Hard work, dedication ensure new-born ducklings survive

By: Gerry Rucchin
July 16, 2019

The Faculty of Education became a maternity ward for 12 ducklings.

The hatchings took place in a courtyard and the news spread quickly throughout the John G. Althouse Building. Curious faculty, students and staff took turns peaking at the newborns through the courtyard windows.

Despite the joy, there was a serious problem.

The courtyard’s four high walls didn’t allow the ducklings to leave with their mother. This meant they couldn’t get food. Water was also lacking.

Twelve ducklings were hatched in an interior courtyard at the Faculty of Education.

Twelve ducklings were hatched in an interior courtyard at the Faculty of Education.
(Photo: Susannah Daugharty)

This is when staff member Susannah Daugharty stepped in to make sure they survived.

Twice a day over 10 days, including weekends, she provided them with food and water.

“It was a feeling of pure bliss,” said Daugharty. “It really kicked in a mothering instinct as I was hovering over them to make sure they were okay.”

What’s more, since Daugharty knew it was important not to interfere with the ducks’ natural habitat, she contacted Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre for guidance.

Based on their conversations, Daugharty minimized her contact with the ducklings. For example, when she entered the courtyard, she didn’t make any moves to intimidate them or give them a false sense of security.

“I made sure whenever I went into that area that they were physically away from where I was putting down the food and the water. I would go in and do it quickly and efficiently,” she said.

When the ducklings were strong enough to leave the courtyard, Salthaven retrieved them and brought them back to the rehabilitation centre so they could increase their strength. About a week later, they were released into nature near Western.

Daugharty’s hard work paid off. The duck and 11 of her ducklings survived.

“I felt really proud that I was able to help the mother and the babies,” said Daugharty. “It gave me a sense of joy that they could be cared for and they could be released into their natural habitat.”

The hatching is also a reminder that wildlife and the habitat that supports them, such as the Thames River, surround Western.

“It’s so important to take care of the wildlife that comes to Western because we’re in their space,” said Daugharty. “This was farmland way back when and we’re on the natural migratory path of the geese and the ducks.”

Read more about Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre.