Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Routine Adult Canary Care

This older German Roller cock has an overgrown beak. Using Trim nail clippers carefully cut the overgrown tip off. If left unattended, the beak tip will continue growing and may develop an abnormal twisted shape that will impair the birds cracking seed.

Note the scale build up on the feet and leg. If unattended the scale build up will restrict joint movement and eventually the band will not move and scales continue to build up under the band till it will finally shut off circulation to the foot. Nails that are not trimmed will curl and twist.

Most scales actually come off fairly easily.

Nice shot of the cleaned foot showing the blood vein in the bottom claw. When trimming nails, avoid cutting the nail vein or bleeding will result. Nail bleeding is easily stopped, however, with quik stop or plain flour.

Trim Beak/Nails and Remove Excess Foot/Leg Scales

Birds periodically need to have their beaks trimmed. The higher the protein in the diet, the faster the beaks and nails grow. Using good lighting, trim off the overgrown tip. On occasion, young birds that are fed a high protein diet may also need beak trimming.

During breeding season, I leave the nails a little longer so that the hen and cock have better grip for mating. But now it is time to trim all the older birds nails. Using a strong light, identify the nail vein and using trim nail clipper, cut off the excess nail without cutting the vein.

Excess scales likewise need to be removed. Care should be taken to not go too deep as this will cause bleeding. If the feet should bleed, after removing scales, just dip the bleeding foot in betadine (iodine) and they will heal nicely.

If you want scales to come off easily try a two day approach. On the first day, put a very little oil on your finger and then gently rub your oiled finger over the birds feet being careful not to use too much oil or get the oil on the birds feathers. On the next day, gently lift off the excess scales with your fingernails.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday is Bird Shopping Day

For only four dollars, I filled my huge bird shopping bag full of Collard Greens and Swiss Chard.

Good News: Collards Greens is a Nutritious Bird Food.

These Collard Greens are grown by a local farmer whose booth is called Healthier You! Wonder if she would consider changing her sign to Healthier You and Your Birds?

This German Roller, like his siblings, loves Collard Greens!

Gator Heat is Feeding Collard Greens to his last two chicks in the nest.

Collard Greens, the New Green this Saturday

What a generous bunch of pesticide free collard greens I purchased from the farmer! Sometimes, I cut the bottom stems and let it sit in water for a bit before feeding but with so many greens, I just took it straight to the aviary.

With enough collard greens for every cage, I quickly distributed it and watched the birds heartily eat it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Going for Greens - Cabbage

Even Newly Weaned Canaries Readily Eat Cabbage

Local Farmer's Markets provide a number of greens that canaries relish. At Wednesdays Farmer's Market, I purchased this lovely head of locally grown pesticide free cabbage.

Even the Border Chicks that I weaned a couple of weeks ago readily nibbled bites of cabbage. Like so many greens, they like to perch on the cabbage while they eat it!

Saturday is another Farmer's Market. I look forward to doing a little Bird Shopping and offerings my finds to my birds!! I like to spend a few minutes visiting with the farmer to determine if their items are pesticide free. It is good when you find a few live bugs on the produce, if its safe for bugs its safe to eat, what a free biological safety check!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

How Can I Get Beautiful Birds?

Opportunities to Purchase High Quality Breeding Stock

High quality stock is readily available but you need to know where to find it! A great place to begin is by checking out the National Cage Bird Show web site www.ncbs.org and the affiliated clubs web sites listed at the ncbs web site.

Next you need to identify and get to know the breeders who have show quality birds. The best way to do this is by joining the various speciality clubs. There is a wealth of information regarding the breed available through the speciality clubs including the standard and special breeding tips that appear in the speciality club newsletters.

Join local bird clubs in your area, attend club meetings, and make plans now to exhibit and assist with putting on any local shows. When you steward or ribbon tie or even check in birds, you have a first hand look at the birds. More experienced breeders and judges welcome questions after the judging.

