Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's A Jungle Out There

A two foot piece of wacky wood comes with convenient cage attachments. Note the Border in the cage behind this one, envious of the German Rollers new toy!

Wacky wood will rotate slightly but the birds quickly learned to balance on it.

This one is perching on the rings to get a better look at what is happening outside.

Birds love to walk the plank, especially on an unsteady item.

Wacky wood has many places for birds to sit.

Even as the sun started going down, they were still playing on the Wacky Wood!

Wacky Wood

Last Saturday, I attended a bird fair. Knowing that this was primarily a parrot and hookbill affair, I optimistically told my husband I would not be long, I would be home in 30 minutes for lunch!

While wondering through the booths, I noticed my friend Margaret at the only canary booth, picking out a fife hen for next years breeding season. So we looked together and went over the fife standard and finally both agreed on which one she should buy. It was a real bargain as the fife hens were being sold for only $25!

We continued looking at the canary booth and bought a few items. I bought three bags of cuttle bones and six 5 lb boxes of millet spray from Canada. Was I ever wrong to think that was going to be it, as Margaret proceeded to lead me over to the big parrot toy booth! I have to admit I have never stopped to look at parrot toys as I had thought those were just for parrots or hookbills, there could not possibly be anything that my birds would even want.

Thinking they might have a swing I could use, I went ahead and followed Margaret and stood back a bit while she carefully examined almost every item in the booth. Now Margaret, like myself, has only canaries and I am sure my face must have looked shocked when she picked up a parrot toy with three strings of wood blocks and a bell on each string. She said she had several of these toys just like that one at home and her canaries loved to play with it... Well, since I am not fond of my rollers singing high bells or even hearing any high pitched sounds, even if they played with it, I did not want to hear it! So I decided that this was a toy I did not want to even try.

Margaret continued rummaging through the booth and came up with a two foot piece unfamiliar item called Wacky Wood. Although my border acrobatic academy was full, I wondered what the rollers would think of Wacky Wood? It is 100% natural non-toxic Lima tree hard wood and would be not just a toy but also good for their feet. So I quickly grabbed the last one!!

To make a long story short, the bird fair was less than 10 minutes from my home. And after arriving there at 11:30, I got home after 1:00 and I had to leave the house for work by 2:00. Needless to say, my rude behavior has damaged my family standing!! How is it when I get with bird friends, I am totally unaware of time passing?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Falling Lu Lu Lu Takes My Breath Away

"Traditional Built" German Roller Cock in an 8 inch Show Cage

Good Singing Position - Right before he sings he will wipe his peak on the perch and then hold onto your hats!

Today as I was taking care of the birds, I heard a beautiful slow and falling delivery of Lu Lu Lu. So beautiful but alas I only heard it once and it was impossible to even guess where that beautiful hollow bell sound came from. It must be my older German Rollers but which one?

Even in a dim room, now that Fall cooler weather has arrived, the German rollers are singing almost continuously. Young birds are working their throats and singing a baby song, yet to learn fine tours. It reminds me of Mary, my ten year old granddaughter, learning to play the piano. At first, it was just hitting keys and going through the movement but this Fall she is playing beautiful music, even learning to play her first Beethoven this week! Birds, even though they must regrow singing ability brain neurons, progress much more rapidly than humans, they will go from twittering to fine tours in just a few short months. Dramatic growth takes place once they are in show cages! For many, once caged, they will improve and peak in only ten to fourteen days!

In preparation for the November song competition, cocks must be separated from hens. If you are unsure, separate the fatter ones from the thinner ones, as often the thinner ones are hens. Group the cocks is small groups of three or four brothers or half brothers. It is best to use cages with solid wood on three sides so the bird will deepen and refine their sound. Even when caged up, I like to use wooden cabinets and a small room with good acoustics for practice performances.

Show cages come in either an 8 or 10 inch size. At first, it might seem that it would be better to use the larger 10 inch cage but actually birds lose more weight more rapidly in the 10 inch cage so I always move my best teams to 8 inch cages. Just moving that extra 2 inches can be the difference in traditional build and ready rather than thin and quitting singing.

