Call Ducks: Call Duck Association UK

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Duck Help-line: other people's problems

Limping ducks

We get quite a lot of enquiries about birds which limp. There can be several causes, which are outlined below. 

(i) If the duck has a bacterial infection which has caused the 'ankle' or the hock to swell, a course of antibiotic injections can help. Make sure that the injections are made into the breast muscle, not the leg where a tendon can be damaged. Soluble antibiotic in the drinking water is of little use; injections are far more effective. It can still take some time for the swelling to go down. Ducks do like to sit on water if they have a leg infection, so it probably helps their recovery. The infected joint is often hot to touch, and the cooling action of the water must help. Don't confine limping birds without their mate. They eat better if they are out and about, but check that they can get to the food. They tend to lose weight and condition when they get a leg infection. Note that, in the UK,  antibiotics are only obtainable through a vet, with appropriate instructions about the dose and withdrawal times (for commercial birds).  

(ii) Some swellings, especially if left untreated, result in distortion of the hock joint to such a degree that the tendon over the hock is displaced. It is unlikely that such a bird will recover, and it is best put down. 

(iii) Ducks can also tell you that they have bad legs (by sitting down, or limping) when they appear to have nothing wrong when you examine the leg. The leg also feels the normal temperature. The cause of this condition is not known. It usually takes up to three weeks for the bird to recover. Calls are more prone to this condition than swollen joints which seem more likely to affect Indian Runners and light ducks.

How long do Call ducks live? 

In good conditions Calls can live up to 10 years old, and even longer. Males tend to live longer than females - because females have the additional hazard of laying eggs. 

How long do Call ducks eggs take to hatch?

They generally take 26-27 days. This is in contrast to the larger ducks which take 28-29. 

How many eggs do Call ducks lay?

This varies a great deal. Some are very good layers, managing over 80 eggs. That's good for a Call duck - they are not like a Campbell which can lay over 300 per year. However, many Calls which have been bred for exhibition may lay only a few eggs - between 6 and 30. Some lay none at all. 

Are Call duck eggs difficult to hatch ?

Yes. Many animals or birds which are not 'average' and are pushed to extremes of size (large or small) become more difficult to breed. Calls have been selected to be small and round and so are nothing like the average mallard. 

Can I use Silkies to hatch Calls?

Silkies can make very good broodies and the smaller Silkies are good for sitting Call duck eggs. However, do take the eggs to an incubator when they are due to pip. Ducks which hatch under a feathery-legged hen can get caught and strangled in the feathers. The incubator (hatcher) is much safer at this stage.

Are Call ducks good sitters?

Yes. They achieve better results than the average hen. But you must look after them while they are sitting. Also they are more likely than a good broody hen to give up sitting. Check them twice a day. If you find eggs deserted and really cold put them in the incubator. Eggs can survive in suspended animation for many hours, and not die. 

Ducklings not eating

Question: My 15 year old daughter has raised 3 ducklings from eggs. Suddenly, they seem paralysed to a degree proportional to their size. Personally, I think it's aflatoxin from mouldy feed. Two are able to eat normally and seem to be recovering, but one is not able to eat or drink. I'd like to give it a chance to survive. Can I syringe feed it a slurry of oats, grits, dog food? If so, how do I do it without causing an aspiration pneumonia? Much thanks ...............

Answer: I'm not sure how large the ducklings are. Are they Call ducks? Or larger birds like Indian Runners? It is almost impossible to force-feed small mouths of young Call ducks. As you rightly point out, there is a real danger of introducing food/liquid to the lungs. I would only encourage the duckling to feed by dipping its beak into a mixture of food and water. Or try using a teaspoon containing food to touch its beak. Added brewer's yeast is beneficial because, as well as being an extra food ingredient, ducks usually like the taste. I agree that mouldy food is a hazard. Moulds can cause laboured breathing, and death, in ducklings. 

This encouragement to feed worked. The duckling (a Black East Indian ) survived. 

What is the correct name for Call Ducks?

The person enquiring about Call ducks probably expects that Calls have a Latin name e.g Anas penelope (wigeon). The Latin system was developed by Linnaeus (1707-1778) so that it would be universal. Life was divided into large groups called Phyla, and then into smaller groups which had similarities. 

Birds are vertebrates in the phylum Chordata
Sub phylum - vertebrates
Class - Aves = birds
Order - Anseriformes
Sub-family - Anatinae
Genus - Anas
Species - platyrhynchos (this is a mallard)

We have still not got to the Call duck! It is believed that all domestic ducks (except the Muscovy ) have been developed from the wild mallard. This means that the Indian Runner, the Call duck and the Rouen are very similar to each other. They are all the same species and can inter-breed. They do not therefore, each have their own Latin name. They are simply varieties of the same basic genetic material as the mallard. 

Domesticated varieties are given common names such as 'Indian Runner'. Call ducks have been called Decoys (see the history page). They are known as dwarf ducks (zwerg-enten), kwakertjee in Holland and mignon in France.