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Ronnie Sillitoe’s  2020 Breeding Diary

 

 

 

For family and personal reasons my breeding season starts earlier and finishes sooner than many other fanciers.

 

This means the updates I will be giving each week are six to eight weeks in advance of majority of the fanciers reading these pages.

Please do not think you are behind and try to force your birds to catch up with mine as this will only lead to disaster

 

After the show season the birds have been relaxing

With daily baths being given but the seed regime is one hopper of seed a week and only fresh water daily as to avoid hens getting fat and the difficulty in getting them slimmer ,there are no extras given during this period .

 

Prior to the conditioning programme the birds are treated with Baycox to get rid of any coccidiosis and then two days on Prolyte C .

Then a treatment of Tylodox (from the vet) and after that Prolyte C for 5 days.

 

This is when I commence the programme.

 

Week 1. Lights 10 ½ hrs. I have seen good activity in the stock .I have tied soft string to the cage fronts of the hens, I use this as a gauge to see which hens are pulling at it and coming into condition and those which are not.All birds treated for mite.

 

Week 2 Lights 11 hrs sees not much change

At this time I am prepping the clay nest pans by steeping them in bleach for a few days and also doing the same to the nest felts then I wash the nest felts again as I think they have been treated by the manufacturer. All birds treated for mite.

 

Week 3 Sees the lights on 11 1/2 hrs and the hens looking well and cocks singing well.All birds treated for mite and vents trimmed whilst trimming birds are checked for condition and feed adjusted accordingly.

 

Week 4 Lights on 12 hrs begins with cocks getting louder and some hens shredding the soft string which I replace.

 

Week 5 Lights on 12 1/2 hrs sees the second half of the program start when I start to give ferti-oil on the treats each day till they are ready .the stock cocks are almost in full song with one or two second round cocks a bit slower.

 

Week 6 Lights on 13 hrs sees the cocks in full song and trying to out sing the other cocks and some of the hens carrying nesting material pulled from the holders on the cage front at this time I sit and observe their behaviour so I don't miss the odd hen which wants to go very early.

 

Week 6+1 Lights held back at 13hrs for a week to let some hens catch up to the cock’s condition.

 

Week 7 Lights on 13 1/2 hrs the cocks I want to go with the hens are hung onto the hens stock cage to let them see each other, the first hen has starting building and a few more are not far behind .

 

Week 8 Final lights move to 14 hrs 4 hens have built nests 1 hen has laid and several more are carrying, things look promising  as cocks are treading hens but one or two are squabbling another week should help

 

Plus One week on and 8 hens have built nests 3 hens have laid.

 

Plus Two weeks This week sees another few hens building nests and cocks seem to be treading well, a few fussy hens fighting with the chosen cocks but I will try again tomorrow.

The weather has been stormy, wet and very cold but hasn't affected the birds. I checked the first nest of the season, using a light box, at five days and the eggs were infertile which isn’t a surprise as I never saw them treading and the hen seemed more interested in building and sitting I will leave her to sit for 10 days and them remove the nest for 3-4 days then give her a fresh one.

I checked the second nest and those eggs are fertile so I am happy with that.

The hens that are sitting have full hoppers of mixed seed( no extras) as they don’t come off the eggs very often and I want them to have what they want ,the water is just plain for those sitting and building. The ones still not fit enough are still on the conditioning programme

 

Plus Three Weeks.   This week has been very cold and thankfully no east winds, as I believe that winds from the east bring conditions that promote bacteria,mould and fungus most of which you cannot see (just my theory) .

I have a few hens sat on fertile eggs and the first are due at the weekend. Some of the unflighted hens have laid one or two eggs and shown no interest in sitting but I believe they will settle and lay a full clutch soon, but theres always one or two problem hens that seem to mess on forever building and stripping only to rebuild again, I think this is immaturity and hopefully will settle later in the season.

I use 4 inch water pipe cut into 3 1/2 inch pieces  and have two ventilation holes cut out ,my nest pans sit on the top which I can move to any part of the cage the hen wants to be in .(see photo)

If you use this method please put pipes without nest pans in as soon as possible as the hens can take a few hours to get used to them .

 

Plus Four Weeks.   Thankfully the first chicks arrived on time and are getting fed well. On the other hand a young hens eggs were addled which occurs when the eggs have started to grow and stopped, this particular hen seemed to be off the nest for long periods and this resulted in the eggs becoming chilled, so be vigilant and move any eggs you think are vulnerable as you can always put them back the day before they are dueto hatch..

