Lets consider the stress factor of the moult and talk about how we can help the birds by giving them just that little extra.
First, remember that they are shedding most oftheir feathers and adult or year old birds are replacing all their feathers; on top of that they have to have enough in reserve to stay alive and be healthy, this might sound obvious but we have learnt more and more over the years that tip top condition is so important to canaries, they were once referred to as sugar birds.
We are not entirely sure how the canary builds up its immune system but it is thought that it relies on being energised or shall we say staying very fit.
A canary can go ill very quickly unless we act fast to rectify the situation.
The feed that we give during the moulting period is-
Mixed seed : A little every day, we do like to mix several different reputable companies seed during this period hoping that the seed has absorbed
different trace elements and minerals from a wider range of soil throughout the world.
Soft food: One teaspoon full every day.
Soaked seed condition seed or Siskin mix: is offered every other day
Green food: is an option twice a week or more but don't give too much if birds are not used to it.
Adding vitamins to fresh water every other day is something we do during this period and I think this is very important as we are never sure if the birds eat what we want them to eat but they have to drink! However as we use vitamins regularly we don't give the full recommended dose.
Keep the cage and perches clean as you don't want the birds to spread dirt from contaminated perches to their clean new feathers.
Offer baths regularly but don't leave them on too long as they will be encouraged to drink the soiled water.
Any greens or soft food that's not eaten by the end of the day throw away.
Best to house birds that are moulting in a slightly darker draft proof area of the shed, with a good circulation of fresh air flowing through.
Do not disturb more than necessary but after the moult hang a show cage on the cage door so that the bird can hop in and out, again slowly getting used to being active again.
I can't stress the importance of getting the feed right during the moult. I am sure not getting it right is the reason why so many fanciers have bad breeding seasons, many breeders that have birds from established studs, breed well the first year and think that all they have to do is continue what they were doing, by just giving seed and water and they will carry on having good breeding seasons, but when you consider that the hens have spent so much energy laying eggs feeding chicks then moulting, expecting them to perform again the next year is an impossible task for pedigree birds unless they given the required extra care and attention, some forget that before they acquired the birds that those same birds were given all the required vitamins and extras that a bird needs to survive and store in reserve for a successful oncoming breeding season
.Managing the Moult
By Bob Hodges.
The middle of July normally signifies the end of the breeding season for me, it is where my partner and I take our summer holidays allowing her to recharge her batteries ready for the trials and tribulations of looking after my Borders when away during the show season.
With this in mind we have Paris, Ross on Wye and Windsor booked this year with the added bonus of a long weekend in Bath at the beginning of November (I forgot to mention when booking it’s the Green, Cinnamon and White weekend and it’s my intention to exhibit there this year).
The day before we were about to embark for Paris, Colin Egner emailed me inviting me to put pen to paper regarding the moult. I thought ‘not now Colin you are joking’ her indoors will not be pleased, if whilst away on holiday I am scribbling notes about my birds!
However after a lovely trip soaking up the sunny Paris weather, fine food, good company and very tasty wine I am now putting pen to paper.
Much has been written regarding the moulting of Borders over the years by many long gone fanciers far more experienced and knowledgeable than I however I thought I would give an insight into my simple methods in moulting out my Borders.
This time of year for many is the most frustrating, boring, ugly period in the bird keeping calendar when all you seem to do is keep sweeping up the feathers from the bird room floor.
For me it is where I start to prepare my birds to give them the best possible chance of competing with my fellow peers’ exhibits on the forthcoming show season.
It is also the most exciting where those showing promise will moult out to reveal their potential (or not) not only for showing but for next year’s breeding programme.
As soon as the last youngster is weaned my bird room lights are switched off plunging the birds into semi darkness thus making them think that winter is approaching and a new coat is needed. I will also black out windows if I feel it necessary.
Unlike many, I do not leave the birds alone for the duration of their moult, I will continue show cage training throughout the moult by not only hanging show cages on the front of cages but by letting birds enter a show cage and placing them up on the judging stand. On fine sunny days I hang them in the show cage outside along the fence panels, it’s a lovely sight watching them fluff up and soak up the sun.
