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Monday, April 21, 2014

Subtle Difference in Canary Varieties

Have you discovered breeding differences among canary varieties? Here's a great opportunity to share with your fellow bloggers! This could really be a great post but only if you either add comments or send an e-mail to for me to post for you.

Our readership is approximately 11,000 hits per month and represent countries all over the world, so here is your chance to make a real difference and give your fellow breeders a heads up!

Big Bird Shares: I have noticed considerable difference in the protein requirements and preference between Border canaries and German rollers, Stafford. and Colorbred. I think the Columbus Fancy are more similar to Borders but still learning about that breed optimum. Borders prefer lower protein levels likely somewhere around 16 - 18% while the others like 20% and even higher during the first five days.  Whether the hen feeds and the growth rate is best when you get their protein levels right.

For those liking a higher protein level, I offer 1/4 hard boiled egg daily each morning till the chicks are banding age in addition to the usual nesting foods. Normally, it is no greens for them till their chicks are banded and usually that is at five days. Should any of the chicks show red skin tone, I immediately drop the pure egg and offer greens and plain dry nestling food. (You can pretty quickly roughly figure out if the bred likes high protein by offering the 1/4 hard boiled and they will either eat it or not.) Adding the peas to the nestling food delayed the banding age by about a day to six days rather than five.

For Borders: Higher protein levels upset seem to even discourage hens from feeding. Even last year, I was grumbling about how my Border Hens were almost universially poor feeders. I am really impressed with how much better they feed if thawed frozen peas, 1 lb package peas to 6 cups nestling food, is offered from day one!

In fact, every Border hen is now a good to great feeder just by dropping the pure hard boiled egg for them and adding the peas to their nestling food! I have older Border hens that never fed last year or in their past and they are raising full nests of chicks with just that change! I am so glad I listened to them and hear them say "Peas Please."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Troubleshooting Breeding Season Part 5 - Early Chick Death

How exciting to have new baby chicks hatch! The second egg looks like it needs a helping hand to careful breaking the shell away from the chick. Often, the chick can do it by its self but if humidity is low drying occurs and the chick is trapped inside and dies. Sometimes I add a small drop of water when the drying is excessive so that I do not accidentally damage the chick.

Squashed chick

Building excellent nests that are not wide on the bottom and not excessively deep is critical to hatching and chick survival.  Nervous hens will sit so sit that without protection, the chick may get on its side and be smashed. I like to inspect and correct the nest before sitting the hen but at times I have to correct it again when the chicks hatch so that it is not so wide that the chicks are venerable to harm. Sometimes I have another hens nest that failed to hatch who built a great nest. I can substitute her nest for the faulty wide one. I also often add a plastic egg or two to help protect the chicks from getting trapped in the bottom of the nest.

Chick Death  0 - 5 days, Hen OK

1. Hen Not Feeding.  Even if the hen isn't feeding, the chick lives on the absorbed egg yolk during its first few hours. During the second day, chicks that are not being fed well may die. These chicks have lots of visible bare skin where well fed ones are covered in baby fuzz. The most often the hen does not feed is meddling. The most basic instinct is to protect her chick from predators so when you meddle the hen sits tight and does not feed!

2. Delay in offering food in the morning - As soon as the light comes on in the morning be up and ready to add fresh food and then leave and let them have their privacy. Sleeping in and delaying offering fresh food will result in numerous chick losses, especially the newly hatched ones.

3. Hatching Over Several Days. When eggs are left under the hen as she lays them, the chicks may hatch over several days, thus giving a big size advantage to the first chicks hatched. More chicks are successfully raised when the eggs are removed daily and one plastic egg put in the nest on the first day only. Store the eggs with the small end up to help protect the membrane on the large end from drying out as this is where the pipping chick must break through during the hatching process.

4. Water is a common source of problems. Any time someone has early chick death, I always inquire about the water. It should not have come through any in home water treatment such as a water softener and this throws the electrolyte balance off and all chicks turn red from dehydration and die but adults seem OK.

Likewise, water should not be from a garden hose or a holding tank. if you have a problem with early chick death, I recommend you buy some distilled water (not spring water) but actually pure water and rule out water as the source of the problem.

5. Black Spot at this age is likely due to Circovirus. Circovirus can be confirmed in chicks 1 to 5 days old by seeing a black spot on the right side of their abdomen. Should they be nursed along with hand feeding, they will remain carriers for life. Not all chicks in a nest may show the black spot but others that survive that nest are likely carriers.

