Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blood on the Wing and Tail

Bleeding Weaning Chicks

Today, I spotted blood on wings on one of my German rollers. The top photo shows a large area of blood on the wing and on the lower back. The usual reason for the bleeding is a broken growing feather. Growing feathers are full of blood and when broken will bleed large amounts of fresh blood.

After washing the wings and bleeding area with cool water, I found a single bleeding feather pictured in the bottom photo was the blood source. I use cool water to wash the feathers as blood easily washes out in cool water where warmer water creates a blood stain on the feathers. It is amazing that all that blood came from one broken growing feather!

To fix the problem, totally remove the whole bleeding feather including where it is coming out of the skin. I just carefully pull it out. Should it break, the remaining part can be removed with tweezers.

Note: This is another of those attractive and talented German rollers with the special eye mark!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Enhancing Second Round Yield

More Chicks From Your Second Round

Second clutches have the potential for producing as many or even more chicks than the first round! But it is critical that the cock be with the hen when her chicks are 14 days old. That is easy if you are doing single pairing as he will be there when he is needed to mate with the hen for her next clutch of eggs.

If you are letting the hen raise the first round by herself, you need to have a cock back in her cage by the 14 th day. This will allow plenty of time for mating before the first round chicks leave the nest and at least five or more days till she lays the first egg of her second clutch. You can easily switch cocks for the second clutch by introducing the new cock on the 14 th day. Introducing him after the chicks have left the nest will decrease second clutch fertility and may result in the cock picking on the chicks!

The top photo is the nest of two German rollers and the one fostered Stafford. Besides the crest on the Stafford notice the peach color of his feathering which is the color you see when you have non-colored fed red factor genes. Today, I put the DKB 5002 cock back in their cage in preparation for the second clutch.

Hens often lay more eggs in the second clutch because she has been feeding nutritious egg food to her chicks that is high in the essential amino acids such methionine and lysine from the ABBA Miracle vitamins that are added to my egg food. The bottom photo is a clutch of seven eggs laid on the second clutch (another hen has eight). That is too many eggs for the hen to cover well. If an egg appears infertile, it is best to discard it when there are too many eggs. The second and third photo are the chicks that hatched from the seven egg clutch pictured. One egg was infertile and one fertile egg may still hatch tomorrow!

With chicks still in the cage when the hen lays, you need to promptly collect the eggs each morning when they are laid so that they do not get excessively soiled. If they do get soiled, set them along with the other eggs but do not wash them. As I addressed in a previous blog posting, some of these eggs will hatch if you do not wash them!

My routine is to feed egg food to all cages with hen dependent chicks or weaned chicks first thing when the light comes on in the morning. Any delay in getting the food out, can result in chicks not being fed and their demise. That is 6:30 AM. At 7:00 AM, I have a full sit down breakfast with the family and return to gather eggs at exactly 8:00 AM. Most of my hens lay between 7:30 and 8:00 with only an occasional one laying after 8:00. Do not disturb the hen while she is laying or she may lay her egg off the perch! After gathering eggs, I give greens to all cages with banded or weaned chicks and all other cages except those with sitting hens. I also refill the hemp dishes in all the cages and return to the aviary after lunch to give more egg food, seeds, mineral grit/egg shells, and fresh water. I offer egg food and again around 5 PM for last feeding. Several days a week I work at the hospital usually on second shift (2:30 to 11 PM) and need to get my husband to do the 5 PM feeding. Occasionally, like this Friday, I am working a day shift and will need to leave by 7:40 AM at the latest so I hope I do not miss too many eggs...Thursday, I will get as many chicks out of the laying cages as possible to cut the damage.

Today's Lesson: For high fertility in the second round, it is critical to get the second clutch mating accomplished early before the first clutch chicks leave the nest!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Feeding Seeding Grass

Fresh Alternatives

As hot weather approaches, chickweed turns yellow and no longer produces those beautiful dark green seeding heads. I try to keep it going as long as possible by keeping it picked and mowed but alas warm weather always eventually destroys my chickweed till next year.

At this point I have so many chicks it is hard to keep up with sprouted seed for them. To expand my sprouting operation, in addition the the three tier sprouted pictures earlier, I sprout in an open wire colander. I soak seed in tap water about four hours and then put them in the colander and rinse with tap water once a day.

