Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bachelorette Canary Tales

Announcing The First Ever Canary Matchmaker Contest

Game Guidelines: Evaluate the Stafford bachelorette hen and her three cock suitors. One suitor will be posted each day beginning February 1st. Critique the pluses and minuses of each suitor and make one post to this blog with your choice and reasons. Comments will be closed for public inspection. I will review each entry along with two experienced breeders. The winner will receive a Canary Tales Matchmaker Extraordinaire Certificate and Blog Posting on February 14th. Deadline for submission is February 12.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Favorite Inside Nest

An Easy to Clean Nest Option

My favorite inside nest is made of clay and sits unattached to its wire frame. The wire frame is a particularly good design as it holds the nest out from the cage wire thus mimimizing excrement deposit on the side of the cage. It also keeps the nest level and secure so chicks are less likely to fall out of the nest.

Since the clay nest is not attached to the frame, you can easily remove the whole nest whenever necessary to check hatching chicks or band them while leaving the frame in place in the cage. When the chicks age, the nests invariably become soiled. I simply remove the soiled nest and replace it with an identical fresh clay nest and clean nest pad. The chicks and the hen are much cleaner as the excrement on the used nest that will soil their bodies and feathers has been removed.

In this clay nest, I use a thick felt nesting pad that I purchase from ABBA products. It fits in so snug that I do not need to glue the nest pad to the nest. When the nest pad becomes soiled, I wash them in the automatic washer and dry them in the clothes dryer. Some of my nest pads have been washed numerous times.

Interestingly, as the fertile eggs begin to develop in the clay nest, I notice a reassuring warmth radiating from the nest like a little heater! The eggs are being mantained at a warm temperature even when the hen is off the nest.

I purchased these clay nests from Orchid Tree Exotics who I think have gone out of business. If anyone knows who sells these clay nests and wire frames, would you please send us the information as a comment to this post.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Weigh In Day: Grams Up or Grams Down

An Update on the Fat and Thin Cocks

Since today is the day that I am starting the cocks on the water soluble vitamin E, I took some pictures to show you how the fat and the thin cock pictured early in this blog, are doing with their weight gain or loss programs.

The too thin border cock, was pictured in the Oh No, This Cock is Too Thin on January 16th. His progress is very slow even though he is becoming a coach potato due to all the convenient perches and food easily accessible. In all fairness he has been on the weight gain program a week less than the fat cock has been on the weight loss program. His skin continues to be wrinkled meaning he is still too thin. The main improvement is a slightly visible yellow fat layer. The vent itself is larger but unimpressive. Even the borders of correct weight and development seems to have smaller vents than the smaller sized canaries. The thin border cock is especially challenging to fatten but failure to put some weight on him will mean poor vent development and certain infertility! He still has six weeks to get his act together before I will begin pairing but if the vent doesn't look good, then no hen for him! Watching the vent development will greatly increase the number of fertile eggs produced!

On the other hand, the fat DKB imported German roller cock is progressing nicely. Not only is the fat layer coming down but also some redness is seen on the side of his abdomen and even on the vent. The shape of the vent is very impressive as it is not only pointed forward but notice how the sides are bulged or engorged out in a rounded fashion! The three things he needs is to lose more fat layer, develop a red colored lower abdomen, and show a red colored vent that has no hint of yellow color.

Can you believe that I actually study vent development and have posted this blog? And that you find it totally fascinating? What would your non-bird friends think? It is so special to have bird friends!

This makes me think or a true story from a few years back when I gave a little seminar on vent development to a small group of roller people at a bird show. I must have said something to the effect that the cocks "lose their sexual mature vents after breeding season". When molting time finally came the next summer, a serious novice who had heard my seminar became so concerned about his bird's that he consulted a more experienced local breeder to find out what was the matter with his cocks. He asked. "I just can't find any of my bird's vents on the cage floor"??? Somehow he reasoned that if bird vents were lost, he should be able to find them fallen off on the cage floor, just like finding lost feathers on the cage floor!! A good laugh was had by all!! LOL

When you click on the pictures to enlarge them it makes not only the birds more visible but it also highlights my thumbs. My husband took the picture and remarked that the birds looks fine but your thumbs look so dry. Perhaps I need to spend a little time taking care of me! Or maybe I need to use a different camera?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Passing on Canary Fever

Who will continue and advance canary culture?

This week has been emotional with the recent news that my grand nephew, age 28, has melanoma. And will have surgery tomorrow around noon to remove the tumor, skin graft over the incision, and possible removal of any "hot" lymph nodes. My thoughts and prayers are with Brett but when they turn to my canaries, I am plagued with the nagging question, "who will carry on the fancy?"

