Sunday, May 30, 2010

This Weeks Sharing Tips or Questions For Big Bird

Please post your this weeks tips and unrelated questions to this posting.


These young Staffords quickly take to white bread or potato bread. It helps to tame them and also helps to fatten them to a normal weight.

Update from Janie

I took your advice and made the Jeepers Peepers recipe and also had dishes of the Proteen 25, Harrison's mash in the cages for my 2 day absence. I had my niece come in once a day to give fresh water and fresh egg food. But the birds did great without me. There are 24 chicks with the youngest being 4 days old when I left. I didn't lose a single chick and in fact it seems that they grew faster with these dry additions in their cages. I like the convenience of only serving fresh egg food once a day...even though I work from home and can give egg food several times a day. I think I'll keep up this new routine.

Thanks again for excellent advice!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Double Trouble

The egg on the left is double the size of the normal eggs on the right! (Wouldn't you know it was a DKB import hen with my prized DKB 3501 #30.)

Inconsistent transient times of the egg passing through the oviduct may cause abnormally sized eggs due to deposition of differing amounts of albumen (egg white). So some hens consistently produce larger or smaller eggs than the standard size.

A very slow passage time may however, allow for double ovulation resulting in an extra large double-yolked eggs as seen in the above photo. This problem is usually self-limiting and involves only one egg in the clutch and results in the next day's egg laying being skipped. Update: she did skip the next day and laid a normal sized egg today.

Normal chicks can hatch from some abnormal eggs but hatching from a double-yoked one is extremely rare. If you have hatched a double-yolked egg, please post to this blog.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

This Weeks Questions and Comments

Please post this weeks questions and comments unrelated to a current post here.


Hanging on the Wire
I start chicks out in a weaning cage with no perches. When you see them flying up and hanging from the wire, it is time to put more perches in the cage. Hanging on the wire in hard on the tail and wing feathers and putting in more perches where the birds want them will fix the problem.

Failed Water Test

When eggs fail to hatch on the 14th day, I check to see if there is an alive chick still to hatch by floating fertile eggs in warm water and watching for movement. If it moves even just a little, I place it back in the nest. Any eggs that do not move in the warm water, I give a further a further test of making the water hotter. Sometimes the chick will wiggle in hotter water.

Critical Concept: Fertile eggs that fail to hatch by the 14th day and fail the water test, should be retested in hotter water before concluding they are deceased.

Questions and Comments

Thursday Great Comment by Anonymous, Thanks You So Much For Sharing!

Double yolkers have never hatched for me personally, nor do I know anyone for who they have.

I dislike to see them in the nest as I feel that they can interfere with the hen turning the eggs.

It's strange how some hen's lay large eggs and some lay small eggs. I have always been of the opinion..big chick= healthy chick. Maybe this is a nonsense, but this year I obtained a very good hen Border in a swap. Normally I do not take in other fanciers hens, but this was (is) a very fine bird. Despite her large size, her eggs were (compared to my own bred hens) small and round, rather than large and oval. I was disappointed and feared the worst. particularly as I had paired her to my largest and best stock cock, if the eggs were full I felt sure that the chicks would be unable to turn in the egg and die before chipping. Despite my worries she hatched five normal chicks, which are now weaned and they are as it happens very large birds.

Another thing which happened (only yesterday) was that I had a nest of eggs due, 4 full eggs down 14 days, I seen the hen down at the hopper so took the opportunity to have a peek. None had hatched yet, but I noticed that she had stood on one of the eggs, the shell was indented in several places from the outside. I floated the egg in tepid water to see it the chick was movement at all.
This confirmed what I suspected, the chick was dead, I chipped the top of the egg and there was a void...empty, so I threw the egg in the waste bucket where it smashed and to my horror discovered that in the other half of the egg was a chick ..alive and yolk sac unabsorbed.

I wasn't happy about it but have comforted myself (rightly or wrongly) that that the chick would have died during chipping as it was confined to only one half of the egg.
I was sickened, as normally the floating method is very accurate, one a positive note, here remaining three eggs hatched today.



