Sunday, March 28, 2010

Questions and Tips for Big Bird!

Please post your tips and questions this week to this post!



Beware of Sudden Light Changes on Setting Hens

Sudden lengthening of days for breeding hens can only be done before hens are setting. Once hens are setting, a sudden lengthening of days will result in the hens losing their incubation temperature and deserting their eggs. In that case artificial lighting can only change with natural day length. Decrease in day length will precipitate a molt.

Update to Current Nestling Food

Now that nearly all of my birds have been paired and the early ones are due to hatch, I have added cooked quinoa and cooked wheat with grated carrots to my nestling food. The rest of the recipe can be found on last Sunday March 21st blog Questions post.


Rise and Shine

When breeders report that chicks are not growing normally and subsequent high chick mortality, my first question is "What time do you put fresh nestling food out in the morning??" What a difference it makes when you rise and shine and put fresh nestling food out immediately when the lights come on first thing in the morning!!



1.What do you think about feeding cooked quinoa to nestlings? The package says that this grain is a complete protein. Do you believe this to be true? What about feeding it during the moult to all birds? Do you know if quinoa reduces the body temperature of sitting hens the same way as egg food does?

2. I have a question about a condition I noticed on my Gloster this morning. I noticed a lump on his outer wing, and thought at first it might be dried feces. I tried to gently scrape it off with my finger, and it turned out to be some sort of growth. Any thoughts?


1. I have a problem this year, that has completely puzzled me. My hens are laying normally, but get egg-bound on the fourth egg!


1. Fergie said...

Due to abnormal flooding in New England, I am forced to move my bird room 1/2 mile. Hens are on nests with eggs and chicks. I would appreciate any ideas, comments or suggestions on how this could be best accomplished.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Love At First Twitter!!

Wondering about the original male 3506, I placed a nest with some nesting material in the German Roller hen flight. This hen quickly went and picked out a piece of nesting material and proudly carried it around the cage. From her behavior, brood patch, and swollen vent, she definitely has breeding in mind!!

Immediately, upon introduction into 3506's cage, she gave out a coy twitter and just like that he was smitten!! He was so happy he burst into a serenade and mating promptly occurred.

This whole deceptive hen saga affirms my belief that the hen really is the one responsible for mating and fertility!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Deal Breaker

Deceptive Hen Continued

Since increasing the hen's breeding hormones and the major way this can be accomplished is by male courtship, it is prudent that we evaluate the male. Is he just not there yet or is she unattractive to a breeding ready male?

I spent quite a period of time observing the original male with the hen. Since the nest has been removed both birds are a little more active but still even after the song stimulating foods wheat germ, bee pollen and hemp, the male does not even twitter or tweet... Although the hen moves she does not flap her wings and the vent is not winking....

I decided to test how desirable the hen was to a breeding ready male. Observing the male flight cage, I immediately picked out this assertive, self confident fellow!!

Notice the posture of the male on the right, he is intimidated by the center bird.

Assertive but not aggressive!!

Yes, this male makes a strong impression, just the opposite of the original male.

Deal Breaker Test

The selected male was first tested with two German Roller young hens who are nearly ready. Although they have not built their nest yet, they are active and if paired would likely lay in a week or so. Hens will sometimes be receptive to mate a full two weeks before they lay.

When he was caged with these hens, he immediately began singing and courting them. One hen even assumed a mating position for him... He is definitely interested and willing to work with a potential hen to get her ready!! Perfect!!

Next, I removed the original male and put him in the cage with the deceptive hen. He flew around, checked out the grub but no song and no courtship behavior. Our deceptive hen might as well be his mother!!!

Isn't that interesting, what we wonder about, the birds instinctively know!!

Based on the results of the deal breaker test, the deceptive hen was moved to a flight and feed an extra dish of 50% Petamine Breeding Formula with Harrison's High Potency Mash in addition to the Breedmax mixture, mineral grit and seed mix. She will also continue on the weekly ABBA vitamin E treatments in the water.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Step 1 Intervention - Deceptive Hen Continued

Deceptive Hen Continued

A couple of days ago, it finally dawned on me that a hen who built her nest on March 4th, still had not laid an egg!! So I began thinking about the factors which congruently come together when a hen lays an egg.

Reproductive Stimulants Leading To Egg Laying

1. Longer days in photosensitive hens. To be light sensitive the birds must have experienced a period of several weeks where the day length is 6 to 9 hours prior to a minimum of 12 hour day for inducing a sexual response.

2. Qualitative and Quantitative availability of foods. Higher protein levels and plentiful foods including greens signal the breeding season is beginning. Lack of an adequate diet may totally prevent laying because the calcium, vitamin A, and other nutrients are not available for egg formation.

