This is a difficult and complicated story so I’m going to tell it a couple of different ways all of which end up in illness for the ducks, distress for us and quite possibly a larger statement about the sad and unresolved condition of the world’s backyards.
Bonnie has lead poisoning.
She’s just finished a second series of treatments that should help flush the toxin from her system. The first round started in September but progress has been fitful. On the plus side, she’s gaining much-needed winter weight and seems undeterred by all the veterinary pokes she’s enduring. We remain optimistic but have far more troubling questions than answers.
Puff had lead poisoning last winter.
We thought (hoped?) this might be an isolated incident. On x-ray, the vet found possible culprit particles in her abdomen. Birds—ducks as well as parakeets—have been known to ingest shiny objects, some of which could be tainted with this ubiquitous heavy metal. Ducks eat both on and from the ground. Who knows what resides in that ever-shifting foundation, carried down from history, sifted through mud and water, waiting for its moment at the surface?
There are many weird quirks to this terrible situation and, if you will, several blessings. Quirk #1: Puff got better and appears stronger than ever. (At least, for the moment.) Quirk #2: The eggs we’ve tested have indicated very low levels of lead. Quirk #3: A large part of the soil we’ve sampled has been within New York median range and most, much lower. But there could be a hot spot. Or several.
And at the top of the blessings category: two very kind and patient veterinarians who happen to be able to care for ducks and whose office is a brief drive away. Add to them another generous and skilled expert: an environmental scientist who’s been working with me for months to untangle the various strands of this unexpected and painful dilemma. I thank all three for past and future contributions to our still unfolding tale. The plan is to publish a more complete account when we have more answers.
One more thing. In August, Peep died unexpectedly. Did lead exposure play a role in her otherwise ordinary poultry illness?
I don’t know but you can be sure I’m still asking.
Copyright 2013, Lori Fontanes
Being an analytical chemist by profession, you’ve piqued my curiosity. I’d be certainly interested in reading the lab reports you’ve received. Glad that Bonnie is doing well with her treatment.
Still in the middle of it but will put more stuff out there when we can–thanks so much!!!
Lori, I think it is wonderful that you document those things. Others will benefit from your observations down the road. Wonderful, heartfelt post. It makes me want to say prayers for your little ducks! 🙂
Prayers gratefully accepted! 🙂 !
Sorry to hear the ducks have been ill. 😦
Thanks, Julie! We are trying to care for them as best as we can!
That’s a shame! There are so many possible sources of lead that it will probably be hard to track down. It could be old paint, bird shot, or even old hardware buried in the ground that is the source of the lead. I wish you and the ducks luck in finding the source.
You got it! It’s like a detective story but I guess all medical work is really investigative when it comes down to it. Thanks for your input & support!!!
Oh no. Sorry to hear. Best wishes for the duckie’s recovery. What a bizarre thing. How did they know it was lead poisoning?
Blood test…not fun. She nipped me when I just tried to take off her bandage! Luckily, ducks don’t have teeth but did she hang on tight to, er, make her point. 😉
Oh dear! I’m so sorry to hear about this awful situation. My thoughts are with you.
Thanks so much, Jackie!
Oh Lori, I’m so sorry some of your ducks have been sick! Thanks for sharing this, though, as it’s something I hadn’t really thought about. I’ve been worried that the crumbling weatherstripping stuff from our recycled old greenhouse windows may contain lead–and I did have a duck sicken and die rather suddenly a few months ago. I should probably have the pieces (which I try to keep cleaned up) tested. What symptoms did your sick ducks have? By the way, lovely pic!
Thanks, Cherie! There may well be variations in how various breeds & species react to toxins but our ducks were losing weight & acting “off”. (I know them so well–like any mom– you just notice when something is different/wrong.) Also, in Bonnie’s case, her feathers were not their usual glossy black, even after molting season. Having been through something with Puff, it just made sense to test her for lead poisoning, too. This story is still a work in progress but from what I know now, I think having suspect areas tested seems like a good idea. Good luck!!!
Thank you, Lori!
Oh no my feathered friends! Lead poisoning? OMP (oh my pig)! I’m so glad that they caught it and are at least treating it. Give Bonnie hogs and snout kisses for me. Sending her healing vibes my friend – XOXO – Bacon
Thanks so so much! She’s hanging in there!!! 🙂