My mother had five children. Although she was close to each of us, she passed the canary baton to me and did I ever get the fever!! Now I have three children but no one has caught the fever from me. My youngest daughter and son seem to have acquired natural immunity, perhaps from their father, so my hopes for them becoming bird lovers is nil.

When my oldest daughter got married, I gave her a pair of canaries and I was hoping that theirs would be a loving relationship just like the breeding pair modeled for them. She successful raised six chicks from the pair that breeding season. Although she did not catch canary fever, she did produce six children, five sons and one daughter!

The oldest three sons, Joe then Kevin then Jeff, during adolescence, each in turn went with me to bird shows ,working as show stewards. Joe and Kevin became so competent that by late adolescence, they were show managers for some of the Milo Wells German Roller Shows. They handled the entries, money, carrying in each team, and finally generated the show report. They were so good at it that Granny got to sit in and listen to every team! They all also helped me from time to time clean the aviary, trim beaks and nails, and on occasion take care of the birds when I was gone. Although none of the boys caught canary fever, Jeff does have bird fever as for several years he has kept his own small backyard flock of pigeons and chickens and occasionally ducks. When I was Jeff's age and went away to college, my parents caught my pigeons one night and to their surprise it was over 100 birds! I also kept my small flock of chickens and ducks just like Jeff! Kenny and Mary are at the help "granny in the bird room" stage and their real canary interest is unknown at this time.

Today, I babysat the youngest boy, John who is three years old. I can't think of anything I have done to spark his interest in birds. But as I paused from reading three little pigs, corduroy, and other books, he stated "Granny, we have a bird cage but we don't have a bird." As soon as my daughter came home, I ask her if they had a bird cage. She promptly replied no we don't have any bird cage. John quickly corrected his mother and informed her it was in the garage! Sure enough John was right!! The cage was one that had belonged to my mother (his great grandmother) and very old. Could this be the early incubation phase of Canary Fever?

John's picture was taken this morning at his kitchen table with his bird cage. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you will see that one of the wall decorations says Birds Wanted.

John Update: I babysat John at his house again today (Friday 1/30). I thought it was time to invite John to visit my aviary so I began "John, Granny likes birds a lot, so very much that she has lots of birds at her house". John replied "Lots of birds come to my house", and then in a sad tone with a tear in his right eye, he continued "But They All Fly Away". Later in the car, to meet his mom for lunch, he said "Oh no". Then he went on to explain that today he needed to water the plants. Sounding more and more promising! What's a Granny to do?

Special Note: Since 2001, the National Cage Bird Show in partnership with Higgins Premium Pet Foods, has awarded a $1,000 college scholarship to the Youth Division Exhibition Winner at the National Cage Bird Show. Eligibility requirements are posted at under Youth Programs. Youth birds are judged at 8:00 am immediately prior to regular judging. A special bonus has been that each of the judges takes a few moments to make helpful comments that encourage the youth exhibitor. Youth winners in each area compete for the scholarship right after the Scannell judging. The youth identification tags are then removed and the youth birds are placed in with the other birds for general competition. At the NCBS web site, also check out the Youth Poster Contest! The winner receives a cash prize and their poster is distributed at the NCBS show! Another excellent idea to encourage youth is a 4-H bird group like Edna Anderson started. They make informative presentations, display posters at various places including the state fair, and exhibit their birds. A year ago, one of her group won the $1,000 college scholarship and the another one won the youth poster contest! Both of these girls also gave presentations at the NCBS seminar during the show. Everyone was impressed by their knowledge and understanding of birds. Working with the Youth issues for the national has been very rewarding as I am moved by their great love for their birds! There concerns are more for their bird and its welfare during the exhibition then whether or not they win!! A special youth meeting is held on Thursday evening to discuss their concerns.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Privacy Curtain for Open-Backed Cage Nests

If Momma Isn't Happy, No One Is Happy!

The most basic instinct of the canary hen who has new chicks is to protect them from harm. This means she will sit and sit until she perceives it is safe to get off the nest to gather food and feed them. The more she is aware of people in the room and even anyone looking her way, the more frightening her environment becomes so she sits so tight even after you leave the room that the chicks fail to thrive.

In addition to taming the hen that I mentioned in an early blog post, you can greatly increase her perceived safe environment by putting a curtain over the open side of her outside nest. Some outside nests have a solid back and do not need a curtain but other brands have open plastic bars. The open back allows her to observe your coming and going and can make her fearful as she is unsure when you might pop into the room.