My feeding is simple, 50% plain canary seed and 50% mixed canary seed with a daily feed of egg food with pinhead oatmeal and kelp mixed in. An inch square of spinach or Savoy cabbage and a quarter of a marigold head per bird daily helps enhance the colour. No cabbage or marigolds are fed to the white ground birds and marigolds are not fed to my greens.
My birds never seem to use the baths when I hang them, they tend to use the water pot to bath in.
As I said my regime is simple, those that show promise have a chance and that’s all and will hopefully moult out into something resembling a Border canary. Luck does play a part as even colour, feather in the right place with no creases plus putting on some size all need to come together to enable your bird to have any chance.
Colin said “keep it short” so I had better end here, besides I need to go and pack for Ross on Wye and to keep her in doors happy.
Happy moulting, see you at the shows.
Managing the moult
By Valentino Cherubini. M.D
The moult is a very demanding period for birds and, of course, also for breeders. Once the breeding season is over, most breeders are happy when the number of chicks is considered high, others are disappointed if the number is low. Even if the number is not what I was expecting, I do not like to extend the breeding season beyond the end of June.
Since my bird room is located right under the roof and the temperature rises quickly at the end of the spring, I stop breeding in June with the last hatching occurring during the first week of July. I have changed my way to manage the moult period many times over the past 30 years, and I tried to learn from books, the Internet, friends, and most of all from my mistakes.
Border canaries usually moult from July to November. Although most people believe that the canary moult lasts less than 8 weeks, I consider the moulting period of my Borders to be much longer, around 12-14 weeks. If you blow over the breast feathers in a young bird you can see a hairless skin, the moult starts when small hair follicles appear in this area. In the adult birds the moult starts with the tail feathers or the wing flight feathers. At the end of the moult a bird is ready for the show season with all the roundness and fine feather required for a winning bird.
Only fit birds will moult and failure to moult is a sign of illness but the speed at which they moult depends not only on their health but also on their age, diet and the weather. The later a chick hatches the quicker it will moult; it is a way of nature letting it "catch up".
Preparing birds for moulting
Preparation for the moult starts after weaning for young chicks and after their last nesting for adults. Before housing my Border canaries for the moult, I sprinkle anti-mite powder on them and put a couple of drops of Frontline on their upper back. I repeat this treatment in mid-September. There is nothing that will undermine the condition of a young bird quicker than mite, and we all need to be very watchful.
My bird room consist of 76 single space cages with removable slides; I can put together up to 10 single cages into one space. Some years ago I used to house each young bird in a single cage, thereafter I convinced myself that canaries, as most birds, are prey animals. Adaptation to the environment of preyed animals influences their behaviour to maximize their ability to obtain food and avoid being eaten.
I prefer housing young birds in large flight cages, at least in a three single-space cage, and better if in a six single-space cage. I put four young birds in a three single-space cage and 8-10 birds in a six single-space cage. Adult hens are housed in large flight cages, ten single-space cages , and cocks in a single cage. Avoiding overcrowding is a "must" for both young and adult birds.
During the last two weeks of August and the first two weeks of September I prefer to put one bird per cage, especially if they are cock birds.
Temperature and light
When daylight becomes shorter the birds’ reproductive phase ends and they begin moulting. Many breeders suggest keeping birds in a dark setting but I am not sure that this works. I prefer to keep artificial light on during the all-normal daylight period. I see that my Borders are active and I think that this helps them to grow nice new feathers. Even if this system can extend the moult period I do not worry because they have more time to build up their definite shape.
The drop in temperatures, signalling a change of season is also very helpful for the moult. A low temperature is probably the most useful condition to complete the moult in Border canaries. The extension of warm weather throughout September and October is not an advantageous condition for finishing the moult of our canaries.
Unlike Frilled Canaries, possibly all Type Canaries can benefit from low temperatures to finish their moult. This is probably why Type Canaries reach their highest quality in northern countries and Frilled Canaries in southern countries.