I only give the feeding hens a small amount of egg food gradually increasing (nothing added) for the first 7 days ,I find this works well, after 7 days the hens are given more choices which I believe keeps their interest up in feeding.

Hanging show cages on the cocks stock cage makes them compete against the cock next door making them super fit and this helps in fertilisation of the eggs and keeping them ready for the next hen but make sure you give them extra food to keep up their stamina ( soft food, groats ,greens and condition seed} .

When the hens have started laying I give them slithers of cuttlefish in their finger drawers this I find this works well as the hens use the calcium from their bones to make the eggs then replenish it with the cuttlefish or a calcium additive in the water or egg food afterwards.

I also record on cards which are hung on the stock cage with information on eggs laid, set and due dates (see photo).

I store my eggs in screw box holders with millet in the bottom and eggs stored point down only replacing them when the last egg is laid I don’t turn them in the box as I find it's not necessary (see photo ).

 

Plus Five Weeks A few more chicks hatched and doing well but the season is patchy with some clutches not all fertile and some hens laying but not interested in sitting, this happens when you start early and usually comes right later.

One or two young hens still messing about as they are not mature enough .also two old hens not ready to go, however I am confident they will have at least one round.

The weather has been decent this week with good sunshine but cold the hens always look more active with a bit of sunshine.

 

I've started to make sprouted seed as my first chicks are a week old now, I soak the seed for 8 hours adding a teaspoon of  Milton sterilising fluid,  then rinse in a sieve several times then drain the water and cover the top to stop anything going in, at this time of year it takes 3-4 days to start growing (see photos) but the hens love it.

 

Plus six Weeks  

This week has seen a bit warmer weather which is helpful but also a few frosts on a night.

The first chicks are a few days away from weaning and looking good.

A bit of a low 2 young hens having infertile eggs after I saw both treading its probably there not quite in sync with each other and hope fully they will come good next time I will remove the nest at 10 days giving them time to rest ready to go again.

Also, another nest of addled eggs very disappointed with this one as they are a cracking pair.

Good news is a few more hatched and doing well with border hens feeding well.

I lost a stock cock on Monday he was in great condition and had just filled eggs with one hen and when I went in the cabin first thing he had his head under his wing with plenty of weight on him there were no outward signs to make an assessment i.e. droppings colour and size, he was put in the hospital cage but died within the hour giving no time for any treatment it’s possible I missed him the night before looking unwell so be vigilant at all times  .

The hens are hammering the green food which is ground up broccoli and kale leaves (cavolo) .

I've added a few petite pois peas to the egg food the hens love these but don’t give to many, also a few slithers of cuttlefish which the hens relish on top of the greens

 

Plus Seven Weeks 

This week has brought east winds which always has an effect on my breeding hens.I lost 3 chicks(4days old) when the hen came off them and they became too cold to save, also a nest of dead in shell which always is disheartening.

On the upside all the chicks are growing nicely and the first 3 were rung and are feeding nicely ,when weaning I use 50-50 eggfood and pearle morbide, the green in the pearle morbide mixed with the eggfood seems to make them want to pick at it, and if their not picking up with that I give them some garden peas that always seems to do the trick.

The wind has turned southeast in the last couple of days and I have eggs due today but they haven't hatched yet,I've put them in the egg buddy and they are still alive so fingers crossed for tomorrow. This year the hens are feeding well on soakseed and blended broccoli and kale leaves or spring cabbage. When topping up, I use cotton buds to top up cutting the ends off

There's difficult times ahead with the current health crisis so please take care and stay at home if you can and thank you to all those who have to work to keep us all safe.

 

Plus Eight Weeks  

The weather this week has been cold with east/ north east winds which is the worst conditions for breeding for me ,I have long since believed canaries can sense barometric pressure and adjust to suit  ( sitting tight and not feeding well)it meaning they breed better when there’s a south/west winds which are warmer.

This week has seen the hens wanting to go back to nest at 15/16 days which brings a problem if they are on their own as some hens will neglect all their hard work to go again, so I don’t put a new nest pan in or run cocks in at this stage as you could lose the chicks you have .

I've had to hand feed two 23 days old chicks as the mother stopped feeding them, I use Versa Laga A19 hand mix as I find it works well and those chicks are now picking up.

As I said the weather wasn't good at the start of the week but has warmed up a bit with sunshine coming through the windows this makes the hens more interested and they are feeding well again after a slow feeding few days.

