Thursday, April 21, 2011

Questions and Tips From or For Big Bird!

- Providing Variety Stimulates Feeding

Especially when chicks get banding age, it becomes a big job for the hen to keep them fed. Seems like they are always begging her for something to eat all day long!

Continuous feeding of nestling food can be a problem if it is too rich. When it is too rich, the chick's skin tone will become red instead of light rosy pink and if not reversed they will develop diarrhea, sealed vent and die... Adding plain dry nestling food, greens and oats are helpful to reverse the problem but I also like to add some alternatives to egg food.

Cous cous with poppy seed is a real favorite. I just add some olive oil to cous cous and poppy seed, cover with boiling water and stir occasionally. Birds love poppy seeds so no wonder they love this dish.

Another favorite is quinoa (keen-wah). Quinoa is a grain that is especially balanced in amino acids.

I rinse the quinoa well and place in a rice cooker and cover while cooking. When it is nearly done, I turn it off and let it finish cooking just setting covered in the rice cooker. It should be light and fluffy. If it is a little sticky the birds will not like it. In that case, simply mix with some of the cooked cous cous and poppy seed and serve that way.

I also add both cous cous/poppy and quinoa to my egg food.



I have a year old hen, mated and sitting on five eggs in her first nest. She has just begun to incubate them in earnest, but is sitting so tightly that she will not come out to eat or drink. I have tried tempting her with a boiled egg, carrots and greens. No luck. Then I tried a bath, which she loves. Equally no luck. The cock bird is a 4 year old that has never been bred before, and he doesn’t feed her much at all while she is on or off the nest. Otherwise, he is behaving well and does not harass her, or the nest, so I have left him in the cage, hoping that he would learn to feed her, and then be a good feeder when the chicks hatch.

I am concerned about the health and general welfare of the you have any suggestions?

Thanks so much…Mary Roberts, Templeton, IA


Typically good hens just set and set and set. They refuse most extra foods, even their previous favorites and baths. Since they are compatible, I am sure when the time is right she will beg him to feed her and the chicks.

I like to feed sitting hens hemp seed. It is high calorie and they will eat it even when nothing else does the trick. Either dry hemp seed in hull or hulled hemp which is available at health food stores will help keep the hen from losing weight.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is The Smaller Chick Getting Enough To Eat?

Normally, I take the eggs out as they are laid and put one plastic egg in the nest after the first egg is removed. The eggs are replaced after the fourth egg is laid. With chicks hatching on the same day, they all have an equal chance to be fed.

Here the eggs were not removed and the fourth chick is so small compared to the largest that it might not be getting fed well. I supplement it with Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding Formula for all birds.

When chicks are doing well, they have a nice rosy pink color and around the rump you see a fat layer being deposited just under the skin. Click on this photo and note the fat layer.

What a relief to see a small fat layer forming on the small guy on his rump (click on photo and look carefully as the fat layer is visible in photo on the left side), he is doing well in spite of his small size.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On My Watch - Chicks Hatching

As soon as the aviary light come on (6:30 AM), I provide fresh food for the parents to feed their chicks. A couple of hours later I make my rounds and look at each nest that is due to hatch. This chick is doing a fine job. Notices how sharp the egg edges are where he nibble away to gain his freedom.

He uses his neck muscles to raise the head and the shell, like a hinge, opens up and his head is free!

Out at last, this whole drama only took a few seconds!! It is important now to remove the old shells as you do not want them to cover any of the other two eggs that will be hatching soon.

I also turned him over and added a couple of plastic eggs for support.

In another nest, trouble was brewing!! Note the edges are not sharp but rather dented in and dry. This chick is trapped and without intervention this egg will never hatch!!

First I moistened the dry dented area and then gentle went slowly around the shell breaking the same middle area just like a normal chick would do.

Hopefully, the chick is ready but only trapped. If you see blood, it is not ready and if that happens I stop and put the egg back and hope that it will get the blood in the membrane absorbed and safe to help out later. In this case the blood had been absorbed and the chick was ready to hatch.

If any part of the shell is stuck to the chick, moisten with a little water before removing to avoid damaging the fragile chick.

If the egg yolk is not absorbed (called a yolker), the chick is premature and will likely die. This chick has absorbed the yolk and once back in the nest developed normally.

Don't you just love happy endings!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Survivor - Fab Five Episode

Happiness is..............

Mario and Company!!!

