Duckling Suddenly Crashed!

Aug 18, 2020
South Africa
We had a lone 1 or 2 day old Rouen duckling come into the rescue centre. Which is strange because it’s winter here in SA. Rouen ducks are not indigenous her in South Africa, so this little one could not be released. We decided to keep her and buy another duckling as a companion. Because it is out of season, there were no ducklings for sale ANYWHERE. We searched everywhere, especialy because of the extreme distress the duckling was under. We decided that the only thing to do was to keep her company while we awaited September, when ducklings would be available.

She had been distressed and constantly searching for her mother and siblings these last few days, and despite our best efforts, she would not imprint on us. We continued cuddling with and playing with her, taking her for strolls in the garden and to bask in the sun. Today is the fourth day we’ve had her. The whole day I have been busy so she spent the most ever spent in the brooder without human contact. I checked on her throughout the day and for the first time since she arrived, she was sleeping the whole day and not trying to jump out of the brooder. I just assumed that she was finally settling into her new home.

This afternoon I had seen to all of the rescues and decided to spend a few hours petting her and feeding her to get her used to me. She all of a sudden was sleeping on me and snuggling and I thought I’d hit a milestone. We decided to put her in the bath tub to eat, like we have been doing every afternoon since she came here. All of a sudden she swam up and down the bathtub in a last burst of energy and started going limp. We knew something was wrong and immediately got her back into the brooder. She started limping when she was walking and because she was wet and cold, I put her on the bed to blow dry her. She started to lose control of her neck and head and she looked like she was having a seizure. We tried giving her rehydrates and then a while later we did CPR. The CPR helped her hang on for a few more minutes, but she died soon after.

Sorry for the long post, but does anyone know what could have happened??


Isaiah 5:20
Premium Feather Member
Mar 10, 2019
If this happens again give the duckling a mirror. It might come to trust humans as its caregiver but it would never "imprint" on a human after it was with other ducks.
Did you see it eating?
I imagine it could have health problems from the constant stress too.

Luv Ducks

Mar 19, 2021
What was the duckling eating in the bathtub? If it had any type of greens or anything besides duck food it would have needed grit and should of only had duck or non medicated chick crumbles at such a young age. I feed all of my Mallard Rouen mixes Duck crumbles and never put them in water until they are older. So sorry for your loss. I know you tried your best with this little one.


Aug 16, 2021
St Augustine, FL
I rescued and revived a muscovy duckling this year. It was found two days earlier running around in a rainstorm on its own and was in grave danger of being washed down a storm drain so its finder who raises backyard chickens took it home. It didn't eat or drink and when I went to collect it the next day it was cold and dying. Fortunately, I was able to revive it by keeping it warm and feeding/giving it water every hour over night. The duckling recovered, started eating appropriately and moving around the brooder. Then after another 24 h ours, staying in the corner of the brooder facing into a soft toy.

I recognized that it was sad and lonely [depressed] but I could not find any ducklings of 1-2 weeks age within reach of my home -- the nearest were nearly 4 hours drive away and I could not drive that far with a sick duckling in a box on my front seat. So I decided to hand raise the duckling in close contact with me during the day. The duckling quickly perked up, started eating and drinking and loved sitting on the table between me and my laptop, playing nibbly nibbly with ducky toys, my handkerchief and my fingers. I did introduce it to a mirror and that was the first step in the duckling perking up, standing up and showing interest. However, within 5 hours, it had worked out that was not a real duckling and that the mirror was best used for looking at me when I was seated behind the duckling. [clever duckling and only 5 days old!]

So, Zen Wildlife Rescuer, I think you started out doing just right for your baby duckling.

Like you, I realised that I had to find more duck friends for my duckling. After an unsuccessful attempt to introduce the 6 week old duckling to my son's ducklings, I arranged for mine to go to a rehabber for 4 weeks. The rehabber had a flock of ducklings -- some older than mine some younger -- and those included ducks that could not be released to the wild. After 4 weeks, my now 11 week old duckling came home with two friends from rehab that could not be released to the wild: a 16 week pekin that had been attacked by a raccoon and has permanent disfigurement of its bill, and a likely 13-14 week old muscovy that had been rescued from public land where it could not be release. [I live in Florida where is it illegal to release muscovies to the wild.] My original muscovy still likes cuddles but is no longer following me around and no longer needy of my attention. She has bonded well with the second muscovy and often sleeps with her head on the other muscovy shoulders. Both muscovies tolerate the pekin with the damaged bill, although the pekin is dominant and has some bad behaviors related to its difficulty eating.

Without other ducks/ducklings to socialize, your duckling was undoubtedly at risk of fading away. You tried to socialize it yourself -- that was all you could. Perhaps having the duck in the bath just hastened what was inevitable. I am sorry for y our loss

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