I will be judging a number of shows this year starting with Houston (type canaries)October 10th, then Minneapolis/St.Paul (type and color), Seattle (type and color), Modesto California (type), Hamilton Roller Show - Canada, Lou Abbott Roller Show, and finally Oakland Roller Show in California. I will also be attending the National Cage Bird Show, Nov. 19 - 21 st in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Join the National and support your Show of Shows. I would love to meet you and talk birds at any or better yet at several of the shows!

Birds are for sale at any of the shows but an especially large selection is available at the National Cage Bird Show in Tulsa. A sale room is open during the show.In addition, many of the speciality clubs have silent auctions at their scheduled club meetings. Friday night even features an auction of the birds raised by last years Higgins Winners. Some birds are also for sale from the show benches on Saturday and can be picked up from the breeder after their birds are checked out on Saturday night following the banquet.

When you purchase birds, select related stock that compliment each other and make sure that both birds in the pairing do not share the same fault but rather each offsets the others weakness.

Although it is a thrill to buy a beautiful bird that is nothing compared to the joy of breeding a beautiful bird!!

See you at the Shows!!

For information on the shows contact:

Oct 10 Houston, Dorothy Eggers 281 487-1321

Oct 17 Minneapolis/St. Paul, Mike Nicholas 612 287-9306

Oct 24 Seattle, Coleen 425 743-5025

Oct 31 Modesto, California, Chris Seeman 209 838-2466

Nov 7 Hamilton Roller Show Canada, Peter Jaehrling 613 476-2553

Nov 19 -21 National Cage Bird Show, Tulsa, Oklahoma www.ncbs.org

Dec. 5 Lou Abbott Roller Show, Robert Wild 630 985-4416

Dec 12 Oakland Roller Show, Steve Billmire 510 449-3881

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Feathered Father Extraordinaire - Gator Heat

Beautifully Colored Stafford Gator Heat, Fathered 19 Chicks and Help the Mothers Feed Every One of Them!

Fawn Variegated Mosaic Stafford Hen - Gator Heat's Last Hen of the Season. Good round crest, fairly good mosaic pattern except for face but poor red coloring. Since her face has more of a blush than a thin pencil line of color from the eye, she will produce good cock mosaic pattern but likely produce hens just like herself.

Their two chicks were banded Saturday, June 20th!

Gator Heat is a Proud Papa and a Great Father!

Gator Heat was purchased from Carl Bier at the Stafford Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma last year, for the purpose of improving the red lipochrome color in my Stafford canaries. Having only bred Stafford canaries for a couple of years previously, my crests look pretty good and nicely rounded but the red color in too many cases tended to orange rather than red.

I contacted Carl and ask for a pair with great color with potential to turn around my red color problem. I especially appreciate the pair selected that included Gator Heat, great color and proud stance, and Bachelorette great color and frosting pattern. Although that would have made a good pairing, I needed Gator Heat to produce more chicks than a single pairing with Bachelorette would produce. And as it turned out that was the correct decision as Bachelorette and I have gone round and round all season with little to show except she is one difficult momma!

By pairing Gator Heat to several hens, I will have a number of half brother/sister combination to select the best coloring and feathering to breed next year. He was paired in colony breeding style with two clear mosaic crest hens on the first round and produced nine chicks in their first clutch. He proved to be a wonderful feeder going from one nest to the other making sure the chicks were well fed. Only on this last round, when his previous hens were all retired, did I single pair him.

His production is a record for me when you add the fact that he not only fathered 19 chicks this season but helped each mother feed them all! I started out thinking I would colony breed but move him but when that first round yielded nine chicks with two hens, I decided he was needed to help feed! When those nine chicks were weaned, those hens were retired and new hens took their place.

My all time record for most chicks produced by a single cock in one breeding season is held by a German roller #1644 which was given to me and the late Janice Klein, in Wichita, and Norm who lived in Oklahoma City by the late Robert Gattus of Maryland. We only knew single pairing at the time and moved him first to my house, than to Janice's, and then we drove him several hours to Oklahoma City and when Norm finished we moved him back to Wichita to my aviary where he still produced a few more chicks. We were very careful to make sure his day length only increased and never dropped when we changed aviaries, and that he continued to get vitamin E and was given a couple of days off between hens whenever possible to maintain his fertility. When the season ended, he had produced 111 chicks!