I’ve set some second-round eggs so hopefully they will be full and I will check them with the light box at 5 days.

Stay safe everyone, and breed a few good luck

 

Plus Nine Weeks

The weather from last update has been east and north winds slowing breeding and feeding down but since the weekend it's been south and southwest with warm weather which changes everything in the cabin ,the cocks sound louder then hens are busier making it more enjoyable for myself.

I have rung a good few chicks now and only a couple have not taken to feeding themselves ,so I've been giving them A19 hand mix which is great but getting them to take it isn’t easy but persistence pays and they are now picking up.

A lot of the hens are now set again and the eggs fertile so fingers crossed for early next week. With the warm weather the humidity had gone down to 45% today so I've put a Humidifier on(see photo) to raise it to 65% as any chicks trying to hatch will struggle as the membrane in the egg will shrink around them making it like a straitjacket alternatively you can wet the floor to raise the humidity or do like I do and wash the floors which helps.

The young cocks have got a grip on treading now and will get their chance in the second round to influence their Gene's into the stud.

The hens are feeding well and loving the green food of ground up broccoli and Covelo Negri kale leaves. My show cage training has started by hanging one on the stock cage and their happy bobbing in and out.

Good luck everyone

 

Plus Ten Weeks

This week has everything weather wise hot, cold dry, frost but no rain winds from the east, west, north and south and so inconsistent the birds are all over the place with hens laying missing a day then laying and missing a day. Again, it's frustrating for them as the day time temperatures reached 24 degrees  making it 28.5 degrees inside the cabin and then minus 1 degree outside on the night  , the heating is set for 16 degrees so the cabin has seen a fluctuation of 12.5 degrees in one day ,the only problem with that is the humidity through the day has been very low dropping to 30 % at one point and dropping again through the night as the dry heat from the tubular heaters dry everything out ,so the use of a humidifier has been a God's send  I've also been washing the floor and that helps as well .

As I've said the birds are all over the place and I've had two hens leave the eggs at 14 days because they've not hatched on time and they hatched 24 hours later, but with this you have to shuffle chicks about and this is where your recording is a must so you know what is where .

I took some chicks away at 23 days old as I had seen two of them feeding themselves but found later that the 3rd one would not feed itself for love nor money so I've had to syringe hand mix into its crop for two days and thankfully it's now decided to feed itself.

The majority of my hens are sitting again now so a few days quiet hopefully.

Stay safe everyone

 

Plus Eleven Weeks

This week has seen the weather coming from the east with very cold winds which has always been a problem for me ( I am on the coast)as the cold wind seems to unsettle my hens where feeding slows down with hens sitting tight and some hens stopping feeding and start carrying nesting material, as if they have given up and want to start again, this is when I turn the heating up to 18 degrees and I find this helps .

In previous updates I've said I only use Perle Morbide when weaning but with the hens being slow to feed I tried it in a couple of nest and some hens took to it and fed it others prefer the green food but it was worth giving it a try as it kept a few hens going .

This year had been a real challenge for me with just about every problem you can think of with no rhyme or reason as I don't change much from year to year, some trusted hens have struggled with the conditions, laying two or three eggs and not sitting then laying again without being  tread very quickly .

Some young hens have done well with others almost clueless, poor nest building etc.

I've seen treading that has made me think these eggs will be fertile to only find they are clear.

I've seen, when putting the cock into the hens cage her squatting and the cock looks uninterested then two minutes later singing vigorously only to see the hen uninterested.

It seems to me that they are not quite in sync and that patience is a virtue and they will come good as the weather is set to turn in 3-4 days with the wind coming from the south and hopefully a bit of consistency.

Good luck everyone and stay safe.

 

Plus 12 Weeks

This week has seen another mixed bag of weather warm some days cold through the night with no rain at all where I live.

The main problems this week has been 2 egg bound hens, which I can’t remember having had one in the last 10 years, both hens were put in the hospital cage and the heat turned up to 80 degrees this thankfully this worked for me and there both fine.

My thoughts are the fluctuations in temperature with it dropping to 3 degrees through the night have not helped, but since this happened I have started giving all the hens a finger draw of seed mixed with cod liver oil which is rich in vitamin A and D, also I am giving laying hens a finger draw of egg food mixed with calcium mixed a bit stronger than usual .

The hens that are feeding seem to be slow to get going in the mornings and I’m topping up those chicks but by the afternoon they are back feeding well.

