Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rapid Male Readiness Screening Test - Cock Feathers

When I want to make a quick assessment of how the cocks are coming along, I observe the perched cock to see if I can see cock feathers hanging down. 

 A closer look at the same border males looks pretty good. He is ahead of his peers!

 So what about lagging Richey, he is really catching on and developing since a few days ago when I made those light and dietary changes. Today, I could see a hint of cock feathers hanging down on Richey! His vent is also starting to point forward toward his head and starting to get a red color. It is still too yellow in color and need the sides to engorge rather than be parallel. He is very active now and does have a hint of fat layer on his lower abdomen.

Yesterday, I decided to add the new Biodecken product Novafood breeding on the Border cock above and Richey. Even in 24 hours the vent is development is dramatic. They are both individually caged so can't tell about aggressive tendency but I will be evaluating that too. When I scan, the cocks getting all the other changes except Biodecken novafood breeding, I do not see any cock feathers hanging down. Now I will try it on a flight of two and see if they start being too aggressive with each other. Report: cocks are much more active and doing some chasing but nothing serious. A couple of border were very lazy and like to lay down on the perch. They are up and moving!

When cocks are ready, I will try it on some hens.

Later in the day, I observed a slight reddening of the Border cocks legs and feet. Borders are sensitive to protein, ideally it is probably 16 to 18%, and when they get too much you see reddening of the legs and feet. Immediately, I removed the Novafood Breeding diluted mix and feed unlimited greens, oats, and bread and today I also gave each experimental cage some of the Avi-Gain which is high carb and fat. The color has now dissipated. I will have to be a lot more careful with the amount. I did mix Novafood breeding (25%) with food at the ratio listed but the food I use was regular Novafood (14% protein) which not knowing the amount to feed, pushed the protein way over. Oops. I need to mix with something with very low protein content and feed very little. For right now, I have stopped this experiment taking the advise "If it isn't broke, don't fix it"!

Update: Well the lazy Borders are still moving and one started singing a breeding song. So am I going to keep trying this product. Yes, it has quite an effect but what I need to figure out is how much to use and how often. Have contacted Ricardo Sanchez, Biodecken distributor is the US, and he will be getting with the company nutritionists for advise.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting The Birds To Eat Kale

 Seems like every health food icon is promoting the benefits of dark leafy green vegetables especially Kale. My family eats kale in scrambled eggs for breakfast most mornings but when I feed it to the birds they either avoid eating it or eat very little and waste most of it!

During the summer months, I fed my birds lots of dark green minced broccoli leaves, so why not minced kale.

I simply put the kale in the food processor and process and add it with broccoli to quinoa along with maybe some thawed peas and corn. Birds love it then and clean up every bite.

If I see excessive aggression and I am interested in slowing the aggressive cocks down a bit, I add more greens to the menu! Today, I saw some cocks feeding other cocks and likewise hens feeding hens but I observed an occasional cock cage where the border cocks were trying to jump on top and pin other border cocks. I do not want to see this get out of hand and become a blood bath. Even with this behavior most are not tubular enough in shape and I do not see cock feathers hanging down.

You may have noticed that I am not feeding cous cous at this time. The reason is any wheat products seems to promote early egg laying and I am at least 4 weeks preferably 5 or even 6 weeks till I am totally happy with the cock and hen readiness. I do not give the cous cous to hens till all conditions are right for breeding but I may give some to cocks if they are lagging a bit in a couple of weeks. When breeding begins, lots of cous cous will be fed.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Friends In The Fancy - David and Edith Benites - Quinoa Eggless Nestling Food Recipe

The Benites’ quinoa mix recipe is:
Quinoa is a grain, just like rice, but a lot more nutritious.

How to prepare quinoa has the rule of plus one, meaning…
4 cups of quinoa to 5 cups of water
… all in a rice cooker. (quick rice setting)
Once cooked, turn off cooker with lid on. Within an hour open the cooker and empty cooker onto large containers ( we use two for the cooling to be faster)
Leave the quinoa drying and cooling for an additional two hours.

