Breeding Survey Initial Findings from 60 Breeders
The Border Convention would like to thank all those who took the time and effort to complete the Breeding Survey forms and send them in.
1. A total of 871 Hens reared 1,465 chicks, an average of 1.682 / hen.
Highest Average of 4.1 / hen and a lowest of 0.4 / hen.
14% used Natural lighting
44 % used Artificial Lighting
32 % used a Combination
29% used heating the majority of which were fanciers who started breeding before the 21st march.
34% monitored humidity levels
22% used a humidifier
12% used other means (bucket of water, spraying, baths)
There seems to be some confusion between the use of humidifiers and dehumidifier.
96% used a commercial seed mix
4% mixed their own
6. Egg Food
100% used a commercial brand as a base
7. Green Food
84% fed green food with Broccoli being the most popular ingredient
8. Soaked Seeds
66% used soaked seed
64 % supplemented the diet with vitamins
51% used medication
49% did not
72% used Grit
96% Removed Eggs
13. Chicks Topped Up
30% Topped up their Chicks
26% recorded Low level
34% medium Level
40% High level
15.Hens Showing no interest
58% of breeders reported hens showing no interest this equated to a total of 137 hens which is 15.7% of the total used.
16 Hens Dying
A total of 104 hens died during the breeding season 11.94%
45% of breeders suffered a mite infestation during the year 70% of these were by red mite. ( there is an article already on red mite on the Download page)
The items highlighted in red are suitable subjects for articles and we hope in the coming months to produce articles on these.
Further investigation/calculation is needed on adding ingredients to egg food, and mortality rates in older chicks.
In the breeding survey 45% suffered with mite problems of which 70% were red mite and 30% were northern mite.
With this as with all problems in the bird room prevention is better than the cure.
Treatment for both would be putting a drop of Ivermectin (or something similar ) on the birds skin i.e. under the wing or on the rump above the base of the tail or at the back of the neck on the skin, I do my birds with a similar product to ivermectin and repeat at 7 days, then again repeat at a further 7days, which means a three week course to break the cycle of the mite i.e. killing the adults then in 7days killing any hatched mite eggs and again in 7 days to make sure I have eradicated them ,this is effective for northern mite which live and breed on the bird.
For red mite this treatment will kill any mite that go on the birds but the problem with red mite they live in the cracks and crevices of our bird room and only feed when the conditions are right for them, making it very difficult to eradicate.
There are numerous products on the market for spraying our cages and surrounding area which are extremely good i.e. Clean and Clear Checkmite , Poultry Shield and Banmite to name just a few ,but I have had mixed reviews from fanciers reporting the problem .
Red mite is very difficult to get rid of as it’s been reported that they can live for 12 months without feeding so any treatment has to be on going other treatments are Diatomaceous earth which looks like a powder but if mite crawl over it they get cut to ribbons as it’s sharp to them also various powders are available also a product call S76 and Redstop which goes in the drinking water and many more products , the answer to red mite is vigilance and continual usage of the treatment you decide upon .
Hens Not Showing Interest In Breeding
In the recent breeding survey 58% of fanciers reported hens not showing any interest in breeding.
Following on from treating the birds for mite. When you handle a bird to trim around the guide feathers before breeding you will be able to tell how much fat a bird is carrying and then you need to make some adjustments to its diet, The main problem with a bird’s diet is US we over feed thinking if we give it a bit more it will do better in the breeding season whereas IN FACT THEY DONT.
This is the time to look into our way of feeding by giving them a balanced mixed canary seed and only giving them enough to maintain them till conditioning begins. I give my birds a teaspoon full of seed per day (level finger draw) from the end of the show season until I begin to get them ready to breed, and if they are overweight I give them slightly less and more exercise room until they lose some fat, because fat birds give you, in my experience:
NO INTEREST IN BREEDING
When conditioning begins the fat birds that we have identified should still be watched carefully to stop them putting weight back on so when giving condition seed, egg food or soaked seed take the seed hopper off so that there is only one source of food (only returning it 30 minutes before lights out) because if you don’t the bird has access to two meals now and will get fat again.
WE MUST CHANGE OUR MIND SET. If a bird is showing no signs of breeding a dish of egg food or a slack hand full of conditioning seed isn’t going to make much difference we must catch the bird up and look at its weight and ration the seed to get the fat off ,
Going into lots of bird rooms I see the same old problem with fanciers topping up the hoppers every day allowing the birds to eat all the fatty seeds (hemp, niger, etc.) and giving them a huge portion of egg food to follow.
THE PROBLEM IS US, we must stop doing it, and then maybe the birds might start breeding, because only giving them a teaspoon of condition seed or egg food is enough to get them on the right path.
Lots of fanciers use only plain canary to trim their birds, but if you top the hoppers up every day you will still get fat birds as your feeding only carbohydrate which gives energy but if the birds is not exercising it will turn to fat, also its not getting a balanced diet which means it will end up lacking in other nutrients.
So in my opinion the answer is a mixed canary seed diet with a teaspoon of seed only per day or you can measure out 7-10 teaspoons of seed into a hopper for the week blowing off the husks daily, this will help your birds to stay trim and healthy.
FIT NOT FAT must be your watchwords
Humidity In The Birdroom
In the recent breeding survey only 34%of fanciers monitored humidity
This to me is one of the biggest factors in having a healthy stud, we should aim to keep the humidity to 70% and have a good airflow through our bird rooms, in an environment above 70% - 80% bacteria, mould, and fungus will start to grow and anything above 80%wii lead to our birds beginning to suffer with a host of ailments.