Older potential tutor birds should be caged up at least a couple of weeks before the young. The best tutors are faultless older cocks. I use several tutor if I can find good ones. The first tutor should excel in hollow roll and only sing four good basic tours. Do not introduce beating tours too early because they may like them so well that they will drop the beautiful hollow roll and just sing beats irritatingly over and over. If I tutor in a fifth tour for more points, it will only be done a couple of days before the show so that it can be scored for it but so that the fifth tour does not dominant and destroying other tours. After hearing that beautiful hollow bell, I think I am going to start caging up old cocks a few at a time and see if I can find him!

I was telling my audiologist about the fact that birds learn easily from a live tutor but not from hearing recordings. He was not at all surprised as he imagined they learn not only from hearing the sound but also by seeing the throat move just as we hear and also read lips. He sited experiments where they had a different word said than the lips mouthed and sure enough everyone thought they heard what the lips had mouthed instead of what was actually said.

On rare occasion, a team bird will move its throat and make no sound at all. Air sack mites have been known to cause silent singers in some cases. The judge must be careful not to give the silent singer scores earned by his team mates. It is hard to catch his karaoke performance till he is the only one "singing" and then the gig is up!

Critical Concept: As you listen to your birds, keep an eye on the throat. Does it beat or tightly roll, learn to associate the way the throat looks with the sound.

This Weeks Questions For Big Bird

Use this post for questions unrelated to specific current posts, tips you want to share or feedback.



1. How do I get my show birds tail to pipe?

2. Slimming down a fat showbird



1. David Bopp shares a mineral tip


Saturday, September 26, 2009

This Saturday' s Bird Shopping

Beautiful Homegrown Radishes, the tops will be shared with the birds!

Lovely locally grown broccoli has much appreciated large seedy heads.

Fall Crops

Today, I got some nice radishes and broccoli at the Farmers Market. The birds will enjoy eating the radish tops and the broccoli flowerets. I can either peel the tough outer skin off the broccoli stem or just process the stems in the food processor so that the birds will eat it all without wasting any.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nipping Eye Problems in the Bud

German Roller before intervention

Same bird after intervention one week later!

Birds can hide illness until the illness is obvious and extremely difficult to cure. Being sensitive to subtle hints of eye problems can be a heads-up that with intervention can prevent a serious full blown infection. (Click on photos and see the subtle clues.)

Note the slight loss of feathers around the eye and the dull out of sorts (failure to thrive) attitude in the before picture and contrast that to the full feathered eye and lively enthusiastic attitude seen in the after photo. Just noticing these subtle changes and taking action at this point makes the treatment far easier.

This bird was separated out from the others in its flight to reduce its stress. Since the problem was detected early, beside decreasing its housing stress, the only other change was that it was started on Bird of Paradise from Wall Seed vitamin wheat germ oil coated canary mix (316 263-0850). That's is all it needed to fix the problem in just a week because of the early detection!

Had no intervention been taken, a full blown case of eye infection, possibly leading to respiratory illness, would likely result and require seeing a vet and getting antibiotic eye drops.

Critical Concept: A stitch in time saves nine!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Siberian Small Orange Millet

German Small White Millet

Treat Mix Containing: Sunflower Pieces, Thistle, Siberian and German Millet

As I was out bird shopping yesterday for the fine grind milo/corn mix at Hillside Feed & Seed Store, I discovered a couple of new kinds of small millet seeds, orange colored Siberian and white German, to add to the gray millet, large white millet and millet sprays that my birds are enjoying during this post molting season. This morning, without hesitation the birds are trying the new seeds out!

Could I perhaps be infected with a severe case of milletmania? The good news is, it only last during the post molting before the breeding season!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bumblefoot Infection

Foot Infection Treatment

Bacterial infection of the foot pad can not only damage a foot but can also lead to the bird's death. A few years ago my friend Donna Zuendel had about 30 canaries with infected foot pads called "bumblefoot". This was odd because Donna kept her aviary very clean, usually changing papers three times a day. When her birds started dying daily, she was so upset and depressed that I volunteered to take the sick ones and try to cure them.

