I am not sure what year I got mallard ducks but it was quite a while ago. My aunt lived at Lake Pleasant and an eagle had killed the mother of some baby ducks and their future was dim.
My aunt asked if I would like them and I said sure.
Eventually, my duck population grew. People gave me more ducks and those duck begat ducks and one day I noticed one of the hen mallards was missing. I looked around for her but there was no sign.
A few days later, Gwen Genson, who lived several houses away, called to tell me one of my ducks was nesting next to her house. Her and her husband Al were ecstatic to have this activity happening in their yard.
They gave her food and water and checked on her daily.
Finally the day came and the eggs hatched and the mother hen headed home to my house with her ducklings, there were 10 of them.
It was about an hour or so later and I heard a knock at the door. It was “Big” Al Genson, as he was called, because he was a big guy. In the palm of his big hand was a baby duck.
He said, “When the mother duck left, she left this baby behind.” What I saw in his hand was not good. I did not have the heart to tell him in the bird world it is the survival of the fittest and this duck was left behind because it was not going to make it in the cold, cruel world, where it is every duck for itself.
What he held in his hand was a perfectly formed little duckling but his head was facing north when it should have been facing south. The duckling’s neck was totally twisted backward. A condition called wry neck.
This can happen if the egg has not been turned properly when the hen was nesting, duck eggs have to be rotated a certain way at least several times a day, and apparently this egg had taken a wrong turn. Or it could be a vitamin deficiency.
I extended my hand and took the poor little duck from Big Al. I shut the door and thought, “What am I going to do with this duck?” So I made it a box and got a light so it would be warm and went to the store to get some chick feed.
If you have ever raised baby ducks, you know they are messy, they put their bills in the food then the water then they shake their head and stuff goes everywhere. But this little duck couldn’t even put its head in the water or the food. I decided if I was going to try to save his life, he needed a name so he became Little Al.
For the next, I don’t know how many weeks, multiple times a day, I took Little Al and held his head so that he could get food then water. It was a messy mess.
I had to hold him in the air so his head could get at the food and water and amazingly soon his head started to straighten out.
After about a month Little Al could eat on his own. I eventually let Little Al out with the other ducks, but he had no interest in them, he would run behind me when I mowed the lawn not letting me out of his sight. He spent the night in his box in the laundry room.
Also it soon became apparent he was a boy duck and so his name did not have to be changed to Little Alice. If I opened the door, he would run in and wait by the refrigerator for lettuce or grapes.
But it eventually happened he realized he was a duck and finally mixed in with the other ducks. Little Al lived a long and happy life eventually moving with us to another home with the other ducks where he had a big pond, to swim in and finally died of old age.