I have several humidity monitors (hygrometers) around the bird room at different heights which I check constantly, they are not expensive and well worth having. Without them you cannot monitor the humidity level.
(I bought mine online from uktoolcentre.co.uk).
To keep the humidity at 70% I use a DEHUMIDIFIER which takes moisture out of the air and keeps the conditions in my bird room comfortable.
You can also use heating as a way of keeping the humidity down as the dry heat from the heater will dry out the moisture in the air but without a hygrometer (humidity monitor) you would be guessing at the level of moisture in the air. However using heat of course will warm the bird room up at a time when heat is not required.
There are other products on the market for keeping the humidity down, but I have found these less effective.
High humidity can be a cause for chicks not hatching, as the egg is porous and takes moisture in and when the chicks break into the air pocket not long before hatching it can drown in the moisture or die from bacterial infection brought in with the moisture.
High humidity can also cause coccidiosis which can be deadly to our birds as it grows in damp warm conditions, as do all kinds of bacteria and mould, making it even more important to keep humidity at a manageable level.
Low humidity is also a problem for us as it dries the eyes and sinuses out and causes further problems
Low humidity when breeding causes the membrane around the chick to shrink and doesn’t allow the chick to move so stopping it from rotating and chipping out.
I control low humidity with a HUMIDIFIER which sends a vapour of moisture into the air and raises the moisture levels ,another way to raise humidity is to wet the bird room floor or hang wet towels up which is what was used many years ago and is still effective
It’s been passed down through the generations to spray the nest a few days before the chicks hatch which is raising the humidity as chicks can develop at a lower humidity (50%) but can’t hatch unless the humidity is raised to 70%. but once again the problem is without the humidity monitors we are only guessing at the humidity level and could be spraying when it’s not required.
We expect on wet days high humidity level, and on sunny days low humidity levels, but in our climate on the sunny days we can still have high humidity making it dangerous to spray as the water goes everywhere and possibly causing an ideal environment for coccidiosis to thrive so NEVER SPRAY BIRDS IN THEIR STOCK CAGES.
A selection of humidity monitors (hygrometers)
The most important thing in our bird rooms are the conditions, so by getting the mite control, and humidity right, coupled with a good airflow the birds should be healthy. This together with not over feeding should lead to a better chance of having a decent breeding season
Hand feeding / encouraging hens to feed
When hand feeding I use Versele-Laga Nutribird A19 high energy hand rearing mix, the 19 indicates 19% protein, I use this when the hens are slow to feed I use a 1ml syringe and gently top the chick up till the hen takes over, as I only give soft food only (nothing added) for the first 5 days I also keep the seed hopper topped up to entice the hen off the nest.
Sometimes hens won’t feed if there is unhatched eggs still in the nest if this is the case remove any eggs that are not alive this can sometimes kick start the hen, a lot of fanciers leave eggs in the nest to protect the nestlings but this is not necessary as live chicks that are healthy won’t get squashed.
I change the soft food 6 times a day in the first 3 days as I only give a teaspoon full each time this always tempts them off to feed, I increase to 2 teaspoons 3-5 days .
I only top chicks up after 5 days if it’s really necessary using A19 hand mix only.
After 10days I thicken the A19 hand mix up with a bit of moist egg food I also add a small quantity of Perle morbide, as this being green, tempts them to feed .
At 5 days onwards I give green food which is broccoli and kale leaves ground up in a blender.
If the hen is not feeding the chicks very well you can try giving a few petipois garden peas as there sweet it could help, the general idea is to tempt them with anything you think might interest them.
Sometimes if the hens not feeding you can put the cock bird back in but you must be careful as he may only want to tread and become a bigger problem, but sometimes he will feed the hen and hopefully feed the chicks.
As the breeding season comes towards its last month we must turn our attention to the moult.
The aim is a stress free moult and to achieve this I start reducing the time clock down 30 minutes a week until I get to 10hrs then I hold it at that through the show season as I like to get the birds back in there stock cages and get a drink after the show season I reduce to 9 hrs.
I give my birds a product called Premolt 100 (similar products are available)which has vitamins ,minerals and trace elements in to make sure while the chicks are growing they get everything they need , this is added to the soft food or soak seed or the greens .
I try to reduce the soft food as quickly as I can as I think it keeps the birds soft (just my theory) but continue with soaked seed 4 times a week or greens twice a week this is given once a day I also keep the seed hoppers topped right up until early September when I start reducing them for the show season as the birds get fat and will spoil the shape of them.
I try and spray a batch of birds every day and place them on a staging to dry out and when dry I spray another batch I find this helps preening and assists with the moult.
I add vitamins to the water 3 times a week calcium one day and Prolyte C one day and freshwater the other two.
At 6 weeks of age I treat the youngsters with a coccidiosis treatment there are many available I use Baycox this I find stops young birds going light which would be a disaster after all the hard work to get them to this stage , I treat again in the middle of September ready for the show season.
I cage my youngsters in separate cages as they will find a pecking order in flights and a good youngster can be bullied also they will pull each other’s feathers out and this can set them back, also in separate cages the flight and tail feathers don’t get damaged and I find it calms them down and they will readily go into training cages.
I use Countrywide mixed canary only in the hoppers but do give them a piece of millet spray in the cages once a week.
Green food consists of broccoli, black kale leaves and petit poi’s garden peas blended together in a mixer.
The vitamins I use is Avigold Advanced.