This double photo is hanging in my hallway and each time I go up to my room where Mario and Company are being temporarily housed, I remember the many things I am happy for but right now near the top of my list is the survival of Mario and Company!!

Mario after 24 hours off antibiotics and on KD Powder ( in the water. Today, I am adding liquid calcium as besides acidifying the crop and killing organisms it also aids calcium absorption.

The other male has a great hollow roll which he likes to sing and sing.... Outside of loose feathers, he never had any symptoms of the illness.

This hen never showed any signs of the illness. Originally she was placed on top of the stack of three by the window. When she did not like the show cage, she was moved to her own private tray.

This grizzled cap hen had full gasping symptoms and now she is symptom free and showing signs of coming into breeding condition.

This hen is laying eggs occasionally but she was the sickest survivor having gasping, loss of appetite, and threatening eye problems.

During treatment with antibiotics the birds diet was restricted to seeds, antibiotic treated water, soft white bread, oat groats, my homemade dry nestling mix and some soft food. No greens or apple. As part of the party, I picked them this lovely seeding chickweed and later I will serve a slice of golden delicious apple for snack.

My joy just keeps expanding!!!!

Top two photos Happiness is .... are by Los Angeles artist Joe Hoynik.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Triangular or "Pinched" Eye - Ornithosis

Chlamdia is the causative agent of ornithosis, which is also known as psittacosis in parrots. Canaries are much less susceptible to the disease then parrots who often die. Instead some canaries become "healthy" carriers and appear "clinically normal". Introduction of new birds is the most common source, reminding us that quarantine of new birds is critical.

Outbreaks are intermittent and generally present as recurrent respiratory disease especially if they are exposed to psittacine birds. Often it goes unnoticed in carriers until an aviary has widespread breeding failure.

Full treatment with Doxycycline /Megamix requires 30 days and often results in thrush which will need to be treated. Treatment does not protect from re-infection. The best control is good nutrition and good management practices. Short three day treatments can be used during breeding season when infertility is high.

Side Note: After reading and studying a bit on this disease, I am pretty sure that my new imports do not have chlamydia infection. I have had them on Doxycycline/Megamix for nearly two weeks (500 ml water, 1/8 tsp 20% Doxycycline, 2 ml Megamix, 1/4 tsp tylan, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, Doxycycline and megamix purchased from .

When the treatment with this antibiotic is for ornithosis, the birds get quiet and fluff up (indicating the maximum antibiotic has been given and the birds are puffing up due to thrush infection which then needs to be treated).

The last couple of days, the imports have been very quiet and since I do not think it is ornithosis, I am not going to treat till they get thrush. I am ready to go to four days on KD treated water and just watch and hopefully the import nightmare will be over.

I will still quarantine them an additional couple of weeks without extra treatment just to be sure I am not risking my aviary birds. Once in the aviary, I will keep them in one section somewhat away from the others.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Got A Question For Big Bird?

Post your questions here.

Wednesday - Chicks Break and Soil 2nd Clutch Eggs


Hi, I have an annual problem in the breeding season, my hens with the cocks go for the first clutch and everything goes well until the second clutch, I introduce the second nest when the chicks are 15-18 days old, the hen builds the nest and lays her eggs, now here's the problem the chicks jump from there nest and sit in the second nest on top of the eggs, end of day i get broken eggs, poop on eggs and hen wont be able to sit on eggs. I move the chicks away but it seems hopeless as they jump again into the second nest. Is there any way to deal with this problem. Thanks heaps in advance for taking the time to help other, also for sharing with us this valuable and extensive information. By the way I raise scotch fancy canaries.


Chicks can change nests anytime starting with their 14 day but to see them it will likely be 18th day or so. Extra nests are important but often the hen wants to old one! It is critical that you remove the eggs each morning as soon as they are laid to protect them from breaking and soiling. I put one plastic egg in the nest when she lays her first egg and that is sufficient for the whole clutch. I use a muffin tin and line it with nesting material (shredded burlap) to hold the eggs till the chicks are out of the cage. You can hold the eggs at room temperature for a week till you can get the chicks out of the cage. Should an egg be soiled, let it be as it will still hatch.

When I see a chick on the floor, I again introduce quartered hard boiled egg to start the weaning process. Most chicks are eating on their own and weaned by 21 days. They are ready for a first cage with no perches. This helps encourage them to eat as they have food right at their feet. Often when I hear of weaning problems, people will report that the chicks just sit on the perch and cry. Birds like to perch on the highest perch. Even weaning chicks go for the highest perch instead of staying on the floor and eating.

