Kwik and Kwak,  three times lucky

Once upon a time in the West of France there was a very big farm with a lot of little white  ducklings. All these ducklings were males and were kept in a muddy field without a lake. Have you already guessed it? France! White ducklings! All males! I am talking about ducks that were destined for the "delicacy" of  foie gras. 

One day, one of the ducklings found a hole in the fence. He crawled through the fence, followed by a number of his duckling friends and they all fled to freedom.  In the nearby village there was a little pond so what did the ducklings do? Of course they instinctively went into that pond, because water means getting clean and being safe. You can imagine the surprise of the pond's owner when in the morning she found it full of little white ducklings. She contacted the authorities who didn't seem very interested. Time passed and no one came to claim the ducklings, but she knew that as they grew she wouldn't have enough room for them so she put an ad on facebook. Result: she found a loving family for all the ducklings,  including Kwik and Kwak.
Kwik and Kwak were still very young when they came to us. They were still a bit dirty and they were very scared in the beginning. You could see they were not used to being handled carefully. Petrified they sat in the corner of their house, a chicken house with a small run attached to it. What was quite funny was that they slept in the top part of the chicken house, just like chickens would do. After a while, when they got a bit more used to us, we released them from their small enclosure and they had the run of the garden. They also got a new companion too, Jeanetta the goose. The three were inseparable. 

Everything went well for Jeanette and her ducklings, until one night in early spring 2016. They had a visitor: a fox. When I did my rounds early in the morning it was very quiet in the garden. I found Jeanetta first. She was dead and in a very bad state. It was clear that she was killed by a large animal. Franticly I looked for Kwik and Kwak too. I only found Kwik, with blood on his neck and with all his tail feathers pulled out. He was very scared. He would not let me catch him. In the end I had to herd him into a corner and catch him with a fish net. I gave him antibiotics and disinfected the numerous wounds in his neck, underneath his wings and on his back where he had an almost circular hole in his skin about half an inch across.

So that was one. But there was still no sign of Kwak. I looked everywhere, under every bush, in every corner of the garden. I did find the place where the fox would have been able to enter the garden. In despair, but with the hope that he would have been able to escape, I finally gave up my search. These animals are heavy and it is almost impossible for them to fly but I had noticed they could fly just a little. So would he have been able to fly over the fence? I hoped so.... 

In the meantime Kwik was doing fine. But he was all alone.  I called the woman who gave them to us to ask whether it would be better if I gave Kwik back to her as she still had 5 ducks of her own. 

But suddenly, three days later, Kwak appeared out of nowhere. He was near the water trough. He was very thirsty and he was very weak. He had an enormous abscess in his neck. It was swollen, to three times its normal size. As he was so weak, it was not difficult to catch him. We went to the vet immediately. He was put on antibiotics, but it was too risky to drain the abscess in his neck. The vet cleaned the dirty and crusty wound, already necrotised in places. It was clear she didn't hold out much hope. 

Once back home, it was moving to see how happy Kwik was to find his mate again. We even had the impression they had tears in their eyes. I treated Kwak twice a day. I opened up the little wound in his neck, where he must have been bitten and tried to drain the wound myself. Every other day we went back to the vet for another antibiotics injection. He clearly was improving, though very slowly. His swollen neck, still very stiff, caused him pain while swallowing the food so I had to feed him a paste with a syringe. I made a little film of the feeding. You can see it here on youtube. Even though he became quite skinny and lost quite a lot of weight, he did recover. 

It's now almost 2 months later and you can still see where he was bitten. The feathers are slowly growing back. And he has become even more close and attached to us. It's as if he knows and he's grateful that we saved him.  We have learned our lesson though. We made a little chalet for them with a small run. During the day they roam free in the garden and every night they sleep safely locked up in the chalet. 

Kwik and Kwak were three times lucky: they were born males, so didn't suffer the same fate of most of their sisters who, as they're not useful for making foie gras, are slaughtered soon after birth. They also escaped the horrors of force-feeding and slaughter for foie gras and then survived a vicious attack from a fox. 

Update Summer 2019

As expected, at a very early age these ducks that are bred for consumption soon get problems with their health. Kwak had problems with his legs. We were trying to make his life as enjoyable as we could during the summer of 2019. Unfortunately one night he died unexpectedly. The moral of this story is that ducks like these have problems with their weight as they are bred to become large and heavy very fast for their body/liver. Please don't encourage the farmers to breed these animals by eating their products like fatty liver/foie gras. #govegan