Friday, February 27, 2009

Blue Feather Special Contest Winner

And the winner is.....Ralph R. Tepedino!

...The key word here is "immediately" - pair her with an appropriate mating "ready" cock; Linda's hen has caught the breeder's eye by showing nesting behavior in a bowl of blue mineral grit. When checking the hen's vent, the breeder will find the beginning signs of swelling and fullness; Linda's hen is beginning to show the natural progression of egg development but will not likely lay her first egg for another fourteen to eighteen days. There is no "immediate" urgency to pair her with a mating-ready cock for she has a number of weeks before laying! Setting-up Linda's hen with a ready cock may result in squabbling...Linda's hen is not ready to accept the lustily singing cock whose chase to breed may result in stressing-out the hen or cock, feather plucking, and unnecessary injury or death. Always avoid STRESS in the breeding cage! If you pair these birds and notice the gentle sounds of cooing and mutual acceptance, you can keep this pair together but keep a watchful eye for possible disturbance; the cock in this situation will generally speed-up the hen's nest building and egg production. A is not my answer.

Setting-up Linda's hen with a cock who is behind in vent development and not in breeding condition, with the key word being "immediately" will not accomplish anything! Pairing up this scenario will prove to be time consuming and more unnecessary work for the breeder in the maintenance of the breeding cage regarding keeping the breeding cage clean, the result of soiled nestling material, the likely possibility of non-acceptance by the hen or cock; resulting with "clear eggs". Again, Linda's typy variegated mosaic Stafford Hen has weeks to go before settling-in and laying her first immediate action necessary; thus B is not my answer.

To arrest the blue hen's development by suddenly dropping the lighting intensity and dropping her total hours of daylight exposure to 9 or 10 hours per day will serve no purpose in the breeding room. First of all, it will affect all birds in the breeding program but not necessarily in a negative way. Linda's birds, by evidence of the "blue hen", are coming into breeding condition; the reduction of light will have little affect on hens or cocks in late February. Spring is just around the corner, and is the season for soft bill domestic birds and wild birds to breed. You should not arrest a canary to breed-in-season, you should progressively condition and prepare the breeding cage for the blue-hen ready candidate. C is not at all my answer!

"Wait & Watch Her" and less human interference with "Mother Nature" is MY ANSWER! If Linda Hogan's hen were caged with other hens or cocks, I would simply set her up in her permanent staged breeding cage with nest, nesting material; without the cock. Usually within days, if not the next morning, her nest building activities will be in full gear; when the hen preps the bottom/center of the nest, now it's time to introduce the cock, always in the a.m. hour of the day. The ideal situation would be immediate copulation and acceptance...SUCCESS! The key words with Canaries is to "Watch" and "Wait" and you'll know always your next move. D IS MY ANSWER!

I'm enjoying your canarytales blog Linda, and look forward to reading your educational canary tales authored by an exceptional bird hobbyiest.

Yours In The Fancy
Ralph R. Tepedino
Cottage Blue Aviary

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Blue Feather Special Contest - Phase 2

Ask the Audience

The blue feather hen has an unusual turquoise blue color on the edges of her feathers due to her getting dusty as she tried to make a nest in her dish of ABBA mineral grit. You can see a picture of the ABBA mineral grit in the first picture of the first blog posting on January 1st. (Click on the underlining to see the ABBA mineral grit.) Congratulations to all of you who sent in the correct answer!

Having the bird marked with a turquoise color is certainly not good for showing, so I do not feed ABBA mineral to show birds during show season because even if does wash off, I do not want any signs of turquoise on my show birds feathers! But during breeding season, seeing the hen suddenly turn turquoise blue, is a heads-up that she needs to be examined to determine what should be done.

Phase 2 Blue Feather Contest:

View the Blue Feather Hen vent picture and select the correct response from the choices provided either A or B or C or D. Write your response including why you chose the answer and how you eliminated the other choices. Send as a comment to this blog posting. The Winner will be posted on Friday so don't delay. Only one response per person will be accepted. (Be sure to include your name or a code name.)


A. Immediately pair her with an appropriate mating-ready cock.

B. Immediately pair her with an appropriate cock who is behind in vent development and not in breeding condition.

C. Arrest her development by suddenly dropping the lighting intensity and dropping her total hours of day light exposure to 9 or 10 hours per day.

