What We Can Learn from Birds about Self Care

Ducks, and some other birds, do a special form of grooming called preening.

There’s an oil gland on their backs that they peck, and then they spread that oil to the rest of their feathers with their beaks.

Oil is hydrophobic, so it keeps the feathers waterproof, preventing water from soaking in, and thereby keeping the duck alive by preventing it from sinking into the water.

Preening can take up a lot of time, as ducks must undergo this process several times a day. It looks like quite the process, if you’ve ever witnessed it.

Ducklings are completely dependent on their mother. They know only to follow her around for their first 40-60 days, and from her, they’ll learn how to live on their own: things like fishing for food, or, if they’re in a park, begging for bread scraps from innocent passersby.

But what would happen if, one day, that mother duck decided that preening was just too much trouble?

“I’m worn out! All these little ones to take care of! I’m not preening today,” this hypothetical duck would think.

Or maybe there was no selfishness involved at all. “I can’t preen, I have to make sure my ducklings are okay. I’m not taking my eye off them!”

Soon the water would soak into her feathers, weighing her down, and she’d slowly sink to the bottom of whatever body of water she calls home- the lake, the river, a toilet.

It may not happen immediately after the first time she skipped out, or even after the second, but eventually, she’d be a goner.

This would obviously end her life, but it would affect all her little ducklings, too.

They’d be up the creek without a paddle.

Out of luck.


No one to teach them life’s little lessons like different vocal calls, when to swim away from a predator, or to watch over them as they undergo fledging, or flying for the first time.

We, as humans, likewise, have to do our own version of preening.

We have to know what it is that’s self-sustaining to us- the things that keep us happy and healthy- so that we do those self-specific things, because doing these things, in turn, enable us to give the most of ourselves away.

Then, we’re able to teach, by example or otherwise, our own ducklings, and fellow ducks, life’s little lessons.

Figure out what it is you have to do that keeps you strong and happy enough to lend part of yourself to those who need you.

Speaking from a new mom’s perspective, it could be something as simple as keeping up with showering. But, during normal times for me, it involves working out and praying, but I’m always sure to include other activities I enjoy when I feel like doing them, like taking the time to cook a nice meal.

Don’t feel guilty about taking this time to care for yourself, because it enables you to care so much better for others.

Instead, thank God for the time he’s given you to do what you love!

1 Corinthians 3:17
If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

This article from crosswalk has more interesting insights as well.

This post was shared on Coffee and Conversation.

3 Replies to “What We Can Learn from Birds about Self Care”

  1. Thanks for sharing this with us at Coffee & Conversation, Sarah! It was a very unique post… I learned quite a bit – which I always appreciate, being a homeschooler 😉


    1. Thank you so much, Pat! I appreciate the opportunity to be able to share it; thanks so much for your site!


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