Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Bean in the Hand Is Worth....

After the mung bean posting, someone ask are there other beans for sprouting? So when I was at the health food store yesterday picking up brewer's yeast, soy powder, and liquid vitamin B complex for the birds, I ask the clerk the same question. He said funny you ask about sprouting beans for birds as another customer buys Adzuki beans by the 25 lbs to sprout for her birds! What a salesman!

Turns out these small red beans are high in amino acids except trytophane. Lysine and methionine are two of the critical dietary amino acids for canaries especially my borders. On the left dry bean and on the right swollen 12 hour soaked beans.

Seems like they are going to sprout easily. Will add a sprouted picture to this post in a day or two..

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Good News - Canadian Hemp

As I gather bird supplies for breeding season, I always purchase some hemp. In the past, I have ordered the Wild Wing Organic Hemp, along with some grey millet and high potency mash from Harrison's Bird Foods but as I was checking on the hemp price it had gone up yet again and now is 32 dollars for only five lbs. Seeing the price, I was shocked and did not order anything...

I like to feed hens that are sitting on eggs hemp free choice as it helps keep the incubation temperature high and is a high calorie food for them thus prevent weight loss during setting.

I also needed to buy Petamine Breeding Formula so I called Herman Bros (810-420-5055) my favorite (best price I have found) source. As we visited, I said I did not know what I was going to do as hemp seed has gotten so high. He told me that good quality clean hemp seed, unlike the dusty China hemp, was now available from Canada. His price is $1.65 a lb so I added 20 lbs of hemp to my Petamine order! So far, it looks good! Herman Bros is in Marine City Michigan.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Young Border Hens Enjoy Good Eats - Mustard Greens

Each day during the breeding preparation phase, I like to feed a variety of fresh greens. This week I have fed sprouted mung beans, kale, spinach, romaine, turnip greens, cabbage and today it is mustard greens. Thawed frozen peas and corn also frequently rotate onto the menu. Once greens are available outside, I will feed lots of chickweed and dandelion.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today's E-mail - Problem Male Pulls Nesting Material

Sharon from Israel writes: I have a canary question and would truly appreciate your help! My hen laid 5 eggs, and she's now brooding. For some odd reason the male keeps perching near the nest and nibble at the hen's tail excessively as well as pulling at the nesting materials.

Fearing this may disturb the female, I have separated them using the divider in the cage. Although I placed the divider, the male keeps pulling nesting materials from his side of the cage, and tries (to no avail) to feed the female when she calls him.

I really want to unite them once the chicks hatch so he can help with the feeding , but am not sure if I should do so in case the male will keep harassing the female. Should I remove the male from the cage altogether? Is it safe to keep him with the hen once the chicks hatch?

Have you ever encountered such behavior on the male's part during breeding? So much is new to me in this process, I really want everything to go well for the young, first time couple and for me as a first time breeder, and will appreciate you advice in this matter .


Most of the time, the male is well behaved and an asset but when he bothers the nest or hen, it is best to take him out of the cage. Should you leave him in the cage, he likely would keep pulling nesting material until he destroys the nest and compromises the egg incubation. I would use a solid divider or another cage away from the hen so he will not disturb her.

I like to re-introduce the male when chicks are 14 days old as it seems to be a time when the hen is receptive to mate with him again and early mating, several days before the next clutch is laid, results in higher fertility rates.

If you want to try him before that, wait till you see the hen feed the chicks. Then see if he will feed her so she can feed the chicks. If he behaves himself and helps, he stays in, if not out he goes!

I have also found that the male is better behaved when two hens are nesting in the cage rather than one.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mung Bean Sprouts

During the conditioning for breeding phase, about once a week I like to feed my canaries some sprouted mung beans (aka bean sprouts).

Mung beans, grown in Thailand and readily available at Asian grocery stores, are soaked over night and rinsed daily until they sprout. They offer not only pure forms of vitamins A, B, C and E but also assorted minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium. They are easily digestible and contain a high concentration of enzymes facilitating digestion. Like soybeans and flax seed, they contain phytosterols, hormonally active plant estrogen, which I have found helps canaries develop full breeding condition.

See comment below: "Has anyone sprouted and fed canaries any of the other different beans available"?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Weeks Questions For Big Bird

Family Portrait!!
My Extended Jayhawk Family

Saturday turned out to be a real bummer!! Friday night, Thomas Robinson, pictured, got the call that his 37 year old mother died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Thomas and his 9 year old sister are parent less at such an early age... The game started with a moment of silence for her. After a short burst, the gloom followed the team to a loss.

Upon arrival home, I was just in time to see the 3rd overtime finish of the Wichita State Shockers and Indiana State. This time my team won! Keep It Up Shocks!!
Sunday E-mail

May writes:

In the 70s, we had a couple of pairs of canaries who bred
successfully back in California.

