Improving your Bird’s breeding Potential by using Booster
Whilst each fancier will work to their own calendar, most canary breeders start to increase the level of nutrition for their birds from around mid-December onwards. Following on from a more austere winter diet imposed to prevent excessive fat build up, both cock and hen birds seem to benefit from an up-lift in the level of certain nutrients. Accompanied by an increase in day light length, improved nutrition mimics the arrival of spring and triggers the first stages of the reproductive cycle. At this early stage in the breeding cycle, this up-lift is usually achieved by the introduction of egg-food on a once or twice weekly basis. This also serves to accustom the birds to eating the food for the time when it will be used to rear chicks.
It would be wrong to suggest that by increasing nutrient levels at this time the breeder will encourage the birds to ‘lay down’ reserves of various nutrients in anticipation of the advancing breeding season. In general terms this does not happen. Passerine birds, the order, to which canaries and both British and Foreign finches belong, are classed as income breeders as opposed to some species of birds that are designated as capital breeders. What this means is that the canary’s nutritional needs for breeding are balanced on a day to day basis by the diet and that nutrients are not stored in expectation of egg laying (capital breeders on the other hand store nutrients and lay eggs and incubate often without feeding by using these nutritional stores. This is common in some species of ducks and geese and typically some species of penguins). Calcium metabolism for example, essential for the successful calcification of the egg shell, ebbs and flows not just over the breeding cycle but over every twenty-four hour period with bouts of demineralisation and remineralisation of the bones, the source of stored calcium, as the activity in the shell-gland increases and decreases with each egg laid. The calcium for this replenishment is taken in on a daily basis. Similarly increased levels of protein essential not only for the production of the egg but also the increased tissue mass of the female reproductive tract are only required in the few days prior to egg-laying as these are not stored and are funded on a short-term loan by the body which is then ‘topped back up’ during the following days feeding.
It should be apparent from these initial comments that during egg and sperm production – it is important that the male bird is not forgotten – that there is a lot of metabolic activity going on within the organs of the reproducing bird. Not just the reproductive organs; the major organ affected is the liver as almost all of the nutritional components of the egg yolk and albumen are constructed in the liver and transported in the blood stream to the ripening follicles in the ovary where they are deposited. All this metabolic activity generates a lot of potentially harmful waste products called ‘free-radicals’. These potentially poisonous by-products of everyday life are neutralised by a range of nutrients collectively called antioxidants. These antioxidants are some of the common vitamins and minerals with which we are familiar. However, familiarity should not detract from the job that these ‘free-radical scavengers’ do within the body and the fact that the majority of them can only be acquired through the diet is why they are referred to as essential vitamins and minerals. Carotenoids (the precursors of vitamin A), vitamin A itself, the many forms of vitamin E, selenium, coenzyme Q10 are all used to protect the body from attack. Many of these antioxidants are stored in the bird’s body, most commonly the liver. Vitamin C is also a strong antioxidant but for birds, with one or two exceptions in species not kept as cage pets, this is not an essential vitamin (unlike with humans) and can be synthesised within the bird’s body.
The preferential sites of attack of these poisons are cell membranes. Cell membranes are made from tissue with a high fat content and attack by free radicals denatures the cell membrane causes it to degenerate. The higher the level of fat in a tissue the more susceptible it is to attack and also the greater the metabolic activity within the tissue the greater the free-radical production. So one of the most susceptible organs in the body is the testis and sperm production is particularly susceptible to peroxidation the technical term for the damage done by these free radicals. Sperm damage as you can imagine, leads to reduced sperm viability and lower fertility. This is perhaps why vitamin E has got the reputation for being the ‘sex’ vitamin by (allegedly) improving fertility and libido. To date this has not been substantiated in birds but higher levels of all of the antioxidants will undoubtedly reduce the levels of free-radical production and the potentially deleterious effect on sperm quality.
In discussing high levels of metabolic tissue activity then that which takes place in the egg during the development of the avian embryo must rate as great as any. Avian embryonic growth – from a single dividing cell to a recognisable chick - happens for many species of birds, within a matter of days. As well as the genetic machinery to make it all happen, successful embryonic development requires a sustained level of body-temperature warmth and a supply of fuel. Fuel supply to the developing embryo is provided by the yolk and albumen of the egg (with additional calcium from the shell which thins during incubation) and must be complete at the time of laying. It is apparent from this that if the egg is deficient in any of the necessary nutritional components required for successful growth of the chick at the time the egg is formed, then there is no chance for it to be added later. The high levels of fat contained within the yolk and the high rate of metabolism means that the risk of free-radical damage is high. The greatest period of risk is just prior to pipping when the little chick breaks into the air-space in the egg and starts to moves from non-breathing to breathing in air. This is the period when the highest levels of dead-in-shell occur. It is imperative, therefore to the survival of the developing embryo that these poisons are neutralised.
As has been discussed, the nutrition of the egg depends exclusively on the sound nutrition of the hen and her ability to fund the egg with the necessary antioxidants. This in turn will only come from a diet rich in antioxidants.
A great and convenient way to ensure good levels of these antioxidants is by providing BoosterR . Booster is derived from sustainable source of red palm oil fruit with added monolaurin. The red palm fruit oil provides a whole food source of naturally occurring antioxidants with high levels of carotenoids, the precursors of vitamin A, 6 forms of vitamin E and coenzyme Q10 another of the body’s strong free-radical scavengers. Together with a good balance of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) necessary for forming healthy cells, BoosterR provides an excellent nutritional additive right throughout the year but is essential during breeding and rearing time.
Booster can be easily administered to your birds through their egg-food. Simply melt the oil within the sachet by either placing it between your warm hands or in warm water for a few minutes and drizzle it over the already prepared egg food. Thoroughly mix in the oil before it gets chance to set (again this is best achieved if the egg-food is still warm). Supplement at a rate of around 3ml per 100gm of dry egg- food. Enjoyed by adults and chicks, Booster can make a significant difference to the nutritional wellbeing of both your breeding birds and their unhatched chicks.
For those breeders who would like a more in depth review of the subject then please read the article ‘Feeding for Breeding’ attached to this email.
Brian Stockdale BVM&S MRCVS
Veterinary Adviser Meadows Animal Healthcare
Senior Partner Meadow Lane Veterinary Centre
Associate Lecturer Nottingham Veterinary School (Avian Module)