Her security level will go up if you make her a privacy curtain! For the curtain, I cut a six inch square piece of scrap material that is large enough to cover the nest's open backside. Then I attach a piece of elastic about seven inches long to both of the fabrics outside top corners as shown in the photo.

To hang the curtain, put the top of the fabric cover along the top of the backside of the nest and stretch the elastic piece down so that the elastic fits snugly around the bottom of the backside door as shown in the second photo. The top of the fabric and the elastic band will keep the curtain firmly in place. Having a privacy curtain will keep her from seeing aviary activity and will keep momma happy!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Few Small Feathers Seen on the Aviary Floor

Exciting News: Way to Go Girls!

This morning, I was so excited to see a few small feathers on the aviary floor. The feathers were consistently in and around all the hen cages! I quickly caught a few hens but although they are nice and pleasantly plump, as expected, there is no brood patch yet. This is just the first sign that the hens are thinking, and making small gestures toward the upcoming breeding season in about six weeks.

I checked out the weather forecast and we are expecting some moisture in the next few days but temperature will be cold and then warming to 40 to 50 F again after the rain/sleet/snow mix. It has been really dry here this winter and I know the birds will find some moisture as a confirming message to proceed toward breeding condition, but the cold temperature will help stop the hens from laying heat eggs.

So, today I added petamine breeding formula to all cocks diets. Those that are thin are getting it mixed half and half with Harrison's high potency mash. The ones that are fat still get petamine instead of seed but starting today the normal weight cocks are also receiving petamine instead of seed just like the fat cocks.

Starting today, thin cocks and all hens are having some (probably about 10%) sunflower chips/pieces added to the their seed mix. I purchased 50lbs of sunflower chips yesterday for $46 from a local feed distributor. Once I start adding the higher protein seed, I will continue through the breeding and molting season. As they come into breeding, I will increase the percentage of sunflower and other oily seeds in their diet.

Next Wednesday, I will start the cocks on the once a week 24 hour treatment with the ABBA water soluble vitamin E.

Note: The photo is of one of the Border Hens that Don gave me at the Tulsa Bird Show. She went through a soft molt in November but after a high carbohydrate diet, she is coming along on schedule now.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Breeding a Show Stopping Stafford Crest

The Secret of Producing a Good Crest is the Roundness of the Non-crested Bird

2008 was a fantastic year for Staffords as for the first time at the National Cage Bird Show, they had their own division and prestigious Higgins Trophy!! Take a moment and checkout all the NCBS winners at their web site and the photo gallery on the Stafford Canary Club of America web site:

I enjoy the challenge of breeding Stafford canaries! Like breeding all show birds, several things must be balanced to get a show stopper. In Stafford, you have a type bird with color. That brings the challenge of breeding crests and body type plus adding to that the challenge of producing great color birds. It is all about balance. But alas, the challenge of breeding when the better the crests get the worse the color gets. That makes perfect sense when you remember that the gloster is not a red ground bird and the red factor although red ground in color does not the right head shape for a good crest!

Roundness of the non-crested bird of the pair is the secret to producing offspring with good crests. Just looking down on the crest bird pictured at the top of this blog posting and admire the roundness and quality. That good round crest came from pairing a crest bird with an excellent rounded non-crested bird. In the top picture, if you look closely, you will see the three tail feathers he dropped in my hand while I was trying to take his picture! Oh well, they will grow back in about a month or so.

The pictured non-crested mosaic (white looking) hen has a great frontal rise, rounded head and full neck. To be a showstopper, she needs perfect pencil color marks at her eyes instead of a reddish orange smudge mask on her face. She is extremely valuable, however, as a stock bird! I can expect her to produce offspring with great crests and also cocks with strongly marked masks. In mosaics, some lines produce good cock patterns and others good hens, so her sons might be show winners but her daughters will likely be stock birds like their mother!

A year ago, I showed a variegated crested mosaic cock at a couple of shows. He was very well marked and outside of a little deeper red color on the well defined mask, he would have won the cock mosaic competition. Instead, he would get second even in his class at the national show. After the strong performance at the shows, I had high hopes for breeding him to lots of hens. Somehow his vent just would not develop, but in desperation, I paired him with a nice non-crested mosaic hen. Perhaps the intended hen would slow down and wait for him to come into breeding condition. The first thing I noticed was how he liked to sit with the hen and feed her on the nest and then the eggs began coming till 12 were laid!! As you guessed, he was really a she! All was not lost as she went on to produce eight offspring, one of which is the non-crested mosaic stock hen pictured!