Monday - Non-feeding Hen


I had 2 chicks hatch out and within 24hours they died, they was coming up for food, no black spot and no food in their crop ?


Sometimes hens will not feed but most will do so once the chicks are two or three days old. A few things that encourage the hen:

1. Make sure there is good lighting.

2. Feed the hen first thing in the morning, be there when the light comes on and not late!

3. Offer 1/4 hard boiled egg in addition to nestling food. I cut them so that there is a sharp ridge which tempts them to nibble on it. When chicks are banded give only the nestling foods and add greens etc till the first chick leaves the nest and then add the quarter hard boiled egg again to start the chicks weaning. Offer a small dish of brewer's yeast.

4. Once fresh food is in the cage, leave her alone for a few hours. Avoid eye contact with the hen the first few days because if she stress her instinct is to protect her chicks from you rather than feed.

5. If you find that the chicks are not being fed, supplement feed with Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding formula till the hen takes over her duties.

6. Add KD Powder to the drinking water (


A. Cocks Go Out Of Condition

1. I keep borders and live in England and have a bit of a problem, I hope you could share your wisdom.
2 weeks ago the cocks were singing vigorously and feeding their feet, but the last few days seem to have lost interest and won't mate when I run them with a hen.The hens are just carrying on building,laying and sitting without being mated.
I think I may have overdosed the supplements, particularly vitamin E. Do you think they can be brought back to the right level of condition or have I ruined this season?
Hope to hear back from you, Regards Laurie.

Laurie, All is not lost!! Breeding takes a lot of energy and can stress the birds so that any with suboptimal health can quickly go out of condition.

First Look at the width of each birds tail. Wide tails are seen in out of condition birds. Piped (narrow) tails are more likely in condition or can get that way easily. Catch each cock and look at the vent development. Feed border veggies with Breedmax daily to all potential breeders. Get the Orlux brand special optimal breeding vitamins and use them as directed. It is very important that they be getting the two most important breeding proteins methionine and lysine.

Also see if cocks are too thin or too fat. Thin ones increase high calorie foods fatty seeds like sunflower and high carb seed like oats and restrict flying by putting perches about every 4 to 6 inches. Fat ones will not come into breeding condition give them lots of flight and all the greens they will eat and lower fat seeds like canary and oats, give them some hard boiled egg if they will eat it. In the US, we can get Petamine which is a complete diet but rather powdery with a few seeds. My fat ones get Petamine, greens and water.

Second, how many hours of daylight are your birds on? Extend suddenly to 15 hours (includes 15 minute dimming time.) Do not

Third treat the water two consecutive days a week with KD Powder. This is one of Dr. Rob Marshall's from Australia products and I see it advertised on Google in the UK too. This will acidify the crop and promote peak health. Likely you will see the tails pipe in a couple of days. This product is really essential in the aviary as it kills organisms and promotes natural immunity. Try very hard to get KD Powder. (If you absolutely can not get KD Powder use organic apple cider vinegar (has sediment, from health food store) and 40 ml use to a gallon of water and use twice a week.)

Fourth use dividers to place cock on one side and hen on the other and feed goodies to cock and see if the hen will beg him to feed her. With a large number of problem birds, a larger flight can be divided and all none sitting hens can be on one side and any potential cocks on the other. Many times the problem is hens not begging and fighting among cocks will bring them in and stimulate the hens too.

B. Michelle writes about a problem with Foul Smelling Droppings.

Normally the droppings should be odorless and foul smelling droppings indicate an infection most commonly, if it really smells foul is E. coli. This gram negative organism is present in feces (mice and humans and even cockroaches are some of the possible sources).

Contaminated water is often a problem, make sure you are not using a garden hose or water holding tank. Thoroughly clean drinkers. The birds will need to be treated with antibiotics. Contact Joanne at and get Trimethaprim Sulfa and also get some KD Powder or see your avian vet.

Clutches With Single Chicks

The very first chick to hatch this season was a Stafford. The first problem was mom did not want to feed it so, a couple of times a day I hand fed it with Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding Formula. After a couple of days, mom started feeding and I was able to stop hand feeding it.

When there is just one chick in a nest, the risk for splay leg is very high. Without out protection, the chick legs can be abnormally spread apart resulting in leg deviation from the hip (spraddle leg) and without intervention, they become deformed or need splints to correct the problem.