D.Wait and watch her.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tuesday's Tipster - Debbie Eaton

Congratulation Debbie Eaton, this weeks Tuesday's Tipster!!

Debbie's Article: Bird Breeder’s Best Investment

A bird breeder’s best investment might be any of a number of very important items. Good stock birds, good cage systems, ventilation equipment, cleaning equipment and many more items could be listed as a bird breeder’s best investment. Every day birds have to be fed, watered and cages maintained.

One of the most important items in used every day is the diet that you give your birds. Breeding season, molting, show conditioning and resting season are all important in how you condition your birds. Food is the most useful tool for that purpose.

In my bird room, my most important tool is my medium size food processor!! The 4 - 7 cup food processor is the perfect size for a medium size bird room in daily fresh food preparation. The small choppers have about a one cup capacity and the large kitchen food processors are simply too large to use for small batches of extra conditioning food. Dump in the ingredients, give it a spin and in two minutes the food is prepared and ready.

During breeding season, my egg food is prepared using a large food processor and an extremely large stainless steel mixing bowl. Enough egg food is mixed and frozen in small containers to last approximately two to three weeks depending on the breeding cycle in my aviary. For daily use in feeding my soft bill birds or canaries and during the molting and conditioning times, I use the medium size processor to mix fruits and vegetables with vitamins, probiotics and products that the birds need and will not necessary eat freely. I make a fruit or vegetable salad with all of the ingredients that I want them to have and they have to pick through and taste it all to get the goodies.

The following recipes are some of my quick and easy favorites that my birds eat to the last morsel.

Quick Egg food: Dry egg food such as Bisko or Quiko, dump 2 - 3 cups in the bowl, and spin with fresh baby spinach or collard greens. Mix until the mixture is moist, crumbly and definitely a light green color. Feed in small dish.

Treat for young birds or summer season. I used this after a hurricane had left us without power in the late summer for many days, it was hot, and our small generator could only be run a few hours. I wanted the birds to get plenty of hydration as well as food nutrition. Three to four large Shredded Wheat Cereal Biscuits, 3 large carrots, scoop of vitamins or probiotics optional. Break up the cereal biscuits until they are crumbled. Spin the carrots in the food processor until finely ground, mix into a semi-moist salad, feed.

Fruit Mix: One sweet apple, 1 carrot, small baby spinach or large collard leaf. Finely shred and mix. Feed alone or mix with dry egg food or pellets.

Veggies Salad: Summer Squash and carrots are a great veggie salad during the molt. Conditioning seeds or pelleted diet can be added for extra nutrition.

I am sure that there are many good recipes for bird food and every breeder has a favorite one. The ingredient list and ideas are endless. Look through your pantry and see what you can find and be sure to have that one good medium size food processor. Your birds will love to see you walk in the door.

Thanks so much Debbie for sharing with us! These are really great ideas and the Food Processor is also my best investment!!

If you want to be considered for Tuesday's Tipster send your tips to and put tipster in the subject line to call attention to your entry. One article will be featured each Tuesday!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Blue Feather Special Contest

Contest Qualifying Rounds

First Phase: Round one is to correctly explain the odd blue color on this mosaic Stafford hen and post your answer to blog comments. The first person to qualify in round one will have their comments posted tomorrow!

Second Phase: Round two, everyone who correctly qualifies in the first contest phase will make up the audience who are eligible to compete in phase two! Details for participation in round two will be posted tomorrow.

Failure to participate in round one, is an automatic disqualification from round two participation.

Winning this contest would be a Real Feather in Your Cap!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just How Good Does It Get?

What's Cooking? Ramblings of Daily Life

After yesterdays post, I have had a few people ask, "Just How Good Does It Get"? So today, I will share a little more about my life. The top picture is this mornings breakfast, a typical day with a ham and mushroom frittata, served with fresh pineapple/blueberries and of course, PG Tips hot tea with milk. The bottom picture is a simple supper he shared last night with our daughter, I was working at the hospital. I will get the left over sausage and sauerkraut braised in white wine for my supper at work tonight! What a Life? (Click on each picture to enlarge and see just how good it gets!)

I, too, was busy cooking in the kitchen this morning. Having given the vitamin E yesterday, today I needed to feed Border Veggies or some other green food. (On the day I give the vitamin E in the water, I do not feed any greens or extras as I want the birds to get all their liquid from the treated water.) Not wanting to waste, I tried to use all the leftover soybeans which I soaked Tuesday, to make Border Veggies, thinking no problem, it was just about double my normal recipe, right?