My husband just bought a beautiful pair of Timbrados. I have
them in a breeding cage. We haven't got a lot of light in the
living room where they are. There is a window nearby but it's
not a bright space since we have a covered porch on the west
side and huge oaks which shade the back of the house. We were
thinking of getting a flight cage for more. We would like to
use LED illumination. Would you go to warm or cool lighting
for them?

The male displayed for the first time tonight after dinner
and the"talk"between them is different. They are separated
by hardware cloth.

We do not have the preferred 13 or so hours of light, but
we are near Panama City, FL, in the panhandle. Is it too
early to remove the separator? We had ordered supplies from
Bird Supply of New Hampshire and were told by an employee to
put a nest and fiber in, which we did yesterday. Feeding Abba
Green 92 as well, to both.

They are being fed a good, fresh diet and premium seed. We
plan on getting another pair soon.


Sounds like you are coming down with bird fever which all
of us reading this blog have too!

Hours of daylight is the most important factor in breeding

I use full spectrum lights but at this point you might just
get a timer and use a table or floor light to control the
hours of day light. Set it on 14 hours at a time you are
willing to get up to give the hen fresh soft food to feed
her chicks. don't forget to consider daylight savings time.

Test the pair readiness by putting a wire partition
between them. Give soft food to the male and see if the
hen will beg him to feed her through the wire.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chasing The Dou Dou Mournful Sound Of The Dove

My family is sure that I have really lost it now! The other day, over the loud singing of the Borders, Staffords, and Colorbred of the couple hundred birds in my aviary, I distinctly heard the beautiful deep dou dou dou sound like a mournful dove. Again dou dou dou, enough to take my breath and then nothing more... Who sang that??

Now the quest began, the beautiful sound is stuck in my head, I absolutely must find that bird. In search, I frantically began caging up German Rollers and bringing a few (they think it is a lot) of birds into the kitchen and listening to them for 30 minute sessions, in hopes of finding that one bird which I heard!

It has been a week now and I have found some good birds, birds that have gotten much better then I realized since show season and Christmas caroling but alas no dou dou dou...

My family thinks I need a break from this Impossible Dream Like Journey and so we all off this weekend to Lawrence Kansas to See the Jayhawks play basketball. Go Hawks!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Big Birds Asks The Audience, Can You Help Us?

Hello Linda,
Can I share an observation with you and ask if you have seen this yourself please?

On a number of occasions now, I have seen several of my border [and fife] hens sit
listlessly with a very small piece of splintered sawdust [ie; Like the end 5mm of a
toothpick] at the very back of their beak. None of these birds are anywhere near
breeding condition so it is nothing to do with the ritual 'carrying' of nest material
I hope to see over the next eight weeks or so.

I wonder if they have a crop problem [crop-mites maybe?] which, by having this
piece keep their beak open helps to alleviate?

I would be very interested to hear from you.

Many thanks & Kind Regards,
Graham Holdsworth

Has anyone out there seen this?

I have not had any experience using sawdust floor covering. I checked in my vet books and there was a warning against using it as there was a danger or ingesting or inhaling sawdust resulting in impacted crops and or respiratory problems.

More Questions For Big Bird - High Eye?

Hi Linda,
Just acquired 2 canaries from Kijiji and they were both thought to be males. However both yesterday and again today we have seen the one that is definitely a male (a good singer) feeding the 2nd one. Yet there are also times when they assume an aggressive stance (wings open standoff and/or chase each other off the little nest basket in the cage). Do those 2 behaviors contradict?
Thank you,

Hi Mike,

Both males and hens will feed other birds of the same sex. In fact, I like to see this as I know that they will readily feed their chicks once they arrive.

Fighting and aggression is also directed against either sex. But the full dropping of wings and macho dance is a male characteristic as well as singing the full song.

My first canary, a cinnamon colored "singer", had a pleasing short sorta cute very short song that I was enamoured with till I notice one day she did not sing and kinda looked out of sorts and drank a bunch of water. The very next day I found an egg on the floor of HIS cage!

Sexing birds is sometimes obvious, like the one who acts like a male and sings but what about the other bird. Outside of male behavior, my favorite way to sex them is with lining a card up with the opening line on the beak and determine if the eye is above or below this line. Hens eyes are above the line and males eyes are dissected by the line.

The hens eye lines up above the beak line, high eye.

Male eye is bisected by beak line, positioned in line with the beak.

How is it that this works better when you know the birds sex?

PS. Mike, I would place the birds in side by side separate cages and see how the male acts toward the second bird.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sneaky German Roller

This German Roller is one Shady Character!

First I notice his perches, his tail and a back toenail needed to be cleaned.

When I moved his cage out to take care of his needs, I found that he had been doing pretty well for himself as without me noticing, he had over a period of days, eaten a leaf from a nearby orchid plant! According to Sneaky, they are tasty and not toxic to canaries!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


On the perch, I thought I saw a shadow between this German Rollers toes.

When I looked at the bottom of his foot, I saw that fecal material was caked under his toe. If not taken care of promptly, the circulation would be compromised and a toe could be lost. Wash with warm water to loosen fecal material before removing.