Any extra waste seeds can be thrown out on the ground and will readily produce more greens for the birds. They especially like canola rape leaves. One of the reasons, is that in a good wet year, the underside of the rape leaf will have small green aphid eggs and they must be very tasty! I recently had some sour smelling sprouted canola rape so I threw it out on the ground as I did not want to feed it to the birds and it has produced a fine crop growing in a hard bare path (top photo).

In addition, I am now seen out in my back yard with scissors picking seeding yard grass. The birds really like it but be sure that the yard you pick from has not been chemically treated in any way. Even the narrow leafed dandelion is another favorite. My birds are a little reluctant to eat the wider leafed dandelion as the must not be as tasty.

Years ago, I had access to unsprayed Johnson grass. The canaries loved it and unlike other animals it agreed with them just fine. Now Johnson grass, declared a noxious weed, is routinely sprayed in ditches and it is too risky to take a chance on picking it and killing your birds. It is best to pick only from known pure sources!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Keeping Birds Feet and Legs Clean

Vigilantly Remove Any Excrement

It is important to inspect feet, legs, and bands for any fecal material that has dried on them. The dried fecal material shuts off circulation and can result in loss of toes etc. To remove simply loosen with warm water and carefully peel it off. This is a big problem in larger clutch but also it is a problem for cocks and hens who get excrement on them as they care for their chicks!

Both of the Stafford chicks pictured are banded with this years red bands. The fecal material is covering the band and even getting inside the band. The bottom bird, in addition to the dirty band, has subtle fecal coating of its back toe nail. With its melanin color it is difficult to see the excrement on the back nail. Failure to remove the fecal material at this early stage mean that more fecal material will continue to build up until blood flow is restricted. This can result in losing the nail in young or old birds!

Also be mindful of scale buildup under the band on older birds. The band should always be movable up and down the leg. If scales are restricting the movement, soften with a very small amount of mineral or olive oil (do not get get oil on feathers). Then using your fingernails, gently peel off the old scales.

The same method of softening and peeling can be used to remove scale build up in older birds. When peeling away their scales, do not be to aggressive and go to deep or bleeding can occur on the feet or legs. If bleeding should occur, you can stop bleeding with quik stop or if that is not available use regular kitchen flour.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Weaning First Chicks - Getting Them Eating

Smorgasbord Feeding Technique

The time to start weaning chicks is when the first chick leaves the nest which in normally developing chicks is about 18 days old. As soon as I see the first chick out of the nest, I add in addition to the usual nestling foods, a quarter of a hard boiled egg. Most chicks will start eating it the same day. They like to nibble on the sharp edge of the yolk. To get the sharp yolk ridge, I cut the egg using a thin blade paring knife and first half the egg and then divide the halves again. This is the first food the chicks will learn to eat and the sooner the better as the hen is likely getting anxious to start a second clutch!

After eating the quartered hard boiled egg and nestling egg food, they will try chickweed seedy heads, sprouted seed, broccoli (pick the heads with the more loose obvious seeds rather than tight heads), romaine and other greens. As soon as they are seen eating the egg and approximately 21 days old they are moved to another cage away from their parents. Providing they are not overly thin and sitting around puffed up, crying all the time. In that case, I move the ready siblings and leave him with the parents a little longer. Some chicks like begging better than eating and can be resistant to eating on their own.

In the weaning cage, I initially remove perches so the chicks will sit on the floor with my smorgasbord of food. They often perch on broccoli as it is the highest thing in the cage and nibble it under their feet. As they eat more, I put perches up about an inch off the floor for a while and then finally to a higher position. The reason is the chicks will sit on the highest perch and watch the food below but not eat it. Eventually, they will start crying and finally puff up, go light and die, all the time looking down at the food!

I watch the chicks to make sure they do not puff up but rather hold their feathers tight to their body. You can also tell a great deal about how the chicks are doing by the width of the tail and wing carriage. Chicks that have a piped tail and good wing carriage are doing well. Wing carriage usually improves first.Wide tails at weaning are usually due to poor eating habits but along with poor wing carriage that persists may be your first alert of a failure to thrive genetic defect problem in the line.