Unwisely, I dumped all of the soaked soybeans in the food processor and tried to make fluffy Border Veggies. Well it was anything but fluffy and I ended up dumping it in a large bowl and processing more and more broccoli and cauliflower and mixing it in till it looked edible. I had finally used a couple of large heads of broccoli and a huge head of cauliflower and it filled a very large bowl. To bad, I can't get Pat to make bird food for me! Boy that would be GOOD!! Now that really would be how good it can get!!!

Well I fed the less then perfect batch of Border Veggies and later before I go to work, I will go around and fluff with a fork, if I can find a little time... Does anyone have a Bird Chef or know where I can get one??

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lights On, Getting Ready For Action!

Three Weeks Till Breeding!!

This is a big day in the aviary! Although cocks have been getting the weekly 24 hour vitamin E in the water treatment the last three weeks, today the hens began receiving the weekly vitamin E treatment in their water, just like the cocks. The difference is that the cocks continue the weekly treatment till breeding season is over, even if they show signs of molting on their wing butts. Even the start of the molt is not a problem for fertility, if they are getting their weekly vitamin E treatment, they are still fertile! Hens on the other hand receive the weekly treatment till they lay their first egg. It can be given to hens between nest but this is generally not needed as they lay again readily without the vitamin E treatment. If you overdose hens on vitamin E, they will not sit on the eggs and just want to keep laying. It is not a problem if the hen actually lays the day you gave her the vitamin E treatment.

A side note: make sure you are getting the vitamin E dissolved in the water. To help dissolve it, I start with warm tap water and add the vitamin E, shake vigorously till dissolved, and then fill up the jug with cool tap water.

Today I also turned my aviary lights up! The cocks are especially sensitive to increase light and I expect rapid acceleration in their breeding condition as a result!! The challenge is how to set the longer aviary hours so that it will fit my schedule and not interfer with my family.

As some of you know, I work 2nd shift and do not get home till 11:30 pm or later. On occasion, a problem case or trauma will mean I stay overtime but usually I can be in bed asleep by midnight. I am firmly committed to feeding hens with chicks when the light comes on but I need six hours sleep each night and my family has a sit down full breakfast every day around 7 am.

To meet these perimeters, I set the aviary lights to come on at 5:30 am (central time zone) and to go off at 7:30 pm with the dimmer comes on at 7 pm and going off at 8:45 pm. With daylight savings time changing March 8 th, that will be called 6:30 am, so I have a 30 minute window before I go in the aviary each morning. I should be able to feed those hens with chicks within 30 minutes so I can be ready for family breakfast at 7 am. I know you are thinking, what in the world is she fixing for breakfast? Here the secret of this operation, I am really fortunate to have a husband who is a gourmet chef! He will have a full breakfast ready and all I need to do is brew a pot of PG Tips hot tea and pour it in our three cups!! Just how good can it get??

A dimmer light is also critical to the operation, as it gives the hens adequate notice that lights are going out soon and they need to get last minute feeding done or get back on the nest for night. The dimmer light pictured is 5 feet high and the shade measures 38 inches long. It has a 10 Watt, energy-efficient fluorescent helical bulb. The design is especially effective as it emits light well to cages whether they are on the top or bottom layer of cages even though my aviary is larger than a double car garage. The dimmer light was an inexpensive purchase made last Spring from Target. It does not even have a brand printed on it but it is priceless to me!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesdays Tipster - Donald Saunders - Border Veggies Revisited

Announcing a New Feature Column

Here's a great opportunity to share your favorite canary culture tip! Simply send it to me at and put blog tip in the subject line. Each Tuesday, one tipster will be featured!!

The First Ever Tuesday Tipster is Donald Saunders, a border breeder, from South Africa. I received this e-mail January 7, 2009. The canary seasons are about six months ahead in the Southern Hemisphere of the Northern Hemisphere.

Donald, who currently is in molting season and looking ahead to show season, reflects on his past breeding season. He writes: Linda, I have had my best breeding season in many years. Final count is 58 Borders! I must also thank you for the border veggies. We in SA have modified it slightly by putting 1/2 head of broccoli and 1/2 head cauliflower with 2 cups of soaked soy beans. This with the vitamin E really gets the borders into tip top shape. In addition, I am using a new oil which is the palm fruit oil. If you type in palm fruit oil and select the web site, you can see what it contains and the advantages.