Our nestling food mix for the breeding season is as follows:
·         4 cups of quinoa already cooked and as dry as possible
·         1 cup of nestling food (commercial brands like Quicko, Orlux, etc.)
·         1/2 a cup of Petamine (multi-vitamin mix)
·         1 heaping tablespoon of Probios, powder form  (probiotic)
You can buy Probios in the 5 lb. jar (best buy and you can split is with a friend) from Jeffers… 1-800- Jeffers. We use two 5 lb. jars of it, per breeding season. It stimulates hens to feed and offspring to ask for food.
·         1 teaspoon of vitamin E. (The vitamin E is powdered from Ruben Alonso, who is a wonderful person and very prompt in his deliveries. His phone number is: 561.670.1481.)
·         Use of vitamin E, one month prior to the breeding season and the following first two months.
·         1 tablespoon of Calcium (powdered calcium called CALCI-LUX by OROPHARMA. You can buy it in Amazon. $32.00 plus shipping for 500 grams.
 Mix and refrigerate

Other than the fantastic properties that is contains, there is nothing to peel, which in turn, allows the parents to regurgitate with ease! 

PS Quinoa at COSTCO costs $12 for 4 lbs. Use as you go.

Feel free to contact us at
Best regards,
David J. Benites

Bottoms Up - Male Physical Exam

Richey, my new German Roller male, looks at me in disbelief. "Isn't the fact that I am always singing when you peak in the aviary good enough? ....  No and that is final!  I do not want to bare all on your blog!"

 As I proceed to catch him, he shyly hides from me and puts up quite a chase in protest.

 First the breast bone. Oops Richey, it is a bit sharp to my liking! Pelvis bones are also too prominent and no slight yellow fat layer on the lower abdomen. Richey, you are a little too thin!

When a male is too thin, they may not come into breeding condition and infertility is common. Too fatten him a bit, I add a generous amount of sunflower chips (pieces) and hulled hemp seed to some song food mix (Higgins brand). To this mixture I added Avigain from Avitech company.

Note the small vent is pointed toward the tail instead of bent forward toward the head. The color is yellow and not fiery red. The sides of the vent are parallel and not engorged. He is not ready but on a good note he has some development in spite of being on the thin side. (Sorry Richey about the slight trim so I could get this only slightly revealing photo, a little tricky shot since you are in one hand and the camera in my other hand, but when the time comes, I'll shape it some more and really trim off the side feathers! My husband Pat told me to just tell you to turn your head and cough!)

Time for extra nutrients. One of my favorites is 4 cups nestling food (Biodecken Novafood from Ricardo Sanchez or 214 998-7474) and 1 tablespoon Miracle New Canariz vitamin amino acid from Italy (ABBA Products). At present I only feed this to males but will give to hens when close to breeding.

Today, I started coating the regular seed mix for all birds with fortified wheat germ oil. I use one cup to 50 lbs seed mix. First take about 5 lbs and add the oil and mix well and let stand till the oil is well absorbed into the seed, then mix in with rest of seed. I continue this till breeding season is over.

Today, I also will turn the lights up to 12 hour days. Richey being new to the aviary in November has been housed in his own cage. If I put him in with other males, to bring on some territorial fighting, he would lose more weight and condition.

As a side note: when you put males together for territorial fighting to condition, the easiest way is to put them all simultaneously into a different cage rather than adding a bird to a cage where the territory is already established.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Passing On The Flock

Perhaps you have also thought of what to do about your flock should you pass on. David Bopp of Ohio had made specific plans that should he pass, his flock would go to Richard May.  Richard had proudly told me how he would pick the birds up and take care of everything so that the birds would not be an issue for David's wife Judy or his family. David also had shared his plan with me and was so relieved and happy that he could trust Richard to handle it for him.

Then at Christmas time, Richard unexpectedly passed on.... Like most of us, Richard had no family members who were bird people and wanted to carry on after him. But what he had was wonderful bird friends who stepped up to the task.

