Chris's Weblog – City Chickens

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.

trout irdwhite indian runner duc

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)

Surprise Surprise –

Although the breeding season should only go from February to May, Jemima, our call duck, is once again nest building and has two eggs in there already. I hope for their sake that they have at least one success this time.

sean and deb greenhouseSean and Deb have bought a greenhouse for their garden and have done a good job of building a secure base for it. Well done both of you.






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.

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.

Chico Update

My cat, my dear and gentle friend,
As you lay sleeping quietly,
I thank you for the time we spend
In true and happy company.

Following x-rays the fnal diagnosis was a fractured pelvis so poor Chico underwent surgery today to fix a metal plate to hold the fracture together. The injured back leg has been dressed but there is extensive neurological damage which may be temporary but may be permanent so she isn’t out of the woods yet. One thing is guaranteed though, she will have the best care we can give her.


No visit to the plot today as Chico, our cat, was hit by a car and we had to take her to the vet. Looks like she has a broken back leg poor girl so she is to stay at the vets for fluids, pain relief and anti biotics then x-rays on Monday to decide what to do next. After a long convalescence Chico survived her accident.