Congratulations Donald and Thanks So Much for these tips!! I am a real cauliflower convert!!

The original intent of Border Veggies was to improve border vent development. I had noticed that compare to rollers and colorbred, their vents were smaller and poorly developed. Being concerned that this would add to infertility problems, I needed to get them to eat more soy products, hence Border Veggies came into being. Although it was designed for borders, it works well with all types of canaries. Not just cocks benefit from Border Veggies, it is also good for conditioning hens, once the hens are about three weeks out from breeding.

The basic original recipe is to soak human quality soybeans, available at health food stores, in boiling water for 2 hours to soften them. Soaked soybeans will double there original volume, so you might like to use 1/4 or 1/2 cup to start. The soaked soybeans were then processed in the food processor and broccoli added and processed again.

Have you ever fed your canaries cauliflower? I had never thought of feeding canaries cauliflower or the advantage it could bring to the border veggies recipe. And was I ever pleasantly surprised! Birds loved it and the mixture was much lighter, which meant that instead of wasting what packed down, every trace was cleaned up!

I like to soak enough soybeans (1/2 cup) to make for two days of Border Veggies. Each day I use 1/2 cup soaked soybeans, process in the food processor, and add in 1/4 head of broccoli and 1/4 head cauliflower and continue processing. Extra soaked soybeans are refrigerated and use the next day to make up a fresh batch!

Donald also recommends palm fruit oil. Are any of you familiar with the advantages of using palm fruit oil? If yes, please comment on this blog post.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Do You Have Poop On Your Mind?

Poop On - Try Poop-Off

As I get ready for breeding, I take some time to clean my cages as once I pair the birds, I will only replace dirty nests and not clean any cages or even change the Kay-cob I use on the floor. (Kay-cob must be kept dry, as it can mold, so outside waters and bathes must be used.)

Cleaning activity and all activity in the aviary must be kept to a minimum so as to not disturb the birds. I go in the aviary first thing when the light comes on for a quick feeding of those birds with chicks, and then return a few hours later to feed them again and at this second entry, I feed and water all the birds. I give a third chick feeding later in the day.

Where does all the poop come from? And even more curious, how does it even get on the cage ceiling??

Poop-off really help me clean the cages and wires. It is non-toxic and contains enzymes that dissolves bird dropping. I simply clean the debris from the cage and spray on Poop-Off. Wait a few minutes and wipe with a paper towel. Difficult spots may require another treatment and some scrubbing with a plastic scrubber (Debbie brand works great). I especially like to use the scrubber on the Poop-Off bottle for poop on cage wire. Poop-Off brand bird poop remover is manufactured by Lifes - Great Products Las Vegas, NV,

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Canary Matchmaker Contest Winner

The Winner Writes: (note to bloggers - click on underlined items to see the birds discussed)

The job of picking a suitor for the bachelorette would have been simpler if I had the extended pedigrees on each of the birds. This and breeding records are very important in setting up breeding pairs!

The grizzle crest, light frost hen carries good color. It's hard to tell from a picture but she appears to be very good body type.

First I will eliminate Gator Heat: It may be that the photographer roughed up the feathers on the back of the head, but this has spoiled the general appearance of roundness over the top of his head. I would like to have seen him carry more roundness over the back and top of the head. It may be that the picture of him was taken at a bad angle, but it does not appear that he has a very good rise above his beak (forehead area). He shows good depth of body in the chest area but does not carry that through the remainder of his body. He may be a little too fat giving him a chesty appearance. In my opinion, he is not buff enough for this pairing.

The Sooner bird is an important bird to keep in my aviary but I would want to use him for breeding to bronze frost or bronze mosaic hens. He is important to use on hens that might be considered over frosted (too buff) and might be a likely candidate for feather cysts. Being a hard feather bird, I would be afraid that if I paired him with this hen, I would have less of a chance of getting a nice full crest.

Although Shocker did not get an equal shake from the photographer, he appears to be a more buff bird, carrying rich enough color so that the babies should be a pretty good variegated color. Shocker has a nice rise in the forehead area. Nice width in the front of the head, with a roundness that carries through over the top of the head down through the shoulder area. The body appears to carry a fullness that should compliment the hen. I don't think that the other cocks stand a chance in competing with Shocker! Shocker is my choice for the bachelorette!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Four Weeks till Breeding Season!