The variegated red ground non-crested bird pictured below is a non-frosted cock and shows the same full neck and roundness clear down to the shoulders as the mosaic hen. When you evaluate roundness be sure and look at the bird from several angles: front view, back view, side view, looking at the roundness of the head at the beak (also small size of beak which makes its head look more round), and looking down on the body for full neck clear to the shoulders. Oh what fun it to work with all these perimeters to try and create the "perfect" bird!

Note: The birds pictured were not not groomed for the pictures. The mosaic stock hen must have been having a bad hair day as she is actually round in the back skull too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Every Birdie Welcome

Home Sweet Home - Handling New Arrivals

I still get a joy from getting new birds in my aviary!! Each special new one is intended to improve future generations, as I continue my pursuit of the "perfect" bird.

I got a new Stafford male from Tom at the Tulsa show. I have been working with his and Carl's stock and although my crests are nice and round and pretty darn good, the color level is not what I want yet. I also got a pair, selected primarily for color enhancement from Carl at the National Cage Bird Show.

My border canaries have good heads and backs but suffer on the underline and have too short forward placed legs so that they just won't show their thighs. At the Tulsa show, Don helped my stock considerable by providing me with two new pairs of borders to compliment my birds, some of them are genetically related to my birds. He allowed me to pick the birds from his show birds prior to the judging. As people were checking their birds out, I began locating the new borders. I found three of the four quickly and had them set aside. But after asking the stewards and any exhibitor in sight to help me, I began to panic where is cage number 268? My anxiety reached its peak when after at least six people tried to help me find cage 268, it was still missing! I even looked under the table. Finally, I went to Don as I feared the bird had mistakenly been placed with someone else birds and possibly gone forever. Don and Tom both immediately started laughing!! Don said, "Did you check the top bench?" To my delight the missing bird was setting on the top bench with a special rosette from the North American Border Association for Best Flighted Border!!

Since it was October/November, it was simple to quarantine them 4 weeks and start the new bird's on the same light, temperature, and feeding pattern as my own birds. One border hen was loose feather and showing signs of soft molt so I gave her a special high carbohydrate/low protein diet and she is now looking fine! I think she will be even be tighter feathered once I begin the breeding message in a few weeks.

When new birds come into your aviary during the breeding season or approaching breeding season, outside of needing to quarantine them, you need to handle them differently than those acquired during the pre-breeding season. In my experience, whether the birds went to another breeders or to my aviary, you can expect the hens lay eggs in about three weeks just because the inevitable changes in diet and conditions at the new home are very stimulating.

Therefore, birds arriving during the breeding season need to have a clear breeding message so that you will successfully raise from them this year. That means the day length needs to be set immediately at 14 1/2 to 15 hours and cocks and hens are both started on the water soluble vitamin E. In addition, start the cocks on soy protein (dust it on their seeds, or make the border veggie recipe with whole soybeans and broccoli/cauliflower) and feed the hens and any thin cocks oily seeds including sunflower pieces.

I am making plans to get some German rollers from Debbie for this breeding season. She recently checked the intended hens for brood patch. Since they have not developed the brood patch, the best thing is to wait till they are closer before we move them. Even though they are not close to being in condition, changing aviaries would cause them to lay at my house in three weeks, ready or not!

The picture at the start of this blog (Every Birdie Welcome) was taken by Debbie. It is apparent from the hen's photo that she currently has lots of abdominal feathers, no bareness, and no redness which all confirm that she is not coming into breeding condition yet. As anxious I am, I must practice delayed gratification and wait for the hens to start showing signs of moving forward toward breeding condition before they are transported to Kansas. It is not difficult to bring a cock into full breeding condition during that three week window. They respond quickly to longer days, fighting for territory, and increase in protein. So the indicator must be the readiness of the hens.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Holding Back the Hen

Ways to Manage the Hen which Slow Progression Toward Breeding

My e-mail today asks, "Besides lower aviary temperature, is there anything else you can do to slow down the hens from laying?"

If the diet is too stimulating, it is common to see hens laying single eggs that are a darker blue color. These eggs are called heat eggs and will not produce chicks because she is laying like a chicken rather than being in breeding condition. Should this happen, I would go ahead and get her ready and not try to stop her. I would get her on the weekly treatment with vitamin E in the water, as mentioned early, suddenly turn the lights up to 14 hours, increase oily higher protein seeds, and turn the heat up to 70 degrees F. You can expect to waste a few eggs but I would not confuse her by trying to reverse her cycle! When you do that, she goes clear out of condition and it takes 3 or 4 weeks to get her on tract toward breeding. You may have observed your frustrated hens going in and out of breeding condition. Could this possibly be due to confusing mixed breed/don't breed messages she is getting?

