Sunday, January 31, 2010

Things I Always Wanted to Ask or Share with Big Bird???

Use this post for sharing your tips, tweets or asking questions unrelated to recent posts.



What kind of iodine to you use for the canaries?


I wonder if you can confirm something for me,,,,my
frosted red hen has a black belly,,and I thought I read
somewhere that means she has liver problems,,,
Is that correct ???

I've started my birds breeding,,,,however she has not
produced any eggs but sits in the nest,,and now she and
her mate are fostering a couple of chicks from another pair,,,

What do you think is causing the color of her belly ????


. What should a breeder do when an egg is extremely soiled in the nest, prior to setting? Wash it in water, wipe it off, leave as is?

2. Would the fecal matter on the eggshell 'infect' the developing chick during incubation?

3. My breeding season got off to an early start. One hen successfully raised her first clutch of 3 and laid, sat and hatched 5 more just 5 days ago. Last night, everything seemed perfect (feeding, 5 little head held high) and this morning 3 dead and the other 2 died as the day went on. They were cold and dehydrated looking. What happened? Are my other birds in danger?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Making Breeding Simple - Conditioning - Weight

This Stafford cock has quite an obstructive fat belly which will interfere with successful copulation!!!

Not Too Heavy

With the breeding season approaching, it is important to take a critical look at your breeders and resolve to get the birds physically fit for breeding. Being too heavy is rarely a problem for breeding hens, as their having a fat belly does not interfere with the cocks assess. And her fat layer will quickly disappear when she is feeding chicks. The ideal breeder hen is pleasantly plump, "traditionally built".

But for a cock having a fat belly is a major cause of infertility because the fat belly obstructs his ability to connect well with the hen for good sperm insemination. Seeing his fat belly is a wake-up call to put him on an exercise program and a low-fat reducing diet.

Exercise Program

A flight with other cocks will help if you separate the food and water at far distances from each other and have very few perches so that the birds must fly the maximum distance to get food and water. Housing with other cocks will also promote defensive territorial behavior which is a major influence in bringing cocks into breeding behavior.

People often think that putting a pair together will bring on breeding behavior. The presence of the cock or hearing his breeding song will stimulate hormonal changes in the hen but being in the same cage with the hen will not stimulate the cock. He is stimulated by fighting with other cocks and not the presence of the hen!

Low-fat Reducing Diet

Often breeders increase dietary protein by increasing the higher protein seeds such as sunflower, hemp, and thistle. The problem with this approach is the higher protein seeds are also higher fat.

For hens and physically fit cocks small amounts are fine but not for the fat cock! Instead, fat belly cocks are put on a restricted diet of only petamine breeding formula, water, and greens!!!!

Not Too Light

Likewise birds that are too light will not be productive as they are using all their resources just to stay alive. Too light birds have prominent pelvic bones and sharp breast bones because they have lost muscle mass and reddish purple abdomens because they no longer have any fat layer. Such anorexic emaciated birds will not coming into breeding condition. While their negative energy balance may be due to simply inadequate food consumption, their weaken condition may lead to illness.

These birds need to be separated from other birds to encourage them to eat and to decrease their environmentally stress. Too gain weight, they need a low-protein and high carbohydrate diet. Increasing dietary protein must be avoided because these birds can not tolerate the increase stress on the liver for processing protein.

It is also possible that these birds are too inbred or even sick. In either case, we need to protect our other birds and not weaken our gene pool. The worst thing is not that we fail to breed from these birds but that we are successful and produce a whole bunch just like them!

SPECIAL NOTE: HAPPY KANSAS DAY!!! Overnight snow has closed the schools and everyone is celebrating the states 149 th BIRDDAY!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Buyer Beware - Noticing Subtle Abnormalities

Margaret Fletcher, my canary colleague at work, hung this note at my work station while I was on supper break last night!

All of us have heard the old saying, "Buyer Beware". For that reason, we often purchase birds from local breeders that we know quite well and are comfortable with their aviary operation. At other times, we might make a purchase from an unknown breeder or a pet shop or even an importer.

But whether we know the breeder or not, we need to find out as much as we can about the birds and their health prior to purchase. Is it coming out of a licensed quarantine facility? Does it wear a traceable band? If banded, get the band information and do some research. Thanks to the Internet, show reports are readily available even from other countries.