So we brought the sick birds to my house and put them in an isolated separate room far away from my birds. I took care of my birds first in the morning, washed my hands constantly and even changed my shoes to make sure my birds were in no danger of catching this life threatening disease.

Then I took samples to my friends at the best hospital microbiology lab in town and had the bacteria identified and an antibiotic sensitivity test run to tell me what antibiotics were capable of killing the organism. The infection was due to a gram negative bacteria, Klebsiella and not the usual gram positive cause Staphylococcus. With information in hand, I met with my vet and got the recommended antibiotic solution that I would gavage into the crop every so many hours around the clock. With such a demanding schedule, I took a vacation from both of my jobs and began religiously carrying out the treatment.

Each day, I called Donna and gave her a progress report which unfortunately had become a mortality report. Not only Donna was depressed, I had caught it! After a week and continued daily deaths, I knew that even doing it the way it should be done, it was not going to work, and the only way that the problem was going to stop was when the last bird died... Giving the antibiotic orally just did not get enough of it where the infection was, even if I used an ointment too, it still did not work....

Feeling about as down as I have ever in my life felt, I sat down to think about a different treatment that would at least save some of Donna's birds. Reflecting on my childhood, I remembered that my mom had a home remedy, black salve, that she always treated me with that at least seemed to work on most of my childhood injuries. She rubbed black salve into the problem areas and whether it worked or it was a placebo effect, I always got well. I remembered this black salve contained iodine.

Being desperate, I got out my bottle of vanodine (strong iodine) and dipped the sick birds feet in it. The following day there were no deaths and all the remaining birds feet healed!

Just like other discoveries I have made during my lifetime, I went from being totally down to euphorically elated when the problem was conquered! I promptly wrote up a case study of my experience and with a veterinarian as second author, it was published in a veterinarian scientific journal.

Critical Concept: Prevent and treat Foot infections by dipping the bleeding or infected feet in an iodine solution such as vanodine or betadine daily as needed.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Times They Are A Changing!

Keep Moving - Up With the Carb's and Down With the Protein's

Keeping with the changing seasons, I have modified the hard-boiled egg containing nestling food that was feed during breeding and molting season. Young birds and old cocks are still getting nestling food but the new batch contains no eggs but rather just cous cous with poppy seed and olive oil, processed cooked whole wheat with ABBA green and carrots processed in the food processor with some ABBA Green to make the carrots in finer pieces.

This week only a few older birds show pin feathers on the head and less than 5% show any loose feathering in the vent. It is really amazing how well this works!

Once I start the rollers show training, they will not be feed any nestling food. Only the red birds will continue getting it with the nestling food with red coloring agents till after the show season.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Week of September 20th - Ask Big Bird?

Post your questions here or if you have an idea of something you want me to write about post it here!


1. How do you train your birds to respond to hand signals?

Make A Difference

Use this post to SHARE a canary tip or provide feedback on something you have tried that made a difference in your birds!



1. Leng shares on the advantages of using Kraft Paper


1. Stepping Up American Singer Song Development

2. Using corn cob in cage trays


1. Effect of wheat products on flighted hens


1. Avoiding a dirty face



1. Test Results of Feeding cous cous & wheat nestling food to old hens.


1. Margaret reports on dropping animal protein to prevent incivility.

2. Dropping the light intensity failed to initiate molting. What can I do to get those old hens to molt?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday's Bird Bounty

Lovely Cauliflower Leaves From Conrad Garden Produce Stand!

This weeks greens include turnip, cauliflower, broccoli, and kohlrabi. I bought so many that they totally filled my deck table!

Notice how the broccoli has flowerette's this week!

Even though the growing season is winding down for the season, with cooler weather, some greens are coming on strong till frost. The timing is good as by mid October, I only feed stock birds greens till after the show season.

The turnip greens were purchased from the Health To You Stand and were very nice. Since they tend to wilt easily, I cut the stem and let them sit in cool water for an hour to crisp them up a bit before feeding to my birds.