3. Changing hormone levels. The hen experiences high levels of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) in the second stage before laying. The third stage involves additional hormones and results in rapid yolk deposition and normally occurs when a mate is present. Courtship and nest-building precede this stage. Having the breeding song in close proximity can sometimes fool the hen and she may even assume a mating position which the timid male can take advantage of to get the job done.

The most obvious problem is the absence of courtship behavior! Remember how I was afraid she was going to lay without the male even presence so I paired her with the male even though his vent was not developed. She built her nests and even when his vent got better no courtship took place. She continued to sit and in the process lost some weight and with eating less, her LH hormones dropped and if allowed to, she would sit the entire season!

The first thing I had to do was take the nest away! Sometimes, hens without a proper nest will try to make a nest in the seed dish.

The plastic dividers in the seed dish, greatly discourage nest building in the seed.

Both birds were more active once the nest was removed. To encourage the male to sing, I added a dish of bee pollen, hemp and wheat germ. Wheat germ is not normally given to hens as it pushes egg laying.

A couple days ago.
Today, some minor improvement in heat and redness. She feels warmer but not really hot, can she be ready? Is it all the male's fault?

Next post tomorrow Breeding Test!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deceptive Hen Leader

Following the hen's lead, although a good general philosophy, does not always work!!

Remember the article March 4 titled "Unplanned Outlier"? The original plan was to pair the majority of my birds on St. Patrick's Day when the hens would have had the ABBA vitamin E three weeks and the cocks six weeks.

But during a routine hen check on March 4th, I discovered German Roller hen 739, an 08 hen, looking like she was ready to be paired. Since I was going out of town to the National Cage Bird Board Meeting in Jacksonville, it seemed that in view of her abdomen, I should pair her immediately and just accept the fact that some hen's listen to a different drummer!!!

The best male to pair her with was an 06 German Roller DKB 3506 and although promising, he was not quite ready, I went ahead and paired them and turned the lights up. When a ready hen is paired with a male who is not ready, either see will try to kill him or she will slow down and at times totally re-cycle to get in sync with him. She immediately built a nest.

A week later, his vent look better and since she had not laid, I was some what encouraged but I remember seeing a faint wrinkle on her abdomen and wondering if she was going to re-cycle but alas she was sitting so tight..

Male one week after the lights were turned up.

A week after pairing the hen had a larger red area but I noticed a few faint wrinkles.

Each day I have been anticipating gathering her eggs but day after day has now gone by and nothing!! Let's see she has been spoofing me now about three weeks!! Not bad for a bird brain!!!

Today, I gave her the exam she deserved after all of this she has put me through and it is apparent she has gone totally out of breeding condition and no eggs will be coming soon!!! The game is over!!! Checking her records, she did raise one clutch last year and one of the males was a fine singer!

Examining the male, he has continued to make good progress!! Yet he is the silent type and unless she starts begging he could care less if she is in his cage...

So what should I do now? A catchy old gambling song started running through my got to know when to hold, know when to fold, know when to walk away, know when to run ......

So should I let her hold because she wants to sit or fold and take the nest away because this sitting game could go on forever??

Get your comments in now and I will continued this story Tomorrow!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Following The Hen's Lead

Trio of German Rollers assembled on Saturday. Attractive Male with a grizzled neck mark pictured in the center. Nests with a wad of nesting material were placed on opposite ends of the cage as usual.

This young hen is a favorite as I especially like her distinctive eyebrow and dark wing feather.

Oops!! Sunday morning I found an egg lying on top of an unmade nest! With only 24 hours with the male and not making a nest, I was surprised the hen even laid the egg in the nest!!

Of course, when things go wrong, it seems the favorites are likely involved... And sure enough the hen who laid the egg was the favorite one... So what should you do now???

My usual response is to let the hen cycle as normally as she will. If she will sit on infertile eggs, let her and besides she might be needed as a foster.

In this particular case, she has no interest in nest building or sitting and she did not lay another egg on Monday as you would expected if she were in full breeding condition. Taking my clue from the hen, I tossed the infertile egg, left the nest with nesting material in the cage and expect she will re-cycle in a week or so.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Adverse Possession

Crested Variegated Mosaic Stafford Male

Non-crested Variegated Bronze Stafford Hen, selected to shorten chicks feathering.

Non-crested Mosaic Stafford Hen, wearing the male mask, selected to produce good male type mask.

Handsome couple...

One nest was placed on the left side of the cage and the other on the right side. The bronze hen chose the nest on the left side of the cage and built her nest and promptly started laying.