In addition to general questioning, ask questions about the birds health and when possible you or at least your delegate needs to examine perspective birds for subtle abnormalities in behavior and appearance prior to purchase.

Begin By Examining Perspective Birds From A Distance!

Begin your examination by examining the perspective bird from a distance. In its relaxed state you will notice out of condition or sickly birds sitting around puffed up while healthy birds are tight feathered and actively moving about with a cheerful attitude. How the feathers are held to the body is a good general assessment of overall health as sickly birds will puff them out when they are chilling. Making this assessment from a distance is very important, as even a sickly bird will perk up out of self defense when you approach the cage to disguise their vulnerability from predators! Now cautiously approach the cage, look at the feet and perching and are the legs a normal color for the variety? Are the droppings on the cage floor normal?

Gentle Stress Test

Now gently raise your hand toward the bird to challenge it a bit. Healthy birds often fly away from your hand but some birds from unhealthy lines will freeze in position and partially close their eyes (squint) when challenged. These birds should not be purchased as they will likely not produce healthy offspring and are high risk to die prematurely.

Minimal Hands On Exam

If you have the opportunity, with the sellers permission, gently hold the bird up to your ear and listen for any clicking or heavy respiratory sounds. Likewise these are not good birds to purchase. Always remember that canaries can die from a stressful exam and those that do are likely marked SOLD!

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories. I once took about a dozen birds to my regular dog vet to get a health certificate. He is great with my malinois and very through. He immediately singled out one of the canaries, caught it and began going over it thoroughly with his stereoscope. Even peering in its ears and nares. At the conclusion of his stressful exam, he put the throughly examined bird back in the cage. And it just laid there like it was dying. I promptly said: "I hope you don't have to handle any others!"

He quickly filled at the health certificate and I promptly took the birds home. I am sure he was afraid he would be getting a call from me but in this fortunate case, the stressed bird fully recovered. The point of this story is to observe the birds from a distance, challenge it gently up close, and handle it minimally.

If you decide to purchase, find out how many hours of daylight the birds are use to having. Make sure that when you house them that they get slightly more hours of daylight and not less as you do not want to cause them to go into a molt.

Also quarantine newly purchased birds away from your other birds for preferably six weeks. During that time, completely take care of your original stock before caring for the quarantine birds to avoid cross contamination.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

This Week's Things I Always Wanted to Ask or Share with Big Bird???

Please post your questions or share your breeding tips here.



1. Jay Bunker of Canada sent in this fantastic YOU Tube for us bird lovers! How about that bird music? Check it out

2. Rich May of Ohio has a tip on the easiest sprouter. Thanks Rich, I can't wait to try one!!


1. Do not miss this posting from Shawn of South Africa. He shares tips on using fresh seeds and sprouting seed in STOCKINGS!! Shawn says "The ideas these birds get out of me, shocks even me sometimes!" LOL



1. What kinds of canaries do you raise?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can You Help Big Bird?

Click on photo for easy reading.

Saturday Request: I am always interested in trying new products. When I was unable to purchase my favorite vitamin Miracle from ABBA, they sent me some free samples of ABBA's Breedmax. Have any of you tried this product and if so how did it work for you?

Anyone know where I can buy Miracle, a bird vitamin made in Italy?

Thursday Request
: Looking for someone to ship some birds from Buffalo New York via air to Wichita, Kansas and to Dayton, Ohio. If you live in the area and could ship two boxes of birds, please respond to this post.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Making Breeding Simple - Conditioning Vitamin E

Three factors: light, conditioning, and weather working in concert bring birds into full breeding condition. In part 1 of this series, we looked at simple ways to control the number of hours of daylight and how to lengthen the days to brings about hormonal changes that moves the bird into its natural breeding cycle. In part 2, I will begin looking at some minimal techniques to help bring birds into breeding condition. First, let's take a look at vitamin E.

Vitamin E - An Easy Way To Condition Canaries For Breeding

In addition to the previously identified hens need for minerals and especially calcium, better breeding results are achieved when the cock and hen receive high doses of the fertility vitamin E, during the conditioning period prior to pairing. Traditional this was done by adding fortified wheat germ oil to the seed. But the amount to give and when to give it was quite a guessing game!