Kohlrabi, cauliflower, and broccoli are heavier leaves more the texture of cabbage so they will keep well in the refrigerator till I feed them later in the week. Since Conrad Garden Produce picked heavily this week, it will likely be two weeks before I can get the Kohlrabi, cauliflower, collard, and broccoli leaves from their Farmer's Market Stand. in the meantime, I will buy the birds zucchini as they do love it too!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Laughable Moments - Funny "Do"

As I was looking about my aviary, I suddenly could not control my laughter! With a straight face and serious eyes, this year old Stafford is obviously having a bad hair day!! Click on the top photo and see how many seconds it takes you to start laughing!!

Thank goodness we still have a little time before the shows for these feather shafts to be shed. If he still has some shafts showing come showtime, I will gently brush them out with an old soft toothbrush.

Do you suppose Philip Carreon of Tresemme' Hair Salon could make this into a premium do?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Zucchini Boat - Love At First Bite

I cut the zucchini in wedges that just fit in their nestling food dishes. Some of you have admired these attractive dishes. They are actually inexpensive plastic and come in oval and round shapes and can be purchased at Asian Markets. They are so versatile that I find myself buying more every year, some of which my husband takes for individual serving dishes for his sauces.

As expected, the Green Border is first to check it out! He continues to stand out. Yesterday, he not only lead a game of touch landing follow the leader on the Canary Ferris Wheel but also he balanced on one of the top perches of the ferris wheel while a yellow border balanced on the other top perch and they took turns moving the ferris wheel a quarter of a turn clockwise and then counterclockwise just like it was a teeter-tooter! I am totally amazed by what they can do!!

What started out to be a half dozen German rollers eating on this zucchini wedge, turned out to be only one straggler when I got the picture taken. Each cage would start eating it and in seconds but every time I approached with the camera, they flew away....Oh well...

New Food is a Big Success!

Today, I fed my birds zucchini for the first time and without hesitation they enthusiastically started nibbling the cut edge! This is an excellent veggie as it can be safely feed without fear of staining their faces making them appear "smudged or dirty".

A special thank you to Rich who shared that his birds liked zucchini!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Time To Tackle Loose Flank Feathers

Extra Carrots Have Been Added to the Nesting Food! (The orange color is all from carrots, there is no artificial coloring agent in the regular nestling food!)

Regular Oatmeal Has Been Added to the Seed Mix!

Kicking Up the Carb's Even More!!

As I examined my birds early this morning, about 80% are tight feathered and ready for the shows but that means 20% are lagging a little and exhibit some loose feathers in the flanks and vent areas. Even though this is easy to correct, a number of unfinished birds are typically seen at the early bird shows in October. Simply upping carb's periodically has encouraged my birds to finish their molt. I am proud that 80% are ready for showing and it is still a few weeks away!

I have responded to the loose flank and vent feathering challenge by again upping the percentage of carb's in the diet, this time I increased the amount of carrot in the nestling food and added a generous amount of regular oatmeal to the regular seed mix. Carrots are very high in carb's and my birds love them. When I filled the young birds dishes with nestling food this morning, they immediately jump down and started munching it with renewed interest!

After an hour or two, I will fill the seed dishes with the oatmeal containing mix and I know they will get just as excited about the oatmeal addition! I always put new foods or changed foods that I am anxious for them to clean up, as the first fed food of the day. Being a bit hungry, they are most receptive to anything new at that time!

Once I am about a month out from my first opportunity to show my birds, I will use the Bird of Paradise from Wall Seed coated straight canary on my show Borders.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Wait Till Next Year

What a pity, good color and decent crest but look at those terrible long wing feathers and secondary flight feathers and the extra long tail and it is just a young bird!!

Another young bird and again long unattractive feathering!! The wing butt might even develop a feather lump....

Poor Results Are Motivators To Start Planning For Next Years Breeding Season

I love to admire my birds but just like at your aviary, they are not all beautiful success stories!! The challenge of breeding a better bird goes on year after year and overall we make progress but never quite breed that perfect bird.