Once in the weaning cage it is time to branch out to eat other dry foods such as dry Quiko, CeDe, ABBA green or red, Proteen 25, Petamne/Harrisons mash, bread crumbs (process some fresh bread or corn bread in the food processor), and even Purina flock raiser. In addition, they will likely eat bee pollen, wheat germ, Lewis Lab Brewer's Yeast flakes, and oatmeal. The easiest one of the dry foods to get them to eat is Quiko. I think it is the flaky texture but it is very easy to get them to eat it.

They are now ready for frozen corn or frozen peas. I just pour hot water over the frozen vegetable and thaw it before serving. The first few times I offer peas, I shell each pea to serve only the tender hearts, once they have a taste for it, they will hull their own.

Once they eat these kinds of foods, I introduce couscous with poppy seed. To make it I take couscous and add poppy seed (health food store, I order 5 lbs at a time) and some olive oil mix and cover with boiling water (extra layer of water on top). Fluff occasionally. Already the birds are eating the poppy seed in the couscous! Today, I am going to try Debbie's shredded wheat and carrot (see earlier Tuesday's Tipster food processor). By next week, I will try the border veggies (broccoli/cauliflower and soybeans),

I discontinue the pure hard boiled egg once they are eating other foods but continue nestling food containing hard boiled egg until mid September. I do cut the nestling food to once a day once the birds are eating regular seed.

Do you have a favorite recipe for weaning chicks? Send it as a comment post to this blog.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Baby Bird Bonds With Big Bird

Aviary Update

Baby bird has become quite fond of me and now sits in my open hand for a couple of feedings each day. The large two yellow mosaic chicks have returned to the nest but baby bird prefers the floor. The hen is feeding all three, totally the two in the nest, but it is hard to resist feeding baby bird occasionally! Even with all this taming, baby bird will eventually prefer birds to people. I will try to get our connection by offering pieces of bread to it when it is older. Notice their wide eyes now!

The third photo is a nice nest of German rollers. I am especially like the black beak one as I do not think I have ever seen a variegated German roller with a black beak from melanin pigment! Notice also the bird with the dark mark on the side of his neck. This usually means a very good multi-toured bird and one which will produce great offspring regardless of what he scored in the show! Notice also how pipped the chicks are which means they are in excellent condition!

Photo four is a nest of a couple of bronze. The parents are already mating again in anticipation of another nest. Typically, they mate at 14 days. This works well as the chicks are not in the way as they are still in the nest! If the cock is put in later, you may miss getting fertile eggs! Notice how they are trying to hide in the nest like well-fed chicks!

Photo five is the bald Stafford chick which I fostered to a German roller with two chicks. This was a chick that I removed from the shell on the 13 th day, after it had pipped around it but was not coming out. It appeared to be a premature as the egg yolk was quite prominent in the lower abdomen. Seening the egg yolk still visible, I did not force feed the chick, it needed to consume the yolk first! It never did really fluff out over its body but it is growing and doing fine. I have never seen a chick like this one as it was almost a yolker, meaning one which had not taken the egg yolk into its body before hatching. Yolker's usually die. Even at birth, I could see it would be crested as it already showed a pointed head so I did not need to cut what little fuzz it had to be able to identify it at banding time!

Photo six is the chick, who was too small compared to its siblings because it hatched a couple of days later (last Friday's post), so I gave it a hair cut before fostering. I can clearly see the remains of the short fuzz on the sides of the head and had no difficulty assigning its correct parents in the record book!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Three Yellow Mosaic Chicks Left Their Nest at 13 Days

Neonatology Puzzler: Jumping Out of the Nest Early

What would you think if you had a nest of three yellow mosaic colorbred chicks all desert their nest at 13 days?

Are these chicks developing faster than the normal 18 days for leaving the nest and perhaps the brightest chicks on the block or is their trouble?

Where do you start to answer the questions?

Answer: The first place to start your investigation is the health of the chicks. Upon examination I first notice lethargic chicks, not making any begging sounds with squinting eyes (top photo) from dehydration and pasted vent (second photo). The good news was that all three chicks were quite fat when this happened. I work second shift several days a week and have helpers give my hens a 6 pm feeding. Unfortunately, they fed them hard boiled egg as they thought they were cute. Hard boiled egg is great till banding but must be stopped till the first chick leaves the nest as the hen feeds so much to growing chicks that it is too rich for them and gives them liquid diarrhea pasted vents.