But by far, Gater Heat is the Best Father Ever!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

June Late Bloomers

Late nest of rose brown melanin colorbred. Female chicks are more brown and have more prominent striations, especially on the head.

These German roller chicks belong to the hen who lays double clutches. She lays four or five eggs which after I replace in her nest, she puts nesting material over them and lays four or five more eggs. She has done this twice this season! Here are the last two chicks she hatched which were considerably smaller than her first two chicks which I foster to the hen below who had only hatched one chick!

Second nest in the same flight with the hen's chick and two foster chicks from the double clutching hen.

Two German roller chicks who like other chicks like to try and hide at this stage. Note how one is dark yellow and the other much lighter yellow. Rollers can often be sexed in the nest if you compare the depth of color within the nest. The chick on the left is likely a cock and the one on the right a hen!

A Border chick who is nearly ready to leave the nest. The final nests of the season often have only one or two chicks.

Bachelorette/Shocker Stafford chick trying to decide whether to eat some Swiss chard, hard boiled egg, nestling food, carrot tops, or kale!

Another shot of Bachelorette's/Shocker's Stafford chick. The feathers in front are not really split and fix easily by lightly brushing them with a toothbrush!

This is the Stafford chick I featured earlier who has the long crest feathers. His mother is Sooner and father the long crested cock. It appears that there are other sibling which have the same long crest feather trait, yet the body feathers so far are short like sooner!

This Border chick is one of a clutch of three who are ready to be separated from their parents.

This week new green is kale. It was purchased from the local farmer's market today. Chicks like to nibble on its curly leaves!

My chicks are eating so much of the sprouted sunflower that I have taken to sprouting it in two large pans! I just soak a couple of hours, and then rinse a couple of times a day.

Some of the Last Hatches of the Season

Today I sat the last three laying hens who would be due on the 4th of July. The odds of any chicks being hatched and fed on that late date is almost nil. I have had it happen once however. So I just could not resist giving it my best shot.

These are some photos of my chicks today and are likely some of the very last ones for the year. Some of you may be concerned that chicks that are hatched this late will not be through the molt in time for the Fall bird shows. Actually, the later the chicks hatch the faster they go through the baby molt. Surprisingly, they will finish the baby molt before the first chicks hatched this season.

Not only can you expect a faster molt with these chicks but also they have superior song development. In fact, my best ever German roller, who won the National Cage Bird Best Song Bird in Show, was hatched in late June.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Welcoming the Summer Snow - Closing Breeding Season

Northern Hemisphere Breeders Are Stopping Breeding While Southern Hemisphere Breeders Are Conditioning For Breeding!

With a very successful breeding season coming to a close and all my cages full of chicks, it is time to encouraging my birds to stop breeding and begin molting. My general stop date is the first day it hits 100 degrees F in Wichita, Kansas, each year, which is approximately June 21st. Yesterday, the temperature was 99 and a cool front is coming through today with highs expected to be 92. But increasingly hotter in the week to come.

Not only the weather says it is time to stop but more importantly my birds have dropped long flight feathers, the first sign of the approaching molt, for over a month now and then they began dropping body feathers especially at the wing butts. In addition, I noted that over the last couple weeks the chicks had stopped hatching on the 13th of incubation and now a third sign, fertility has dropped to about 25 % hatching. Even those that do hatch are at increased risk of not being feed with only one chick in the nest to beg and both hens and cocks dropping feathers indicating they are ready to molt. It is interesting that the hens hormonal changes resulting in loss of their feeding instinct before they lose their ability to hatch a fertile egg!

The first action to take is to dramatically drop the protein level on all non-breeding older birds. No more nestling food containing hard boiled egg, adding high carbohydrate foods such as fine grind milo/corn or polenta increase greens to promote yellow coloring, and carrots for extra beta carotene and other fresh garden vegetables for good nutrition.