A few years ago, I discovered an easier more effective product, ABBA high fertility water soluble vitamin E. One day a week six weeks before pairing, I prepare the ABBA vitamin E as directed by measuring 1/2 teaspoon of the powder and dissolving it in 1 gallon water. I then fill the cocks drinkers and leave that as the only source of water for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the drinkers are dumped and refilled with clean water.

After three weeks of the ABBA vitamin E once weekly treatment, the cocks will be singing vigorously and showing some signs of wanting to breed. Now is the time to abruptly lengthen the hours of day light as described in the previous post. And on the same day, I start the hens on the one day a week, 24 hour treatment with the ABBA vitamin E. This continues for the cock until I am finished breeding him but must be stopped on the hen when she lays her first egg to avoid premature hen recycling.

Many breeders do not realize the importance of controlling when and how much the hen gets of the vitamin E. If a hen is overdosed with vitamin E, she abandons the nest without going through the normal process of sitting, hatching and feeding her chicks .

In the unlikely event that a hen fails to recycle for her second clutch, she can, however, again receive the weekly vitamin E treatment.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making Breeding Simple - Lengthening Days

This inexpensive floor light was purchased at Target and has the advantage of distributing light to various levels of cages even in a large aviary. With a small watt energy efficient bulb it provides a dim light warning for 30 minutes after the overhead lights go out so that any hens that were caught off the nest when the bright overhead lights went out can see to go back to their nests.

Back To The Basics

Although there are many options for working with our birds and supporting breeding behavior, the endless number of choices can be overwhelming. With this series, I will focus on the minimum requirements to meet our birds needs rather than all the endless options.

Day Lengthening - Natural Method: Adequate day length is necessary for hormonal changes that bring on breeding behavior. While small sized varieties may breed when day length is a minimum of 12 hours, better results are achieved when the day length is 14 to 15 hours. The simplest way to control lighting is to let the birds get up with the sun and go to bed with the sun. Using the natural lighting pattern, days lengthen gradually, about 15 minutes longer each week. This means the birds will likely start breeding naturally in April and continue through May, possibly into June.

Abrupt Day Lengthening - Critical Timing: If you elect to breed earlier, the easiest way is to use an automatic timer and suddenly change the day length to 14 1/2 hours three weeks before the desired breeding date. Timing the abrupt day lengthening, requires some preparatory dietary changes to get the birds ready. Cocks require about six weeks, while hens require only about three weeks of conditioning to get ready for breeding. (That is in addition to calcium which should be fed to hens year round or at a very minimum three months prior to breeding.) Using this simple sudden lighting change method, the timer is changed only once, before nesting begins. It is critical not to make abrupt day lengthening once a hen starts setting, any abrupt day lengthening then may result in her re-cycling and abandoning her eggs and nest.

More Gradual Day Lengthening - Faster Than Natural Day Lengthening: Some breeders prefer to gradually change their automatic timers every few days or weekly by 30 minutes. It will brings the birds in earlier than natural lighting but has a disadvantage besides much more effort, the gradual method produces less sperm production than the abrupt method.

Making Sure The Hen Is On The Nest Overnight: Rather than have the lights go off suddenly and catching some hens off their nest, it is good to have a 30 minute dim light time so that when the lights finally go off, the hens will be setting on their nests. The simplest way to do this is to set your lights coming on very early and going off about 30 minutes before natural sunset. Remember once chicks hatch you need to be in the bird room offering fresh foods when the light comes on. But do you really want to get up really early every day, especially before daylight savings time takes effect?

Using a Dimmer Light: I prefer to use a dimmer light which comes on the last 30 minutes with the regular lights and continues alone for an additional 30 minutes. As the season progresses natural day length will exceed this time but I just keep this pattern even when natural day length exceeds it. This is not a breeding problem. Lengthening days does not brings on the molt, shortening day length initiates molting.

My Simple Way Summary: I breed a variety of kinds of canaries including Borders which do much better with longer days, I abruptly change lighting to 14 1/2 plus the additional 30 minute dimmer extension. This is done after cocks have received the ABBA vitamin E for three weeks and coincides with when the hen starts the ABBA vitamin E.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gloster Masons Apron

Male split chest

Hen split chest

Hen split chest

Split chest

Split chest

Hen split chest

A blogger recently wrote me this question: "Sometimes my best competition Gloster has a sway of feathers that go across their breast. Some breeders and judges say it is a very bad show fault while others say they never consider it. Certainly I would not pair this bird with another showing the same fault but just how serious is it?"

