All hands on duck at Canterbury bird sanctuary

Kim Hartley with some of her ducks Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes
Kim Hartley with some of her ducks Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes
Kim Hartley never planned to set up a duck sanctuary.

In the winter of 2015, she offered a wild duck and her ducklings shelter in a hutch on her property. After that, the birds kept waddling up.

Kim now looks after 100-plus wild and domestic ducks at North Canterbury Duck and Duckling Rescue.

Kim's ducks – who live in a dry paddock bordering Eyrewell Forest – each have names, including Doreen (named after Kim's mother) Beyonce and Taylor Swift.

Her second-in-command is a lame duck named Mills who snuggles orphan ducklings under her wings and travels in Kim's car perched upon a container so she can see out the window.

Mills wears a multipurpose sling around her wings.

By day, Kim ties the sling up so Mills can swing off it.

"That's her way of exercising 'cause she can flap her wings and move herself. You can see when she's doing she puts her head up and down kind of like kids do when they're on the swing.

'Her legs are quite emotional. When she's excited they move a lot."

Mills the duck has a custom made seat and safety belt in Kim's car. Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes
Mills the duck has a custom made seat and safety belt in Kim's car. Photo: RNZ/Cosmo Kentish-Barnes
At night, Kim safety-pins human nappies to the sling.

Ducks are as clever as dogs, and they communicate different things by using different tones in their call, she says.

"It could be anything from 'hello hows it going' through to 'feed me right now' through to 'there's a particular duck that I'm looking for that I can't find'."

Kim can't imagine not caring for the ducks now.

"I'm just attached to them. I love my ducks. I like the way with ducks, and probably any animal you know what you're getting … if a duck doesn't like you they'll let you know and if they do like you they'll let you know. What they're thinking is sort of written all over their faces sometimes."

But running a duck sanctuary is an expensive business. Kim gets some donations but covers most of the costs herself.

"[The ducks] go through around 30 to 40 kilograms of food a day. It's costing me a good couple of hundred bucks a week for the feed and hat just comes out of my own money."

Add to that vet's bills, hay, bandages, saline for washing out wounds, clamp shell pools and bedding.

"I feel like every time I buy something it's for the ducks, rather than myself."

Kim recoups a small part of the money she spends on the ducks by selling their eggs.

"Each female that lays eggs probably pays for her own food and maybe one or two of the other ducks."

She is very keen for any help at the sanctuary – volunteers to care for ducks but also pull down fences, put up fences, move plants, move ducks and release ducks.

You can find out more about North Canterbury Duck Rescue on their Facebook page and donate to the sanctuary via Givealittle.

 

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