Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday Tipster-Shawn Bartlett

Congratulation Shawn on being selected as Tuesday's Tipster

Shawn's Tip: Vitamin E - so easily overdone!

Since you all are going into breeding season, here's a tip from me whose breeding season ends in December every year. (Shawn is from South Africa!)

Two years ago, I learned a very hard lesson. Being eager to breed my Border canaries, I went about conditioning them ever so diligently. They were getting the best food I could feed, temperature and lighting controlled by sunrise and extra time after sunset. I was giving extras about one extra per day and the birds were responding very well.

Being even more excited to breed the best Borders I have ever had (at that time) I heard many of the "Veterans" around me talking about extra Vitamin E. The best way was to coat the seed with it and then the condition advanced quickly. So true that ended up being. I quickly added 10/ 15 ml oil (blend of Evening Primrose, Garlic,Cod liver and Wheat Germ oils) to about 5kg seed. This was fed to all birds everyday from about 6/7 weeks of breeding.

Hens responded especially quickly and set about making nests and promising a wonderful season. They did not lose breast feather or get red though. Cock birds were also coming on strong. At last I could not hold them back any longer and decided that it was time to pair the lot. First signal was the cock birds' aggression: They basically attacked the even squatting hens as they did not want to go through the romancing steps - they wanted to get down to business and NOW! The hens were fantastic, very accommodating on the strong advances of the cock birds etc. They invited mating very regularly built the most beautiful nests and laid their eggs. Then two or three hens did something peculiar. They simply lost interest in what appeared to be full fertile clutches. I was confused. The eggs felt cold to touch by the time I got home, but I tried all the same to foster. The first two/ three hens settled down and within 3 days of deserting decided that they wanted to go to nest again. They started shuffling in corners and not paired would lay eggs anyhow. The eggs I fostered, were simply deserted by the foster hens a day later and almost every hen would sit for two to three days, lose incubation temperature and then desert! I was so despondent - this was my first round - the pick of the litters! All gone and all fertile eggs!!!!

Within the same week the hens would recycle and then lay again, sit for two or three days and desert. It was clear that they were only interested in mating (to the delight of the cock birds) and laying eggs like chickens! I started to take stock as to what the reasons for this could be. The birds were in tip top condition, good vents on the cocks, hens inviting mating, building their nests and laying within a week - these are excellent signs of breeding condition! Then one day in my despondency, I again saw a cock bird taking a hen to task - but like seriously fighting with her. I got mad at him and grabbed him and put him in another cage. He immediately started singing his head off dancing on the perch as if he were sky high! Then it suddenly dawned on me:- the aggression in the cock birds and the sterling hen behavior were in line with vitamin E overdose. The fact that the hens were losing incubation temperature was also a tell tale sign and their incessant calling for mating was another sign.

I changed the diet towards the end of the second round and stopped all vitamin E - voila! All sanity returned! Unfortunately, I had already lost all the fertile eggs and so much time. Oh well, that's what breeding canaries is all about - a friend of mine always says, save the sawdust for the aviary floor, and not the cages, cause every breeder cries many tears for mistakes we make with the birds!

Thanks so much Shawn for this excellent tip! Overdosing on vitamin E, when the amount used is left up to luck and not an exact measured dose, is unfortunately way too common!

Tuesday's Tipster is a regular feature of this blog! Send you tip to canarytales@juno.com and use Tuesday's Tipster in the subject line. Please contribute!!

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