What a great question!! So good that I referred it to my friend Brian Johansen from Canada.

Brian writes: "That's a interesting question.
Myself when I'm judging, I will put a bird back to the bench if the faults is bad. In a small show with only a few birds and the best bird has the fault to a minor degree it may still go up on the winners bench, however I do note the fault on the tag for the breeder to understand that the fault stop the bird from moving up higher. On only 1 occasion I have withheld an award in Glosters because the best bird had this fault (and others).

Having given my opinion, I asked my friend, Robert Wright, Past President of the IGBA in England his opinion. Below you will find Robert Wright (Past President) of the IGBA answer."

Robert writes: "This problem became more prominent here in the UK about seven years ago, sometimes referred to as a "Masons Apron" because this is how they wrap the apron around themselves. For the first couple of years nothing much was done about it, probably because of the "drive" to increase body size, breeders were willing to sacrifice feather problems but as more birds started showing this fault it started to get penalized on the show bench.

Now if a bird shows this fault at a decent size Gloster show, it is heavily penalized as would a split crest or nipped head etc.It was penalized under the plumage part of the show standard, where it says "plumage to be close and firm" very easily seen helped its demise.

Why it occurs is subject to speculation, in our own stock it was connected to body fat which is deposited either side of the breast bone, often as the show season progressed because of the rich feeding (trying to increase the body size) the birds would start to show this fault. Flighted birds were particularly prone to it especially males, now when we have learned more about removing fat from a bird we can "disappear" this fault on our own birds. Some breeders thought it genetic and of course it could well be.

On a general note, breeding exhibition Glosters, in my opinion is about manipulation of plumage and we walk a fine line in Glosters with the desire for long leafy head feather, large bodies, and close short body feather on a small bird. No one said it was easy!"

Regards from a still snowy North of England Robert Wright

Thanks Brian and Robert for the informative discussion and pictures on Masons Apron!!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Update on Canary Nare Problem

Remember this pic and post from December 10th, 2009?

This photo was sent in by a blogger who requested your input on this problem. She has been working with a vet and has given the bird a full round of Baytril with no apparent change. She has since soften it a bit and taken off some of it. It seems keratin-like in consistency to her. (Click on photo for enlargement.)

I personally had never seen this problem. I have looked at my vet books and saw some similar problems in other birds. These were causes by such things as dietary deficiency of vitamin A to various kinds of infections such as Hemophilus or Mycoplasma to mites.

See December 10th post for the blogger comments received...

Gwen's Story:

"I noticed the problem in June or July, at first it was a small cone shape on his nare, brown and fleshy, it grew slowly over the summer. When I had him vet checked it was still sorta close to his face, supple and brown, fleshy moved like a little elephant trunk when I touched it, vet didn't know just what it was and had never seen anything like it and felt no treatment was the way, she said wait and see.....I started using an antibiotic ointment coating it a couple times a week, thinking it might have something to do with the mite that is so common with canary feet ( I had seen pics of parakeets with bad scaly faces) The ointment had no effect and the horn was still growing and had started drying out, turning somewhat white, and hardening. The bird was shaking his head a lot, as it had to look around this thing. Not sure how long I used the ointment with no result.

In November, I called another vet just to see what the office visit would be and they said it sounded like mites or bacterial infection, it was then I decided to try the Baytril, I ran the Baytril for 14 days, and continued with the ointment once a week, hoping to soften and remove the long hard growth as by this time that thing was at least 1/2 inch long and making both of us crazy. Baytril went from 11/8-11/21.

On December 1st, I was doing the ointment and checking to see if it was softening my nail went right through and I got half of the growth to come off, I tossed it in the trash....should have looked at it closely, it had the keratin like quality, seemed stringy and powdery I managed to get more of it off of him that day too in small chunks, I continued with the ointment for a few more weeks after that, but have stopped that now too. as the weeks go by I am seeing improvement, very slow to go away, his nare is still not normal but is so much better,"

Gwen, your bird has improved a great deal and I hope he continues to improve. It really takes persistence and you have stuck with trying to help him.