Young Birds Picking On Each Other

Linda, I have a problem maybe you can help me with. How can I prevent/stop young birds from pecking on each other especially on the wing butts? Several have ended up bloody. I have them in a large flight cage. Last year, I separated birds into their own cages, but don't have that option this year - too many birds. Any solutions? Nina Rapp

Spraddle Leg Chick

I have a chick at 9 days whose leg is splayed out to the side - badly. This is only the 2nd young chick I've ever had with this condition. I saw in the Norwich Newsletter (I think) a method to pull in the hip and leg by anchoring in place with a sponge. Last time I tried tying the two legs together to pull it in. That attempt was unsuccessful.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Feasting on Eggs and Broccoli

Broccoli and hard-boiled eggs are a favorite in the weaning cages. While at the farmers market this morning, I notice this broccoli at one of the stands. Sure enough when it has yellow flowers and the head have discernible seeds, people won't buy it for themselves but this is exactly perfect for feeding the young weaning birds!

Very young Border chick eating broccoli.

A little bigger Border chicks love it too!

These Stafford chicks have only been in the weaning cage a few days but they do not hesitate to chow down on broccoli and hard-boiled eggs.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Reluctant To Leave The Nest

Perching on the side of the nest or even on top of mom are these Border chicks favorite activity!

Mom is the patient silent type!

A quick nibble or two and back to mom.

Very nice variegation placement!

These chicks show promising heads, like the good back skull and width.

"Miracle" Border baby is not far behind the above two border chicks. Being an only chicks he keeps a close eye on mom.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Beware of Making Momma Mad

DKB imported hen from breeder DKB 3503 wins this one but we both lost!!

This hen has been somewhat difficult to deal with from the start. She rejected the advances of my precious DKB 3501 #30 import male even though she was building her nest and getting ready to lay and even though I was moving her to his territory. All she wanted to do was fight with him and pull his tail feathers to line her nest.

This hen had raised four babies in Canada this season with a fantastic Bartel male before coming to the States. My general rule is raise five and you get the rest of the season off..

She eventually laid four eggs and to my amazement two were fertile in spite of all the fighting but then only one chick hatched. It was a beauty with the special mark on the side of the head and was growing well. Already I could fantasize about what a phenomenal bird it would be..

Late yesterday afternoon on my final trip to the aviary, I made a very bad decision. Seeing how much it had grown and how full it was, I decided it had to banded right then......

It has been a long time since I have seen a hen who got made over the band but this one did!! From the way its crop looked this morning when I found it, she must have thrown it out of the nest immediately!!

It was alive and I warm it in my hands a few minutes but the problem of extreme hypothermia was complicated by the crop which the mother had filled so full before banding had not emptied.

Usually even when the chicks look dead because of being thrown out of the nest, they revive after warming. This time it just did not happen....he was barely alive when I found him.

At times the chicks accidentally fall out of the nest and wanting to get to the bottom of this and to let the hen know her chick had passed, I placed the dead chick back in the nest for a few minutes. In a couple of minutes, I went back to remove the chick and sure enough, in that few minutes, she had quickly removed and discarded its band...

Critical Concept: Beware and check the floor after banding to make sure a mad momma has not thrown her chicks out of the nest!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Miracle Border Baby

When I checked this bird's nest of fertile eggs which were due to hatch, I discovered that all four of the fertile eggs were smashed in on the side and some of them had been picked and were bloody. But one smashed egg was not bloody so I carefully took that chick out of the shell using a little warm tap water to remove the shell where it was stuck and then put it back in the nest with its mother and added three plastic eggs to support the frail chick. Normally chicks are not feed for a few hours after hatching as initially they live of the absorption of the egg yolk. So I did not hand fed it at birth.

Unfortunately, I was working 2nd shift that day and would not be able to offer it a bite if it was not being fed. For newborns, I prefer not to give them any food to keep from upsetting the hen but in some rare cases, like this one, I do if absolutely necessary. In those cases, I find that some ABBA green 92 with warm water and made up soupy is better than Exact Hand feeding formula which I prefer after banding.