First, Dave Galloway working with Richards family, picked up the birds and took them to his place for temporary housing while plans were being made with David for distribution. David and Richard, both being from Ohio, had driven considerable distance too many bird shows together. David had also shared his stock with Richard and shared his joy when Richard first become a Master Breeder and then when he won the Roller Division at the National Cage Bird Show in both 2012 and 2013 and Best Bird in Show in 2012.

From the time they had spent together, David knew Richards likes and dislikes pretty well and he wanted to place Richards birds as best he could as Richard would have wanted so that his flock would continue on. As a result quality birds have been relocated with several breeders in many states including Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, Washington, New York, Kentucky and Oklahoma.

Should this have happened to me, I would want my birds shared around with breeders all over the US just as Richards were!  

Bird Friends Are Priceless!

Richard May National Cage Bird Show Banquet 2013
David Bopp National Cage Bird Show Banquet 2013
Family Condolences may be sent to:
Robert W. May
P. O. Box 752
Azle, TX  76098 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

First Aid - Pasted (Caked) Vent

After washing and cleaning this hen's pasted vent, you can note a rare area on the upper part. In addition, to cutting feathers away from the area, I will treated the bird with Dr. Rob Marshall's KD Powder in the water for five consecutive days.

Biodecken moisturizing ointment  contains 12% Aloe vera and can be used to treat the cloaca, legs or beak as needed.

Biodecken also sells a Fungicide containing .15% ketoconazole for treatment of fungal skin disease in ornamental birds.

A number of things can cause pasted vent. As simple as feeding too much flax seed to infections which require treatment with various agents. If a sweet chicken-like smell is noted it is likely bacterial usually E. coli, Clostridial, or Streptococcus or even caused by yeast (Candida). If the caking is hard and dark black it maybe a a low grade Megabacteria. Dark green and greasy caking and sweet smelling is characteristic of Candida. In breeding hens it may signify uterus infections.

No unusual odor was noted in this hen so I will start with just the cleaning five day treatment with KD Powder followed by probiotics.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Friends In The Fancy - Dr. Jan Vanderborght - The Molt

Managing the Molt
The molt is one of the most demanding periods for our birds. After breeding, incubating and feeding the chicks  the birds start molting on a bad timing, meaning they already are tired!
The energy needed for a proper molt is needed for the formation of new feathers, and knowing this constitutes around 20 to 30% of their body weight, I don’t need to tell you how much energy is needed for this. In fact the molt is the first step towards a good breeding season next year! It has been proven feathers produced at daytime are of better quality as to feathers produced at night, when the birds are fasting and there is no continuous apport of energy. Some fanciers make a quick drop in daylight hours regimen after breeding, but let us be cautious with this as impaired feather quality can pop up. Remember energy needs at peak molt period is about 20% higher as to other periods.
Therefore trying to get birds through the molt only on seed and water is almost criminal.
So, what should we do?
First of all providing a good quality softfood every day, with the same protein level as during the breeding season.  Also birds have higher needs of the amino acids methionine and cysteine for proper building of new feather, for which we can use some supplement like B-Chol or Sedochol.
Over here we give softfood every day, one day supplemented with sprouted seeds, the other day with some broccoli and some wild seeds.
We also have to pay attention not to stress the birds, so keep manipulating the birds at low level, also as to starting too soon with show training, a mistake often made.
Vitamins are given by us every other day, as some birds do not eat softfood but have to drink. Acidification of the drinking water is done twice a week with products like apple cider vinegar or Vior.
As to disease this is a very critical period, as sick birds in this time of the year can quickly be fatal.
A preventive cure with Baycox for three days, 3 ml/L can be given.
Also keep a close eye as to mites and give the birds a drop of the Frontline spray in the neck.
As to get some better colour one can help mother Nature by providing the right building blocks. A supplement containing enough copper, zinc and iron improves the eumelanin formation, and the cysteine  supplement favours the phaeomelanin formation. Carotenoids from spirulina, pollen or marigolds can enhance the yellow colour, but have to be used with caution as artificial colouring is forbidden in Borders.
As the molt is almost finished we do lower the protein level of our softfood increasing the amount of carbohydrates, with the addition of a vitamin B complex which helps in getting a better closed feather coat.
Don’t forget to provide a bath on a regular base, but don’t leave the baths on for too long as the birds might drink contaminated water. We provide baths but once the last bath is provided we already start taking away the first ones, don’t  panic if some birds don’t bathe, after a few times they know to hurry up.
In conclusion, take good care of your birds in the molt and you will be rewarded!