If, however, she has not laid but you see she is ahead schedule, you maybe able to slow her progression by simply putting her in a cock's cage who is not quite ready. You will need to watch, as one of two things will happen. She will either reset to a slower pace that is in sink with the cock or she will take out her frustration on him and try to kill him. If she tries to kill him, put a wire divider between them and give the extras like greens to him and not her. Then she will beg him to feed her through the wire! Once that happens regularly, remove the divider and watch again.

Slowing the hens can also be promoted by placing hens in the lower cages with less light or placing thin curtain that allows lower levels of light in the cage. Sudden reducing the day length is not a good idea as that would promote molt.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Take Your Clues From Your Birds and Nature

The Grass is Always Greener - Aviary Envy!

This weekend has been a busy one with Kansas University playing basketball Saturday and attending the Wichita State Shockers basketball game and now its already Sunday and early (7:30 am) church and symphony this afternoon. Bet it sounds just like your busy life! With so much activity, it is so relaxing to just take a moment to care and observe my birds.

Yesterday, I called my bird friend Doyle Johnson. Doyle is an excellent breeder who lives here in Wichita. He reported he was just getting ready to go out and check the canary eggs for fertility! Seems his birds came in early and he had already seen many extra eggs dropped in the flights. Just hearing about his birds laying and the promise of chicks hatching soon is enough to make you wonder if you are getting behind!

As tempting as his birds hatching is, my birds will be ready when they are ready! I must be patient, observe them and take my clues from my birds and Nature. As I gazed out at my backyard thistle feeder, I noticed two male goldfinch. This was the first day I had seen any goldfinch at my feeder but instead of showing off their bright yellow breasts like when they are in breeding condition, they are still a drab green. I also checked the chickweed. To my surprise, it is actually coming up but it is only green leaves and does not have seed heads that my canaries love so much. Our weather too is just hinting of Spring as it occasionally warming up to 60F but then drops down to maybe 8 - 30 F at night. So Spring is still just a promise. We haven't even had any Spring rains or thunder storms yet either.

The most important clues, however, come from your birds! Watching their behavior, listening to the loudness of the cocks song, examining vents, checking the hen's abdomen for condition, brood patch and the important hot temperature, and observing water consumption all tell you in no uncertain terms when your own birds are ready.

Spring is coming but in my own aviary, the birds just are not ready yet! Everything comes at its appointed time!!

Picture is chickweed coming up in my back yard!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh No, This Cock is Too Thin!

Importance of Perch Number and Placement

As I sort my birds for breeding, not only did I find some cocks too fat but also others were too thin! In the picture, you notice that the thin cock has no fat layer, almost no apparent male vent development (although he does sing), and sharp bones protruding in the pelvic area. Looking just up from my thumb, you can see a pelvic bone sticking out! He also has a very sharp breast bone ridge. This means that if I do not get a little fat layer on him, he will have poor vent development and infertility will surely result.

To begin the weight gain program, I put the fat cock birds together in groups of three or four or larger flights with a dozen birds and separated out the thin cocks into small cages with just one other thin cock.

To further encourage weight gain in either cocks or hens, I decrease exercise by increasing the number of perches in the cage. My 30 inch long cages will have at least four perches at the same lower cage level placed about 6 inches apart. This encourages the birds to hop from one perch to the other without flying. I also place extra feed dishes at the perch level with the waters so that going to the floor is kept to a minimum.

Today, I made up a special additional fattening treat for the thin cocks. I mixed bee pollen, song food, and hemp seed. I get the bee pollen from Peggy's Pollen (call Diane 320 243-4330). My song food comes from Herman Bros (810 420-5055). I get hemp seed from Sunflower chips or pieces would also be a good addition. I buy them in 50 lb sacks designed for wild birds and just happen to be out today. I will not feed this mixture to the hens because I do not want the extra protein of the oily seeds to encourage the hens to move forward quickly to laying infertile eggs.

E-mail from Tom recommends as a good but less expensive source for bee pollen!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Have You Made Out Your Valentines Yet?

Best Cock to Best Hen, Maybe or Maybe Not

Yesterday at work, Margaret Perry Fletcher, fellow medical technologist, ask me the question " Have you made out your valentines yet?" Margaret, a long time canary friend and fellow medical technologist, called me a few months ago to inquire about a good place to work in Wichita. Her mother was needing help and she wanted to move back from Arizona. Luck would have it that there was an opening in the blood bank where I work and what better work environment than working with a fellow canary person!! When I ask her what she meant, she said "you know pairing on paper just who will be with who for the breeding season". So this post will not be about valentines but rather the beingings of several posts about making canary pairing choices.