After cleaning the vent and massaging it to see it was truly open, I would need to hand feed them as if they do not beg, the hen is not going to feed them.

Photo three shows the empty crop, while photo four shows how to perch the chick on your finger to feed it. In photo five, I must pry the beak open and force feed the chick. I use my left thumb to force the beak to stay open while placing food in its mouth. Feeling the food on its tongue, the chick will swallow. (I just love the chicks expression!)

It is typical that chicks which are feathered and have never been hand fed will not open up to be fed. And that to feed them you will need to pry the beak open and keep it open while you feed. It is also expected that sick chicks will refuse food so you must force feed to verse the problem.

The first day I hand fed numerous times and washed the vent a few times always making sure it was open. Photo six shows the full crop, it is important to not stuff the chick just a small amount works well as you do not want impaction or aspiration.

After 24 hours, the chicks started begging again and would open wide for Big Bird to feed them. Notice how I hold the food on the toothpick above their head to tempt them to open up. I also stroke under the beak.

After this set back, I expect these chicks may take a few extra days to wean! It seems the more you hand fed at this age the longer they want you to be hand fed!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gator Heat Chicks Change Nests

Before Colony Bred Chicks Leave Their Nest, They Often Switch Nests!

What a surprise when I checked Gator Heat and his two hens and nine chicks. The nest on the left normally had five chicks and the one on the right had four chicks. But today the one on the left has three chicks and the one on the right has six chicks!

Switching nest is always a surprise because they switch nest before even the first chick leaves the nest! Generally switching nests is around the 14th day. They are very clever as you never see them move, just the results. Hens get confused then too and they start feeding both nests!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Hatching Two Days After Siblings

Size Disadvantage Can Be a Disaster!

Three of these chicks hatched on the 13th day of incubation but the fourth chick hatched on the 15th day. In the top photo, notice the size difference of the small chick in the lower left corner compared to the stuffed chick on the top of the photo and the other two chicks are just as big as he is! The hen has been feeding so well that a two day advantage is too much for this chick to deal with. It is bound to get left out for feeding, might die, be trampled, or become a runt of the clutch, as it is just so much smaller than its siblings.

The best thing for this small chick is to foster it to a nest with newly hatched chicks its size. Before I transferred it, I gave it a complete hair cut. The second photo shows the normal baby fuzz on the small chicks head. The bottom photo shows it after my hair cut! Even after five days when the chick will likely be ready for banding, I will still be able to identify it and record its correct parents!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dead in the Shell

Dying Immediately Before Hatching

After having most hens hatching on the 13th day of incubation, I recently had about a week of roller and border chicks not hatching. while Stafford and Colorbred continued to hatch on the 13th day but not a roller or border would hatch.

Normally, if an fertile egg does not hatch by noon of the 14th day, I check to see if they are alive by floating the egg in a dish of warm water. If the chick is alive the egg will jiggle. Then I move the live eggs to another hen and the eggs will hatch sometimes in a hour or two but certainly by the next morning. This time, however, it did not work, even though I moved them at noon on the 14th day, I just could not get them to hatch.

Every egg that fails to develop or that dies should be necropsied. Early embryonic mortality is common with improper incubation temperature, jarring, inbreeding and chromosomal abnormalities. Deaths at the end of incubation are usually associated with hatching, and the stressful period of switching to pulmonary respiration when the chick must start breathing air. Factors including improper incubation humidity, temperature and turning are leading causes of late embryonic death.

Opening the egg over the air cell, I saw chick after chick dying late in embryonic development, in good position but it had failed to pip through the membrane to breathe air. Its beak was right up against the membrane but it couldn't break it.

Since the transferring of live eggs to other hot hens failed, I had ruled out the hens incubation temperature as the cause for eggs not hatching. When I checked on humidity, I learned that we were experiencing extremely low humidity levels of 19%. And as I compared the roller and border eggs to the Stafford and Colorbred eggs. The shells were much more dense on the Stafford and Colorbred eggs making them resistant to drying out and toughing the membrane as a result of the low humidity! The absence of Spring rains, which are so normal for Kansas, had affected my roller and border hatching. The good news is that we got some rain, now its raining two or three times a week! I simply increased the frequency and amount of egg shell fed to improve the shell, and normal hatching has resumed!