The weaned chicks are doing well and are changing by the day and loving the soak seed with a few eating dry seed out of the normal seed hoppers, which I put on at 6 weeks. These chicks  6 weeks old are being treated against coccidiosis at this time  as you can lose a goodun through this, I use Baycox for 2 days . Some hens are still doing strange things like calling for mating whilst incubating eggs then going back to sitting.

I've also been giving pink and black minerals throughout the season, which I was asked about at one of the club meetings, and I told the members that this stops them licking the bars of the cage searching for minerals .

Everything thing I write in this column is what I do personally and may be of use to those having problems, however as I have always said if your own routine is working, stick with it!

Please feel free to send to Colin your thoughts and suggestions that may help others looking for help.

 

Plus 13 Weeks

This week has been a strange one for me as I come to the end of my breeding season I've had a Hen lay 5 double yolk eggs all of which are fertile but I've never had a double yolk hatch in all the years I've been breeding  so it's a big disappointment for me as this hen has produced 3 nice chicks already, I will see what happens in due course but I won’t hold my breath.

The weather continues to hamper the season with cold then warm days and frosts on a night and sea fog reducing visibility to 50 metres early week.

One thing I've noticed are the birds devouring the greens more than usual so I may have a vitamin A deficiency which I will address by giving cod liver oil mixed with the seed to all the stock via a finger draw, this is just an observation, the normal diet shouldn't let this happen but I'll keep you posted on developments.

Show cage training has begun for the first round chicks by hanging a show cage onto the stock cage for a week then lifting it off and placing it on a stand for ten minutes then building it up to a 15 minute sunbathing (sun permitting) in the outside porch .

I've had a few infertile nests through the season and I am convinced that it’s because the hens are calling for tread and I've run the cock in and he’s treaded her, which I do 3 times a day and after 3-4 days the hen doesn't squat for him which usually is  the sign she’s going to lay soon but then  hasn't laid for up to a week or longer ,so my thoughts though I may be wrong, the sperm had died  or weakened before fertilization of the egg, so I've waited a bit longer before I put the cock in for the first time in the second round and this seems to be better with full eggs in most nests .

Stay safe everyone

 

Plus 14 Weeks

This week has been a very dry week with humidity dropping below 40% which isnt good for any hatching so I've washed floors put the humidifier on and raised it to 55-60% which is better.

This weekend will see the last ones hatching and the start of the final weeks for me ,it's not been a great season for me but I have a good few so I am happy with what I have and will see what the moult brings .

The cocks are still fit and singing loudly but most hens are rearing or sitting and hopefully a few more chicks will come along.

I said last week about a vitamin A deficiency but since the cod liver oil seed and plenty greens this seems to have sorted the stock out so keep giving them for the rest of your season if needed.

The youngsters have been enjoying the sunshine in the outside porch and having baths put on in between it's about now I single them off to settle them down to try and stop any stiff claw, I did have one chick look like it had damaged the back claw but a couple of days on the rod  seems to have (see photo) sorted it out it must have just been a sprain but being vigilant will save a few, so keep checking .

 

Plus 15 Weeks

This week has seen better and more consistent weather with good deals of sunshine and higher temperatures but with low humidity (35-45%) which always makes the stock seem brighter.

The last few chicks have hatched, but I lost a nest of 4 to dead in shell which was very disappointing, I always break the eggs open to see why they haven't hatched.  These had gone two days over their hatch date and died trying to get out, in my opinion it was poor incubation as the nest the hen built wasn’t great, so I will make sure in the future when setting the eggs I improve if necessary the construction of the nests .

The nest of 5 doubles is due today haven't hatched yet but I've had them on the egg buddy and they are still alive, so I wait with anticipation.

The hens are still feeding lots of greens and sprouted seed and not so much egg food.

The chicks that are feeding themselves are getting egg food at the early morning feed, then egg food and soaked seed at 11am, then groats and greens at 3pm and then egg food at 7pm. They are also eating unlimited mixed canary which is topped up daily.

I've started spraying the older ones when there in the show cage for their 1hour session, which they love but when spraying don’t get too close it startles them.

A little honey on the top bar on the show cage makes them stand up and keeps their interest.

At night I leave the fans on with one blowing in and one pulling out they are located opposite ends of the cabin keeping a decent airflow and stopping stale air causing a problem.

Stay safe everyone, and with a bit of luck we might get to show a few.

 

Plus 16 Weeks

This week has seen warm settled weather and one or two of my stock has started to drop flights which is about right for me.

