Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making Breeding Simple - Lengthening Days

This inexpensive floor light was purchased at Target and has the advantage of distributing light to various levels of cages even in a large aviary. With a small watt energy efficient bulb it provides a dim light warning for 30 minutes after the overhead lights go out so that any hens that were caught off the nest when the bright overhead lights went out can see to go back to their nests.

Back To The Basics

Although there are many options for working with our birds and supporting breeding behavior, the endless number of choices can be overwhelming. With this series, I will focus on the minimum requirements to meet our birds needs rather than all the endless options.

Day Lengthening - Natural Method: Adequate day length is necessary for hormonal changes that bring on breeding behavior. While small sized varieties may breed when day length is a minimum of 12 hours, better results are achieved when the day length is 14 to 15 hours. The simplest way to control lighting is to let the birds get up with the sun and go to bed with the sun. Using the natural lighting pattern, days lengthen gradually, about 15 minutes longer each week. This means the birds will likely start breeding naturally in April and continue through May, possibly into June.

Abrupt Day Lengthening - Critical Timing: If you elect to breed earlier, the easiest way is to use an automatic timer and suddenly change the day length to 14 1/2 hours three weeks before the desired breeding date. Timing the abrupt day lengthening, requires some preparatory dietary changes to get the birds ready. Cocks require about six weeks, while hens require only about three weeks of conditioning to get ready for breeding. (That is in addition to calcium which should be fed to hens year round or at a very minimum three months prior to breeding.) Using this simple sudden lighting change method, the timer is changed only once, before nesting begins. It is critical not to make abrupt day lengthening once a hen starts setting, any abrupt day lengthening then may result in her re-cycling and abandoning her eggs and nest.

More Gradual Day Lengthening - Faster Than Natural Day Lengthening: Some breeders prefer to gradually change their automatic timers every few days or weekly by 30 minutes. It will brings the birds in earlier than natural lighting but has a disadvantage besides much more effort, the gradual method produces less sperm production than the abrupt method.

Making Sure The Hen Is On The Nest Overnight: Rather than have the lights go off suddenly and catching some hens off their nest, it is good to have a 30 minute dim light time so that when the lights finally go off, the hens will be setting on their nests. The simplest way to do this is to set your lights coming on very early and going off about 30 minutes before natural sunset. Remember once chicks hatch you need to be in the bird room offering fresh foods when the light comes on. But do you really want to get up really early every day, especially before daylight savings time takes effect?

Using a Dimmer Light: I prefer to use a dimmer light which comes on the last 30 minutes with the regular lights and continues alone for an additional 30 minutes. As the season progresses natural day length will exceed this time but I just keep this pattern even when natural day length exceeds it. This is not a breeding problem. Lengthening days does not brings on the molt, shortening day length initiates molting.

My Simple Way Summary: I breed a variety of kinds of canaries including Borders which do much better with longer days, I abruptly change lighting to 14 1/2 plus the additional 30 minute dimmer extension. This is done after cocks have received the ABBA vitamin E for three weeks and coincides with when the hen starts the ABBA vitamin E.


Janet said...

Linda, I forgot all about day light savings time - I have my fife's at 12 hours - 6 to 6. Can I change the time to 7 to 7 without causing a problem. I really don't want to get up at 5:00 to feed babies. janet

Unknown said...

Does the 14 1/2 hours have any effect on your other birds as far as breeding..

Linda Hogan said...

Even the smaller varieties which can breed at 12 hours, will breed easier and better on 14 to 14 1/2 hours days.

Linda Hogan said...

I work second shift and get home around 11:30 PM most nights. During non-breeding season, I wake naturally with sunrise.

When we turn our clocks forward for daylight savings, what we call the time changes. Since it is critical to offer food when the lights come on when chicks are being fed, I take that all in consideration when deciding on the bird light hours. This is one reason, I prefer to not have chicks hatch before daylight savings.

Once I abruptly change my day length, the only change is when the natural sunset exceeds the time the dimmer goes off. This is three weeks before pairing.

You can change when you set the lights as long as the total hours are the same or even better more.

Linda Hogan said...


I abruptly lengthen my birds days three weeks before pairing.