Initially, you can drop the oily seeds, as they are higher protein, if your birds are resistant to molting but they will need oil in the diet for feather luster. My cous cous mix has oil in it and this is excellent for higher carbohydrate and it is easy to add grated carrot to it. I process the carrot in the food processor and add some of the dry flock raiser so that it will process very fine. If you add carrot to the cous cous, be sure to wait till the cous cous is cool to preserve the carrots beta carotene and also to prevent early spoiling. Fresh raw vegetable added to hot mixtures is a recipe for shorten shelf life, even when the mixture is refrigerated!

Along with dietary changes, it is important to suddenly drop the hours of daylight to promote molting. This timing is critical as any sudden change in day length whether during the condition for breeding or encouraging the molt will have a dramatic effect on the birds. A reminder for our Southern Hemisphere breeders, that during the conditioning phase, any sudden change such as increasing the day length will increase cock fertility but increasing day length after a hen is laying or setting will result in loss of her incubation temperature and either not setting or dead in the shell. Therefore, when increasing day length for breeding you want it done before the hen starts laying! Turning it up to all at once works well but even a 30 minute change should not be done after the first egg is laid!

Dropping the artificial lighting and therefore going back to natural lighting coming through the windows should be timed with when you no longer have chicks hatching and being feed. I will change the lighting suddenly when the last chicks are a couple of weeks old.

I did notice a Border hen who is due in about a week has a couple of fertile eggs and a Yellow Mosaic and Stafford are laying so I am waiting a bit to see what happens before make lighting changes.

Today's Critical Concept: Sudden increase in day length will positively effect cock fertility but negatively effect incubation temperature of nesting hens and sudden decrease in day length will promotes molting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flying Houdini

Feathered Escape Artist!

What's Is A Bird in the Hand Worth??

Bird on the Loose

It has been a frantic few days for me. Not only have I been working 2nd shift everyday, but trouble hit in my aviary! Only running blood to a level 1 trauma at work could get my mind off of my lost bird!

It all began around 9 am on Saturday. I had fed at 6:15 am as usual and was making the rounds to offer cous cous mix (cous cous, quinoa, grated fresh carrot, poppy seed), when a recently weaned saddle backed marked German roller, flew out of its cage!

I allowed the bird to escape because last year, a young bird tried to fly out of the cage and I quickly prevented its escape by shutting the door in its face. My fast action tragically resulted in a broken neck and a dead bird in minutes. So after that I just keep my eye on the escaping bird and promptly run over and catch it. Countless times this has worked but not last Saturday!

This time, when I got to the bird, and bent down to catch it, it flew out of sight behind me. I immediately turned around but I could not find the bird! Where could it be?

It is not unusual for chicks of this age to try an escape. Many chick having left the nest are anxious to explore the aviary. But as a general rule, they fly to the top of cages where they are easily spotted and caught. This bird, likely a female, uncharacteristically flew to the floor and then vanished! And with her disappearance, my frantic search begun! Sometimes they fly toward the light of a window or opened door.

Once a hen who was feeding three chicks, flew out of her cage and out the front door. Many people when faced with a loose bird outside, place a cage with food and water outside and hope the bird will come to it. But the best thing to do is grab the garden hose and squirt the bird. Then you can easily catch it. I used it on the canary hen and immediately had her caught and back in her cage, but wet! I even used this trick on a macaw which got away from a neighbor and flew to the very top of a large tree. My son climbed as high as he could with a garden hose and squirted the macaw which safely tumbled slowly down the branches till the owner could reach it!

But a garden hose won't work if you can't find the bird so I opened every feed sack, looked under every cage, check the sky lights, under the refrigerator, behind the large unit cages, in the plant stand, and literally turned the aviary repeating the same searches over and over. In spite of my intense four hour search on Saturday, at 2 pm I had to leave for work, without catching the feathered flying Houdini!

Sunday morning, I did the early feeding, and went to 7:30 am mass but then promptly repeated all the same searches as Saturday for another about six hours. My daughter Kellie, the attorney, advised "Mom you just have to accept the fact that you tried your best and it just was not enough." Eventually, I might accept her advise as it did bring me some comfort to know that I had give it my best effort under the circumstance, but as long as there was hope that the bird was alive, I was going to keep trying!