Our birds need a variable and complete diet during all the moulting period. With feathers being primarily protein, supplying extra protein in nestling food helps speed up the process initially.
I like to use a soft food prepared with 14 spoons of couscous soaked in warm water, 8 spoons of Orlux (Versele-Laga, Belgium) dried formula, 3 spoons of wheat germ, 3 measuring cups of Mutaskin and 2 of Biovit, 2 spoons of Calcium D-E plus (AvesBioPharma, Italy), 4 spoons of camelina sativa seeds, and 2 spoons of wheat germ oil. Sprouted seeds and marigolds are available every day. Greens, such as frozen peas, broccoli and broccoli leaves, are fed three times a week. I use Prestige Premium seed mixture (Versele-Laga).
When I clearly see a broad tract of pinfeathers on the top of the birds’ head, I know it is time to cut back on the amount and frequency of protein and increase the carbohydrates in their diet. At this time I add half part of canary seed and oatmeal to the canary mixture and I gradually reduce soft food to two times a week.
Since I started to acidify the drink water, I have seen a great improvement in the health of my canaries. During the last two years I have used two products for pigeons, Improver and Antifungal (Pigeonvitality, Norway) every other day with Orego-Stim (Meridien Animal Health, UK). Throughout the moulting time, birds enjoy bathing together with their brothers and sisters, and this helps ensure their feathers remain in the best conditions. Learning to bathe at an early age means they will continue to bathe readily throughout their adult lives.
Soon after weaning, I like to hang up an old show cage in the aviary so that the birds can enter and exit; this cage is removed at night.
In many ways, I often think that the “Border year” is very much like an obstacle course. No sooner have we cleared one hurdle than we are faced with another equally daunting challenge. Two of the more difficult challenges we face are of course the breeding season and the moult.
In bygone days, fanciers believed the moult to be a form of sickness, not really understanding that it is a completely natural and essential part of the birds’ cycle. Anyone with an interest in reading old bird publications from 100 or more years ago will be familiar with the extraordinary lengths these fanciers went to in order to get their birds safely through the moult, from darkening cages with brown paper and darkening windows etc.
Nowadays the moult is fully understood for what it is and there is less “mythology” attached to it. But for all that, there are a few things that need to be attended to if we are to get the birds through the moult well. Often fanciers may be heard as saying that a particular bird “had a good moult”. What is a good moult? In my opinion it is a quick moult that allows the bird to get through with a minimum of fuss or delay, using the minimum of the bodies’ resources; a bad or delayed moult will have a telling influence at times of future stress, such as the breeding season.
In order to achieve this, we the fanciers must understand the sheer demands on vitamins and nutrition during this period, in particular iron, calcium and amino acids. Young birds will be physically developing while at the same time growing a new set of body feathers. The adults will be recovering lost resources expended in the breeding season, while undergoing a complete moult of body and flight feathers. The other factors required in no particular order are good management, cleanliness and a good environment.
Birds require patience at this time. A bugbear of mine is the almost universal advice given to fanciers to commence show cage training almost immediately after weaning. I believe that many good birds are spoiled every year by fanciers being overly keen to commence cage training. Our own birds are widely regarded as being steady and well trained, but many people will be surprised to learn that I do not commence training until August, and even then it’s just the usual thing of hanging training cages onto stock cages. As the birds moult up to the neck I start to train more intensively, my preferred method is little and often, I take young birds out every time I can, look at them and handle them and return to their stock cage, then taking out another batch. I find this method has worked well for me and very rarely, if ever, has a bird let me down at the crucial moment by being unsteady.
My belief is that cage craft is bred into the really good ones. They just instinctively know what to do!
Your behaviour and movement in the shed will greatly affect your birds’ steadiness. I like to get them used to my hands, so I place some feeding dishes on the floor of the cages, make sure your perches are not wobbling about and are well secured and not spaced too far apart, encourage the bird to hop rather than fly. If I have a bird of a nervous disposition I do not keep it irregardless of quality, you will find that nervousness can be an inherited trait, which can sometimes be linked to close inbreeding and an indication of a tendency to throw fits.
