Thursday, April 29, 2010

Finger Food

This Border chick needed to be hand fed even though it had never been hand fed before because its mother decided it is time to nest again.

To get him to eat, I put the Exact hand feeding formula on my finger and then tap it gently on the end of his beak. A few times and he is nibbling finger food!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mary's Hand Feeds The Three Little Pigs

My granddaughter Mary dropped by after school to work on some homework and once it was done, Granny gave her a canary hand feeding lesson! I remember my mother teaching me to hand feed with toothpicks when I was about her age.

First you have to get the birds to open their mouth. Mary gently brushes them under their chin with her finger to get them to open wide. Although these three little pigs are never really hungry, they are just the right size and temperament for her lesson. They respond to her gentle tickle.

I chose the larger chicks for the lesson because they will keep their mouth open longer and once they start eating, they will keep begging her for more food.

Small chicks in good shape, readily open even when the nest is giggled a bit, but you can feel pressure to get the food into their mouth quickly before they close up. The lesson above all else, must be fun and not intimidating!

Using a couple of toothpicks dipped in Kaytee Exact Hand Feeding Formula mixed with warm water, she delivers the food into the open mouth. At ten years old, she is more comfortable doing it this way then actually inserting the toothpicks straight into the beak as I would have done.

When I feed, I only put the toothpicks crosswise in the mouth when the bird is reluctant to open. In very small ones or those that really badly need feeding or they will likely die, the closer to death they are the more they refuse to open up. In that case, using just one toothpick to pry open their mouth, I rotate it to deliver a small amount of food. After a taste, they often open up unless they are in bad shape.

After just a couple of days and three supplemental feedings with Exact a day, the roller with the dark wing feathers that was losing out to his fat three little pigs siblings, now has a nice fat layer!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three Little Pigs In A Nest Of Four

These three German roller chicks are aggressively hogging the food from the less aggressive fourth hatched chick.

They have not only beautiful rosy pink healthy skin tone but also notice the yellow fat layer deposited under the skin on the rump to the tail! When you see a fat layer on the rump, the chicks are doing very well!! Click on the photo for a better view.

The chick in the foreground with black feathers on each wing just like papa, was losing out. It did not have a fat layer and each day was proportionally smaller than its siblings! With a growing size and personality disadvantage, it is best to move the chick where it can compete more favorably with only one other chick of its size.

If the chick has been banded or like in this case has distinct dark wing feathers, you can easily identify the adopted chick even if it is not banded yet. In other cases, I give the moved chick a hair cut to shorten its downy fuzz on the head so that I can readily tell which chick was moved when I band the chicks.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Easy Sunflower Sprouts

In a short three weeks, when my first Stafford chicks were put in the weaning cage, I already have 50 babies in the various stages in the nests. Even with such high numbers, it is still too soon to start hatching chicks from my new German Roller male and the Borders like all the birds are still raising their first rounds. So it appears that soon every cage is going to reach capacity!

When the tasks gets taxing, I start using some labor saving methods. In addition to using frozen peas which can be stored in large quantities without spoiling, I like to sprout large quantities of black oil sunflower seeds.

In a large bowl, I place the sunflower seeds and rinse them a couple of times and then cover with tap water. After setting a couple of hours, I drain them and either leave in the original bowl or transfer to a colander. Later in the day, I rinse them again and again the next morning. After just 24 hours from soaking, small nutritious sprouts will appear. I then feed to birds with banded babies and refrigerate any extra. Right now, I am setting sunflower to sprout every other day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stafford Chicks Rally At Pea Party

Are you ready for the party?

When the first chick leaves the nest, I quarter hard boiled eggs and watch to see when each chicks nibbles on the egg. As soon as I see them take a bite, it is time to put them in the weaning cage. I want the chicks to stay on the floor and eat so until they are eating well, I do not put perches in the weaning cage. When given the opportunity to sit on high perches and beg to be fed, they will until they starve to death.

Numerous food dishes line the weaning cage floor. This is a dish of frozen peas which I thawed by putting them in hot tap water and some sprouted sunflower seeds.

They have only been the weaning cage a few hours and once one of them tried the peas, all want to join in for a PEA PARTY!

Note the full eye of the taller chick compared to the other chick. The squinting indicates some degree of dehydration and it is important to get him to take on some liquid, less he will progress to sleepy and puffy.

The slightly dehydrated chick started eating peas and his eyes immediately started widening.

Peas are offered to hens when their chicks are nearing banding size. They love to feed them to their chicks. Note the green color in the crop of the middle Stafford chick. Love that dark head and can't wait to see what kind of crest it will display!

Yellow Columbine

Burning Questions and Tips to Share

Locally-grown pesticide free spinach!

Beautiful pesticide free radishes!


Sunday: Farmers Markets in our next of the woods, have a number of fresh items such as locally grown spinach and radishes. To freshen the radish tops, I cut them free from the radish and let them set awhile in some ice water.

Monday: Toni Schlott of Canada shared that his birds love non-medicated duck starter. He even adds it to his nestling food.

Tuesday: Connie Gahman, wrote: "My distributor, Lori Castle, brings the sidekick ingredients in from Versal-laga and mixes them by hand. We both worked on putting it together. Lori has more of the individual seeds than I do. Her email is: We both ship products.



Shawn asks about his new color canaries, can you have an isabel opal pastel?


1. What is non-medicated duck starter?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sidekick Conditioning Seeds

About a month ago, when I was starting to make an experimental dry nestling food, I ordered the sidekick mix from wings. Connie Gahman, who breeds larges numbers of finches and some canaries, developed this house brand sidekick mix. Her e-mail is and her web site is

Connie wrote: "My distributor, Lori Castle, brings the ingredients in from Versal-laga and mixes them by hand. We both worked on putting it together. Lori has more of the individual seeds than I do. Her email We both ship products."