Each day in a birds life is like seven days in human life. I knew it would not starve to death this soon but dehydration can cause death in a few days. I placed several dishes of water around the aviary both on the floor and on the top of cages but by 2 pm I had to go to work.

Monday was another day of repeat searches and around 10 am Doyle called. I knew he would understand. He said that even in his aviary with pretty much just cages, a bird escaped him for three weeks. He also had water out and eventually caught him by leaving some cages open with food and water. I had used that method before also but with all these chicks, finding a cage to empty would not be easy. So I set up a free standing cage with food and water and left its door open.

Finally it was 1 pm and as I was trying to decide what I would do with the remaining hour to find the bird, I looked up and there on the highest cage set Houdini, the saddle back marked German roller! Prayers of thanksgiving for Houdini and the blessing of all my birds poured from my heart and lips!

Houdini had slightly squinted eyes indicating some dehydration and had lost a lot of weight but he was alive and very savable! I moved him in with three recently weaned border chicks and today he looks thin but almost as good as new!

Check out the comments on this posting for a great idea!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer Seasonal Garden Goodies

Canaries Love Fresh Beet Tops From Our Garden! They not only like fresh beet tops but if you leave them in their cage, they keep eating them even when they are dried.

Carrot Tops are another favorite green!

Canaries like Swiss Chard.

Share Fresh Garden Produce With Your Canaries

Now that Summer is drawing near, garden produce offers many nutritious options for our birds. Some we share with our birds like Swiss chard, spinach, broccoli, and a variety of lettuces but other plant tops which are often discarded such as beets, carrots, turnips, and radishes are nutritious food for our birds!

Whether fresh from your garden or from the local farmer's market, offer some greens to your birds!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Becoming Beautiful After the Baby Molt

Stafford mosaic chick in its baby molt. Note the old colored feathers are coming in white!

Colored feathers are coming in white on the back too!

The crest is developing nicely. Although the red color is disappearing the melanin will stay. So this bird will likely have a grizzled crest. Note the nice small beak! Small beaks give the head a very nice look where large beaks give the bird a coarse or mean look.

Feathering needs to come in white around the beak in a hen but colored in a cock.

Mosaic color patterns. Type 1 is the hen pattern, type 2 the cock pattern.

Bottom three pictures from DKB /AZ Farben- und Positurkanarienstandard. Germany

Featuring a Stafford Mosaic Chick in the Baby Molt

What fun it is to watch mosaic chicks develop their beautiful patterns after their baby molt. It requires some patience, however, as it will take considerable time to develop their full potential, just in time for show season!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Three Distinct Feather Types and Equivalent Synonyms

Bachelorette, a Stafford Canary, has a frost feather type.

Gator Heat, a Stafford Canary, has the non-frost feather type and in this unflattering photo, the feathers appear too long. Note the bird proportions, it appears to have a long tail and long wings. If Gator Heat see this, he will surely demand it be deleted as he is really a handsome fellow!

Sooner, a Stafford Canary, has the non-frost feather type but in a shorter length. Note the shorter tail and wings.

Shocker, a Stafford Canary, has the mosaic feather pattern.

Three Basic Feather Patterns from Coloured, Type & Song Canaries by G.B.R. Walker & Dennis Avon

Basic Feather Patterns

Canaries have three basic feather patterns as shown in the above diagram by Walker and Avon. The top feather is wider and has no coloring on the tip. This feather type has many names depending on the kind of canary. In Stafford canaries and colorbred it is called frost, but in type canaries the same kind of feathering is called buff.

The next diagram pattern in the middle is colored to the very tip. In Stafford canaries it is called non-frost, while in colorbred it is called intensive. In type varieties, it is called yellow (feather pattern) and is not related to the bird's feather (ground) color.

The bottom diagram pattern shown by Walker & Avon is mosaic feather type. It has a much larger area without color. Mosaic canaries are shown in both Stafford and Colorbred (lipochrome and melanin) divisions.