Dr Jan Vanderborght

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tweet Conditioning Treat

During the conditioning phase preparing for breeding season, I like to offer a weekly special treat.

Starting with Higgins Song Food Blend, I add extra flax seed, hulled hemp, bee pollen, and brewer's yeast. The birds really love it!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Getting Hens Ready - Patience

Young Border Hen
First Question 2014:

Dear Linda,
Congratulation for new year. Let me start with my first question in this year:
I raise Lanks and Yorks. The bird room are in full light for about 11 hours a day and the about 20C.
Males are singing for about one month but the females are not ready yet.
The base seed are canary seed+millet(the females are a little fat). Females receives some additives with carrot and a little hard boiled eggs.
Any recommend to make the females ready?
Regards M

Great to hear from you! 

In a single word, the most important thing you can do is be Patient!

These are big birds and should not be bred until they receive 14.5 total day light hours each day (includes 30 minutes dim time at the end of the day).  Smaller birds will breed at 12 hours but big ones do much better on longer hours. Even smaller birds do better when bred on longer hours. Either let the light increase naturally or increase lighting by 15 to 30 minutes per week. I start out with 15 minutes per week and then as they start responding more I move up to 30 minutes. This year I am not doing the sudden change, moving suddenly in one day to 14.5 hours. I think it works better on the big birds to do the more gradual change, 15 to 30 minutes per week.  

The number one thing that triggers hormone changes that stimulate the hen to come into full breeding condition is the song of the male. For this reason, I concentrate on the male first.  Male birds initially are housed together to bring on a little territorial scrapping but of course not enough fighting to hurt anyone. Scrapping males is very stimulating for them.

I am very pleased with the quinoa recipe that includes cooked quinoa, broccoli, oatmeal and vita-mineral and now have added some peas and corn and some dry nestling food (Novafood by Biodecken). All of the birds are getting some of this about four days a week. Will move that up to daily as they start responding. I think it is important to respond to the birds and not push them. (I buy quinoa in 25 lb sacks at health food stores. It is grown in Bolivia.) See blog post What's For Breakfast on Dec. 13, 2013.

It is also good to consider the age of the birds. The closer they are to a year old by breeding time the better. I have noted that some of my purchased birds are not coming along as fast as the others so my first response was to send the band numbers to the breeder and find out when they hatched.

Young Cinnamon Border Hen

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Friends In The Fancy - Dr. Jan Vanderborght - Ornithosis - Psittacosis In Border Breeding