All the time at work, I kept wondering if the chick would be dead the next morning. I did not even take its newborn picture as I thought it was likely hopeless! Was I ever excited when I saw the well fed border chick the next morning!!!!

Poor quality egg shells can result in the egg being smashed as I described above or the egg may dry out and prevent the chick from being able to pip through the membrane which when dried out is very tough, thus it is unable to breathe air and start the normal hatching process.

My borders are the most difficult to get a good shell on their eggs. Poor shells mean trouble!! To improve the egg shells, I have recently added a poultry shell product and will report back to you as soon as I have evaluated it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Facilitating Chicks Transition To Cracking Seed

Available at Health Food Stores
Weaning time is a challenging time for canary breeders. As soon as the first chick in a clutch leaves the nest, I start weaning by supplying a quarter of hard boiled eggs for the chicks to nibble on. Once in the perchless weaning cage, they learn to eat other foods including wheat germ, nestling food, dry nestling food, soft white bread, bee pollen, oatmeal, non- medicated poultry flock raiser, greens such as thawed frozen peas and romaine lettuce as well as thawed frozen corn.

With all these healthy choices you would think they would quickly show tight feathering and piped (narrow) tails, which signifies excellent health. Yet this does not happen until the chicks are eating high calorie canary mix.

While all of the above foods encourage nibbling, I have found that shelled hemp seed gets them interested in cracking seed at an earlier stage. Usually, chicks will eat the shelled hemp after just a few days in the weaning cage. Once they are eating it well, I introduce thistle seed as it is the easiest seed to crack.

Once they are eating thistle well, I offer canary mix and they quickly make the switch to eating mostly seeds. Regular egg containing nestling food is continued once a day through the molt.

Thanks Richard for introducing me to shelled hemp! Are you also using it to help transition the chicks to cracking seed?

Questions and Tips for Big Bird!

Please use this post for your tips and questions this week.



Getting Young Birds Onto Seed

Richard's Roost shared this great tip: "Shelled/crushed fresh hemp is one of my/birds favorites too. Another trick I use is to take their seed mixed and put it in a coffee grinder. I make it coarser as the days by."


Dry Nestling Food

KJ and Linda Brown of Jeepers/Peppers Aviary shared their dry nestling food recipe October 28, 2009. Take a look at the full article in the old posts, they raise hundreds of canaries and finches using only this dry nestling food.

I have used it this season as a supplement to my regular foods although I have no doubt that it would work as the only nestling food if the birds are use to it. My birds were already nesting when I finally got it made up.

I made 30 lbs (it was so much I had to mix it in a wash tub!) and packed it in Ziploc gallon bags. All but the bag I am using from is kept in the freezer.

Click on the Jeepers/Peepers recipe for easy reading.



1. I have had an bacterial infection causing me to lose chicks. Some of my hens like to dip egg food into water and then eat on it later out of the water. Even though I change the water daily, how can I keep the hens from dipping egg and dropping it in the water without going out and buying new water dispensers?

2. Laurie Seals writes that she need a Parisian Frill male to go with her two hens. E-mail or 919 805-0137 She lives in North Carolina...


1. Dear Big Bird,

In a few weeks I have to leave for 2 days. I will have canary chicks of all ages at that point. My birds are used to getting fresh egg food at 6 AM, noon, and 5 PM.

During the days I have to be gone I can get someone to come in once a day. Is there something I can leave out in quantity that will still work for the chicks since they will be getting only one fresh egg food meal per day? Please recommend a brand. I've tried a few egg foods that weren't that well received.

Thank you Big Bird. I appreciate all of your expertise!

Janie Jones

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Time Out - Reintroducing the Male

These Border chicks are fourteen days old. This is the perfect time to reintroduce the male into the cage for maximum second round fertility because the chicks stay out of the way and do not inhibit mating.

I reintroduce the Border male in their cage today and the hen immediately squatted upon hearing the male's breeding song and the pair successfully mated! After an hour and a few more matings, he was removed from the cage. I will repeat this at least daily till she is laying.