But the aggressive mosaic hen decided she wanted the same nest. The male watched in confusion as the girls take turns claiming possession of the left side nest! First one set in the left nest but when she would finally have to get up to eat, the other promptly claimed possession of it!!!

Neither one was interested in the far right side nest...... It got so bad that, on one day first the bronze laid her third egg in the left nest and when she got up the mosaic laid her first egg in the very same nest!!

Luckily the bronze laid a smaller egg and the mosaic laid a larger distinctly marbled egg so they were easy to correctly identify...

Disputes over the same nest are not very common. To resolve it, I watch the birds and negotiate a compromise that one of them will accept. In this case, the mosaic hen was pushy and I knew that although the bronze built the left nest and laid first in it, the mosaic was not about to move.

To resolve the problem, I moved the right side nest closer and closer and finally when they were very close, the bronze hen accepted the right side nest and finished laying her clutch of six eggs in it!!!!

This photo was taken yesterday, today I set them, mosaic four eggs and the bronze six! They did get broccoli yesterday but once setting I do not offer greens again till the chicks are banded.

This Weeks Sharing Tips or Questions For Big Bird

Post here your tips and questions for Big Bird..



1. When feeding broccoli, peel back the tough outer skin or quarter the stem or use the food processor to avoid waste. The tough skin strips are fed to competitive flight cages who nibble on the edges and play with it.

2. When making cornbread for the birds, use the whole egg including the shell! The food processor will grind it up when you process the cornbread.

3. George Traveria shared that he likes to put the hen in the breeding cage and introduce the male when she builds the nest. In his system, she usually is cooperative and lays in three days.



1. Robert writes: I breed Fifes. I use a Treble Breeder, say Hen A on the left , Cock Centre, Hen B on the Right.(Assuming that both Hens are fit at the same time).I pull the slide 1/2" for 2hours in the morning for Hen A, then Hen B likewise in the the Hens are nearing completion of building the nest, I put the Cock in with one of the Hens late afternoon. Leave him all night,andtake him out at 7.30 in the morning. Shut the slide completely.Pull the slide on Hen B 1/2" in the afternoon. Then about 2hours before dusk let him in with Hen B ...Repeat this process until Hens lay. Sometimes both hens lay on the same day.Now, what I would like to know is. After the hen lays her first egg, if it is fertile, will the rest of her eggs (say 3 or 4) have been fertilized,or do i still need have to put the Cock back in to the Hens again for him to fertilize the rest of the eggs ?


1. Linda - do you have a recipe for egg food that you would recommend? Also if you purchase yours what brand do you use. Janet

Click on comments for my current nestling food recipe.

Friday, March 19, 2010

When Three Is Not A Crowd!

Three Is A Great Number!

Three In This Stafford Family

Note how the non-crested hens have similar markings but opposite dark and light patterns on the head.

Overall Pretty Good Crested Stafford Male, Full Neck, Circular Crest But The Crest Needs More Height and Length.

This Young Stafford Hen Has Good Frontal Rise and Roundness. She seems to be dreaming about a family with our Stafford male......

Nice Looking Couple!

Nice Looking Couple Too! More pictures of these two on last Tuesday's post, "Building Too Deep".

The Older Hen Built and Laid First

Young Stafford Hen Building Her Nest Now

Older Stafford Hen was Set today with Four Eggs

My favorite pairing is two hens with one male. This makes the best use of the space and solves some aggression problems! When paired with one hen, if she happens to be shy, he can be too pushy where when paired with two hens, he has more options and works with the more cooperative hen first and patiently waits for the more timid hen.

Another big advantage is to have the male with the hens at the right time. If you work, the timing can be difficult first moving him in with one hen in the morning and then moving him to the other that evening. Only realizing where he needed to be after the fact.... Because they are all in the same cage and they are not being disrupted everyday by his moving, there is a higher fertility rate.

Two padded nests are place on opposite sides of the cage with a tuff of nesting material in each. Usually the hens will pick different nests. Sometimes, if they seem interested in the same nest, I temporarily put three nests in the cage for more choices until the hens pick their nest.

A few years ago, when I first tried multiple hens with one male, I would try to pick two hens at approximately the same stage. I still like to do that but I have found it not a problem as long as new babies are not being hatched when the other hen has babies leaving the nest. When chicks leave the nest, they are disruptive and are anxious to change nests and be fed by any bird who will feed them.

The older hen in this pair was set today and the younger one will likely lay very soon. I will continue feeding nestling food till the second hen is set and again feed it when the older hen hatches her first baby. Even though nesting food is offered, the birds know when they should eat it!