Friday, July 18, 2014

Troubleshooting Youngsters - Part 2 - Skinny Birds

From a distance you notice this German roller is very tubular looking for a roller.  When viewed from the side, you can nearly see a thin breast bone protruding without catching him. When you catch him, it is obvious he is too thin and his breast bone is sharp even without parting the feathers.

Even though we supply ample food and nutrients to our birds, it is not uncommon to find some “skinny” birds. What are “skinny” birds? A skinny bird is one with a sharp breast bone, prominent pelvic bones and no visible yellow fat layer on the lower abdomen.

What are some possible causes for thin birds  and how can it be resolved?

1st Consider Their Housing.

The most common reason for chicks being thin is keeping both males and females in the same cage. This results in the less aggressive youngsters being denied food access resulting in weight loss.

Overall male chicks are often more aggressive than females. While many female chicks are timid and high risk for weight loss, some females are aggressive. The reason being that each additional egg the hen lays in a clutch has more and more testosterone producing cells regardless of the sex of the chick. This is nature’s way of helping the smaller later hatched chicks compete favorably for food.  So it is female chicks whose egg was laid early in the series that are low “t” females who are housed with males that will invariable be too thin. 

Solution: Separate males and females promptly. If you can’t tell by color (roller males within a nest are deeper yellow colored) or the males are not singing, separate the thin birds from the normal weight ones. Most will be females with an occasional low “t” male who will need to be sorted out later.

2nd Diet and Exercise may be a problem to normal weight gain.

High protein/low carbohydrate diets are responsible for weight loss in birds just like the Atkins high protein/low carbohydrate diet results in weight loss in humans. To encourage weight gain feed more fats and carbohydrates and drop hard-boiled eggs from their diet. Adding some sunflower pieces to the regular seed mix is fattening as well as feeding some fresh white bread or offering dishes of dry nestling food. In addition, I also feed cous cous with olive oil and additional carbs to encourage weight.

Severe weight loss may occur at weaning time. Birds naturally love to stay on the highest perch and weaning chicks will fly up to the high perches and beg to be fed. To avoid losing youngsters from not eating, when chicks are being weaned, used a small breeder with no perches so the chicks will stay on the floor with the food and keep eating rather than flying.

Any thin birds need to have food readily available and limit their exercise which naturally happens when they have to fly up and down to forage for food. Limit flying by housing thin birds in breeding cages rather than flights.  And add additional perches so that the bird can easily hop rather than fly to get to feeding stations.

Try a weight gain supplement. This one works well.

3rd Make sure the thin birds are healthy and not infected with mites.

Examine the birds for any signs of illness. Begin by observing them from a distance and then catch them and listen to their breathing and check their abdomen for any unusual color and determine whether they have a thin fat layer.  Treat any illness discovered.

4th It might be genetic.

When birds are inbred they become smaller than normal and less healthy and sometimes they are too thin. Care must be taken to select only the strongest and healthiest birds for breeding.

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