Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

Monthly Archive: February 2008

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.


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.

Meconopsis Grandis – Himalayan Blue Poppy 2008

I have bought a few plants in the past of the Himalayan Blue Poppy but never had one survive in my garden. I have been doing a bit of research on the internet and have been amazed at how many cultivars, I think thats the right word, there are of this beautiful flower. Not being too hopeful and not wanting to spend too much on seeds I ordered Meconopsis Grandis from Alan Romans and have today sown them in moist compost, covered the tray in a polythene bag and sat it on the computer box. The seed pack had been sitting in the fridge for two days. My research brought forth much conflicting advice about how to raise these plants from seed and after looking at the pictures I am determined to get hold of some Meconopsis Bobby Masterton and Meconopsis Mrs Jebb as they look truly wonderful.

Bobby Masterton

Here are a few bits of advice I found. Store seed in a sealed container in a domestic fridge. Commercial seeds sometimes appear to be less viable than home-collected seeds. The type of compost used for seed germination is not too critical. A peat-based one is most usually used. An important feature is for it to have high air porosity. The incorporation of a lot of grit enabling minimum root damage when pricking out is also preferable. Sow seed in Dec – Feb onto the surface of moist compost in trays or plastic pots. Water the pots from below and avoid seed disturbance. Either leave uncovered, but more usually growers cover the seed with several mm of fine grit or a little sieved compost. Keep in a light place, usually a cool greenhouse. Sometimes pots are placed on a heated bench (around 15C), or out-of-doors. Never allow surface to dry out, especially after germination has taken place. Germination takes two weeks to several months, sometimes occurring in the second year. Damping-off can be a problem. Prick out seedlings at the two or three leaf-stage. Avoid damaging the stem, by handling the leaves only. Transfer gently to the same light compost, avoiding compaction. Keep in a shady place until growth has resumed. Keep the plants growing actively, and repot before the pots become root-bound. It is important not to let the plants suffer a check in growth. Transfer to larger pots or into the garden when large enough. Depending on climate this is summer, late summer-autumn or the following spring. You can see why I am confused.

Impatiens F2 Colour Magic

ImpatiensThis morning I have sown 24 Busy Lizzie seeds in a modular propagation tray and they are now sitting on the window ledge. I have often bought these from the garden centre as small plants but have never grown them from seed. I haven’t seen this particular variety before. They were bought from Alan Romans at 50p for 85 seeds.

This compact variety is early flowering and very tolerant of shade. The flowers are large and come in a cheery mix of orange, pink, carmine, scarlet and white. Ideal for beds and borders or to brighten up a shady spot on the patio.

Rudbeckia x hirta hybrida ‘Cherokee Sunset’ (HHA)

rudbeckiaToday I have sown some seeds of Rudbeckia bought from Alan Romans 50p for 50 seeds. I needed a bit of cheering up after the week we have had which I won’t go into but suffice it to say has been awful. My Mother always used to tell us to count our blessings so we will have to start totting up and cheering up.

That’s Easy
It is easy enough to be pleasant when life flows by like a song
But the man worthwhile is one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong
By : Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1850-1919

Special Delivery

This morning I have received a special delivery from Royal Mail. Six hatching eggs from Middlemuir Poultry up in Scotland. After a few hours to settle they will be set under Star, one of my white Silkies, in the broody pen. The eggs are a mixture of black, blue and cuckoo Silkie bantams. I have given the pen a good clean up and a coat of creosote substitute and allowed it to dry thoroughly. I have put in a thick layer of beautiful Aubiose bedding so she should be comfortable in there. Now it’s just a matter of making sure she has plenty of food and water, keeping the little run clean and waiting for twenty one days. It is very early in the season but I am optimistic.

(Optimism dashed, my broody ate my hatching eggs.)  



Changes and Shattered Glass

Visitors may notice a few changes today as the server has been updated and we have added our online shop. Sorry for any inconvenience that may have been experienced overnight.

Yesterday was a day of more clearing up as the greenhouse is now totally buckled and the glass shattered. Rob cleared all the glass up and we took it to the recycling bins. The plan is to move the house over to plot 18 which isn’t so exposed and cover it with netting. We also plan to move the old brassica cage over there with crop rotation in mind so I set to and pulled up everything still left in there with the exception of the three red cabbages which look as though they could still make it. The pigeons are now back in force and everything exposed has a decidedly nibbled look.

Growing Nasturtium in The Salad Bed – Allotment 2008

Last year I grew Nasturtium along the edges of the salad bed. I sowed them directly into the ground and was overwhelmed by how vigorously they eventually grew. Unfortunately they stifled the smaller plants and moved over to cover the corn bed too. As the corn was high they survived and may even have benefitted from the moisture that was not lost because the Nasturtium shaded the ground between the corn plants. I saved loads of seed at the end of the season. This year I want to be a bit more in control and so have sown a tray indoors. I shall probably sow some seeds over in the hedge on plot 18 as it is all brambles and hawthorne at present not to mention a fair bit of rubble and bricks so I hope that they will mask it a little.


Sow directly March-May, flowers June-September. Nasturtiums flower abundantly in poor soil and transform hot, dry places into a blaze of colour. Flowers are edible, and ideal for use in salads.




The House On The Hill

adams house

I recently went to my son’s new house and was amazed at how many spring bulbs he has coming through both at the back and the front of the house. Then I spotted a whole row of Hellibores under the front window all in flower and looking beautiful. Hellebores Orientalis (Lenten Rose) Later flowering than the Christmas Rose.



Columbine – Aquilegia Vulgaris


This morning I have sown a tray of Aquilegia seeds in damp compost and covered in Vermiculie, sealed in polythene and placed in the window ledge. I am not sure of variety as they were given to me by my Sister-in-law Janice and were given to her by her Mother Joyce who had collected them from her garden. Apparently they take 25-35 days to germinate and we wont see any flowers from them until next Spring. It will be worth the wait though as they are perennials and once established should give us pleasure for many years. I intend to scatter a few seeds directly along the back border at home and see what I can get there. I have always admired these beautiful flowers but have never tried to grow them from seed before.

809554-medium.jpgAquilegia common names Granny’s Bonnet or Columbine is a genus of about 60-70 species of perennial plants that are found in meadows, woodlands, and at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere, known for the spurred petals of their flowers.