The most important thing to consider is to breed only the strongest and healthiest birds. The worst thing is not that a bird does not bred but rather that through your outstanding breeding ability you create a whole aviary full of birds that are prone to illness and hard to breed!! I was reminded of that a couple of years ago when I got the German imported rollers. These birds came out of quarantine and bred profusely. Now I thought my rollers were easy to breed but these birds gave new meaning to free breeding!

Next you need a clear idea of what you want to breed and how each suitable bird fits into the plan. If you are considering breeding the best cock to the best hen, what are the good qualities and deficiencies of each bird? A good pair must compliment each other. If you breed two good birds with the same fault, you expect the offspring to have the fault and not be an improvement over the parents!

Some of you will remember Ray Havens, a noted master colorbred breeder. Ray was a good friend until once when I was judging in St. Louis, his birds did not even make the top bench. He was furious and did not even speak to me till after the following show season. Seems the next year the same thing happened to him and it was a different judge! Ray, being a serious breeder, called me and ask if I could come over to his aviary and see if I could tell him what was wrong with his birds. What I saw was a whole aviary full of birds that looked identical! Using exact calipers, we pulled a feather at the wing butt from every bird and as we suspected they were all the same feathering in both length and width! What he had done was keep only birds that looked exactly like the show standard and therefore had nothing to use to balance the birds qualities! Aviaries need to produce show birds and to do that they need non show quality birds that because of their particular exaggerated feature will improve a quality in the offspring!!

Be sure and read the comments on this one!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Building Bird Club Membership

Great Idea from Canary Finch Club of Minnesota

This morning I received a call from Mike Nicholas finalizing my judging type and color at their show October 17, 2009. During our conversation, he shared with me their approach to the problem of getting new bird club members.

Whenever a current club member sells a bird, the purchaser receives a free one year membership to the sellers local bird club! They receive the same benefits of membership as regular members such as newsletters, club meetings, and activities. Although not required, some of the sellers actually sponsor the "new member" through extra club contributions whether cash or other fund raising activity. What a great way for the novice to meet the local bird people, learn about care and breeding of their birds, and the joy of exhibiting them!!

Just like me, you probably remember being a novice and wanting to talk about birds and being unable to find anyone interested in "Bird Talk". Just meeting bird people like me, who did not change the subject from birds, even after hours of bird discussion, brought a new joy to my life! For me, the late Janice Klein, was that first bird friend. Now, it is all of you who read this blog!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Loose Weave Burlap for Shredding

Nesting Material

Burlap makes a very good nesting material. The problem is that the typical burlap that you get from craft shops or re-cycled feed stacks is a very tight weave. I made it more difficult by meticulously cutting uniform squares or rectangles. Then I would recruit grandkids or co-workers to help me shred. I would even ask for "shredded burlap for Christmas"!! Long hours and sore fingers resulted from the burlap shredding ordeal, even though I wore hospital gloves!

To make it unbelievably easy, buy the loose weave natural burlap that is sold in many garden shops. They sell the loose weave so it lights through but is effective as a plant wind screen or shrub protector. It is also used as a tree wrap or for soil erosion control.

Loose weave Natural Burlap is made by the Dewitt company ( It is sold in 3' x 24' rolls and costs approximately $12. I talked with my local garden store manager Bobby Bilyeu 316 942-1443 and he says"he is willing to ship it anywhere in the world". They will also add it to their web site

I do not wash the burlap. I just cut it in long strips on the bias and pull. Cutting on the bias means that the strands are diagonal to the cutting line. If you are unsure of what it means to cut on the bias, ask any seamstress to show you.

E-mail from Dorothy related her experience with the loose weave burlap. She did not like the natural jute smell so she shred it and then washed and dried it inside a pillow case (basted shut) and it turned out great. She also learned from the Dewitt company that many Lowe's stores carry their brand of natural burlap as well as it is available on line at

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Inexpensive Premium Bird Food - Purina Flock Raiser

Help for the Bird Sitter

A couple of years ago, I discovered an excellent inexpensive non-medicated crumbled poultry food which my birds really like! Made by Purina Mills, it is designed to provide safe nutrition for a number of different types of birds such as chickens and turkeys. The product utilizes grain and plant protein products and many extra additives such as lysine and methionine so that it is a complete balanced diet. In the Wichita area, it is available at farm supply stores or Purina dealers and sells for between $13 and $16 for a 50 lb bag.

There are several advantage to this product in addition to cost. I like to feed balanced plant proteins rather than animal proteins because plant protein does not cause aggression like animal protein does.

