Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Avian Staycation

Molting time is the time when I provide lots of play options to my young birds.

They love to swing and play on the canary ferris wheel.
 This swing is close enough that it can swing and grab a bite of millet.

The Canary Ferris Wheel will fold flat so you can easily get it in the cage. It has four perches and rotates whenever a bird lands on it.

This border did a touch landing. Landing and flying on immediately before the wheel rotated.

This border has landed on the top bar and his weight made the wheel rotate a quarter of a turn. Hard to photograph as the canary ferris wheel moves as soon as he lands. At times the play tag and another will land while one is perched on the wheel. With practice they will stay on nearly a full rotation.

Too many choices? The border on the perch can't decide whether to play in the show cage or try to get a spot in the millet swing. I hang border cages on all the young birds cages regardless of the kind of bird. It is easier to start them first in a wire border cage before later training them in a box type cage.
Provide lots of different perching options. A single short perch is very popular and I watch the birds and place them around the cage to discourage hanging on the wire and damaging its tail. It also provides foot exercise when they perch on different size and shape perches. Last post I showed how an empty nest is good for foot gripping.

Not pictured is plastic or wooden clothes hangers which are also popular options in some of my cages.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Troubleshooting Youngsters - Part 3 - Undershot "Slipped" Claw

 Drawing from my book "Canary Tales". Article titled Slip Claw

I noticed this German Roller had an undershot or slipped claw when he first left the nest. With nice neck marks on both sides, I was just sick. A roller is judged only on song so it can be shown with undershot claw but you want the bird to have a normal life and breed so it is important to fix it.

 I use medical paper tape to secure the foot in proper position making sure that the back claw is in line with the leg and not off to the side and that the bandaged foot is in proper position. I like to provide more narrow perches and wire bottom and side cages so he will be encouraged to grip with the damaged claw.

Each week, I check his foot and make the bandage smaller allowing the front toes freedom and making the back bandage more and more curved like its normal shape.

Seeing how well he was gripping today, I decided to see if his foot is fixed.

This bandage has been on about a week and is ready to be changed.

 Whow!! I have been giving him new bandages about weekly now for many weeks probably at least two months but look at him now!

Unfortunately, this Border was so deformed by undershot claw on both sides that I didn't take his picture.  I didn't notice till he left the nest and when he flew down to the wire bottom, he totally broke his right (banded) leg. I have seen a number of motorcycle accident patients with severe leg breaks where the leg bend like an elbow but not where it should. His leg was totally severed and thought he would surely lose his leg and it might be more human to euthanize him but I just couldn't do it so I thought why not try and see how he does.  So I took the medical paper tape and put the leg in position the best I could and wrapped it the elbow bent to his body to immobilize it. Then I bandaged both feet for the undershot claw problem.  I but newspaper over the wire cage bottom so that would not break the other leg. He was 18 days old. I would put him back in the nest several times a day but he would not stay still even on the bottom of the cage.

Tip: Wire bottom cages are dangerous for undershot claw birds until they are properly bandaged.

His leg is not perfect but he can perch and his undershot claws are fixed too. He will make a good pet bird if he is a cock or a foster if it is a hen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Question For Big Bird - Slimming Down Fat Cocks

Breeding season is approaching in the Southern Hemisphere and Shawn writes: I need urgent assistance please. I have a new bird come into my aviary who is obese.

As luck would have it, I would really like to breed him to as many hens as possible using the striker method. However because he is overweight he isn't near breeding condition as opposed to my other cock birds. He doesn't even sing!

I need to slim him down urgently.. Petamine is not available in South Africa, but I was thinking to feed him a 1/4 boiled egg as a substitute for high protein.

I will also house him with one other overweight male in a double breeder with only two high placed perches. Do you think the egg will be good enough to reduce the weight?

My birds are normally ready to breed by middle September..

Thank you,

Big Bird Says:  Whether hard boiled egg is a good idea depends on what kind of canary he is. If he is a roller, it is a very good idea and I would also feed him unlimited greens and canary seed but no oily seeds.

But if you are talking about a Border, you must not feed him hard boiled egg. It would likely help with the weight but I have learned recently (See Balance Problems Post) that Borders are sensitive to protein and over time this brings on the genetic tendency for neurological balance problems and death. If it is a Border feed him as many greens as he will eat, no fatty seeds just plain canary seed and exercise.

For serious cases, I cover the windows to prevent him flying into one and turn the bird loose. At first you should do it when you are watching him but if he can fly you can put food and water on top of different cages where he has to fly to eat and drink. The last fat Border I had could barely fly when I started taking him out of his cage for supervised exercise time.

Instead of putting him with another fat bird, I would put him with breeding ready cocks and let them chase him a bit. Watch to make sure he is not hurt. It helps to move them all to a different cage at the same time rather than adding him to an established cage.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Troubleshooting Youngsters - Part 2 - Skinny Birds

From a distance you notice this German roller is very tubular looking for a roller.  When viewed from the side, you can nearly see a thin breast bone protruding without catching him. When you catch him, it is obvious he is too thin and his breast bone is sharp even without parting the feathers.