6. Ghostly White Chicks. Even though the chicks are initially being fed, their color is pale and paler and then death. This is due to mites and kills all young chicks and any weaker older birds. They even cause red spots on people. The easiest way to treat this is with Hot Spot Flying Insect pest strips but this must be handled carefully as it is toxic. Search my canary blog for more information on treating mites.

Chick Death 5 - 10 days, Hen Effected

1. Sweating Hens who get their breast soiled are not actually sweating but getting fecal material all over them.  This is usually due to feeding too rich of diet and the more the hen feeds the more likely you see this problem. Usually first appearing when the chicks are just banded. The skin color becomes increasingly more red as dehydration sets in.

Clean the nest and replace nesting material as needed. Drop the protein in the diet and offer some oatmeal and dry nestling. Check the vents for a thin lacquer like seal and wash and remove the seal and make sure the vent is open.

2. Pungent Odor - If the cage smells, begin treating immediately with KD powder and if the smell persists treat for E. coli with antibiotics.

First Aid: If a chick dies, immediately begin treating the parents water with Dr. Rob Marshall's KD powder. KD powder is effective against a broad range of organisms such as E. coli, Strep, Thrush, fungus and viruses. KD acidifies the water the parents drink and thus also the contents of their crop. Young in the nest are at a higher risk because the regurgitated food may have stayed in the parents crop for a prolonged time before being fed and any contaminate present can multiple in the parents warm crop environment.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

First 2014 Chicks Leave The Nest

Papa Border on the left is a stock bird but looks like his offspring with this good looking hen are real show stoppers!
Momma is in the middle and the other chick which acts like a male is on the right. Also a real beauty!

Grand Bird is very proud! The two chicks are similar but the top one pictured has a more round head where the 2nd picture chick has a flatter head.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Troubleshooting Breeding Season - Part 4 Eggs Won't Hatch

How's my week going? Well, on Sunday the high was 82 F and the very next day my pansies were covered with snow!

How disappointing when fertile eggs fail to hatch.

Consider the following causes for Poor incubation temperature:

1. Pushing: Were the birds pushed to lay or was the hens abdomen red and hot to touch? Do the birds need some iodine to stimulate the thyroid gland? In my area, water is deficient in iodine, so I make sure that the birds get a bit of iodine periodically. I like the Biodecken Metabolism product which does contain some iodine and in the past I have used a few drops of vanodine in a gallon of water or Dr. Rob Marshall's product Ioford.

2. Diet during sitting: Avoid giving the hen egg nestling food and green during sitting as she may lose her incubation temperature and decided to start all over again and even abandon her nest. Feed her free choice hemp either hulled or not hulled with her regular seed, minerals and water.

3. Frighten Off Nest: Any disturbance at night can cause a hen to get off her nest and may not find her way back so that the eggs get chilled.  Kansas is known for its lightening storms and once the storm is over, I take a flash light and make sure every sitting hen is on her nest. If not, I gently place her back on her nest in the dark.

Aviaries must also not have any mice or rodents where the birds are as these creatures like to run around at night and not only carry diseases but also can scare the hen off the nest.

Rescue Attempt: Eggs that do not hatch by noon on the 14th day should be moved to a hen who is hatching or whose eggs feel hot to touch. It may take an extra day or two but many times the eggs will hatch.

Examine the eggs that failed to hatch - If they do not hatch in spite of being moved to a hatching or hot hen, open and examine them. Is the white and yolk separate and simply infertile?

Was the egg shell good or was it too thin and the chicks failed to pip through the membrane to start the hatching process? Calcium and phosphorus and minerals in the right proportions and Vitamin D3 are critical to having good shells. Is the humidity too low? 

Is there a pungent odor? Bacterial and fungal infections cause odor. Infection can be transferred from the hen to the egg and cause the chick to not develop and die in the egg or any crack or damage to eggshell integrity can let organisms in. Is the yolk mixed with the white and smelly indicating early death or partially developed chick? Bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Streptococcus or fungal infections and even Ornithosis (also causes infertility) may be the cause of dead in the shell. I like to treat my flock before breeding with Dr. Rob Marshall's KD powder.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Troubleshooting Breeding Season - Part 3 - Hen Won't Sit

Another complaint is a hen who won't sit on her eggs.


1. She was pushed to lay and not in full breeding condition.  Rich nestling foods and longer hours and wheat products can rush a hen to lay prematurely.