But by the 18th day, chicks are leaving the nest and begging for food and just generally getting in the way and interfering with mating. Time for what I call a Time Out.

During a Time Out, the chicks are moved temporarily to another cage for an hour so that the adult birds can have more opportunity for mating. Once the male is removed, the chicks are returned to their brood mothers.

The five Border chicks in Time Out were from these Borders in a colony breeding of two hens with one male who was then moved on to other hens.

Critical Concept: The perfect time to reintroduce male to the rearing hen for maximum fertility on the second round is when the chicks are fourteen days old.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Exactly Right Supplemental Feeding

These three German roller import chicks need no supplemental feeding initially even though one chick is considerably smaller than the other two. They are all doing well (note the well rounded baby down), supplemental feeding is unnecessary.

Should you hand feed them, you will likely upset the hen and cause her to protect them from you and sit tight rather than feeding them and loss at least the smaller one and perhaps all three!

The best time to supplemental feed is when the chicks are banded and the mother can not keep up with all their begging!! At this stage, the hen is preoccupied with meeting their demands and no longer sees a need to protect her chicks from you.

Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding products for parrots etc works well for canaries at this stage. Simply mix with hot tap water and feed.

The advantage of supplemental feeding to chicks this age is that it fattens them up for the upcoming weaning phase when they will lose some weight until they eat well on their own.

Nap time!

Borders prefer to feed greens over nestling food but it is not high calorie so it is very important to supplement their feeding to build the fat layer prior to weaning!

Border chick topped off with Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding Formula.

Once fully feathered, even chicks that have been hand fed, will refuse to open their mouth except for the hen. They will snuggle down in the nest refusing to recognize the hand of the one who feed them so faithfully the week before!

Monday, May 10, 2010

This Weeks Questions and Comments

Please post your tips and questions that are unrelated to a current post here.


Easy Nest Cleaning
First two German Roller chicks from my prized new import 3501 -30. The chicks are growing well but quickly the nest is heavily soiled!

Using a pair of scissors, I carefully cut the soiled burlap and discard the mess.

Mission accomplished!!



1. Spider asks "How long are you going to breed your new rollers"?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Millet Garden By Debbie Eaton

Spray Millet

The millet garden is very easy to set up and maintain. Every box of spray millet will have a collection of loose seeds in the bottom.

Simply spread the loose seeds over the top of the soil in the area you want to use as your bird garden. Lightly sprinkle it with water.

Within 3 or 4 days, small green grass-like shoots will appear. Continue to water as needed. It will grow into a tall grassy type of plant and send small 3 to 5 inch clusters of seeds forming the millet spray. Let the green millet sprays fill out and then you can harvest them and feed as green seeds. My finches and some of the canaries love it in this form. These sprays do not grow as long as the commercially produced, but are fresh and pesticide free. I use no chemicals and have had no trouble with pests of any kind.

Pictures are of a group of seeding grasses all from left-over bird seeds. Canary grass seeds, flax, millet and rape. I use the grasses to supply my finch cages with the green seeds and grasses for their nests.

Thanks so much Debbie, I am planting my millet garden today!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Questions and Tips for Big Bird!

Post this weeks tips and question on this post.

May Day Flowers


Thursday Tip from Robert Wild

Just cut the broccoli stems across the stem, kind of in little wheels. Put them in the cage when you comeback in the morning there will be nothing but little green halos all over the cage. Thanks Robert, can't wait to try it!!


Seems like taking care of baby birds is taking a phenomenal amount of time! I no longer have time to peal the broccoli stems so the birds will not waste the stem. Instead, I am now cutting the stem off and offering just the floret heads to the birds.

The broccoli stems are processed in the food processor and then I add one part Petamine, one part Purina Flock Raiser and two parts Proteen 25 plain and continue processing till you can hardly see any broccoli. I then add this to my regular nestling food as a stretcher!



1. I have recently purchased a yorkshire hen who is bobbing her tail. Is that normal?

2. How do you color feed your Staffords?

3. Debbie can you post how to plant and grow spray millet to this post?