Four-year-old Violet Hamner has a new best friend and like many BFFs, the two are inseparable. But what makes this friendship so unique is that the little girl’s pal is a tiny 2-week-old duckling named Furry.
“Everyone keeps telling me what a special duck he is,” Violet’s mom Loni Hamner said. “But he’s just doing what ducks do.”
What Furry did was “imprint” on Violet Hamner after he was the only duck to survive out of a clutch of 10 eggs the Hamners had in a mechanical incubator in their home.
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Imprinting is how an animal or bird learns what species it is and occurs within the first few days of birth or hatching. The babies form an intense connection with the first adult it sees — in most cases their parents — so that they follow and stay with the appropriate adult animal. But in Furry’s case the first living thing he saw was Violet Hamner.
“He really had a tragic start to his life,” Loni Hamner said. “He was one of 10 ducklings we were hoping to hatch out inside our home.”
All was going according to plan with the duck eggs staying toasty warm in a mechanical incubator. But then last week the incubator malfunctioned and the heating element stopped working causing the eggs and ducklings inside to cool.
By the time the Hamners noticed, all but one of the as-yet unhatched ducklings had perished. So Loni Hamner assisted the tiny bird in breaking out of his shell, and she and her daughter quickly began feeding and warming the tiny critter.
“We were able to help Furry hatch out of his egg and keep him warm through the night,” Hamner said. “Since he was alone and did not have any other ducklings around my daughter and I were teaching him how to eat and drink.”
Furry thrived on the attention, particularly the care he received from Violet Hamner and soon, the youngster and Furry were going everywhere together. Sometimes they run around the Hamner household with a laughing Violet Hanmer dressed up as a princess and Furry quacking happily on her heels. Other times Violet Hamner and Furry lay down on the floor together and quietly cuddle. No matter what they are doing, according to Loni Hamner where one goes, the other is not far behind.
“Violet is very gentle and empathetic with animals,” Loni Hamner said. “That duck just follows her around and she laughs so hard, it’s just the best thing to see and she is telling everyone that she is Furry’s mother.”
The only time the two are apart is at night when Furry bunks with newly hatched chicks.
“We had to put him in with the chicks,” Loni Hamner said. “At night we’d hear him cry because none of us were holding him and he was just too lonely but as soon as he’s in with the chicks he’s happy.”
It’s too soon to say exactly what sort of personality Furry will develop. Will he think of himself as a duck, a human, a chicken or a combination of all three?
“He will definitely be a bit special because of the way he hatched,” Loni Hamner said.
And perhaps there’s a lesson about friendship to be learned from Violete Hamner and Furry..
“They say love is the best medicine,” Loni Hamner said. “Maybe this duck would not have survived without that extra special attention and love.”
Watch: Ducks strut their stuff in central Maine