As It Happens

Ham on the lam: This duck named after dinner won't stop wandering off

A fashionable fowl with an insatiable wanderlust has become a local sensation in the British town of Chorley.

Ham makes friends with local children and terrorizes neighbourhood cats

A brown and white duck stands in the snow wearing a bright blue scarf.
Ham the duck sporting one of his many scarves. 'My mom knits him a scarf every single winter,' says his owner, Charlotte Taylor-Dugdal. (Charlotte Taylor-Dugdal/Facebook)

A fashionable fowl with an insatiable wanderlust has become a local sensation in the British town of Chorley.

Ham the duck has a habit of breaking free from his enclosure and having misadventures all over town, his owner Charlotte Taylor-Dugdal told As It Happens host Nil Köksal.

This, despite the fact that she secures him away in his pen every evening.

"I don't know if you've heard of Houdini over in Canada," she said, referring to the famous American escape artist. "Well, we call him Hamdini. How he gets out, we will never know. But he just manages."

The story of Ham and Pea

Taylor-Dugdal says she adopted Ham, along with his sister, from a farm in 2018.

She was there to pick up some rabbits, which she breeds, when she fell head over heels for the pair of Indian runner ducklings. 

The farm's owner told her the baby birds could one day end up on someone's plate, so Taylor-Dugdal decided to spare them that grisly fate and make them pets instead.

"She was having me on. It was a joke," Taylor-Dugdal said. "She just knew that I'd end up taking these ducks on."

On the left, two little ducklings. On the right, two grown ducks.
Charlotte Taylor-Dugdal adopted Ham and Pea when they were just ducklings in 2018. (Charlotte Taylor-Dugdal/Facebook )

At first, Taylor-Dugdal says she was going to name the pair Cat and Dog. But instead, she decided to call them Ham and Pea, inspired by her dinner plans that night. 

This led to some confusion that evening, she said, when she informed her children she was making ham and pea soup, and subsequently had to explain that she wasn't referring to their new feathered friends. 

For the first couple years of his life, Ham was content to be a homebody with his sister, Taylor-Dugdal said. But something changed when Pea died in December of 2021. That's when he started making his great escapes.

"We think he was looking for Pea originally," she said. "And then he started to get the attention of the locals."

And there's nothing Ham loves more than attention — except, perhaps, for Rice Krispies.

"It's his favourite treat. And there's nothing wrong with a treat, every now and then, is there?" Taylor-Dugdal said.

Friend of children, enemy of cats 

Ham has become something of a regular in the neighbourhood. He's befriends the local children, and has made a sport of chasing the neighbourhood cats. 

He'll waddle straight into people's houses if they open the door for him, and charms onlookers with his collection of jaunty scarves, hand-knit for him by Taylor-Dugdal's mother. 

He doesn't wander too far, but there's plenty to get up to in the neighbourhood, which includes a pharmacy, a nursery and a pub.

"He's trying to get into the nursery because he loves the children. He tried to get in the [pharmacy] when people have gone in for prescriptions," Taylor-Dugdal said. "And he's tried to get into the pub for an ice cold pint, I think. He's naughty."

A duck walks through an open gate.
Ham the duck returns from one of his adventures about town. (Hamtheduck/TikTok)

Despite his galavanting, he's rarely missing for long, she said.

Often, he returns on his own. Other times, she'll crack open her window and shout "Ham!" until the little critter quacks back.

If all else fails, she says a Facebook post will usually lead to his safe return.

"I think … he just quite enjoys being social," she said. "Obviously he spends a lot of time with us, but sometimes you like to see your friends as well as your family, don't you? So I think that's what he's doing."

She's thought about putting up a camera to see how he gets free, or perhaps attaching a tracker to him. But she's hesitant to put a complete stop to his hijinks.

"He [once] stayed in for about a week and a half, and honestly, he was so miserable," she said. "Then when he finally escaped, he came back happy as anything."

Not to mention, the waterfowl's wanderings have him somewhat famous. He has his own TikTok account, and he's recently travelled all the way to London to make his first TV news appearance.

"He loved all the attention, all the cuddles. And they brought him a box of Rice Krispies," she said. "He's quite the celebrity down there."

Interview produced by Cassie Argao.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?