|Young Border Hen Flapping Her Wings Getting Ready For Breeding|
Big Bird's Response: Thanks so much for asking, I really appreciate hearing from you. Unfortunately, I can't find the original, if you have it please copy me or tell me where to find it, for now I will just write an update. Christel sent me a link:
2013 Big Bird's Top Ten Tips For Breeding Borders
1. Breed Only the Healthiest Birds. Be selective with your stock and only breed birds that do not exhibit any hint of neurological problem. Watch out for wide tails that never pipe down to a healthy narrow appearance (many will have wide tails at weaning but this should quickly fix at least by eight weeks, problem birds tails never pipe), poor wing carriage (another clue that the bird is not up to fitness), squinting eyes when stressed (approach the cage and challenge just a bit and watch the eyes, does the bird half shut its eyes? Do the challenge test before you buy any bird and no matter how great they appear, under no circumstances should you buy a bird that squints or freezes like a trance when challenged as in time this gorgeous bird will not even be able to perch!), exclude any with hints of balance problems (improve balance with swings and or ferris wheels) but do not breed any bird that is unsteady.
2. Provide Healthy Diet All Year Long. Work for peak health and fitness all year long. Although all breeds need a healthy diet, each breed has needs for extra nutrients but the best supplement level varies greatly by breed. Borders, need a much higher vitamin and mineral supplementation then most breeds, perhaps because of poor absorption. If you supplement all of your different varieties the same, you will have years when some breeds do well and others are big flops so learn each breeds needs and respond to them appropriately. Certainly, my German Rollers need a lot less vitamin and mineral supplementation than my Borders. When supplemented the same, one or the other variety will do well but not both without adjustment for breed.
3. Monitor Weight. Cocks that are too fat will have great difficulty fertilizing the egg. They should not have a large yellow fat layer around the vent. If they need to reduce, drop oily seeds and feed canary seed mixed with untreated grass seed (Connie Gahman), make them exercise by flying longer distance by decrease the number of perches and separating the food and water stations and perches. Also make sure there are at least three cocks in the same cage to encourage them to move.
Often when birds fail to come into breeding condition the problem is that they are too thin. Any thin birds should be separated from others. Even young birds need to separated by sex as soon as possible. When you find a thin one separate it out and only house with similar thin ones. Being thin can simply be a less aggressive bird not getting food or it can be a sign of a genetic deficiency in absorption of nutrients especially selenium.
Thin birds have a very sharp breast bone and their pelvic bones stick out, cocks sing rarely if at all, and the vent development is so poor that it is hard to tell a hen from a cock. Often they are sexed wrongly and only a year or two later does the breeder discovered that they have a cock in the hen cage. Too fatten increase the oily seeds especially thistle (nyjer) and sunflower pieces, offer soft bread, decrease greens and no high protein foods (egg). Decrease flying by putting perches every few inches. Make food and water readily available at perch height and use multiple food dishes to make grazing easy.
4. Start Conditioning Cocks First. As a general rule it takes about six weeks to bring a cock into full breeding condition but only three or four weeks to bring a hen into full breeding condition. Three things bring cocks into breeding condition.
First, sensitivity to longer day light hours. Being light sensitive is lost after birds have been in extended light for a period of time, so it is important that during the summer and fall that birds be on shorter days of 10 hours or less to redevelop light sensitivity. A change in day length changes hormones levels and results in cocks producing more sperm. It is most effective when the day length changes suddenly. If I had two separate aviaries, I would change the cocks suddenly first but with one aviary, I start six weeks before breeding by increasing the day length by 30 minutes per week. Then on the fourth week I suddenly change forward to 14 hours plus 30 minutes dimmer. My overhead lights are on programmable timers which I set for 14 hours and then I plug another light on a stand into its own separate timer so that it overlaps by an hour and extends the single bulb light 30 minutes after the overhead lights are out.
Second, territorial fighting. House cocks together as territorial fighting also raises brings them into breeding condition. The exception to this is when the cocks are too thin, then first priority must be to getting them to a normal weight.
Third, vitamin E and other foods. Vitamin E and selenium are very important for conditioning and Borders and a few other varieties need a very high level to stimulate them. If you use ABBA Fertility E, start cocks on this product six weeks before breeding and on their fourth week start the hens. This is given as the only water on one day a week. Cocks can receive it throughout breeding season but the hens receive it only till they lay their first egg.
5. Start Food Conditioning with Vitamin E Coated Seeds. Six weeks before breeding start all birds on wheat germ oil blend (horse supplement with extra vitamin A, D and E) coated seeds. For 50 lbs of seed mix: take 5 lbs of the mix and add one cup wheat germ oil blend and mix several times daily for a couple of days then mix into with the 45 lbs uncoated seeds. Use this as your regular seed mix throughout breeding season. The regular seed mix can contain a variety of seeds and should include some flax (linseed) as they are high in phytoestrogens.
6. Supplement the Diet with Vitamin and Mineral Products. Be sure to use products with additional calcium and also those with selenium and amino acids. A number of good products are available. For calcium I use the calcium gluconate and during laying Avitech Cal-D-Solve. Other multiple vitamins products include Pro-vital, Orlux, Biodecken with immune support for extra selenium are all good products. For amino acids I use Miracle (ABBA: AAMiracle made in Italy).
7.Facilitate Feeding Behavior. The very best predictor of fertile eggs is seeing feeding behavior. When the cock feeds the hen, mating will usually follow shortly. When I see cocks in the flights or hens in their flights feeding each other, I know that they are fast approaching full breeding condition.
To encourage feeding behavior, I feed wheat germ mixed with brewer's yeast and also MannaPro Poultry Conditioner along with nyjer (thistle) and sunflower pieces. Once they are paired they also get softfood to encourage feeding behavior.
In difficult cases, I use a wire divided cage and give the cock the goodies and let the hen beg him through the wire to feed her. When this happens for a day, I remove the divider. It is also a good technique when the cock is trying to bully the hen.
8. Use the Hatching Trick As Needed. Fertile eggs that fail to hatch by noon of the 14th day should be moved to a foster hen who has good incubation temperature. If the chick is alive when the egg is moved, they will hatch within two days, usually the next day. During incubation feed the hen dishes of hemp to help her maintain a good incubation temperature.
9. Rise Early and Feed the Hen As Soon As the Light Comes On. Offering fresh nestling food first thing in the morning will save a few chicks as mom will likely fill up on the fresh food and be ready to feed her chicks as soon as you leave the room.
10. Figure Out the Problem When No Chicks Hatch Before Resetting the Hen. It is disappointing when no chicks result but take a few minutes to figure out how to fix it before pulling the infertile eggs.
Are the egg shells too thin and dehydrated? Then fix the calcium problem and add a humidifier. When the eggs are too thin, do not remove eggs as they are laid.
Good eggs but no chicks? Then let the hen set as long as she will but start giving her nestling food and wheat germ/brewer's yeast and watch to see if the cock will feed her. Check the cocks vent and make sure you have trimmed well around the vent and on the sides so that feathers do not obstruct mating. The cocks vent should be red in color and bulging on the sides so that they are rounded out.