The 5 double yolk eggs failed to hatch but 2 of them were pipping on opening them up the chicks were top and tail with the pipping chick at the airspace and the other at chicks head at the pointed bit of the egg probably a case of the one on pipping killed the other which in turn killed it .

My last few chicks are nearly ready to come away and that's my season over (thank God).

The first batch of chicks 6 weeks old and above have been treated for coccidiosis which is necessary as this could make them go light and you may lose a promising youngster.

I don't treat any chicks till they are 6 weeks old as they have never shown symptoms of coccidiosis till after 6 weeks.

The youngsters that are away are getting show cage training with the show cages hung on the stock cages all day ,I remove them to put them in the outside porch to spray which I do from a distance as I don't want to startle  them ,I do this daily which I find settles them for the early shows.

The weaned chicks are doing well feeding on egg food, green food, soaked groats, soaked seed and a few petit pois peas.

Plus 17 Weeks

This week has gone from very warm to very cool which will cause outbreaks of coccidiosis and bacterial infections in the cabin possibly resulting in chicks with full crops dying so I treat for this with baycox for two days.

Most of my chicks are weaned now I am only waiting for some 18-day olds to fledge then all the nest pans will be out and washed and put away for next year.

I keep my chicks in pairs preferably cock and hen as two cocks will squabble, I give them soaked groats to bulk up which they take well also soaked wheat daily.

The adult birds are starting to moult now and it won't be long before the chicks join them.

At this time, I put Premoult 100 into the water daily this gives them everything they need for a good moult.

Also at this time I start reducing the lights by 15 minutes a week until I reach 10hrs then I stop  and they remain at 10hrs till the last few weeks of the show season and then I reduce again by 15 minutes a week till I get to 8hrs, which they stay at until I start to condition up for next year .

The diet for chicks through the moult is morning soft food, dinnertime green food and groats, teatime soak seed, evenings soft food and wheat . I give different things each time so they are stimulated to eat new things each time. The hard seed hoppers are topped up every day until the end of August, after this time you have to watch for birds putting on too much weight so I adjust the amount they have.

Show cage training continues right through the moult with a bit of honey on the top bar to encourage them to show themselves.

 

Plus 18 Weeks

This week has seen the temperatures plummet from 24 degrees to 11 degrees where I live and lots of rain raising the humidity to a high level so the dehumidifier has been working quite a lot and also the heating turned up a couple of degrees.

The big fluctuation in temperature makes bacterial/coccidiosis and fungal spores start to grow and puts the stock in danger so keeping the cabin dry and warm is most important to minimise the danger.

My chicks have been treated with Baycox at the age of 6 weeks for this purpose to prevent them going light and as soon as the younger ones reach 6 weeks they will also be treated.

As I have finished breeding my hens are now in a flight cages for a well-earned rest with access to baths which I put on for an hour in a morning to minimise moisture with the weather being damp. They are fed mixed canary , greens and soaked groats to help them through the moult.

The chicks have a show cage hung onto the stock cage all day which they bob in and out of, but I remove them on a night to stop the chicks sleeping in them. There is water and condition seed in the two drinkers on the cage.

I use Premolt 100 in the water daily to give them all the nutrients they need to get through the moult and find this helps a lot to give them a nice sheen on the feathers.

The youngsters this year I've found have gone for hard seed earlier than previous years so I've kept them topped up daily ,the protein in mixed canary is much the same as egg food so they’re not missing out, also when they are taking more hard seed they seem to moult quicker than those who eat more egg food .

Stay safe everyone

 

Plus 19 Weeks

This week has seen thick coastal fog all week and with that brings high humidity even though I have finished breeding I still keep the humidity down to 70% as bacteria, mould and fungus cause sickness in the stock, so the dehumidifier has been running all week.

The damp weather also plays havoc with the moult and stops the birds finishing off so a warm and dry cabin in paramount.

I put a product called Premolt 100 in the water daily through the moult to give the birds vitamins and minerals/trace elements to give them all they need to have a good clean moult.

The birds also get soaked seed, green food, soft food, groats and wheat on different days.

I train the birds daily for an hour on the stand then spray them with DYNA-MITE in warm water to give them a nice sheen at a teaspoon to one litre of water.

I now start decreasing the light by half an hour per week to 10 hours at which time I stop for the show season then mid-November I finally decrease the lights to 8 hrs at the same rate.

This is the final update for this breeding season as there is no longer much to report for a while in the shed.

Good luck everyone and please stay safe