The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Jemima – Broody Call Duck

Jemima, our white Call Duck, is sitting on a nest of fertile eggs so I hope she has some luck this year. This is her second season and last year she only had one surviving duckling. Puddles, her mate is standing guard on top of their hutch and warding off all comers. We only have four call ducks now in the garden and things are much quieter and tidier. The second pair are Myley, Jemima’s baby and Rosie, one of the ducklings I hatched out last year in the incubator. They are living together and so far Rosie has six eggs in her nest. It broke our hearts to let the other calls and the runner ducks go but they are all now living in lovely places with loads of space and plenty of grass. We shall probably have to sell the ducklings if they hatch but it all helps to pay for food and bedding and the ducks will be much happier and content if they are allowed to rear a brood of their own. The ducks aren’t the only ones who are broody in the garden but as the chickens don’t have a cockerel with them there won’t be any chicks this year.

Autumn 2009

It seems that September has gone by without a mention on my weblog. It was a warm dry month and lots of time was spent in the garden at home. As far as the allotments go we visited to harvest tomatoes, cucumbers and cabbage and did some weeding and tidying but not enough time was spent there I’m afraid.

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It is now one week into October and the weather is still mild with some sunshine and so far not much rain. The pumpkins have suffered from the lack of water and aren’t so good this year. The butternut squash is almost non existant unfortunately so that is disappointing. The runner beans were prolific but also not as good as last year because of the lack of rain.

We have blown our savings and bought a car. Not a new one, a 2002 registration Jaguar, but have kept the Rover so I will have my own transport and we can also use the old one for allotment visits.

 

At six weeks old the runner ducks have grown at a terrific pace and now stand well above all the others in the garden. They are lovely creatures, very shy and quiet. All the ducks are now living together in one shed. The old gardening shed that I cleaned out, treated and adapted for them. I am looking forward to seeing the first egg from the new girls.

Frank The Duck

Frank The DuckThe Runner Ducks hatched this weekend. Out of six eggs we got three beautiful ducklings. It looks like two girls and a boy, Libbie named the two girls Honey and Treacle and we decided on Francis Drake for the boy, Frank for short, in honour of our good friend and neighbour at the allotment.

We spent a good two hours at the plots on Sunday and came home with a good harvest of potatoes, beans, cucumbers, cauliflowers, cabbages, courgette and tomatoes.  An enormous amount of weeds were pulled but we still came away having run out of time and knowing we had much more weeding to do. Everything was very dry and this afternoon we are having a welcome shower of rain. I am sure the plants will be getting a much needed drink.

 

Indian Runner Ducks

Yesterday we took our black Silkie bantam cockerel to a new home. The chap had all sorts of chickens, loads of large white ducks and some Indian Runner Ducks. I have often looked at pictures of the runner duck and seen them in the flesh and thought them to be comical but have never considered getting any. However, when we were ready to leave the chap gave us six eggs for the incubator and there they sit now. With the prospect of little ducklings in twenty eight days I thought I had best read up on these strange members of the duck family. Apparently the ducks are prolific layers of large eggs and can lay all year round. The eggs he gave us are enormous and it is hard to believe that the outcome of the hatch will be the slim, elegant, penguin like birds in his field. Well elegant until they start to run.

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Indian Runners are a very special breed of domestic duck. When they were first imported into Europe nearly two hundred years ago they attracted attention because of their tall, upright bodies and their incredible reputation for egg-laying. They had been found in the East Indies, from which they get their present name, but were referred to as penguin ducks by Dutch explorers. Information from The Indian Runner Duck Association.

Appenzeller Spitzhauben for a Spring Hatch

appenzeller-spitzhaubenemma.jpgThis is the national breed of Switzerland. The feathers of the crest are forward facing. Spitzhauben means pointed hat or bonnet. The plumage markings are black-tipped feathers. With their crest, V-comb, and spangled plumage, these birds are very attractive. They lay a beautiful white medium sized egg. 

I have bought six hatching eggs of the above breed for hatching in the incubator. (Sorry Sean)

Poorly Puddles – Limberneck

28th February – This morning was very traumatic as Puddles, our lovely white Call drake, was poorly when I let him out of his bedroom. My first fear was that he had broken his neck somehow as he was very distressed, unable to stand and threshing about as though he were having a convulsion. I picked him up and made him secure by wrapping a couple of tea towels round him to hold his wings and feet in place, in a sort of natural sitting position. Then I had to control his neck as he was flipping it wildly from side to side. His breathing was very laboured and I really thought it was just a matter of time before we would lose him so I determined to sit and nurse him until the end. I encouraged him to drink but he found it extremely difficult as he had no control over his neck and was unable to swallow so I continued to dip his beak in and hold his neck up to stroke the water down.

When he was settled I felt along his neck and was sure that nothing was broken. However he continued to have convulsions and was still having trouble breathing. My son searched for phone numbers to get some advice to no avail and in the end we found the answer on the internet. Limberneck. The symptoms matched perfectly. Apparently it is caused when a bird swallows a spore of a bacteria which causes a form of Botulism that call ducks are susceptable to. The only treatment advised was plenty of clean water and a weak solution of Epsom Salts to flush the poison through. We read that if we could get him through 48 hours we had a chance of recovery. I rang our vets and explained and they got an expert from one of their branches to call us a couple of times to help us through.

That night was like having a new baby in the house with two hourly drinks and nappy changes. We kept Puddles warm by sliding him into a woolly hat over the top of his nappy and securing cloths. He was a model patient and seemed to realise we were trying to help him. The following evening we watched him waddle a little then wobble a little as we allowed him to exercise before he was once more secured and though he wasnt eating yet he was drinking and breathing a little better so we were hopeful.

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It is now 2nd March and Puddles is installed back in his pen with his lady friend Jemima who has been kicking up a right fuss whilst he has been away from her. With lots of care he has gradually become stronger and though not back to his old self is much improved.

All The Year Round

 

lettuceI sowed a tray of lettuce, All The Year Round, a butterhead variety. The ideal would be to have a crispy lettuce without snails and slugs so if they germinate do we plant them out into the salad bed or try to keep them raised somehow. I have a shallow plastic box. I may drill holes in the bottom of that and fill it with commercial compost and plant them in that. I shall have to think about it.

We have been given a greenhouse by a neighbour of my brother so the next big plan is to clear the old brassica cage and slab a foundation for it. How to get it to the plot will present a problem too. It does come apart so we are hoping we may be able to take it piece by piece in the car.

Chico is home and looking very bruised and sad. She is confined to a cage while her pelvis heals. Neither of her back legs seem much use to her at the moment so we are hoping that time will heal. Poor baby.

We made a quick visit to the plot this evening. It was very peaceful and beautiful and a welcome escape from the sadness at home. The ground, even after all the heavy rain, was incredibly dry so we watered the seed beds and the lean to. There were quite a few fruits on the strawberries but none red yet. The runner beans were picking up at last and almost all the potatoes are showing through now, some with flowers.