the rooster grew, they were inseparable. But unfortunately, Persephone’s legs were deformed and when she was too heavy to stand, she became very stressed out and had to be euthanized. This left Toro alone, without his first love.
Would Cindy Buttons take a liking to Toro? Or would one of the other hens befriend him?
Cindy did love Toro Roo, very much. The two of them were inseparable after Persephone passed away.
They adored each other, in spite of their great difference in size and weight. Toro weighed nearly 17lbs while ittle Cindy weighed only 4 1/2 lbs. They didn’t care. They were in love.
In addition to being my knee-percher and lap hen, Cindy also gained the reputation of being a bossy pants and a mischief-maker.
Here she is stealing an entire slice of vegan pizza from me.
Cindy really lived life to the fullest. She ran full speed around the yard, whether running towards treats or running after ducks. Two of her favorite things were stealing cookies and stomping ducks.
She loved to chase Petunia and Lenora, who would crouch down submissively when caught. Then Cindy would gleefully stomp on them, while I ran over to save them.
Boy, she really loved that more than a chicken should. I’m sure it sounded pretty funny to hear me yelling “Cindy Buttons you stop that right now!” all of the time.
But she’ll be remembered most for being my constant lap companion.
Sit down and she’d perch.
Cross your legs and she’d perch.
Take a nap? She’d perch.
Already have a duck on your lap? No problem. She’d perch.
A BIG duck on your lap? Shove over, horsie. I’m perching!
How about a cat? She’s not afraid. She’d perch.
She was just the cutest little knee cap warmer there ever was.
And cute from every angle.
What am I going to do without this goofy little lap hen?
I just don’t know.
The knee caps will never be the same.
You were a great friend and a good, good chicken, Cindy Buttons. I love you and miss you so, so much. Thank you for being a funny, goofy, shining light in our lives. You’re irreplaceable. I’m heartbroken.
Rest in peace, Cindy Buttons.
I can’t believe I’m writing this right now. I can’t believe little Cindy is really gone. But unfortunately she is.
On Monday evening, Cindy Buttons was running around the yard, full speed, chasing ducks and getting into mischief per usual. She even caught Lenora Bea and stomped on her a bit. As you may know, birds are very good at hiding illness, but not usually THAT good. Cindy must already have been laying eggs internally and I just didn’t notice.
On Tuesday morning at 6:30am, I got up to open the chicken coop so the hens could quietly forage in the aviary until a reasonable hour. Cindy didn’t rush out of the chicken coop like usual, so I thought “I’ll have to see if she’s not feeling well when the vet’s office opens, and take her in.”
When I got up at 9:30am she was off by herself standing still. That’s not like her at all, so I brought her inside and made an appointment for 3pm at the vet’s office.
At the vet’s office, she didn’t look good at all. And by the end of the exam and x-rays, she looked even worse, and wasn’t standing up anymore. They didn’t find a stuck egg though, so we just got her some strong antibiotics and anti-inflammatories and hoped she could improve on her own with a few doses. I gave her the first dose immediately, and woke up very early to give her a second dose. The plan was to see if she was improving within a day or so, and if not, have surgery on Friday to clean up her abdomen and spay her so she wouldn’t lay internally anymore.
Unfortunately that was not to be. Early this morning she was awake and alert and not panting, but she was still not comfortable. By 10am I could tell she was definitely not improving, so I rushed her back to the vet for emergency surgery. She died in the car on the way to the vet’s office. I was concerned that she wouldn’t be strong enough to survive surgery, but I never thought she would pass away on her own. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I kept telling her “Oh no, Cindy. Don’t go! You can beat this!” But she very quickly and very quietly sighed and breathed her last breath. She died about a block from the vet’s office.
I can’t believe this happened so fast. It’s hard to understand why such a bright light had to burn out so young. The vet is going to call us with definitive results on what caused her death, but whatever it was, it moved too fast or went unnoticed too long to save her, and I’m so, so sad right now.
I’m going to write up her sweet story and a proper farewell, but I’ll do that separately.
Damnit, Cindy… why did you have to go?? Who’s going to perch on my knee now?
I’m so sad.
It’s baby bird time at area parks, which means it’s time for a reminder about proper wildlife stewardship. In Seattle, at Magnuson Park, Matthews Beach, Greenlake and more, wild birds are nesting and hoping to hatch a family.
At Magnuson Park in particular, it’s important to respect the rules in the areas that are designated as federally-protected wetlands. These areas are full of nesting wild birds who need their space.
Here’s a close-up on the rules. There are other areas nearby where it’s okay to have your dog off-leash, but the wetlands are NOT one of those areas. Just last year, a nesting goose was attacked by an off-leash dog and died from her injuries.
This Canada goose has four goslings that are just days old. They’re extremely vulnerable at this age, but both mom and dad do a good job at trying to keep them safe.
Another Canada goose nearby is still setting on her nest, keeping her eggs warm so they’ll hatch.
Her mate grazes nearby, but not too close. His job is to distract people from the nest, so he stays 10-30 yards away from it much of the time.
He keeps an eye out for trouble, and will protect the nest fiercely if threatened. Geese can charge and attack this time of year if they sense danger. So that’s another reason to give them extra space.
It’s important to remember that their aggression is meant to protect their family, and it’s not okay to lash out at them or let dogs chase them in response.
Also, teach children not to chase birds. As prey animals, birds are on constant alert for predators. What may seem like innocent fun letting your toddler or dog chase a bird is actually perceived as a life-threatening attack by that bird. The stress they experience can have long-term effects on their health. So please, never chase wildlife. You may know when your dog is on a leash, but the goose does not.
And if you see wrappers, cans, cigarettes or other packaging in wildlife areas, pick them up and put them in a trash can. That will go a long way toward keeping birds safe. This candy wrapper thankfully passed completely through this goose. But plastic consumption often results in death of birds, and many birds naturally eat shiny, colorful objects. A clean park is a wildlife-friendly park.
By following these few easy rules and tips, you are doing your part to protect and respect wildlife in our parks.
Stay safe, little goslings. We promise to be good wildlife stewards!