It is important to keep your Borders clean and free of parasites at all times, but especially so during the moult. To prevent mite I use Frontline O.25% on the birds and Chevitren for the cages. I like to house the youngsters in double breeding cages, ideally in threes. I find they moult faster and also develop social interaction skills which they may not gain if singled from an early age.
The first birds I single cage every year are not the best ones, but the troublemakers and feather pluckers! Typically there are always a few and they appear as they start to grow older, it is important to isolate them immediately. I use pieces of string on the cage fronts as a method of distracting them and keeping the young birds amused. I like to offer baths (just plain water) to my birds as often as I can, they can cause a mess, and so, having the time to remove any wet bedding is what determines the regularity for me! Later when the birds are singled, they will be removed to a special spraying cage for a spray, but at this point in time, it’s communal baths and a softly softly approach!
I do not darken the shed excessively, I believe birds are creatures of air and light, but I do not allow direct sunlight on new feathers as it fades the colour. I also try to avoid any sudden changes in environment etc at this time.
Personally I do not feed green foods, but many years ago did collect vast amounts of wild weeds, like seeding dock (high in oils) meadowsweet (oils) Ragworth (a noxious weed to cattle and horses) etc. Nowadays the risks of contamination by spray are too high and not one I am prepared to risk, so instead I use a variety of seeds and water soluble vitamins, I will not go into brands, as there are many available and I am sure most do a similar job.
I know fanciers who use Nasturtiums and African marigold to good effect but be careful! If you do decide to use these flowers it’s important to give a consistent amount and cease the feeding when the bird moults as far as the neck, the feather on the head being much finer and shorter will turn orange rather than yellow if you continue to feed. Personally I find the colour they give can be hard and harsh.
We all know some birds have naturally high colour, it can be difficult to identify these birds before the moult and extra colouring,( albeit natural) can push them out of the yellow colour shade and into the orange! There seems to be a widespread (if unacknowledged) practice among some fanciers nowadays to feed artificial colorants such as YELLUX. Apart from being against convention rules, fanciers who use these substances are effectively gambling with their birds colour, I have seen many “orange” birds on the benches in recent years and on this subject, when judging it is my practice to send any birds I suspect to have been artificially coloured back to the bench, unplaced. I do not write “colour fed” on the label.
Such an action, under convention rules, requires the judge to file a report on the matter to the convention. For one thing, while I am 99.9% sure a bird has been colourfed, how exactly would I prove it, or the convention for that matter.
I am sure that if all judges were to put such birds back down on the bench where they should be, then the offending fanciers would soon get the message and stop cheating.
In recent years some of my birds (Buffs in the main) have been afflicted by what I term a second “partial” moult. Usually the earlier bred birds, the first sign is a drooping of feather along the flanks, catching the bird and blowing the feather back on the chest will reveal two new lines of pins. From discussing with other fanciers I have found this problem to have really become more widespread in the past three seasons, why, I do not know. In my own case, no management methods have changed, nor has their environment. Last year was not so bad, but it is something I now finding myself watching out for. Interestingly, most affected birds tend to be buff, it’s usually body feather only (no flights) and they breed as normal the following season, I find it occurs in mid August to October.
The main thing I find to being successful with your birds, at any time of year, is to be methodical in your methods and consistent in your management. Some years of course we will all find our birds may be better or worse than previous seasons in terms of quality, but the trick is to use the methods you find have worked for you and stick to them. I hope these few notes will have been of some benefit to someone!
Here’s hoping your ugly ducklings will turn out to be swans!
MANAGEMENT OF THE MOULT
By Greg Hannigan
If you have had a successful breeding season, then the next phase is getting your birds through the moult as quickly as possible with good feather and colour.
Although colour is bred into your birds I believe that diet, mainly through the green food and seeding grasses and greens, will improve the colour further.