I would treat him with ivomec (ivermectin) just to be sure it is not mite related. To treat for mites: Use .5 cc (ml) ivomec 1% injection solution for treatment and control of internal and external parasites in cattle and swine (do not use ivomec plus solution) in 8 ounces of water. Mix well. Use as the only water for 24 hours and repeat treatment after 10 days. On the day of the treatment do not offer bathes or feed any extra besides its regular seed mix.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

This Weeks Questions For Big Bird

Please use this post for this weeks question that are unrelated to current weeks posts.


How long can a hen be off of her nest and still keep the eggs viable? I have a hen that is certainly not sitting tight but when I checked the eggs today they looked good.


1. Janie writes: "
I have some breeding issues. This is my first time breeding canaries. I have three pairs. I had been keeping the hens in a flight cage together and the males in separate cages. I had increased lighting, increased egg food. I noticed one hen getting in feed dishes and the hens began fighting. I put each pair into a 30" long flight. The one hen did go to nest quickly. I took away eggs as you suggest, returned them to her on the fifth day, and she is about a week into sitting on five eggs. The other two pairs are not showing any signs of breeding interest, and on occasion one of the males chases the hen. If it seems too aggressive I put the divider in for a day or so. I have continued the egg food for the two pairs that have not gone to nest, but so far nothing. I'm not in a big hurry really, so can I just leave it up to them or do I need to do something different to get them to go to nest eventually?"

2. Your web site must be down, how can I order your book?


1. Protein levels in different commercial nestling food and pelleted breeding formulas vary from 14 to 18%. What do you recommend for conditioning and breeding?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Aging - The Old Bird

The average normal life expectancy for a male canary is eight years with a rare maximum of twenty years. Hens, however, are more likely to live just four to six years with a maximum of eight or ten years. Inbreeding and resulting genetic weakness can decrease life expectancy in some case from 20 to 30% or more.

Chronological bird aging assume a noninfectious environment and result from normal aging of organs as well as chronic causes such as chronic malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies, nutritional excesses, and genetic weakness. Clinical manifestations of nutritional and aging include such observations as overgrowth of beak and nails, dry flaky skin especially on legs and feet, feather problems, egg binding, endocrine gland malfunctions-diabetes, obesity, fatty liver degeneration, fatty tumors-lipomas and other tumors, polyuria, neuropathies, congestive heart disease, and reproductive diseases.

So what can you do for your aging bird? First provide a good diet which is neither deficient nor excessive in fats, carbohydrates, phosphorus or proteins. Avoid obesity and complications from excessive calories. Avoid protein excess and keep an eye out for redness in the feet which causes swelling and favoring a foot. (In neonates, with protein toxicity, the skin is red and if not treated they die at banding age.)

Monitor and address beak and feet issues. Make sure to trim the beak so that it does not overgrow and make eating difficult. Loosen feet and leg scales by putting some oil on your finger and then transferring a small amount to the bird. Remove excessive scales gently being careful not to cause bleeding. Watch for scale build up under the band which can result in restriction of blood flow to the feet. If a bird has fringe-like scaling on the feet, treat with ivomec or scatt for mites.

Provide a minimal stress environment. Many breeders, like myself, have some cages that we call retirement cages where our old breeders live a good life till natural death.

All this visiting about bird aging makes me think of human aging and a few favorite ideas and quotes. Myself, I have learned that in people and birds there are three kinds of aging. Chronological which most people associate with aging is only one kind of aging. Second is biological aging and the third which is most associated with biological aging is psychological aging. Look around you and you quickly notice that not everyone with the same chronological age are really the same age in body or mind. Keeping this in mind, my advice to you is "Don't Let An Old Person Move In!!", or "Pick An Age You Really Like And Stick To It!!

Another favorite thought is that "Aging is the privilege granted to the few." Another lesson from my late 93 year old mother-in-law who lived with us from the time she was 89 till death said "only one person wants to be 94, that's the one that is 93!" She died at 96!

A dear friend Gary Tiller, a hospital administrator, who has survived lung cancer for over ten years, says "my momma told me and its definitely true, Aging is not for Sissies!!!!!!"

Take time to enjoy your journey!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ABBA Mineral

Growing birds and hens need a mineral supplement. My favorite is ABBA Mineral. It provides a variety of minerals and is readily eaten. Notice the first ingredient is sterilized oyster shell.

The only disadvantage is the blue color tends to stain the feet and face. Not wanting to show birds with a "blue do", I do not feed it to show birds after the molt until after the shows.