These young birds have way too long feathering as evidenced by the long secondary flights, long tails and long bodies. A look back at the parents and perhaps both tended toward long feathering and by doubling up a more serious problem was produced or in my case I was trying to breed the long feathering out of this line and the short feathered partner passed through the first time just did not do the job.

A couple of things will help, first, I will breed only from two year or older of this line as I need to have a critical eye on picking the shortest feathered and best of the bunch. Second year birds have longer feathering than young birds so difference will be more apparent.

Also, I will weave the short feather partner into the pedigree by breeding its half brother/sisters and only one of the two birds will have one part of the long feathering in its background.

Noticing this problem is a heads-up to keep some non-show birds for stock just because they have short feathering!!

Things I Always Wanted to Ask Big Bird???

Week of September 13th

Post this weeks unrelated bird questions to this blog posting!


1. Do you feed your birds oats?


1. Don't the vitamins on coated seed get thrown away when a bird hulls its seed?


1. How often should we give vitamins?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Surprise Bonus From Saturday Market Produce

Wow!! The underside of this "holey" collard greens leaf is loaded with aphid insects!! These loaded greens were fed to all young birds and adult cocks. I did not feed them to older hens as I do not want to give them any breeding ideas from the extra insect protein.

With the aphids on the underside, these loaded collard green leaves are placed bottom side up so the borders can easily find the aphids!

They love a little protein with their salad. Being special, these Borders were fed not only a large aphid collard green leaf but also a sample of swiss chard and turnip greens! Borders especially really enjoy their greens!!

Mixed greens from Conrad Produce stand at the market that I will feed tomorrow. The mixture includes not only collard greens seen in the back but also broccoli leaves on the left and kohlrabi on the right.

Beautiful Fall Swiss Chard!

Large zucchini will be fed later in the week. I selected the large ones as I would expect the canaries will love the seeds!

Today's Market Finds

What a surprise today to find not only nice holey greens but an aphids bonus on the underside! Last week, I had visited with the "Health To You" farmer and ask her to bring me some holey greens as the birds prefer them because it is easier to nibble on the leaf from the holes.

She had a whole bag full of holey greens which she said she was hiding with embarrassment. She further said she wasn't sure I would even want them as the underside was covered with aphids..

Excitedly, I told her they were exactly what I wanted and bring me lots more next week!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Are Your Birds in Tip Top Shape?

Beautiful Tight Feathered Stafford

What does a fit bird look like?

A bird in top condition has glossy feathers that are so tight that they look like a glove or wet suit. Individual feathers are held so close to the body that they appear painted on the body! When a bird puffs his feathers out, it is chilling as without sweat glands they use their feathers to puff out and provide an insulation layer. Healthy birds may have some loose feathers especially in the vent area when they have not completely harden off after the molt.

Another fitness sign is glossy feet. A tip top shape birds feet have a natural glow. Birds with nutritional deficiencies often have scaly feet. Improving their diet, softening the scales with a very small amount of oil, and gently lifting off the old scales can correct the problem.

A third sign of fitness is a piped tail. The fit birds tail is piped because the feathers are held as tightly together as possible and not carried fanned out at all. Likewise the wings are carried up just meeting in the back without leaving a gap between them.

Critical Concept: For the secret of the care of the canary is in caring for the canary!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What Does Big Bird Say About.......

Got a question for Big Bird but no blog fits?

Post this weeks questions here.


1. Is Pro-vital the same product as Vi-tal?

2. Where can I buy Vi-tal online?

Labor Day Monday:

1. Click on comments and read the lengthy response to Emily's question on what to feed for the post molting diet!

2. Rich asks about electrolyte in poultry vitamins?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Great Fall Market Goodies

Tasty Turnip Greens from the Health To You Stand!

Chewy Collard Greens from Conrad Produce Market Stand!

Spicy Jalapeno Peppers!

Delicious fall greens are plentiful now at the Farmer's Market. Today's selection included turnip greens, collard greens and jalapeno peppers. Note the bug holes in the turnip and collard greens. When checking, the farmers confirmed that these greens have not been sprayed. They were worried that no one would buy them with the bug holes but I reassured them that the birds love bug holes as it is an easy place to start munching!

