Duck Tales

2009 may have been the Year of the Ox for Chinese New year but it was the year of the Duck here at Crippen Creek. In last month's post we talked of the Muscovy ducks that we were raising and mentioned the addition of Norman the Duck to our flock. His picture garnered much attention and many inquiries. I mentioned some of his exploits on Facebook and Norman developed such a following that he almost had his own fan page. The first chapter in our story tells how Norman the Duck came to Crippen Creek in the words of his rescuer, Norm Sharp.

"This duck was abandoned in a fenced rain 'catch pond' in Oregon City during mid-summer. I noticed it was different than the wild ducks that come through and soon learned it could not fly. I assumed it to be domestic, most likely a cross. At the time I was learning a classical Brazilian piece on the guitar, written by Marco Perreira, called Marta. As I went through the catch pond area, early in the morning on walks I would whistle that song as I walked out of the neighborhood. The duck started swimming toward me when I would whistle Marta, and it would swim next to me until I disappeared. I began to feed it some duck food I picked up and it knew me and would approach closely when it heard the song. This continued throughout summer and fall, I, all the while threatening to capture the duck and call my friends Don and Kitty.

The opportunity came in this recent freeze. After several days of sub freezing weather, the pond was frozen virtually solid. At about 3AM, the 9th of December, my little peepers opened and I said to myself, enough. I waited until the most reasonable hour of 530AM, 17 degrees, and with salmon net and dog carrier in hand I went over the fence, dressed in black. The duck was in a small part of the feeder creek that was not frozen and had about a three foot circle of unfrozen water around it. I approached the duck and it jumped out of the water and I attempted to net it. We played chase on the frozen ice for about a minute until I managed to get the net over it. Once I grabbed it, it calmed down, like it knew me and completely relaxed. We went to the little kennel and it now became a part of the back seat of my Volvo.

It went to work with me that morning, as I called several rescue places with no luck, er, duck. friend Don was coming to Portland to catch a train. I surprised him at Union Station around 4PM and we chatted for a bit. Don needed a coat as he'd forgot his: I needed a home for the duck. We walked to the barnyard smelling car and viewed the duck. Don said it was a fine specimen.

I took the duck home that evening, made a cage out of the dog pen, some hay, and a cover (it escaped and was following me around the garage). It seemed agitated at first, then I managed to pat its' belly. It calmed, rested in my arms and I petted it for a long time. Lori, who had patiently helped, looked and said, "it's name is Norman."
It would have been Marta had it been a girl.

So, at 5AM in the morning the next day, myself and Norman were en route to The Inn at Crippen Creek Farm. When I arrived, I placed Norman in the lot with all the other ducks and chickens, who eyed him with suspicion (city duck vs. country). He tentatively stepped from the cage and entered into the world of Crippen Creek Farm. Several nervous looking white ducks were posed like gangsters, checking him out. He chose a solid tactical position, as Normans are prone to do, and returned the stares, sizing up the new locker room. The chickens cared less and acted like they were waiting for a bus downtown.

I did write an impassioned plea to the owners of Crippen Creek to place Norman into a semi-retirement status with the caveat that he behave and that his captor have visiting rights."

Norman the Duck Finds His Special Purpose

When Kitty and I returned from our North Dakota trip, we found Norman the Duck settling in at Crippen Creek but still trying to figure out his place in the flock. He was pretty much a loner (that should have been a red flag) but then noticed that he was making nice with our Kahki Campbell. Then one morning, it was like someone flipped a switch. Just as Navin R. Johnson in the movie, The Jerk, found his 'special purpose,' so too did Norman the barnyard stud. Although he hung out with Campbell, it was the Muscovy hens that became the objects of his "affection." But there was just one little problem that I forgot about. We have one more Muscovy duck...Boris, the drake. I should have known from raising chickens that with only 3 hens, that 2 drakes is one too many. Now Norman the Duck turned his attention to Boris and challenged him for the pecking order. Although Boris is twice the size of Norman, he is younger and inexperienced and no match for Norman. Normally we do not interfere with pecking order squabbles among our livestock. It's just the natural order of things. However, Norman's challenges went beyond the pale. He had clearly established his dominance but tormented Boris, pushing him into the electronet fencing and and pecking most of the hair off Boris' neck.

Boris the Muscovy Drake

Norman the Duck Goes to Duck Jail

We are not mean to our animals and we do not allow mean animals a long stay at Crippen Creek. Before decapitating or relocating Norman, we decided to see if rehabilitating his was a possibility. So we incarcerated Norman in the chicken tractor for several days. Hoping that a few days of solitary confinement would allow Norman to reflect on the error of his ways, we released him It took him less than 30 seconds to find Boris and pounce on him with a vengeance. So it was back in the slammer for Norman until we could figure out our next course of action. I didn't think a mean duck would taste very good so he was spared that fate. In the meantime, our beloved Campbell died and her death will remain a mystery. Norman had an airtight alibi and there was no sign of a predator.

Norman the Duck Gets a New Home

Sunrise and Jessica Fletcher

We had to make a decision soon about Norman's future. Turning him out in the wild did not seem fair since he couldn't fly and keeping him penned up surely would have brought about the wrath of some animal quackavists. So I turned to our good friends Jessica and Sunrise Fletcher. They have an idyllic pond on 40 acres at Lucky Mud with no competing ducks. Fortunately they agreed to adopt Norman and he took to their pond like...well..... like a duck takes to water. (sorry about that last line...I couldn't resist). Thus ends the saga of Norman the Duck.

Norman on the pond at Lucky Mud

Future duck tales will be about their preparation and consumption.