Other than the show season, mineral should be available year round, especially during the three months prior to egg laying.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hand Painted/Carved Seed Cups - Canary Love Unites People

Note the carved bird on the left and flower on the right.

These beautiful hand painted and carved seed dishes were sent to me by Daniel Chen from Taiwan. Daniel had his parents carry them on the plane when they visited San Francisco, once in the US, they mailed them to me. Daniel was a former student and colleague at Wichita State University. Although not a bird person himself, he thoughtfully sent me this gift. Perhaps someday Daniel will catch the canary bug.

Isn't it wonderful how canary love unites people all over the world? No doubt about it, it is definitely contagious and no continent is immune!! If you are a blogger outside the US, please drop us a comment.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

This Weeks Questions For Big Bird

Post here your question that are not related to a current this week post.


1. Shawn shares tip on what to do with leftover basmati rice.


1. Gwen has an eight year old hen who drinks and drinks and drinks, leaving a wet lake in the bottom of her cage which looks like she spits tobacco!! What could be the cause of this abnormality?


1. Shawn's update on canary seasons in South Africa and feeding breads and Madeira Cake to his birds and even peanut butter and jelly! Shawn welcomes Darren, once bitten....

2. Deb reports on feeding birds peanut butter and jelly...

3. Darren Waterhouse from my web site "Letters From England" is back breeding Borders!


1. Will my canary sing with a female finch in its cage?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Time To Order Peggy's Pollen

Breaking News

If you need Peggy's Pollen, call in your order (320-243-4330) by January 12th. Diane, the owner, is going to be out of town for three weeks and orders during that time may be delayed since her daughter in law will only be checking mail weekly. E-mail address is

Peggy's pollen, a US product, is an excellent conditioner. Birds really perk-up on bee pollen. I placed an order today for 10 lbs as I do not want to run low at this time of year. I store excess in the freezer and refrigerate what I will use weekly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Baby, Its Cold Outside

With outside temperatures hovering in the single digits, these Border hens are enjoying a sunbath! They took a cold water bath earlier this morning and now take turns enjoying the warm afternoon sun that shines in one corner of their flight.

They have plenty of places in their cage to get out of the warm sun coming through the window but most sunny days you can find them taking turns sunning themselves and enjoying the warmth.

I have warmed the aviary a bit from a month ago as it is now get down to low 50's at night and up to 55 during the days. A jacket feels good to me as I take care of them, just wish it was warm enough for me to sunbathe with them!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cleaning On My Mind

Poop-Off With It Enzymatic Action Digests Wastes And Requires Very Little Scrubbing.

Seems like breeding season is coming upon us rather quickly. With so many things to do to get ready, I sometimes wake-up feeling overwhelmed by all the cleaning that needs to be done, just to get ready.

Cleaning cages and the aviary now is very important before breeding season because once the hen is setting, I must not disturb her with cage cleaning or aviary cleaning. Once breeding begins, I try to stay out of the aviary as much as possible and just do a little spot clean-up and then only when it is absolutely necessary.

The sound of the shop vac or an disturbance can cause a hen to desert her eggs or not feed her chicks. Any frightening activity causes her to revert to her most basic instinct, protecting her chicks from harm so she will sit on them to tightly she may squash them and out of fear she will never get off the nest to feed them. Disturbing the hen and meddling are the most common reasons why a hen does not feed.

Have you ever notice that the more special a hens chicks are to us, the more likely that there is going to be trouble? Do you suppose she does not want our eye contact and finds it threatening? Could our meddling cause her to fear for her chicks safety and result in her just sitting on them and not leaving the nest to feed them?

By using an absorbent material on the cage bottom such as Kay-cob, it allows me to easily go six or more weeks between through cage cleanings. When I move weaned chicks to their new cage, I make sure I have just changed their cage bottom but even then I am careful to just quietly pull out the tray and without much noise, dumping and refilling.

But alas, there something wrong with me sitting here blogging and expounding on the value of cleaning cages before breeding season! Could this be just another lame excuse for not doing it now? LOL

Don't miss checking out these comments!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Canary Bands Blue or Silver?

If you have not done so, it is definitely time to order your canary leg bands. The best source for canary leg bands is the appropriate speciality club. Every canary variety has a speciality club that sells bands to its members. In some cases, there are three or more clubs for a variety. In addition to speciality clubs, some local bird clubs also sell bands.