Another plus is when I must rely on a non-bird person to temporarily take care of my birds. If I were to try to explain why the birds in the center isle on the top cage and also cage 40 must be fed differently that cage 11 and 16 and then there is also another food requirement for cages 9 and 32, they would probably throw up their hands and leave! So instead, I just instruct them to give the birds fresh water and refill the Flock Raiser dish and all the birds will be fine! They quickly learn to take good care of the birds and it is nearly the same no matter what time of year. If I have babies, they just do the same thing but offer fresh egg food to those specific cages with chicks. Using Flock Raiser makes it easier to even get my husband to help!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Slimming Down the Cocks

Lifestyle Changes for Obese Cocks

As I took care of my birds this morning, I noticed that my prize imported German Roller cock who normally has a "Dolly Parton" chest was even more chesty than usual!! Upon closer examination, his vent has started to develop but so has a huge yellow fat layer! The glossy abominal skin indicates he is in good condition but he is too fat.

Cocks need a very thin yellow fat layer to be fertile but too much fat layer impedes fertility. Taking action immediately is important to a successful breeding season.

Obese cocks need to have more exercise. You can move them to large flights, or make them move more in their cage. These fat cocks only get two high placed perches in their cage. The water is placed with a high perch and food is on the floor. In addition, having at least three cocks in their cage will encourage them to move more. Having other cocks in the cage not only encourages them to move more, but also to defend their territory. Defending territory is one of the most important conditioners for cocks.

The best fat reducing diet is to feed them only vitamin-treated water and petamine breeding formula. This gives them a high protein and low carbohydrate "Adkin's" diet. Petamine is a complete diet. During show season, I use the petamine diet to correct loose feathering and improve conditioning. I get my petamine breeding formula from Herman Bros Pet Products in Marine City, Michigan. (phone: 810-420-5055)

This week I will inventory and check the development and fat layer on all of my birds. Where obesity in cocks is undesirable, being pleasantly plump is desirable for hens!

Another alternative is to feed untreated grass seed. This is also very effective.

Shawn: Hard boiled egg is a good idea if it is a breed like rollers that do well on high amounts of protein. It is a bad idea for Borders. check out my balance problem recent article July 2014. I was not able to post directly on your comment here so I am moving your question to Questions For Big Bird July 22, 2014.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Providing Calories for those Cold Winter Days

Love that Oatmeal

This time of year I keep my aviary about 60 degrees to try to discourage the hens from laying too early. I like to begin breeding later so that when the first chicks hatch it is already daylight savings time!

With the cool aviary temperature, my birds need extra calories just to keep them warm! So at this time of year, I add steel cut oats to my seed mix and also Old-fashioned Oatmeal. The birds like both but they really prefer the white oatmeal flakes. Oats are not only good for energy and nutrition but also it helps cut down the number of birds with pasted vents due too rich foods.

Extra calories is sometimes provided by feeding oily seeds. These are also higher in protein and will give birds the message to start thinking more about breeding. I will wait till I start the water soluble vitamin E in the water to increase the oily seeds especially sunflower chips or pieces.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Importance of Taming Canaries

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Never underestimate the importance of taming your canaries! It is not just an issue for exhibiting them but rather an equally important issue for breeding.

The most basic instinct of a hen is to protect her newly hatched chicks. The more you disturb her with you hand in her cage or even disturb the peace and quiet of the room, the more likely she will sit and protect the chicks rather than feed them. Therefore, she needs to be completely comfortable with you and actually look forward to seeing you!!

I addition to talking to your birds, an easy way to establish trust, is to tame your canaries by offering them pieces of soft white bread each morning. I like to tear off a small piece and push it through the wire. I use about 1/4 slice for three or four birds. If they leave any bread, I remove it the next morning and replace with fresh soft bread. I also reduce the size of that cages piece till they finish it daily.

The first few times, I put the bread at eye level or slightly above and use the area with the highest perch. Bird's prefer the highest perch in the cage and they are most tempted to try new things when they are at or above eye level. Once they are looking forward to the "bread snack", I can move it higher for types that need to stand tall in the show cage or lower for kinds that are suppose to lay down on the perch (German rollers).

In just a few days they will come to eat their first bite while you are pushing the bread through the wire!!

I also feed bread in show cage to help train them to assume the correct position and also to help stop weight loss associated with showing canaries. I wait till after the competition and then put the bread in their cages before the journey home.

The only birds not getting their daily bread, are those cocks that are too fat! Hens need to be fat for breeding but cocks need only a minimal hint of a fat layer or fertility will be diminished or absent.