Getting the Message to the Birds!

While Oklahoma was getting tornadoes earlier in the week, we finally got a half inch of rain. Humidity is coming up, more rains are predicted soon, nature is crying, Spring is Coming!!

In my aviary, yesterday, the cocks got their third weekly dose of vitamin E in the water. Watching their behavior, I notice a little territorial scrapping and quarreling. An occasional cock will add a little "Macho " dance dropping his wing and assuring the boys that HE IS THE MAN! I also notice the hens occasionally feeding each other and sometimes one will carry a piece of string they luckily found.

Starting today, and about three times a week, I will offer various greens, (Today it was leaf lettuce, as it is on sale for $1 a head). For my birds, getting any greens is a big change as they haven't seen any since locally grown greens became unavailable in late summer!

I do not give show birds, whether type, color, or song, any greens after the molt. I do not want greens staining the feathers above their beaks . And I do not want greens to push the song toward breeding sounds! How could they not get it, by changing the diet, I too am crying, Spring is Coming soon! And do the birds love it!!

It is also time to ship any promised birds early next week because on Wednesday, all birds including hens will get the water soluble vitamin E and the lights will be suddenly turned up to 14 hours. The ones that are pet quality, like the hen featured in yesterdays blog, will be shipped today to Anna Sinclair at Trinity Bird Gallery in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Anna runs an excellent pet shop and really takes the time to make sure that whoever purchases a bird knows how to take care of it. It is clear that yesterday blog hens laid a single heat egg. She is not inviting mating, didn't even try to build a nest, and just dropped the one egg she laid off the perch. That does not mean she won't be a good mother when she recycles, in fact her new owner will have an easier time with her! She will love the mountains, longer days, and the food is great!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two Strikes And You Are Out!

Culling - Avoiding Breeding Temptation

After reading yesterday's blog you must realize how anxious I am for my birds to come into breeding condition! Well after I posted the colony breeding blog, I went out to look at the birds again.. I saw this young Stafford hen on the bottom of her cage. Thinking something was wrong and maybe it was more pasted vent, I quickly caught and examined her. To my surprise, unlike any other hen in the aviary, she has developed a brood patch! I carefully, gently, palpated her lower abdomen and I could feel an egg which was so developed it would be laid the next day. At first I was so excited that I promptly began catching all the hens., maybe there are more? Alas she was the only one!

How tempted I was to set her up with a cock but there are clear reasons why I should not! First, the eggs would likely be infertile, even if they mated immediately, as the best fertility is when mating occurs about five days before the first egg is laid. At best, only the last egg or if she lays five eggs maybe two would be fertile.

More important, do I really want to breed this hen? I use a "Two Strikes and You are Out" principle to help me make the right decision, a decision which will lead me toward my goal to breed better birds. Let's apply the principle to this hen. If you look at her head, the crest is definitely oval. That would be strike one! If she only has one strike, I can find the cock who would improve that fault in her offspring, she is not out yet!

She is a mosaic, so I looked at her rump to critically evaluate her color, her color is definitely orange. That's it, Strike Two and OUT, OUT of the breeding program!!

on my two strikes rule, it is consistent with the way I separate the winners from the losers when I judge birds. As I placed them, I am always counting on each bird how many strikes. Many good birds have one strike but two means your out!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Two or More Hens Are Better Than One

Colony Breeding

Several years ago, I visited Doyle and Cheryl Johnson's aviary while they were still living in Texas. Doyle enthusiastically said "you just got to see this". To my surprise, they were practicing colony breeding! Each breeding cage had two or more hens with one cock and lots of babies in every cage! They assured me that it was easier then rotating the cock and produced more chicks per cock and per cage. Ever since I saw their operation, I have been experimenting with colony breeding. Based on my success over many years, I have increased the percentage of cages dedicated to colony breeding every single year! This season, I will use colony breeding with all my Colorbred, Staffords, and German Rollers. And for the first time, I will try colony breeding with my borders!

The only exception to colony breeding that I have planned is a five year old German roller hen. She was out of my stuff and raised by Doyle. She is the sister of his best cock he has raised to date! Last year, I single paired her with a young cock and she produced six chicks. I shared half of those chick with Doyle. (Note: Two aviaries or more aviaries is also better than one!) Again this year, she will be single paired with a German young cock for the season. The old gal, at her old age, has earned the undivided attention and help of a new young cock!

