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Whether you’re an experienced canary enthusiast or
a novice, you can’t fail to learn something from the A-Z guide.
A is for April. This is the time of year when
the breeding season starts in earnest. It is a target date, which
ensures that parent birds will have ample natural daylight hours to
enable them to
feed their chicks, particularly in providing plenty of food to last
through the hours of darkness.
B is for Boldness. Cock canaries of all
varieties display a bolder attitude than their partners, particularly
around the eye. Learning to recognize this boldness helps new
fanciers overcome the problematical sex-change birds that have been
experienced in the past.
C is for Condition. Condition is essential, whether
for general health, a quick moult, show season or breeding. Birds
are out of condition will fail to perform and ultimately perish unless
D is for Daily routines. Our birds rely on us
for their every need, and are helped greatly by a daily routine
throughout the year. If you cannot guarantee the time when you’ll
arrive home, feed the birds early each morning and make it your daily
E is for Eggs. Canaries should lay 3-5 eggs per
clutch, one each morning and replacing them with a dummy egg until all
are laid mains they should hatch within a couple of hours of each
other, allowing each
chick an equal chance of survival.
F is for Feed Supplements. We supplement our
own food intake by adding essential vitamins, either knowingly or
unknowingly through the manufacturers’ processes – just read the
packets! Similarly, hard seeds do not provide all the nutrients our
birds need. Providing a balanced diet throughout the year
according to the season helps maintain the maximum health of our
stock. Most successful breeders supplement a
basic diet, achieving this in various ways.
G is for Greenfood. Canaries relish fresh Greenfood,
but take care it is not contaminated.. Chickweed, dandelion, shepherd’s
purse and plantain (rats’ tails) are all commonly fed by those lucky
to obtain fresh supplies, although lettuce, cress and broccoli make
substitutes. Greenfood is especially useful during the breeding
but if it cannot be obtained then a supply of sprouted seed is equally
H is for Hygiene. Clean feeding pots, cages
& utensils are a must in an efficient birdroom. Whether we
use household soaps and detergents, birdroom cleansers or bleaches is
our own choice, but there is no excuse for unhygienic conditions.
I is for Incubation. Canary eggs take an
average 13.5 days to hatch, with first round clutches taking slightly
longer because of colder conditions. If eggs have not hatched
after, say, 16 days, place them in a cup of warm water. Any that
are full will bobble around. As the young chick kicks inside the shell,
and will soon hatch. If the eggs float lifelessly, or sink and
stay at the bottom of the cup, they can be thrown away.
J is for Junior. Junior exhibitors are
few and far between these days, and the odds on any remaining long term
are slight as external pressures compete for their time. However,
look out for any juniors who are interested, as they often return to
keeping later in life.
K is for Killing with kindness. Overfeeding,
mollycodding stock and using too much heating are all provided with the
best of intentions, but in the long term they do little to improve the
of your stock. Work out a feeding and cleaning routine, then
to it and your birds will flourish.
L is for Line breeding. The quickest way
to succeed is to develop a line of related birds – resisting the
temptation to buy birds from several different sources – and
concentrate on establishing a related breeding line. Limiting the
gene pool helps you control the quality of the offspring, while using
unrelated stock is much less predictable.
M is for Moulting. A quick, clean moult is
essential, both for breeding birds and first year birds, before the
show season. Birds change dramatically during the moult, and
those showing early signs of promise should be caged individually to
prevent their feathers becoming damaged.
N is for Nothing going right. We all know the
adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. It applies
especially to canaries, and new breeders will quickly learn that their
are not always predictable.
O is for Out of the cards. Winning is only
satisfying when you have bred the bird yourself. At the more
competitive shows, new breeders will be competing against more
experienced novice breeders, and will be lucky to get in among the
cards. Learn why your birds have been placed in their respective
positions by comparing them with their classmates or by asking advice
form the judge. This will help you recognize the traits that
create an exhibition canary.
P is for Parasites. Lice and mites bring down
the health of your stock, and are particularly dangerous at breeding
time. Clean conditions and regular use of anti-mite products will
control these pests. These treat both birds and cages.
Remember to spray birds returning from shows before placing them in
Q is for Quality, Quality stock, quality
feather, quality accommodations, quality show cages and quality food
mixtures are essential and the end result makes it all
worthwhile. Sacrifice quality and you are compromising your
R is for Rings. Split celluloid rings can be used to
identify birds and are easy to apply or take off, though ringing
canaries is not usually essential. It is important to keep
records of parentage so future breeding programmes are not compromised,
regardless of whether
or not birds are ringed.
S is for Seed. Seed is convenient food for
canaries. It is easy to feed, easy to store and readily
available. Most birds will take a standard canary mixture, and
this, complemented by condition seed and later soaked or sprouted seed,
forms the basic diet for your stock. A seed diet supplemented by
other foods helps keep canaries in good health.
T is for Training. Training birds for shows is
best started at an early age, from six weeks onwards. Carefully
handling birds in an old show cage, known as a training cage, at this
age means that the birds will develop confidence and display to their
best advantage throughout the show season.
U is for Unflighted. These birds are so named
because, in their initial moult from the nest feather to adult plumage,
do not moult their wing and tail feathers. These are only moulted
the birds’ second moult, after which the birds are termed flighted and
in the over-year classes (adult or open class).
V is for Vigour. A vigorous canary is a
healthy canary. Avoid birds that show signs of illness, wheezing,
sitting huddled on the perch, tails pumping, heads tucked under their
wings or are generally listless. These signs indicate that the
bird is not in peak condition, and attempts to breed from it will
bring disappointment. Always select vigorous, healthy stock.
W is for Weaning. Weaning canaries begins
before the young are removed from their parents. At 18-24 days
old, chicks will be seen picking up softfood, soaked seeds or greenfood
, and at this stage it is safe to remove them, keeping them in family
groups. Fresh soft food should provided in shallow dishes
with paper put across the cage floor, Each time the softfood is
replaced – about three times a day – a sheet of paper should also be
removed, and with it any stale or spilled food. After a week or
so of this, access to seed can be provided, to which a large amount of
sweet red rape has been added,. The young canaries will eat this
with relish, and being a soft seed it is easy for them
to crack it before moving on to the more difficult, harder canary
seeds. When the birds are 5-6 weeks old, they should be separated
into single cages to allow the better birds to develop to their full
X is for exhibition – and yes, I know it doesn’t
start with an x! Exhibitions are there to be enjoyed, whether at
local cage bird society level, national open show or specialist
club level. By joining a local CBS club, new fanciers will be
introduced to the exhibition side of our hobby. They will gain
much satisfaction by comparing their birds with those of their peers,
and discussing the merits.
Y is for Yellow. In canaries, “yellow” is a
descriptive term for a feather type not a colour. The structure
of a yellow feather allows the colour to be displayed right to the tip
of the feather. A buff feather, in comparison, carries no
pigmentation at the outer edges, which results in a frosted
appearance. A paler colour is displayed on
a buff bird, which has a wider feather structure than on a yellow bird
has denser, narrower feathering.
Z is for Zygodactyl. These are birds that have
two toes pointing forwards and two backwards. However, this term
does not apply to canaries as they are perching birds of the order
Passeriformes, having three toes pointing forwards and one toe pointing
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