As daylight fades, Nipper the duck approaches the back door of the Fisher household in Winslow, and quacks to be let inside. There the bird waits patiently as she’s outfitted with a cloth diaper that ties around her body like an apron. Then she’s off, waddling over the home’s hardwood floors in search of crumbs dropped by the Fishers’ three young sons.
In just a few weeks, Nipper has become accustomed to life as a “house duck,” an unexpected, part-time role that was offered to her in a time of great need.
“The kids think it’s hilarious,” said Beth Fisher, the mother of the household. “She’s very friendly.”
Originally in a flock of eight, Nipper was raised by the Fishers this past spring to produce eggs — outside. As free-range ducks, the flock roamed the family’s spacious property, which features a pond and a coop for the birds to stay in at night. But in late November, this idyllic life came to an abrupt end for seven of the eight birds when they were attacked by a wild predator during the night.
Only Nipper survived.
“I went out to feed and water them, and I looked around and realized it was just her,” Beth Fisher said. “She was all alone.”
The duck’s future looked grim.
Unwilling to leave her alone that night to fend off the predator and the intense cold, Beth Fisher and her three sons decided to bring Nipper inside, where they filled a pet carrier with straw for her to sleep in.
“When my husband came home from work, he was a little surprised there was a duck in the house, but he pretty much thought it was awesome,” she said.
Since then, Nipper has proved to be a charming house guest, often following her “new flock” around the house, observing them with curiosity. She’s not much of a snuggler, since she can easily overheat, but she seems to enjoy being close to people.
“When I wash the dishes, there she is, at my feet,” Beth Fisher said. “She’s kind of like having a very nosy cat.”
As Nipper moves throughout their house, she gently pecks — or nips — at anything that catches her interest, a behavior that inspired her name. And she’s learned that if she searches the kitchen or simply hangs around the three boys of the house, she’s often rewarded with bits of fallen food.
“She eats a lot of Goldfish,” Beth Fisher said.
While the duck is perfectly friendly and gentle, she still can be a challenge to have in the house. For one, the Fishers have two large dogs which they currently keep in a separate area of the house when the duck is inside. While the dogs don’t bother outdoor poultry, the Fishers worry that they might react differently if they see a bird indoors. They may carefully introduce them to Nipper in time, but they don’t want to rush it.
Then there’s the cat, which tolerates Nipper — and tries to eat the duck’s food, which is duck feed pellets and the occasional snack of dried mealworms.
“They coexist,” Beth Fisher said.
Another challenge is the mess ducks can make. Early on, the family realized that they needed to find a way to prevent the bird from leaving droppings all over their beautiful home. And for the crafty mother of three, the solution came easily. She made a duck diaper.
Believe it or not, duck diapers aren’t anything new. Poultry owners sometimes have to bring individual birds indoors when they’re injured or being attacked by their flock, which has resulted in the invention of bird undergarments, a variety of which are available through online retailers — and in many patterns and colors. Beth Fisher ordered a pair, but was dismayed to find that the item wasn’t waterproof; so she used the pattern to make her own using one of her son’s old cloth diapers.
“My friends are like, doesn’t she smell? And I’m like, no worse than the boys,” Fisher said with a chuckle. “With three boys ages 7 and under, adding a duck to this madness hasn’t really been that much of a shock. She kind of fits right in.”
While the duck diaper keeps the house clean, it makes Nipper a bit of a mess. So the family purchased a round metal tub, which they fill with warm water and place on the deck for the duck to bathe itself in on a regular basis. In no time, these duck-related chores have become a part of Beth Fisher’s day, just like feeding their cat and dogs.
“This is kind of becoming the new normal, to have the duck around,” Beth Fisher said. “She’s fun to watch, and the kids enjoy having her.”
Nevertheless, they plan for her to go back outside, full time, in the spring when they’ll purchase another batch of ducklings and raise them as her companions and fellow egg layers. However, if Nipper continues to wander inside every once in a while, the family won’t mind one bit. In fact, she’s become such a source of joy and entertainment to the family and their friends that they’ve decided to create an Instagram page (@nippertheduck) in her honor.
“It’s been a good lesson for the kids to learn compassion,” Beth Fisher said. “Even though it’s completely ridiculous, we’re going to do whatever we can so she’s not outside alone in the cold.”
Each morning, when Nipper gets up and waddles out of her crate, she leaves behind an egg.
“We jokingly call it her rent check,” Beth Fisher said.