Since Doyle and Cheryl already have chicks this year using the colony breeding method, I have ask them to take the pictures for this blog and to co-author this blog with me. Doyle has a colony of five green roller hens and one cock which has three hens with a total of ten chicks and another hen sitting on 5 fertile eggs! One hen, however, just does not seem interested in nesting at this time. His cage size is 18" by 13" and 15" high for each hen in the colony. Doyle removes dividers between the cages, to give each hen in the colony the same nesting area including an outside nest just like she would have had in single pairing. The difference is that the birds can move freely in what is now a long flight.

Just had a call from Doyle finalizing this blog, He was updating me on three most precious German imported hens from one of the top DKB German breeders. The three hens are colony breeding. He reports so far all fertile eggs and one hen has hatched four chicks, one has hatched three chicks, and the final hen is sitting on five fertile eggs!!! What fantastic news!! With all those chicks he already has, now this report on the precious hens, I feel an attack of Aviary Envy coming on real strong again!!! I really am tempted to get my birds going. Instead, I quickly congratulated him and immediately spoke for some of the chicks!! Maybe I should have split this blog and made a second one called "Two Aviaries are Better Than One'!!!

My cages measure 30 inches in length and 16 inches in height and depth. In my individual cages, I have tried up to four hens with one cock, but I have had the best result when I use just two hens in this size cage. The hens are selected, not only must compliment the cock, but in addition it works easier in this size cage when both hens are at about the same developmental stage. In some cases, the hens selected have been housed together for quite some time, but usually they are selected when they are ready to pair.

For two hens, I place two nests at opposite ends of the cage but then add one extra nest in the middle of the cage until the hens have selected their nest. Once each hen has chosen her nest, I remove the extra nest. Neither Doyle or myself have had any trouble with the hens wanting the same nest, except when I tried four hens in the same individual size cage that I normally used for just two hens, or when I offered one outside and one inside nest. In that case, both hens wanted the only outside nest!

Doyle has had consistent success with up to four hens to one cock by removing cage dividers between what would have been four single breeding spaces. I really like Doyle's idea to remove dividers and expand the cage into a flight when you want to pair more hens to a cock! I think I will again try a few four hens to one cock this year, but this time I use cages where I can pull the divider as Doyle does. With the dividers option, he can easily manage hens at different developmental stages, should trouble with weaning chicks occur.

After the hens have their own nest, I place labels on the outside of each cage with the cocks number and also label each nest with the hens band number. The hen label is placed on the outside of the cage directly in front of her nest. Doyle puts colored bands on the hens to tell them apart. He then labels the nest with the numbers he has recorded so he does not have to catch the hen to verify the band number. Keeping the hens straight has not been a problem as neither of us has ever had more than one hen lay in the same nest, although if they were overcrowded it might happen.

Usually, I takes the cock out after both hens are sitting as I like to move him around and I want him to receive his weekly treatment for 24 hours with vitamin E in the water till he molts. I have found that the hens sit contently and take care of their own chicks normally with or without him in the cage. Another advantage Doyle pointed out is the cock is less likely to bother the hens when their are several hens in the cage.

Last year, I had an unusual experience with one nest of Staffords. Each hen had three chicks but one hen would help feed her "sister's" chicks and then she would return to her nest to feed her own chicks! As the chicks matured, one by one they tried to get in the same nests with the hen who did the extra feeding! Eventually, I added another nest touching the super hen's original nest to accommodate the extra chicks! That is the only time I ever saw this as usually each hen feeds their own chicks as expected. But we both have seen chicks change nests and be fed by either hen whether they have changed nests or have left the nest.

Sometimes, for various reasons, the hens are not cycling together. Last year, I had a situation where one hen was sitting and another hen with chicks. At first, I thought this would be trouble as I was offering egg food and later greens and didn't want the sitting hen to eat it. The sitting hen just ignored the forbidden food while the other hen feed her chicks normally.

Once chicks have left the nest they can be a problem, if the other hen is still incubating. Invariably the chicks will try to sit on her nest with her and disturb her sitting resulting in fertile eggs not hatching. If they interrupt the sitting hens incubation, the fertile eggs will not hatch. That is where putting in a divider to forbid the chicks to get to the incubating hen's nest would save a nest of fertile eggs!

Colony breeding is not a cure all. Duds are still duds but at least you have not tied up a cock or a cage for a dud! Once you have identified a hen as a dud, remove her from the colony as she can create havoc especially when the young birds leave their nest.