Speciality and local clubs maintain records of the band purchaser so that bands are traceable to the breeder. Many show awards and breeder advancements depend on band numbers being traced to the exhibitor.

In some countries, the bands carry an assigned breeder number and club association number in addition to the changing year and bird number. This is convenient when you purchase birds, as you can quickly identify a breeders birds from the breeder number and their club association number regardless of the year they were bred.

When I went to the DKB Deutsche Meisterschaft show in 2008 in Bad Salzuflen, Germany, I was introduced to one of the top breeders, Herbert Schmittwilken. I do not speak German and he does not speak English. So as we shook hands, I attempted to communicate my pleasure in meeting him by smiling and saying " 0303". At first he look puzzled, till the interpreter explained to him that I was especially happy to meet breeder number 0303! This brought a big smile to his face.

The band color for most varieties change each year. The 2010 band color is blue and is appropriate for all varieties except rollers. Roller bands, unlike the other varieties, remain silver each year. In every roller show section, except purchased birds, the competing birds must be bred, banded with a traceable roller club band and trained by the exhibitor.

Other song birds and varieties may have special band requirements so be sure and check with the appropriate clubs now so that your chicks will be banded correctly and ready to show!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Break An Egg!

Whenever we break an egg, the shell is saved in an open container for future processing. But although we eat eggs every day and I save them year round, it just isn't enough for what my hens will eat as I feed it to them year round too.

While working at the hospital, I mention to my colleagues that I re-cycle egg shells and feed them to my canaries. I further tell them that I need many more shells and that my choice hens who are privileged to get fresh hen egg shells are so happy and appreciative to have them. And feeding them egg shells means that their eggs will have a strong surface to support the development of a fertilized egg to a baby chick.

And are they ever amazed to learn that it only takes two weeks from the time a good egg is laid till the chick hatches. But if the shell is not strong, the chick inside dries out and dies inside the egg without any chance for life. If time permits, I pull up the blog and show them some canary pictures and explain the importance of not letting the various breeds become extinct.

Convinced then that this is a worthy cause and certainly sounds like something they can do, I make a direct request to please save shells for my hens so that all hens can have a plentiful supply so that when they lay fertile eggs, their eggs will have the same chance to produce healthy chicks.

After my plea, many will save them for me in an open container but a few want to package them tightly in used bread sack or Ziploc bags. If they want to put them in a tight container, they are instructed to place them on a paper towel and microwave 1 -2 minute or till they see a hint of browning inside the egg to prevent any residual wet egg white from spoiling.

Pat, a work colleague, recently had her vegetarian son staying with her for a week. Where she normally brings in a small bag of egg shells every couple weeks, she brought me this full large size bag collected during his short visit. Now I am wondering if I know any vegetarians??

Any that smell when I open them, are discarded. If the eggs have been microwaved, I give them another microwaving minute to make sure they are not contaminated. Here are some egg shells after microwaving.

The microwaved shells are then place in the food processor. I use any egg shell, some are even brown or bluish.

Once processed, the egg shells are ready for feeding. When I have plenty, I feed in separate dishes but when I am short, I top off the digestible mineral dish with a spoon of egg shells. The hens prefer the egg shells to purchased mineral grit and promptly clean the egg shells up each day.

Some of my bird friends, approach small locally opened restaurants and collect from them periodically. So far my friends have kept me well supplied. Another proof that you can't have to many friends!!

More Questions For Big Bird?

Post this week questions that are unrelated to current blogs here.


1. When should I start the cocks and hens on the weekly ABBA vitamin E fertility treatment?

2. Is it time to get some bee pollen to condition our birds?

3. Is it normal to find small feathers on the cage floor this time of year?

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Tip Of The New Year - Easy Cuttle bone Fastener

To fasten a cuttle bone to a bird cage, place the cuttle bone hard side down on a hard surface and insert a sharp object such as a scissor blade, ice pick or skewer through the cuttle bone soft side until you make a hole on the hard side. Then turn it over and enlarge the hole.

Then insert a plastic zip tie through the hole. These plastic ties are readily available at stores such as Lowe's.

Fasten the zip tie to the cage making sure the cuddle bone soft side is toward the bird and the hard side is toward the cage wall. Cut off the extra end of the plastic tie.

Place a cuttle bone in each hens cage.