As the chick grows, eggs are removed till none are need when it is about a week old.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Crop Stasis

Failure of the crop to empty quickly results in fermentation, visible as air bloating the crop. The food at the bottom looked much thicker than normal too. The chick did beg but not enthusiastically and when he stretched his neck all but the very bottom was air!

Click on the photo and see the distended crop filled with air in this five day old just banded Stafford chick. (Its bald cap means it is going to be crested!) Immediately, I thought of crop infection with gas producing organisms such as bacteria or yeast or virus or parasites.

In neonates, Candida, thrush, a yeast is a common cause of crop stasis. Chicks with crop stasis have air bloating the crop and often die and those that don't die often have stunted growth.

Treatment is to acidify the crop. Having a sample of KD powder from Joanne at, I treated the water with KD powder and immediately added greens (romaine lettuce and baby bok choy) to the parents diet.

KD Powder contains organic acids that works by acidifying the water they drink and thus also the crop. It can be made up in a stronger sanitizing dose to disinfect cages and drinkers or in a low drinking dose to kill germs in food, water and the environment that are causing disease. This gets rid of the infective agent in the crop immediately and promotes return to strong natural health. It is effective against Strep, E coli, Thrush, fungus and virus infections without compromising the immune system.

KD can be used as preventive, administered for two consecutive days each week or in this case, I will give it four consecutive days to treat the problem. It is an excellent product to use at the first hint of problems or as a preventative.

I was amazed when I checked the chick a few hours later and his crop was filled with greens and no gas!

A special Thanks to Joanne for being genuinely concerned with my problems with the imported birds and for including with my order, several additional products to try on them and for sending Dr. Rob Marshall's book Canary Health which was helpful in preparing this blog! I plan on giving the imported birds KD in the water for four days when they finish their antibiotic treatment. I was fortunate, thanks to Joanne, to have KD powder on hand to use for this case.

One day later, the chick is fine. I did hand feed him right before the photo and a normal very very small air is seen at the top due to his enthusiastic gulping!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Update To Whom Shall I Give My Rose Couple

The Bachelor

Rose Recipient

The happy Stafford couple, featured in the Valentine's Day Contest, have three newborn chicks! One is dark and two are light skinned! Mom is feeding well as evidenced by the fluffy down!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Conditioner and Dry Nestling Food

3 lbs Petamine Breeding Formula
3 lbs Flock Raiser or non-medicated Game Bird Starter
5 lbs Sidekick Treat Seed from Wings call Connie at 215 536 -1599 or write
3 lbs Orlux Golden Pate
3 lbs Orlux Insect Pate
3 lbs Sunflower Chips
2 lbs Exact Hand Feeding Formula
2 lb bag Zupreem Avian Maintenance Pellets or Similar Product
2 lb bag Scenic Hand-feeding powder
3 lbs Harrison's High Potency Mash
3 boxes Millville Wheat Cereal or Similar Product (Cream of Wheat)

My birds are really feeding this dry mix well, in fact several prefer it to my nestling food! I keep it available in all my cages now.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Look What I Did!

What a surprise, the German Import hen which has slight lower abdominal breathing laid an egg!!

Surprising but not really surprising as part of the new treatment is feeding conditioning food and in my enthusiasm I have been refilling her dish twice a day, so what do you get when you push....... heat eggs. Typically, heat eggs are darker in color and laid off the perch and infertile even when a male is in the cage!

Update on treatment:

I found the baytril was more effective when given in the mouth but still a slight hint of lower abdominal breathing on Mario and the previously gasping hen pictured above. Mario did get his song volume back and typically starts singing in the morning before I can count to three. Yet, I have learned that even with slight symptoms if I take them off the baytril and even though they look so good when I take them off, they develop symptoms in a few hours.

So knowing that if I keep up the baytril treatment I am only controlling and not getting totally rid of it, a week ago I took the plunge and change the treatment protocol. I am now using an antibiotic cocktail: 500 ml of water, 1/8 teaspoon Doxycycline 20%, 2 ml of megamix, 1/4 teaspoon tylan, 1/2 teaspoon sugar. The doxycycline and megamix are from (Should I get imported birds next year, I will put them on this right away as a precaution.)

This could take up to a month if if happens to be chlamydia. So far it looks good and I now just see a hint of lower abdominal breathing. Some have ask about the birds droppings. They are normal, symptoms are lower abdominal breathing and if not treated gasping and death. Five of the ten remain and look really good.