But colony breeding does have real advantages when you are trying to breed one cock to several hens at the same time! With our busy work schedules, it is not always possible to move the cock when we need to. Doyle reflected that with his schedule, when moved the cock from cage to cage, he typically got one to three fertile eggs in each cage. With colony breeding, he only see an occasional infertile egg in the whole colony! Instead of worrying about how and when to move the cock, the birds simply take care of it for us. And we definitely agree that they are better at getting job done then we are! And besides, it even helps you schedule his time off ( at least a couple of days) to build his sperm count between encounters.

Sounds like colony breeding is the best thing since sliced bread!! You Betcha!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pedigree Comes Through the Beak - Birdie Booster

Nutritious Treat to Help Cocks Come Into Full Breeding Condition

Wednesday will be my cocks third weekly treatment with water soluble vitamin E. Today, I made up some Birdie Booster and fed to all cocks to help with their vent development. Hens will get some Birdie Booster but only when both the cocks and hens are ready. I have found that wheat products can over stimulate the hens to lay like a chicken before they will invite mating, so I always hold off on wheat products with them till the time is right for them to mate and lay! Birdie Booster has three ingredients: toasted wheat germ, brewer's yeast flakes, and soy grits.

The first ingredient is Kretschmer brand of toasted wheat germ. It smells ao good and the birds find it very tasty that they will eat it enthusiastically , even plain. It is sold at most grocery stores in the cereal section near the oatmeal. It is also carried at our Wal-mart super center for a cheaper price. The grocery store Kretschmer brand is manufactured by Quaker Oats Company and also sold at health food stores under a different label, I think the last I got there was the Mother Goose brand.

The second ingredient in Birdie Booster is Brewer's Yeast Flakes. My preferred brand is Lewis Lab and is sold in health food stores. This is a premium yeast grown on sugar beets which are well known for their ability to readily absorb nutrients from the soil. As a result, this yeast is exceptionally rich is selenium and other minerals. It also provides a wide variety of amino acids. The product comes in flakes, buds, and powder. The birds prefer the flakes, with buds being their second choice. They will readily eat either of these textures, even plain.

The third ingredient in my Birdie Booster is soy grits. I have found that soy is excellent to promote vent development without the bad side effect, aggression which is associated with animal protein (eggs). I use a variety of soy products in conditioning and in with eggs in my egg food. Even though soy grits has a finer texture, it is still similar to the other two products. My soy grits are the NOW brand which is commonly sold in health food stores. The product is 100% non-genetically engineered Soy Grits. My birds will eat soy grits fed plain but they like the texture of wheat germ best. By mixing the three ingredients together, the birds get more of the soy than if I feed it separately.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bottoms Up Revisited - A Very Happy Ending!

What a Difference a Day Makes!

The hen with the pasted vent recovered immediately! Notice the change in her eyes, how wide open they are now. Previously, they were dull and starting to close down and give a hint of a squint like when birds are dehydrated.

When I caught her to take her picture, she actually acknowledged me with a chirp every time she hopped from perch to perch. Birds who do not tolerate rich diets, are quickly fixed by lowering the dietary fat. In this case, I continued feeding the general seed mix but decreased the amount of sunflower chips. Even though I offered lots of oatmeal in the mix to offset the high fat, offering it and eating it are two completely different things! Luckily, she readily ate the extra supplement, a fine grind wild bird mix, which is simply fine ground mixture of corn and milo. This is made by Rausch Seed and Feed, Inc., 937 N. Railroad Drive, Belle Plaine, Kansas 672012, phone: 316 488-3939. It costs $11 for 50 lbs. It is sold as either coarse or fine ground. For canaries, fine grind is best. Just fine grinding corn and milo would be easy to duplicate anywhere. The fat content is 2% while protein is 8.5%. I was somewhat skeptical about the milo when Doyle mention this new mix he had found, as even my wild birds waste the milo and just refuse to eat it. The feed dealer also assured me that ground milo was a different story, and they even like it when it is ground. He was ever so right!

This mix is very good in breeds with sensitive guts and/or long feathering who are prone to pasted vents, like thin birds, borders, old crest, and glosters. It is also good because corn is high in lysine. My borders, like most borders, are a little finicky but the picture shows several young border cocks eating it readily on the first day I offered it! Birds getting the corn/milo mix in my aviary right now include all thin birds, borders, and hens. These birds are exhibiting tighter feather and appear even more fit!