Ornithosis- Psittacosis  in Border breeding.
Ornithosis, also called Psittacosis is caused by an infection by Chlamydia Psittaci.
Much has been written about this but it is my opinion its role in many having poor breeding results is underestimated. If one looks at the symptoms, infertility, dead in shell, failure to lay eggs, sudden death of breeding hens, young birds dying all of a sudden being only a few weeks old, balance problems, we would be tempted to think this is where we are in Border breeding. Other kind of infections also could show similar symptoms, but this would be occasional, and not with this kind of broad spectrum symptoms.
The problem with this disease is we almost don’t notice it outside the breeding season, the birds look all right, hens looking good, cocks singing loud, nothing seems wrong…. until the breeding season starts. At this time, demanding for our birds, problems pop up, eggshell problems, not laying hens, dying hens, some lethargic hens, and an occasional cock not getting the right breeding condition. There might also be a link with the calcium metabolism problem we have, as this infection can impair liver and kidney function, necessary for vitamin D activation. Even those who consult a vet pre breeding with examination and  standard cultures of stool samples  do not reveal any problem as it can’t  be demonstrated in regular stool cultures. If wanted one can ask the vet to look for it, but for this swabs have to be taken from the conjunctiva, choana and stools. Special tests can be done to demonstrate if our birds are infected. These tests are expensive and the results take some time. But I think in our breed worth thinking about!
It is my opinion this disease is underestimated by us because of the absence of symptoms out of the breeding season, as in most cases this is a “low grade” infection.
I think this is one of the diseases which do not often give problems in strong breeds of birds, but in the more fragile breeds like the border, I think we have inbred some kind of lower level of natural immunity, which makes the birds more vulnerable to these kind of infections. I have knowledge of one fancier breeding borders and using fifes for fostering and having an outbreak of ornithosis in his borders, but with not one noticeable problem in his fifes, to me a matter of natural resistance and immunity. Building up natural immunity from winter on is also very important, an art known by experienced fanciers who know nothing is free!
Much has been written about some pre breeding antibiotic cures in order to get some better breeding results. Most do think about coccidiosis and give some sulpha or Baycox treatment over winter, but when speaking of other pre breeding cures there seems to be some mystery, as we all seem to avoid this being spoken of.
I know some fanciers do an over winter cure with doxycycline,  a 30 day treatment , something in us telling this seems a long way, with the possibility getting the some candida infection during this period of time, and being afraid getting the birds out of condition. The duration of this therapy, in contrast with humans, in which we only treat for 7 days, is because of an increased level of re infection in bird sheds, transmission by moving dust, re infection from the environment almost absent in humans.
Enrofloxacin (Baytril) is also effective as to clean up the birds but the normal dosage of Baytril 10%, 2 ml per liter of drinking water seems not enough and higher dose regimens have to be used. Research in now being done as to look for the right dose to get the job done. I will keep you updated on this as right now some European fanciers are trying different dose regimens pre breeding. Care has to be taken not to get toxic levels which could give rise to renal dysfunction and balance problems. Positive results have shown Baytril 10% medicated food but at a dose of 1000 mg/kg of food, also for 21 days.
Tiamulin ( Chevimulin T) has been used by others as to combat Mycoplasm organisms which, as stated by some, often seem to go hand in hand with the circovirus infections as for now, the possible cause of the “black spot” syndrome. But when it comes to ornithosis tiamulin does not seem to be able to eliminate the Chlamydia organisms from the bird body, as intracellular concentrations seem to be too low for eradication.
Another setting, as often met, is meeting the problem during the breeding season, and this is where things get tricky, if one knows he has a problem, but the use of docycyline and enrofloxacin is a contra indication of being used, as doxycycline could bring us soft shelled eggs and bone development problems and enrofloxacin could interfere with cartilage formation in the incubating chick. Consulting a specialized vet is recommended as if nothing is done, the breeding season is over.
A new treatment at this time of breeding could be the use of azithromycin, a drug also effective in eliminating Chlamydia and Mycoplasm infections with success. It is being used in human medicine for these indications and can be used by babies and if needed, by pregnant women. Some studies have being done in birds, and the first results seem very promising. I will keep you updated, but if so, this could be a promising drug for the future, as well in the pre breeding period, only to be given for 3 days, as well when needed in the breeding season as no negative effects as to fertility, eggshell strength or bone formation is known. This drug accumulates in the white blood cells of the body, so they are integrated in the first line defence of the body, and after being given for 3 days, still do the job for about another 12 days.
It is not my advice to promote the use of drugs in our birds, but as breeding problems are common in our sheds, I hope this could trigger some discussion, and as often said, breeding reports, as well in the positive and negative way can teach us which way we have to go in this.
Maybe the most important lesson is to spend some more on pre breeding vet examinations, especially in concern with this particular infection.
Dr. Jan Vanderborght  MD