Notice the color of the leg near the band. Click on the photo to enlarge. He still has plenty of band room but it is time to remove the excess dead scales.

A little mineral oil rubbed from my finger to its leg and the scale comes off easily.

Notice the tip on this German Rollers beak. Trim it careful with trim fingernail clippers.

Ready to go a courting??

Monday, January 17, 2011

Today Is A Much Better Day - Preventing Attacks

Today is indeed a better day for the Stafford who was attacked yesterday. The bird's expression looks like a smile to me!

Even 24 hours and this bird is making remarkable improvement and its condition has been upgraded.

Some general suggestions for preventing attacks:

1. Separate male and female chicks as soon as possible and keep them separate until both are in full breeding condition and ready to mate and raise their family. Checking to see the male feed the hen through the wire or seeing the hen assume a mating position when she hears a male sing the breeding song are signs that they are ready for pairing. If one of the two is not ready, a fight will surely break-out.

2. Separate crested and non-crested birds. The small bare spot in the center of the crest is irresistible to a non-crested bird. If a bird has been picked or if any blood is showing like from a broken young feather, separate it from all other birds.

3. Limit the amount of protein in the diet until birds are actually feeding babies. Animal protein in particular causes aggression.
Sudden change in the amount of protein in the diet can also cause problems. Vegetable protein is a better conditioner for breeding than animal protein.

4. When grouping birds, avoid overcrowding and introduce all of the new grouping to the cage at the same time. Adding a bird to a group will change the dynamics and can result in territorial fighting with someone getting hurt, often the new guy on the block is picked on.

So what do I think happen in this case, well remember last week when I ran out of seed and made my own mix because the roads were too slick to go get it, I think although it was a good nutritious mix, it was too much of a protein change for this group of four birds. (I left the Staffords on it a few days to clean up what I had made.)

I am checking the other three birds carefully daily and I have them back on L'Avian Plus seed and I have not seen any more problems.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Got A Question For Big Bird?

Please post this weeks unrelated questions here.

My Belgian Malinois, Bella aka Rou Rou, is keeping me company as I write this post.


1. What is a good humidity level in the aviary - especially when hens are setting on eggs?

I like to start breeding when the Goldfinches outside turn yellow and Spring Rains have started which is usually late March. Spring rains keep the humidity in a good range which is considered to be 55% to 70%. The lower % is more desired as at higher levels there is a higher risk of proliferation of pathogenic (disease causing) organisms. Too low humidity is a cause of hatching problems and possibly infertility.

Wichita had snow last week and some is still on the ground. The weatherman reported last night that current humidity is running 45% with moisture expected a couple of days this week. By waiting for the Spring rains before breeding, I am ensured that my aviary humidity level will be in a good range for hatching.

Sometimes humidity levels are blamed for poor hatching when the problem is actually that the egg shell is so thin that the eggs are drying out so much that either the yolk is dehydrated and solid so that even fertile eggs will not have a chick develop or the chick has trouble piping through the dry tough membrane to the air space and without breaking through to the air space, the chick will die in the shell.

Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3 in the right proportions are need for good quality egg shells. Some breeds such as Staffords have an easy time absorbing these necessary nutrients where other varieties such as Borders are especially high risk for porous poor quality egg shells that dry out and make either fertile egg development or piping through to start hatching impossible.

Any egg that does not hatch should be opened and examined to see why it did not produce a viable chick.

Enough Is Enough - Big Bird Calls A Time Out

When I looked over my birds this morning, what looked like a young Stafford male having a bad hair day was really a crest plucked and scalp damaged and bleeding. Some fighting over territory is beneficial as it brings males into breeding condition, but drawing blood is totally not acceptable.

Enough is Enough. This behavior will not be tolerated, if they keep it up, the victim may die.

It's Time for Big Bird To Call A Super Nanny Time Out!

When you have obvious picking or blood, it is best to isolate the victim bird to prevent any further damage.

Further examination revealed that he is also lagging behind in his vent development and his breast bone and his pelvic bones are both sharp. Looks like he was not getting his share of food too, he is too thin to come into breeding condition.

Putting a little weight on him will bring him into breeding condition. Extra fresh white bread, oatmeal and some sunflower pieces in addition to his regular diet should do the trick. Just like us, he will gain weight on extra carbohydrates with extra fat calories!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Share A Tip - Fresh Treats For Canaries And Finches

I wanted to share these tips for FRESH treats for finches or canaries.
Other bird fanciers might find it beneficial.

I soak spray millet over night starting with hot water.
The next day I drain and wash the sprigs.
Put them under the lights and wait for them to start growing.

The procedure allows me to monitor the humidity in the aviary
plus provides healthy green treats for the birds.
Great for weaning the fledgling youngsters.

see pics attached
from Evon @ CanaryTwitters

Have you got a tip you can share with us? Send to Send photos as jpg files.

Thanks So Much Evon, I am trying it today, you are a real asset to this blog!!!