The moral of this long two posting poop story is "If you hear hoof beats, think of horses and not zebras"!!!!!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Keep A Watchful Eye

Bottoms Up

Today, as I fed my birds, I noticed this particular hen in a flight of a dozen hens, feather's were not as tight as usual, her eyes didn't look wide open and happy but rather somewhat squinted and distressed, and she was occasionally dropping her wings like she was straining. At first I was shocked, what has happened to this hen? (Click on picture 1 to enlarge it to see how subtle the first view was.)

She turned again, and it was obvious, a large dropping was hanging to her! (Click on picture 2.) I immediately caught her and turned her bottoms up, only to be totally grossed by the huge dried excrement!! (Click on picture 3 for the full effect!) After a very brief photo session, I washed the area, removed the excrement and pulled a few feathers around the vent area to make this less likely.

The cause of this could be an infection but before I jump to that, I remembered that a couple of days ago, I had generously increased the percentage of sunflower chips in my seed mix to about 25%. Whenever you increase the richness in the diet, some birds will pass loose droppings and if the feathering is intense around the vent, the dropping can stick to the feathers and if not noticed it will seal off the vent and the bird may die. Birds that are too thin and heavily feathered are at particular risk as the flatten lower abdomen brings the feathers closer to the vent.

After seeing one hen, it is wise to carefully look at your birds from several angles and bottoms up any that need it. This I did and found several borders with one or two droppings sticking to feathers and an occasional colorbred with the same. No German rollers had this problem just as I expected. Rollers feathering is short and narrow and not as dense as most other kinds of canaries (except those bred for sparsely feathered such as gibbers). In fact, feather pairing is not even considered when pairing rollers.

So I am backing up the percentage of sunflower a bit, and keeping a watchful eye on my birds!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Red Rose or Packing?

All of Life is for Learning!

What a learning experience this contest has been for me!! First of all most of you probably don't know that I secretly considered myself to be Ansel Hogan! I have always loved photography but my experience was limited to instruction to my husband and daughter on what to take and where to stand etc. I always wisely let them shoot the picture. And then I would critique the composition and make suggestions on the retake.What a shock to find out that taking good bird pictures which accurately show the qualities of color, feather type and quality, and body shape which will be so critical for the contestant, would be oh so difficult!

I began by attempting to standardizing the shots by using the same setting with the Stafford show cage as the background. Unfortunately sometimes the cage looked the right color and other times when the lighting was brighter it looked too light blue. If I corrected the background color, the bird didn't look right! Quickly, I gave up on the cage color and instead put my focus on the way the birds looked!

From the many years of teaching experience, I learned that the higher the student motivation, the higher the frustration level could go. Well, I must have been very motivated as boy was I frustrated, momma was not happy! I must have shot at least a hundred shots a day of each bird for four days, only to hit the erase button over and over as the bird was out of position (hanging on the wire!) or the way it was standing didn't accurately show its head shape or neck etc. To top it off, I occasionally would accidentally take a shot with the flash on. Well, not only did that make the color terrible but worse than that, the bird was totally spooked!

I have always try to be patient when I judge birds, to give them a chance to show their very best. While judging fife and borders, I take a little extra time to see if they could hold their excellent confirmation when I ask them to hop from perch to perch. While excellent birds can hold their confirmation under stress, the also ran, flatten their backs and heads. And with birds of position, I take a few moments after a bird is moved to let it settle down so it has a good opportunity to show its best position and confirmation. In colorbred I like to mark the points for position and confirmation before I stress them looking at minute ticks, evenness of color, etc. In German rollers, I patiently listen intently for 15 minutes and adjust the scores up when indicated. Even with years of practicing patience with birds, boy had I underestimated the patience it would take to get an accurate color and confirmation photograph! While my high motivation kept me going, my family got real tired of point, click, and complain!

Some of you know that my husband, Pat, refers to the time in our life before I raised canaries in our home as BC (Before Canaries). Well now he has a new term, BB, before blogging! To make it even stronger, he wants to strangle our oldest daughter who first suggested that I start a living web, a blog!

After all this, I hope you will enter the contest. If you are unsure of the Stafford standard, check out the club web site mentioned in my previous Stafford blog. You can apply your experience in breeding any crested canaries and or color canaries to Staffords! Just take a few moments to consider the issues and take your best shot!