Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sexing Our Canaries

Is it a hen or a cock?

First of all, I want to recognize Gates and announce that today they have been named Head of the Flock! Thanks so much for participating!!

Yesterday, Gates questioned the sex of the bottom bird. In yesterdays post, I was going on and on about the vent pointing forward, changing color from yellow to red, and finally engorging and all of the pictures except the bottom fit. The bottom bird has a pointed vent but it points toward the tail and some redness looks more like a hint of a ring around the vent. Gates was right in questioning, could this be a hen?

Actually, I have been questioning the sex of bird #783 for quite some time. It is a German roller and at one time was caged in a roller show cage as it starting to sing. The vent at that time felt like a small knob but it didn't develop and neither did its song!

There are a number of differentiating signs that help us sex our birds. Singing is one of them. We often tell the public that only cocks sing. Well that is generally true and of course the song quality of a hen is never as good as her brother. But, yes, some hens do sing just like this one! Fortunately, as they come into breeding condition they stop singing. But adding to the confusion is the fact that cocks often do not sing when caged with hens!

I often thought I could tell the sex by the boldness of the eye and aggressive nature but this is unreliable too because some hens are aggressive and some cocks are timid.

Another favorite is color. In some kinds of canaries, such as yellow rollers, the darker colored birds are usually cocks and the lighter colored birds are hens. The most reliable was to judge the color is not against other rollers but rather comparing the color of their siblings as they leave the nest. But like the singing, there are exceptions. The light colored top bird and next photo down is the same German roller cock that is uniformly light in color, and almost light enough to be called an ivory if it were a colorbred canary. The third bird down is a dark yellow German roller hen! I have noticed that this usually light colored cock is associated with a fantastic hollow roll. This light uniformly colored German roller will throw offspring with improved song quality and especially improved tone!! The photo on the light colored German male are not as light colored or as uniformly colored as he actually appears. So seeing the light color cock is great but color sexing is not reliable!

I have tried the needle on a string test, where you hold a needle on a string over a birds back and watch the direction it moves. If it goes back and forth it is a cock and if it goes in a circle it is a hen. I had great results with this technique but only when I already knew the sex of the bird!

When I went to the DKB German Show last year, I was given a book written in German, on raising canaries. Fred Proebstel translated an article that appeared in the Vocal Roll publication (Central States Roller Canary Association). This article suggested that you could sex the canaries by using and index card held in line with the beak bite line. The cock's eye will be bisected by that line, while the hen's eye will be above the line. This actually makes pretty good sense as we have long associated typyness with the hen who would naturally have a better frontal look than the more pinched look of the eye when it is in line with the beak line. Actually, in many cases I can see the eye placement without a card! This too is sometimes easy and sometimes indeterminable! On birds that are obviously cock or hen it is easy to interpret, but the ones that are undeterminable are not clear on the card test as the eye position on those hens seems lower and just slightly above where a cock eye would be. The bottom picture is the card test on #783. Is the bottom bird a cock or a hen?

I guess the moral of this long story is that the undisputed way to tell a hen from a cock is when she lays eggs! LOL


Gates said...

Ok, so maybe the next step would be to have a good male in the same cage! If he is doing his macho dance than the other one is a female and not a male :-)

Linda Hogan said...

Hi Gates:

Great to hear from you!! Actually, cocks will do the macho dance and even try to mount other cocks!