True love and a soul mate may seem elusive to some, but the story of one odd duck and his righteous chick stand as a testament to the power and authenticity of love, even if it is a little strange sometimes.
Breaking through his eggshell more than three years ago near Hillsboro, Puddles was different from other birds in Sherry Higgins’s chicken coop. He was not a chicken nor was he a rooster.
Puddles was a duck.
In 30 years of “raising critters,” Higgins never had any reservations about hatching ducks and chickens together, but it soon became apparent to her that Puddles wasn’t like other ducks.
“Actually he’s very strange,” Higgins said. “He thinks he’s a chicken. I don’t know what happened to him. I didn’t drop him on his head or anything, but except for swimming he doesn’t have anything to do with ducks.”
Sometimes she calls him “Chuck” because he acts more like a chicken than he does a duck.
She said Chuck’s brother, Flash, hatched the same way and eventually went off to live with the ducks, but Chuck stayed with the chickens.
“Chuck doesn’t really quack,” Higgins said. “He sounds more like a chicken when he talks — it’s the funniest thing — it’s more like a ‘cheep cheep cheep.’”
As Chuck the duck filled out and grew up, he became popular around the coop.
“In his first winter, he had a harem of about eight chickens,” Higgins said.
That winter was cruel to Chuck as the cold weather revealed to the would-be mates that Chuck was not the rooster they thought he was.
“One day I busted the ice out of the kiddy pool I have for the ducks and he comes a-running like fire to the water and jumps in,” Higgins said. “Well, his harem just followed, but the thing is chickens don’t swim.”
Higgins fished Chuck’s flailing harem out of the frigid waters while he paddled in hurried circles, unaware of the effect it would have on his reputation around the chicken coop.
“After that, well, the girls weeded off of him one by one,” Higgins said. “They stopped paying him any attention.”
All but one left him, and she helped him through his misfortune, accepting him for the odd duck that he was.
Higgins never named the chicken of Chuck’s affection, but said Chuck only had eyes for her after the kiddy pool scandal.
“I can’t tell her apart from the others, but Chuck knows who she is,” Higgins said. “He follows her everywhere. He’s very loyal to her. They’re together all day and he sleeps near her at night.”
Chuck’s chick “rules the roost like in most relationships;” however, her adoration for Chuck is easy to see, Higgins said.
“She kinda plays hard to get but when Chuck isn’t around or he gets too far away from her, she’ll come looking for him,” Higgins said. “They’re a fun couple.”
Nevertheless, their relationship hasn’t been without its rough patches and quarrels.
“The roosters will try to breed her, but Chuck just chases them all off like a rooster would,” Higgins said. “Other times they fight trying to get out of chicken coop door together. He looks funny running after her, trying to keep up with his big duck feet.”
By cluck or by quack, the couple always works out their differences and goes back to doing what they love doing best.
“Mostly he watches her while they eat cat food,” Higgins said. “They’ve got a thing going on, there’s no doubt about it, and it absolutely is true love.”