Help Frankie the Duck so she can Walk!
We live in Austin, Texas and we have 1 dog, 2 cats, and a funky chicken coop full of chickens. We enjoy our pet chickens for the eggs, entertainment, and closeness to nature that they bring us. On July, 2012, a trip to the feed store introduced us to this little duckling, who we have named "Frankie", sitting in a small dark cage all by herself. I spoke to her and she talked back to me and tried to waddle in my direction - but I could tell right away that something was wrong with her leg. The man working in the chick room took her out for me and I cuddled her for a long time - I didn't know ducks were so cuddly! We put her on the floor to see if she could walk - and her right leg stuck way out to the right and it was obvious that she could not. He hadn't noticed that before. So, long story short, I took Frankie home to see if I could give her a better life than she would have if someone else took her home. My husband said it was OK as long as I didn't rack up a bunch of vet bills - I told him I would try to heal her myself. Frankie is a great swimmer - she loves our small backyard pond with the trickling waterfall and the goldfish that nibble at her toes. She also loves to swim in a metal roasting pot and the bathtub - pretty much anywhere is fine with her. She mostly swims with her left leg, but I can see her right leg moving slightly and steering her so that she doesn't swim in circles. In the water she is totally fluid - and moves like a duck should - reaching her little head under the water to grab yummy morsels and splashing water on her back. But, when she comes out of the water, she is very still. She mostly sits in one place, but can scuttle around a bit to get closer to food or to the door of the cage in the morning when I come to get her. She's very happy as long as we're with her. She makes a sweet "pip pip" sound when she can see or hear us. But, when we leave her, she calls out in a more worried tone - maybe because she feels so helpless and vulnerable. I have done tons of research online about what could be wrong. My first guess was "Splayed Leg" which happens when a chick is young and either doesn't have the right nutrition, or is hatched in a place that has a slippery floor, causing the legs to slide out to the side and stay there. I tried the usual remedies for splayed leg, which consist of gently binding the legs together with a bandaid to bring them back into alignment with the body. It may have helped slightly, but Frankie still isn't walking. I have spoken with a few vets over the phone and even met with one who specializes in Avian medicine. She thinks that Frankie's leg bone is curved - thus making it hard for her to walk. She said the best way to help her is to fracture her leg bone in two places and re-set it straight by casting - but that will be an expensive procedure. I also called Texas A&M's Poultry Science Department, the Travis County Extension Service, and Wildlife Rescue - but was unable to get help from any of those resources. In the meantime, I made a makeshift therapy device out of a t-shirt that suspends her slightly in the air so she can "walk". She does make the motions when we do this, and you can tell she wants to walk, but I'm not sure it is enough, and I want to act quickly to give her the best chance to recover. Everyone loves this little duck. The folks at the vet clinic were ooohhing and aaahhing over her - and wanting to hold her. All of my friends (and their daughters) fight over who is going to hold her next. We've all heard the story about the dolphin who didn't have a tail, then a researcher spent energy and time designing one that could help it swim. They even made a movie out of it! I wanted to get Frankie's story out there to see if there's anyone who specializes in this area that could help. Perhaps a Veterinary Orthopedic doctor that could give us advice on how best to help her walk - or what surgery would make the most difference. We're hoping to get some donations to pay for Surgery or Therapy, or find a Vet willing to do pro-bono work if a surgery is the only way to help. Believe me, I'm not in it for the money - I just want to help this little duckling have a normal life. She'd love living in our crazy chicken coop - and she'd have lots of compadres there. But, if she can't learn to walk - she'll probably be stuck in the little cage in the garage where she sleeps right now - and I would hate that.
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