Rescue duck released by couple returns to their Leeds home months later with 11 ducklings

A couple who reared an abandoned duck before releasing it into the wild have told of their surprise after she returned to their home several months later to have 11 ducklings.

Phil Garner found the bird, which he named Freda, "shivering" as a duckling while fishing with his son near their home in Allerton Bywater, near Castleford, West Yorkshire.

After unsuccessful attempts to find her mother, he took the duckling home, where she spent 18 months being looked after by Mr Garner and wife Julia.

The couple thought they had seen the last of Freda when she returned to the wild last year.

Mr Garner said: "We'd got used to not having her. We never thought we'd see her again. But she had her own surprises."

Five months later Freda "waddled up the drive... with a male in tow".

"My son was outside in the sun and said 'dad, come and look at this'. I thought, here we go again," Mr Garner said.

Phil Garner rescued the duckling while fishing. Credit: Phil Garner

Freda went on to nest under a neighbour's lavender bush. Mr Garner said she later "rolled up with these eleven little monsters in tow".

He said he was happy to have Freda back along with her new family.

"It's something to look out for and look after and they're no bother," he said "They eat a lot, but that's ducks."

He plans to release them at a local pond once they are old enough, but he said he has one concern.

"I've been told they imprint on you for life and my concern is we've got 11 females and if we get 11 females come back next year with 11 ducklings it's going to be chaos," he said.

Despite the thought of an army of ducklings in his garden, Mr Garner said the family is "something cheerful in today's world".

"I've been told to write a book," he said.

Mrs Garner said her husband has "always had an affinity with animals."

She said: "She's been a lifeline for him. The year she came he had cancer at the time. She was something for him to love and focus on and to take his mind off the worry.

"She came for a reason," she added.

But she said she ultimately hoped the birds would find freedom in the wild.

"Unlike Freda, who grew up in the house, they grew up wild outside. I'm hoping they find their own lives and not all come back here with a boyfriend," she said.

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