Be sure and read the comment from Shawn Bartlett to this post! Thanks so Much for the Idea!!

Lesson: If something goes wrong do not jump in and change things, two wrongs will not make it right, rather look for the obvious cause and make only minor adjustments as indicated!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Surprise from Handsome Sooner

Now Here's a Real Shocker

Remember the Handsome Sooner, well He is really a She!! I paired her with this Stafford cock and look at their beautiful nest of four chicks at least three are crested!! Two of the crested chicks have dark caps and clear bodies!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Comparing Banding-Age Chicks Lesson

How do you think these chicks are doing? (Be sure to click on the photo to enlarge.)

There are three times when chicks are especially vulnerable, the first 48 hours, banding phase, and weaning. I will take the weaning phase in a future blog. In this posting, let's review the first and second vulnerable phase.

Their very first meal is absorption of the egg yolk but after that they are totally dependent on the hen to feed them an a adequate amount. In these first 48 hours, we can tell which chicks are well fed as those that are well fed will have fluffy baby fuzz. And if make it through the first couple days, most hens will feed them and they will continue looking fuzzy with their hair sticking straight out!

The next vulnerable phase is at about five days when the chicks are approaching banding. It is critical to keep a careful watch on their color to be sure it is rosy pink and not red which would mean that even though they are stuffed, the diet may be too rich for them and cause nestling diarrhea. In that case, their skin is sticky and very red and the droppings are loose and not formed. In that case, make sure their vent is not sealed shut with an invisible coat of excrement and immediately stop the extra hard boiled egg, drop any sugar or glucose if you are using any as it will make the dehydration worse and add dry ABBA green 92, and greens to the diet.

But besides the desert rosy pink color, is there another indicated that they are doing well? Compare these two chick which are nearly banding age.


A. They are both doing quite well for banding age chicks.
B. The variegated chick is doing better than the clear chick.
C. The clear chick is doing better than the variegated chick.
D. They both are doing poorly for banding age chicks.

A chick that is doing well should have an obvious creamy/yellow fat layer deposited immediately under the skin. It is first seen on the top of the rump near the tail and expands up the back and around the under lower belly to the vent.

Focus on the variegated chick and you will see that it has no fat deposit under the skin on its rump. The lighter color near the tail is lighter in color but it is not a creamy/yellow fat layer. This chick is thin and will take several more days before it will be banded. I suspect this is a female less assertive chick. Female chicks are much more likely to die than aggressive male chicks. If possible, it could be moved to a nest with less chicks so that it is fed more! So it is not sick, just puny!

The clear chick has a huge fat layer. It had fat covering the top of his rump several days ago and now it extends way up its back, totally covers its bottom, and is clearly visible on his under side covering the side area to his leg. It is easier for you to see the fat layer on your chicks than to get a photo showing it! The answer is C, the clear chick is doing better than the variegated chick! A fat layer is important as chicks with large fat layers are easier to wean and do well during the weaning process!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Feeding Chickweed Seeding Heads

A Great Conditioner and Canary Favorite!

My birds really love to eat chickweed seeding heads when they are just forming. The top photo shows tasty and nutritious chickweed seeding heads that I picked in my backyard.

Once chickweed has the doughy seeding heads, I feed it to all birds that I am conditioning, all birds with banded chicks, and all weaned chicks. The only birds that don't get seedy chickweed are sitting hens and hens with chicks that have not been banded. The bottom photo is a nest of banded rose brown melanin colorbred chicks whose mother is stuffing them with fresh chickweed doughy seeds! The second photo is the same chicks a few days later. Look at that great chocolate brown color coming on strong! The top photo is these same chicks almost ready to leave the nest!!

Luckily, I have a large patch in my back yard. I have lived in the same house for 40 years and never allowed any spray in my yard. I wish it would take over the whole yard as I could always use more!