Here in Wichita, Kansas, we have ALDI stores which sell loaves of white bread for only 79 cents. My aviary must have at least 250 canaries and they eat a loaf a day! I have tried whole wheat but the birds prefer the white colored bread. They also like potato bread but the cost is prohibitive.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Keep Your Eyes on the Birds

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday, I was reminded of how important it is to continuously observe your birds. After starting them on the Vi-tal poultry vitamins, I noticed significant changes in just 24 hours!!

The feathering was much tighter giving the appearance of being painted on their body rather than being held loose. The birds were very high spirited and much more active. Their song was loud and boisterous and starting to sound like a breeding-ready cocks!

When my German rollers are training for song competition, I can even hear slight differences in sound quality from their feeding the previous 24 hours. The best quality sound comes when they are fed more rape than canary seed, some white bread, and given distilled water to drink. Any greens, song food, bee pollen or even calcium or tap water is detrimental to sound quality for serious competition! Although the best diet for sound during the brief show season, it is not the best diet for breeding etc.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Communicating the Breeding Message

Water Soluble Vitamin E

Many of the e-mails I receive concern problems with conditioning canaries for breeding. Today, it was a breeder who reported her hen showing signs of breeding but not building her nest. From early signs such as carrying paper, it can be a full 4 to 6 weeks before the hen reaches full breeding condition. Too often, seeing the early breeding signs, results in the incorrect assumption that the hen is truly "ready" and consequently disappointing results.

Responding to the early breeding signs, the breeding will likely begin a pushing cycle with the birds. Unknowingly, in an attempt to get them to breed, they send their birds' mixed messages from breed to don't breed by first trying one thing and then doing something else entirely different in the opposite direction. What the birds need is a consistent progressing forward breeding message!

An easy way to provide the correct message is to use ABBA Water Soluble Vitamin E High Fertility Vitamins. Simply dilute 1/2 teaspoon in a gallon of water and used as the only water for 24 hours on a consistent day, once a week as directed on the bottle.

Although light, diet, and aviary temperature are all important, the number one factor bringing hens into full breeding potential is the song of the cock! I want my cocks singing enthusiastically to help the hens come into condition. Therefore, I start my cocks on the once weekly treatment about six weeks before breeding season. Continue cocks on the once weekly treatment till molting to preserve their fertility.

My hens are started on the once weekly treatment three weeks before breeding is anticipated and continue to give it to them until she lays her first egg. This is important as continuing hens on high doses of vitamin E will over stimulate them to lay again quickly rather than going through the normal complete breeding, nesting, and feeding etc cycle.

With vitamin E being a fat soluble and thus a stored vitamin, giving the correct amount is critical to breeding success. The beauty of this product is using a measured amount instead of the guess work when you use other vitamin E products such as wheat germ oil. This makes it easy!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Time to Increase your Bird's Vitamins

Providing Extra Vitamins

Today, I started the birds back on vitamin-electrolyte and trace mineral supplement in preparation for the upcoming breeding season. There are many good vitamin products. I happen to prefer a poultry vitamin, electrolyte, and mineral supplement called Vi-tal, marketed for IDEAL Animal Health. Vi-tal is manufactured by the Neogen Corporation of Lexington, Kentucky ( 800 621-8829 - Vi-tal is available at farm supply stores, veterinary supply businesses, or feed stores and sells for about $4.00 for a 6 ounce package. In Wichita, I get it from Mitchell's Veterinary Supply. I use 1/4 teaspoon to a gallon of water. I find it easy to re-use a clean gallon plastic jug to make the treated water. Change the treated water daily. I will continue using this water till the end of September. When breeding is close, I add some liquid multiple vitamin B to this mixture. I use the World Organic Brand Multiple B Vitamins and get it from the health food store.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Recycling egg shells!

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I have had many requests to share information about my canary care throughout the year and have decided that keeping up a blog would be a great way to do just that! Feel invited to share your comments!

Starting the year off right: It is critical to build the hen's calcium stores for several months prior to egg laying!

Recycle hen egg shells! Why waste those calcium-rich chicken egg shells? Just microwave them on a paper towel for one minute to kill any bacteria. Then process them in your food processor and feed to your hens. I use the ABBA products digestible mineral and then sprinkle a teaspoon or more of the processed hen egg shells on top. They love my homemade processed egg shells and will eat more of it than the mineral grit!! The canary hens love the egg shells so much that I have my co-workers at the hospital saving egg shells for me. I just have them collect, microwave and bring them to work for me. I am planning a trip to a restaurant just to collect more egg shells!!

Check back for more tips!