The definitions appear straight forward but within the feather types there is considerable variation. Notice the difference in Gator Heat, who appears to have long non-frost feathering to Sooner who has short non-frost feathering.

When feathering gets too long, the wings and tail get too long and the secondary flight feathers eventually will not be in line with the other wing feathers. This is more evident in the second year when feathers are naturally a little longer. If you have the long feathering problem, select breeder males with shorter feathering that are two years old or older.

When feathers get too long and too wide, they may not be able to break through the skin and become feather lumps. Lumps must be removed but will come back unless you feed them lots of different amino acids and especially methionine. Mosaic canaries are more prone to lumps if the feathering is allowed to get long, as it is already wide. Sooner, with its short and narrow feathering, is a perfect feather type to back the length and width up a bit when you are getting too close to breeding birds with lumps!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Plucking Babies

Preventing Hens From Using Baby Down Feathers to Make Their Second Nest

Sunday I received this e-mail, "The baby canaries started coming out of the nest on Saturday the 6th. Mom has promptly tried to take over the nest and lay again. Her and Dad have been feeding the babies and taking great care of them. Today, Mom started plucking the down feathers from the babies to make new nesting material in the old nest. All the old nesting material is gone from the nest. I wasn't sure what to do so I took out the nest to try and discourage her from making a nest and thus picking the feathers off the babies. The babies aren't weaned yet and I don't know what to do. She hasn't completely stopped the plucking. Should I put the old nest back in for the babies (they were still using it at night) and give Mom a new nest with new nesting material? Will she continue to feed the babies if she is laying again?"

Several people lately have ask me about hens who pluck their babies. Seems like it is fairly common in many breeders aviary but when I went to try and find a chick who had been plucked to photograph for this blog, there was not a single one in all of the couple hundred babies I have raised this year! Even Margaret, who I gave four roller hens and three cocks, commented on how her new roller hens were picking their babies. So it must not be genetic, these are my stock.

So what about my methods prevents plucking? Several things are likely responsible. First, I feed high protein and lots of egg until the chicks are banded or nearly banded. After banding, I continue egg food but do not reintroduce quartered hard boiled egg until the first chick leaves the nest which is around 18 days. My egg food contains hard boiled egg but only six eggs in the enormous Tupperware bowl. It is about 60% cous cous with quinoa and it has extra soy protein.

Second and perhaps most importantly, I put a second nest in the cage around the 14 th day. This is when the hen normally is thinking about her next clutch and when she is again receptive to mating with the cock. Usually she prefers to nest in her old nest, so I move the chicks to a new clean nest.

If I have enough nest, I might put a third nest in the cage if she has three or more chicks, to give them more room. I make sure the chicks nest have a normal amount of nesting material in their nests and the hen's new nest, which will be placed in the same position as her old nest, is loosely crammed full with a generous handful of nesting material. I cram nesting material the same way in her first nest because I found that when the hen gathers and carries nesting to build her nests, there is considerable more waste.

Instead of the hen searching for nesting material and choosing chick down, she immediately starts to tidy up this messy full nest that Big Bird left for her!! I imagine she has a few choice words about Big Bird and how she makes such a messy nest that she must reconstruct it to even make it usable!

Lastly, in answer to your question, even nest building or laying eggs will not interfere with the hen feeding her chicks , although she expects the cock to do more of the feeding for her!


Monday, June 8, 2009

Chick Update

This is the Stafford chick who was brutally attacked. His head was bloody and picked clean but now he has grown a full head of feathers with no apparent permanent damage! See Terror in the Aviary May 27th.

This young Stafford beauty is one of Sooner's chicks! She was especially valuable to my breeding program because of her short feathering and good head. The cock is long feathered and had an unusually large crest. This chick has a large crest for its age. See the cock's crest on January 22nd post. Sooner is pictured on February 2nd.

The three Borders who were crowded in one nest are now enjoying the extra room a second nest provides!

Foster Border mom mentioned on Saturday, who had such thin eggs they broke during incubation, is feeding the two fostered Border chicks!