Linda asked me to pen some of my experiences in breeding my border canaries and that she can share on her website blog. Firstly, who am I? Stuart Mason from Blackpool, England and have kept borders continuously for over 40 years – this included being in partnership with my grandfather (Bill Mason) when I was just a boy and then when he passed on I continued to transport the current stud at the time around the world with me during my military service. Both in the late partnership with my grandfather and most recently with my current partner John O’Callaghan we have enjoyed success on the show bench and able to claim that we have never shown at an all border show and not had a special award. Recently due to work commitments the chance to show the birds has reduced to zero.
So, what is my ethos? I work on the basis that for a canary hen to breed successfully, she requires a minimum of 14 hours of light daily, warmth, and the correct high protein diet. When I say breeding successfully, I mean that, not only does she lay a full clutch of fertile eggs, she also rears the chicks with a minimum of trouble.
I like many others have brought forward the breeding season and for hens to produce chicks 3 or 4 weeks earlier than normal, you must provide an artificial Spring season and the correct diet and I do this over an 8 week period. I allow 8 weeks as this is enough time to bring the birds into breeding condition gradually providing that you’re all year round management is sound. If you try to bring your birds into condition in a shorter period your breeding season is very likely to end up in disaster, infertile eggs, hens leaving the nest and this sort of thing.
There a quite a few does and don’ts, but before I get into the nitty- gritty of light, diet, heat, etc, and at the risk of boring you or telling you what you already know, I feel it is important to make certain points quite clear. This is the way I successfully did it last year and not the law unto MASON. It helped me breed the birds early. Everyone has their own method of breeding and I am not suggesting you follow mine, but I am merely outlining the method I use. In no way do I want to be the cause of you or anyone else’s downfall this year.
Young stock birds should be a minimum of 10 months old before breeding commences. Therefore the first thing to consider is when the young hen you might be breeding with this year was actually reared last year? Try using a very late bred hen to breed early will only end up in tears, infertile eggs for sure or even egg-bound. Always check the date of hatch of any outcross you might bring in, this is completely overlooked 99% of the time, be honest, how many times have you asked that question and then taken it into account when you pair up?