A breeder with this problem said I only give 13 hours of light. Further questioning revealed he was breeding outside. In that case be sure to remember that birds get up 30 minutes before the sunrise and stay up 30 minutes after sunset outside. Fourteen to fourteen and a half is perfect for breeding canaries.

2. When a hen has laid her clutch feed a separate dish of hulled hemp or regular hemp seed but no nestling food till the first chick hatches and no greens. Just water and seed mix and dish of hemp.

3. Occasionally, a hen will not sit if the cock is removed from her cage. In that case, leave him in a few days and then try and move him.

Hulled hemp from Canada is available at health food stores.

First Columbus Fancy Chick hatched today!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Troubleshooting Breeding Part 2 - Increasing The Number of Eggs Per Clutch

Breeders who contact me with their breeding problems often complain about clutches of one or two eggs. Disheartening after all that preparation for sure!

Several factors need to be considered when hens lay one or two eggs.

1. Pushing: Were they pushed to lay? Pushing hens to lay often results in one or two eggs commonly called heat eggs. They tend to be darker in color and are often laid off the perch. Occasionally the hen will lay in the nest and even set on them but alas the eggs are infertile. If a hen does this, I let her set and use her for a foster or after a couple weeks, I start re-cycling her. Normal clutches of a minimum of four eggs will likely result when she lays next time.

2. Inbreeding can result in few eggs being laid. When I see this it is when I purchase prize bird that are winning on the show bench and then the pair produces few eggs and sure enough the next year they and their daughters, even though I have outcrossed them,  produce only a couple of eggs. Pay close attention to the number of eggs a hen lays and when you select your breeding birds, consider the number of eggs the mother of the hen produced per clutch.

3.  Diet: By increasing the amino acids in the nestling food fed, especially methionine and lysine, the number of eggs per clutch can be increased. Typically when the hen is fed Miracle vitamin from Italy, the clutch size increases from four to five or six and a few outliers hens will lay seven or eight. But if a hen has that many eggs it is better to foster a few, as she may have trouble covering and turning them.

In the US, Miracle is available from ABBA Products. They have it listed in their computer as AA Miracle so be sure and tell them AA Miracle. (At times, I have told them just Miracle vitamin and they were unable to find it in their inventory.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Troubleshooting Breeding Part 1 - Preventing Laying Hen From Egg Binding

Have you ever noticed a hen that you expected to lay an egg, who looks out of sorts and has squinting eyes and is sitting on the cage floor all fluffed up.  This week, I was trying to breed a five year old hen and each day when I checked her nest, no egg. Then I noticed the squinting eyes and sitting on the cage floor but luckily she hadn't gotten to the fluffed up stage yet.

I caught her to examine her abdomen and vent. Low and behold her vent had a firm hard dropping just inside the opening. I have never seen this before and I gently massaged the area under warm water until the hard dropping came out.

As I gently examined her abdomen, I could gently feel a large egg in her lower abdomen. So I tried taking an empty shoe box and placing a heating pad covered with a small towel in the box, setting the heating pad on the lowest setting and placing the hen on it with another towel covering the box. If the problem is noticed very early, just the warm environment for an hour will often be all that is necessary for her to relax and lay the egg. Unfortunately, in her case it didn't work.

So I put her on Cal-D-Solve in the water and hoped this would do the trick. Unfortunately, she was so far along with the egg binding problem that it also didn't work. Knowing that if the egg breaks inside of her she will likely die or if she doesn't lay the egg she will die, I decided to very very gently massage her abdomen every hour for a few minutes. Slowing the egg started moving until I was able to help her lay the egg. The egg had a hard shell and was darker green than most eggs and I placed it under another hen who had just finished laying her clutch. Wish I had taken pictures but I didn't think I would be successful and I sure didn't want photos to remind me of her distressful situation.

An easy way to prevent this problem is to start the hen on Cal-D-Solve a day or two before she lays. Last year, I was doing that but somehow with all the basketball excitement, I had neglected this step.

So now, I am back on tract and the hen who started this is acting like she wants to lay again so she is back on the Cal-D-Solve. Usually a hen who goes through an egg binding episode is wasted for breeding but she really looks good and I want to see what happens. Last year, she came to my aviary at breeding time and she refused to lay a single egg.

 Columbus Fancy Cock

Amazing Update One Day Later: This morning she laid a normal egg!

Further Update: She laying daily!