Today, I feed all birds the turnip greens, tomorrow it will be collard greens and then Monday will be jalapeno peppers. All of which are relished by my birds! Even the spicy peppers are loved especially for the seeds (split them in half or quarters to expose the seeds) because birds do not taste the heat! That is why wild bird mixes that are meant to repel squirrels contain hot chilies!

Once show training begins, I stop feeding greens but for now it is still time to continue to enjoy nature's bounty!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Is Human H1N1 Swine Flu Contagious to Birds?

Are Our Birds At Risk?

With school back in full swing the number of human cases of H1N1 Swine Flu continues to climb rapidly. With so many people becoming ill, have you ever wondered about your birds catching H1N1 Swine Flu from people?

As a general rule, influenza viruses are species specific meaning that they are usually contagious within one species and do not readily effect another species without considerable genetic modification. With this said, the initial impression is that most human influenza viruses being species specific would not pose a threat to our birds.

Bacteria self replicate and their usual modifications are primarily to develop resistance to antibiotics. Viruses, however, replicate by invading a cell and causing the invaded cell to make more virus. Virus intracellular replication provides more opportunity for genetic modification.

The question becomes even more gray when you consider H1N1 already contains genetic material from not only humans but also pigs and avian flu viruses making the risk of bird infection with this virus although still unlikely is theoretically greater than with other influenza viruses.

Until last May the risk to our birds seemed very remote, but then a herd of pigs in Canada caught the virus from an infected farmer after he develop the disease upon returning from his trip to Mexico. But without avian cases, the risk of our birds getting H1N1 from us, remains highly unlikely.

So keep a level head and the facts in prospective, although the risk to our birds from the current virus is not totally out of the question, it remains highly unlikely and to date no reports of H1N1 in birds has occurred.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Beauty is the View of the Beholder

What a Beauty!! Nice rounded head, good frontal rise, full face, and nice small beak...Charming

From this angle the beak looks big and the sides where the marks are look very flat. Asymmetrical markings are not very flattering and make the head look lopsided!

Is this really the same bird? From this angle it looks like it has a huge beak and the marks coming toward the beak give it a look of being very pinched in front and even mean!

Actually from this angle, the same bird appears to have a small beak and appears rounded in front although a little narrow on the sides of the head which makes the head look pinched.

Another example: Good Looking?

From this angle the frontal rise looks flat because of the dark marked frontal area.

Looking from this angle it appears to be pinched in front with a huge beak just like the top bird.

What a Difference the View Makes!

These two Borders are either beautiful or ugly depending on the view! The problem is the placement of the markings. Although marks that go from the eye to the back of the head are flattering (remember the Stafford posting on August 13th Beauty Marks Dress Up the Mosaic Face), marks that are on the frontal area or marks that are from the eye to the beak give the bird a deceptive flat and mean look! Not only do they look like they were hit with the ugly stick, it must have been the whole tree!! Should that view catch the judges eye, they will be off the bench in two seconds!!

Once when I was judging lipochrome at the National Cage Bird Show, an attractive yellow mosaic came up on the bench. I was somewhat taken with the bird till I realized its head was not symmetrical! I changed my view over and over but I just could not get over this bird with a flat area on the upper left side of its head. How can a bird have a flat side on just one side? It was like it had been sleeping with its head on a pillow and upon rising it was left with a flat spot.

Knowing that it was an illusion, the only reason I could come up with was that there must be light variegation on that spot which is making it look flat. So I took off a point for it! After the show the exhibitor came up to me and said "you really did like my bird but I see you marked it down. Why did you do that?" I explained yes I was taken with the bird but it has an illusion of a flat area on the side of the head which make the head look asymmetrical which I think, although not visible must be due to variegation."

The exhibitor then offered to take his bird out of the cage for a closer examination. Sure enough in that very flat spot was a extremely light grizzling of a cinnamon colored tick! Boy was I relieved!! A real winner although maybe not perfect is beautiful from every angle!