I place baths on the front of breeding cages regularly. If birds won’t bath, then a good spray is recommended twice a week. I always take the birds out of the breeding cabinet in an old show cage to spray them. I believe this also helps their initial show cage training.
My birds do not get any direct sunlight during moult. Once they are through the moult I continue to spray the birds and then place them in direct sunlight in a training cage until they are dry, watching that they are not getting too hot. If it is a very hot day, sometimes being in the 40C’s, then in the shade and they will dry off in no time.
During the moult and show season I provide greens every day – Kale and Pak Choy on alternate days. I grow my own using no chemicals. I have fed Endive and Chinese Cabbage in the past, and find Kale and Pak Choy results in better colour of my birds. I know of some fanciers that feed greens to their birds twice a day.
I also feed wild seeds of Rye grass and Chickweed on the weekend, picked from my backyard, and the best seed available at all times. During the breeding season and moult I feed plain canary and rape/canola 3:1 mix as seed on the cage all day, every day. I feed a tonic seed mix twice a week in a small seed cup in the door.
I provide a multivitamin in the water bottle for the first week of each month. I also use diluted apple cider vinegar.
Egg food is provided daily with small amount of multivitamin powder in the eggfood, and I sprinkle maw seed on the eggfood. I provide spouted seed every day, when it is just sprouting/chitting. There are two bottles going at all times – one soaking overnight and one sprouting. The seed is rinsed 3 times a day whilst soaking and sprouting.
My cages have sand on the floor that is cleaned by hand weekly and sifted monthly to remove faeces and seed husks. All birds have shell grit and cuttlebone in their cage at all times. I believe the sand and shell grit provide silica which improves the feather quality.
I keep 2 birds to a cage and may have to move birds around if they fight. This keeps the birds quieter for showing and I also believe helps them accept another bird in the breeding season.
I spray the bird room floor and cages with a product called ”Coopex” that is a Permethrin based insecticide and prevents all mites and lice.
The main thing is not to sell or cull any birds until the moult is fully completed – I have found the “Swan” bird on a few occasions.
Managing the Moult
By John Furley
Now that we have got through (for some of us) another stressful breeding season probably the most stressful time for our birds begins the Moult. Most birds at this stage are well into the moult and when we consider these birds having to shed and grow a complete set of feathers in a relatively short time you can imagine the amount of energy that is needed. So food is very important to them at this stage .It is often said that birds that have a good moult breed better the following year and I find that to be very True
I feed soft food daily right up to when the birds are completely finished. My soft food is made up of Egg food, Cous- Cous, broccoli, Soak seed, Condition seed and a multi vitamin. I give fresh water daily and add calcium twice a week and a vitamin three times a week on the other two days it is just plain water. I use a good quality mixed canary seed all year round.
It is very important to keep cages and birdroom clean to try and avoid birds picking up any unwanted bugs or infections. Mite can be a big problem at this time especially with this hot weather we are having lately. I use frontline on my birds and when I am cleaning cages I use Harke-Mitex. Stiff claw can be a problem at the time when a bird is moulting, if they are going to get anything unwanted it always seem to happen at this time of the year. I had a big problem with this and birds getting sore feet a couple of years ago. After a lot of ointments and all sort of possible cures I decided to change my perches to plastic and so far in the last two years I have not had this problem reoccur. The plastic is so easy to keep clean.
I use baths as often as possible I think they really speed up the process. In order to get all the birds using them I wean the birds off in pairs. When I hang the baths on I find one will be the brave one and take the plunge and the other one will follow. When I am happy that both birds take to the bath, I then put them in single cages. I like to keep my birds in single cages to avoid them plucking or chewing at the other ones tail.
To try and enhance the color in the clear and variegated birds I feed those a quarter of a marigold daily, the darks get broccoli which is in the soft food.
A lot of people have different systems and ways of looking after their birds .If your system works for you than that is it I would not change it no matter what. A good friend of mine said to me a couple of weeks ago “At this stage they are canaries when they come out of the moult they are Borders”.
They change so much during this time and off course we are all hoping they will change for the better.