Even though we supply ample food and nutrients to our birds, it is not uncommon to find some “skinny” birds. What are “skinny” birds? A skinny bird is one with a sharp breast bone, prominent pelvic bones and no visible yellow fat layer on the lower abdomen.

What are some possible causes for thin birds  and how can it be resolved?

1st Consider Their Housing.

The most common reason for chicks being thin is keeping both males and females in the same cage. This results in the less aggressive youngsters being denied food access resulting in weight loss.

Overall male chicks are often more aggressive than females. While many female chicks are timid and high risk for weight loss, some females are aggressive. The reason being that each additional egg the hen lays in a clutch has more and more testosterone producing cells regardless of the sex of the chick. This is nature’s way of helping the smaller later hatched chicks compete favorably for food.  So it is female chicks whose egg was laid early in the series that are low “t” females who are housed with males that will invariable be too thin. 

Solution: Separate males and females promptly. If you can’t tell by color (roller males within a nest are deeper yellow colored) or the males are not singing, separate the thin birds from the normal weight ones. Most will be females with an occasional low “t” male who will need to be sorted out later.

2nd Diet and Exercise may be a problem to normal weight gain.

High protein/low carbohydrate diets are responsible for weight loss in birds just like the Atkins high protein/low carbohydrate diet results in weight loss in humans. To encourage weight gain feed more fats and carbohydrates and drop hard-boiled eggs from their diet. Adding some sunflower pieces to the regular seed mix is fattening as well as feeding some fresh white bread or offering dishes of dry nestling food. In addition, I also feed cous cous with olive oil and additional carbs to encourage weight.

Severe weight loss may occur at weaning time. Birds naturally love to stay on the highest perch and weaning chicks will fly up to the high perches and beg to be fed. To avoid losing youngsters from not eating, when chicks are being weaned, used a small breeder with no perches so the chicks will stay on the floor with the food and keep eating rather than flying.

Any thin birds need to have food readily available and limit their exercise which naturally happens when they have to fly up and down to forage for food. Limit flying by housing thin birds in breeding cages rather than flights.  And add additional perches so that the bird can easily hop rather than fly to get to feeding stations.

Try a weight gain supplement. This one works well.

3rd Make sure the thin birds are healthy and not infected with mites.

Examine the birds for any signs of illness. Begin by observing them from a distance and then catch them and listen to their breathing and check their abdomen for any unusual color and determine whether they have a thin fat layer.  Treat any illness discovered.

4th It might be genetic.

When birds are inbred they become smaller than normal and less healthy and sometimes they are too thin. Care must be taken to select only the strongest and healthiest birds for breeding.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Troubleshooting Youngsters -Part 1 - Dumpy

Suddenly the weather started dropping from a hot 95 F to a more comfortable temperature and I promptly turned off the air conditioning in the aviary, opened the screened windows and turn on the aviary full-sized house exhaust fan to bring in the fresh cooler air. Before I realized it, a few hours later the temperature had dropped to 58 F and the aviary was cold. At that point I noticed a couple of Dumpy looking German Roller youngsters.

 Both youngsters look short and wide with their feathers starting to fluff out. They were chilling and way too cold. So I turned off the exhaust fan and observed them.

Compare these two youngsters from the same nest. The one on the left looks normal but the one on the right is timid, shy, and dumpy!

Closer examination of the dumpy youngster revealed a sharp breast bone.  The youngster is too thin.  Thin birds chill easily, just like thin people. Birds fluff their feathers to keep warm.

So the two dumpy youngsters have been moved to an empty cage together.  Immediately, one of the youngsters was happier and eating. The positive thing about this is that the chill in the room helped me find the thin chicks quicker before they were sickly.

Tip: When moving birds to a new cage, do not add them to an existing group where the new kid on the block is subject to harassment from the establishment. Rather move all you wanted to house together to a new cage setting to disrupt territorial problems.

Update: July 20, 2014 Dumpy birds are looking great. I gave them 1/2 tsp Avi-tech AviGain Supplement mixed in to their dish of  cous cous, olive oil, poppy seed and Bird Supply of New Hampshire Belgian Nestling food.  

 Don't call us Dumpy any more!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Border Fancy Love Eating Indian Spinach

This morning while shopping at Kim Son Asian Food Market, I spotted a dark green vine-like spinach commonly called Indian Spinach.

Of course, the Borders love it!

At first I placed it low and non-treating but then moved it up higher and higher. Next it will be so high they have to stretch to get it!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Molting Time Munchies

Young Borders
This quick and easy dish is a bird favorite molting time munchies.  To prepare take cous cous add olive oil and poppy seed and add hot water to cover and leave a generous water layer on top. Stir occasionally to break it up till it is all separates. (If you don't stir, it all sticks together but once you stir you can fix it!) (I make up six cups cous cous in a batch and use 1/2 cup olive oil and 3/4 cup poppy seed) Add your favorite dry nestling food such as Novafood, CeDe or this is Bird Supply of New Hampshire Belgian Nestling food (contains perilla seed and soy protein).

 Outer cabbage leaves or broccoli florets or kale leaves are also popular. Greens are especially loved by my Borders and bring beautiful yellow coloring to their feathers.

Lucca says those are fine for the canaries but he would rather have popcorn to munch on while we intently watches the World Cup!