Last year, I admired the neighbors front yard which is totally chickweed and some purple flowered hen bit. These neighbors are Asian and own a restaurant. They are very busy and hard working people. So I went over and ask them if they had sprayed their yard. He evidently thought I was critical of his weeds as he assured me that he had someone coming that very afternoon to spray!
I explained that I liked the chickweed very much and would appreciate it if I could pick some for my birds and please do not spray it! Then every one was happy. The owner had one less thing to do and me with multiple bags of chickweed!

The neighbors have another great chickweed crop this year, but I will ask them first about spraying or lawn treatment before I pick it. The point of this story is that you must be absolutely certain that there has been no spraying before you pick chickweed and offer it to your birds!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Tuesday's Tipster - Doyle Johnson

Congratulation Doyle on being selected this weeks Tuesday's Tipster!!

Seed Grinding

I recently bought a wheat grinder on eBay and now use it to grind seeds and other foods for my canaries! I started by grinding hemp and found that after grinding, the birds ate it all, with no waste, because they can eat it without having to crack it. I then tried ground wheat. milo, and corn and mixed them together and the canaries ate it very well too. So I continued to experiment with oats and safflower which are too large for canaries to eat. Finally, I made a ground seed mix of hemp, wheat, milo, corn, oats, and safflower which is so popular with my birds that I must fill every day, as they eat every bit I put in their egg cup!

I then branched out from seeds to other foods that canaries like but waste because of their coarseness such as dry CeDe's nestling food. I like to offer my birds dry CeDe's but the birds would waste about a third of it because of all the hard chunks it contains. These hard chunks are even difficult for me to break up with my hands let alone a canary to break with its beak. But by running CeDe's through a coarse setting on the grinder, they now clean up every bit of the dry CeDe's offered with no waste!

Grinding can make some products easier to feed by adding them to egg food instead of having more separate dishes. A good example is Quiko pelleted carrots. By grinding them, I can offer them directly to the egg food without reconstituting them and no separate dish. My grinder is even used to grind non-medicated chicken layer to add to my egg food!

Canary breeders have a long history of passing over nutritious foods such as alfalfa or rabbit pellets that are commonly fed to large birds, but by grinding them they make great additions to egg food! I continue to find more and more uses for my grinder! The possibilities are endless!!

You can find these wheat grinders on eBay and if you watch you can get one for about $23.00 delivered. Sunday, one went for $22.80 with free shipping. You can set it to grind as course or fine as you want. You can easily feed what you never did before because it was to difficult for canaries to eat!

Thanks so much Doyle, I can't wait to get a wheat grinder and try these great ideas!!

Tuesday's Tipster is a regular feature of this blog. There is no shortage of knowledge among you bloggers so why not share with us! Send your tips to Be sure and use Tuesday's Tipster in the subject line.

Poop Soiled Eggs

Should You Wash Poop Soiled Eggs?

On occasion, eggs become soiled after laying. I try to minimize the chance of soiling by removing the eggs promptly at 8 am every morning until she lays her last egg and I set her. I also make sure that the nest is lower than the perch. Birds naturally like to perch on the highest level and if that is the nest they will perch on it and soil the eggs. But alas, it happens!

Question: What should you do with soiled eggs? Should you wash them? If you wash them will they hatch? Can soiled eggs hatch?

As tempting as it is to wash poop soiled eggs, it will stop them from hatching. But if you let the hen incubate them and they are fertile, they can hatch. In the egg picture, the two soiled eggs were fertile and the unsoiled one was infertile. (She also threw an infertile egg out of the nest during the incubation period.)

The top picture shows the most soiled egg hatching yesterday which was the 13th day of incubation and the other soiled egg hatched this morning.

Today's Lesson: Try to prevent egg soiling, but if it happens, just let them be and take your chances!!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Nest Trimming

Easy Early Nest Cleanup

After about a week or so, the chicks nest becomes grossly soiled. The nest shown is Stafford mosaic chicks, all three have crests. I have great hopes that they just might be show stoppers as even their baby feathers are resistant to taking up the red coloring agent! Can't wait to see that mosaic pattern after they molt!

A fast an easy way to do this first cleanup is to take scissors and cut away the mess. In a few days, I will completely change the nest pad and put very little nesting material in the nest so that the chicks will have more room and the nest will be clean again.