What It’s Like To Own A Pet Duck

One organic farmer describes the pleasures and pitfalls—and tells the tale of how she got her feathered friend.

July 6, 2015

If it weren’t for the dead peacock, Cathy Reis-Coffey would never have gotten Bea, her pet duck.

She was working in her garden in East Bangor, Pennsylvania, six years ago when someone dumped several peacocks next door—and one of the new arrivals soon began invading. “I’d plant stuff during the day, and at night he’d tear everything out,” she says. Her landlord lent her a BB gun and suggested she scare the offending peacock off by aiming at his rear end. It sort of worked, but the bird kept coming back. Then one day she fired a shot and something went awry.


“The wind caught the BB and hit him in the head,” says Reis-Coffey, still horrified by the accident. “It killed him instantly.” Later that day, she visited a farmhouse where some children had earlier brought a clutch of abandoned duck eggs. While there, an egg hatched—and Reis-Coffey happened to be the first thing the tiny duckling saw. 

“She imprinted on me,” she says. And so out of a sense of penance over the unfortunate demise of the peacock, she took the duckling home. “I just thought she was the cutest little thing.”

Six years later Bea, now full-grown, lives in the apartment Reis-Coffey shares with her mother. Bea has her own compound inside the home: a customized dog carrier with an attached kiddie pool filled with wood shavings, food and water dishes, and her favorite toys, shoes (Bea loves the laces). 

The duck, which Reis-Coffey describes as a “part-Rouen mutt,”  primarily eats chicken feed pellets, but her favorite food is watermelon. That leads to the inevitable question: Just how do you keep a pet duck from defecating all over your home? As it happens, a company called Avian Fashions specializes in bird accessories and has developed a harness that holds a diaper. Reis-Coffey says that the harness does a good job of keeping Bea’s droppings in check, but some spills are inevitable: “Ducks are very messy. The diaper needs to be changed several times a day.”

When Reis-Coffey goes to the nearby farmer’s market on weekends to sell her produce, she always takes Bea along in the cat carrier. The friendly duck waddles around the booth, entertaining shoppers while keeping a close eye on her flock. 

Owning a duck is not for the unprepared. “I wouldn’t jump into it blindly like I did,” warns the organic gardener, who notes that they can be very loud, their health can be sensitive, and they molt twice a year. “The feathers get everywhere.” 

Then there are other considerations to take into account, like how the duck will get along with other household pets. Bea, for instance, has a tendency to bully Reis-Coffey’s much larger male cat. “You would think that the cat would intimidate the duck, but it’s really just the opposite. It’s kind of funny as Bea will actually jump on top of him,” she says.

Despite the occasional mess and sudden burst of quacks, Reis-Coffey says that Bea has gone from being sort of a cosmic burden over an assassinated peacock to a genuine pleasure and a wonderful companion.

“She’s such a good girl,” says Reis-Coffey. “I never thought in a million years I’d own a duck. But Bea’s a joy and a blessing.”

Tags: animalsPets