When given a choice, my birds regardless of their variety, prefer the sidekick mix to any seed offered including hulled hemp!! They even prefer it over egg containing nestling food!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rendezvous Pad Breeding Method

If I could I would breed DKB 05 3501 #30, my new import German Roller Male, to every roller hen in my aviary!! He has the beautiful hollow roll that will enhance my roller lines which I originally started breeding in 1982!!

With Border colony breeding taking up my small flights, I will have to use my regular cages 30 inches long by 16 inches high and 16 inches wide for the German rollers and Staffords. Each of these cages will comfortably hold two hens with two nests and a breeder male. In the straight colony breeding method, some of the males are moved on to other hens when the second hen has laid three eggs. This is fine for my Staffords but this year with the new blood, I need to get more production from the two breeding ready German import males.

So for this special male and #34, my second choice from the same breeder, I am using what I call the Rendezvous Pad Method! Each male is established in his own pad. This is important especially with these males as they are not tame like my own birds who hardly resist my catching them. These guys fly frantically resisting me and once moved to a hen cage, either from fright or exhaustion, ignored the breeding ready hens!

In my rendezvous pad method, initially three hens are put in breeder cages with three nests. The first two to start building their nests, will remain in the cage while the lager will be moved to a new cage group.

As the breeding ready hen starts to build her nest, she is moved at 5 pm to one of the males pad and left there until 10 am when she is returned to her breeding cage with her nest. When the hen is placed with the male, if she is ready, he can sense it and will immediately begin singing his macho mating song. Hearing it, she will assume a mating position and all is well. It takes less than a minute, if she is truly ready!! The breeding ready hen will be returned to his cage on the next day for a final rendezvous and then left in the colony cage to finish her nest and lay her clutch of eggs.

In some cases, I have seen the male ignore the hen, even though she was building a nest, or in a case or two, he chased her but in neither case does he sing or court her. These hens are flirting with nesting and are not ready yet and will be tried at a later date. They can be returned to their cage to continue building. They can fool me by building a nest but not the male, he can separate them quickly!! If possible, I would like to give him a day off between rendezvous but so far, they have a back log of ready hens!!

I did experiments to see if he would be interested in the hens he had courted and mated with earlier once they were laying but in each case, he ignored her and she him. Once a number of years ago, I wanted to breed one of my hens to a special hollow roll male of my friend Janis Klein. I took the hen with me to her house and put her in a flight with her male that Saturday morning while we drank Dr. Pepper and talked birds for a couple of hours. When I left, I took the hen home and put her in a breeding cage with a nest and two weeks later she laid five eggs, all of which were fertile!!

Beautiful Pap Orchid

Are These Border Chicks Being Fed?

These four Border chicks are about 24 hours old. Even when you do not get an opportunity to see the hen feed or see egg food in the crop, you can be reassured that all is well because the downy fuzz is sticking out in all directions! When chicks are not being fed, they look all shriveled and the fuzz appears sparse and flat to the skin.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Questions and Advice for Big Bird?

Please post your tips and questions that are unrelated to current posts here.

Pink double Peony


David Bopp shared that for the first three days, he feeds the hen special egg food. He combines one egg yolk with one tablespoon Proteen 25 nestling food (Higgins Company). I have been making up six egg yolks at a time in the food processor and using three tablespoons Proteen 25 and three tablespoons CeDe nestling food. I put some regular nestling food on one side of the feeding dish and the yolk mix on the other side and they will feed the yolk mix first! Even the borders are feeding the yolk mix well!! After three days, you need to use regular egg food as this is too rich to continue beyond the three days. Too rich foods at about five days will cause the skin to get red and lacquer like fecal material can seal the vent resulting in chick death.


Shawn asks how can you tell an agate from an isabel?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

New German Rollers

These German imported rollers came out of quarantine January 26. Shortly thereafter, many of them went into a full molt!! Luckily, by feeding a high carb very low protein diet, they completed a full molt in about a record 4 weeks!

The best sounding male, fertilized a few clutches in Canada before coming to Wichita!! The ridiculous plane trip took him out of condition a bit.

After only two days, he had recovered and was ready for breeding!

The first hen
Although somewhat timid by nature, he quickly began courting her singing vigorously and she was immediately taken by his charm.
This male was not as ready but did mount a hen a week after arrival.

This male is a little rough feathered off and on. He responds well to steel cut oats.

This male is likewise, not singing and not in breeding condition. At first I thought maybe it was a hen but after getting some vent development, I am convinced now it is a male.

This hen raised a nest of four in Canada before the trip to Kansas! She is actively flying back and forth and likely will nest again soon.

This hen is strikingly marked and looks in good condition, She flys around but not interested in her nest yet. The first morning after arrival she drop a wing feather but immediately stopped once she starting eating more carbs.

This hen has only the cap marking. She too is active but not ready for breeding at this point. she laid four fertile eggs which were fostered while still in Canada. I really would like the hens to wait a minimum of two or three more weeks so they could be on the ABBA vitamin E weekly treatment for four weeks.

This hen would not even perch the next morning after the plane ride! She is doing better and enjoys me giving her soft bread. This hen is too weak for breeding, if she does not gain weight she will likely not survive the molt.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chip Off The Old Block

Crested Stafford Papa

Non-crested Stafford Momma

This pair produced four chicks. Three are non-crested and marked just like Momma but one is crested and marked just like papa! Not only does it have the coveted dark crest but also even wing marks!! Click on photo for a better look.

Note how well placed with center directly above the eye, and how circular and well-shaped the crest appears!