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( Originally Published 1938 )
Earlier in this section I mentioned the fascination of breeding birds. Perhaps the best arguments for urging the average bird owner to advance into this activity is to point out that the rules are simple, the investment isn't too great, and the results are often exciting-yes, bird breeding is a bang-up good hobby.
Bird breeding requires little room, so it recommends itself to people living in apartments or small homes.
Before entering vigorously into bird breeding, spend some time talking with a successful breeder; attend a session of some local canary club; learn in general how Mendel's law of heredity operates (it gives you some idea about what colored canary offspring to expect); learn that you can start on a small scale, and that wider breeding activities can be left until you know your way around better.
I. MECHANICAL EQUIPMENT: breeding cage, single or double. If double, the cage should have a separation down the middle. The cage should be equipped with a wire nest.
2. BIRDS: One cock canary and two hens is a good combination. Hens should be at least a year old. The cock may be that old or older.
3. CONDITIONING: Before mating, the birds must be put on special diet to build them up. The birds, of course, should be separated up to mating time (usually early in March). For two weeks before, feed commercial conditioning food, or crisp bread crumbs and mashed hard-bailed egg; usual seed mixture with addition of fat elements (flax, thistle) ; drop of viosterol in food on alternate days; calcium (in oyster shell) which is vital for egg-shell formation.
4. MATING: Birds usually indicate when they are ready: they call to each other, flap their wings vigorously and crouch down on the perch; the hen may make some effort to fix a nest. Prepare the breeding cage with nest materialshreds of burlap, twine, cotton, dried grass, etc. Put the female in the cage first. If you have a double cage for two hens, both sides must be prepared with nesting material. Let one hen and the cock build a nest before introducing the second hen into the other compartment. Thereafter each day may be divided by the cock between the two halves of the cage.
5. EGGS: Some time toward the latter part of the first week of mating, the hen will start to lay. Expect a daily egg for four or six days. When the eggs start arriving, take the mashed hard-boiled egg out of the hen's diet.
6. REMOVING THE MALE: If you are using a single hen, the male may be allowed to remain in the cage until the baby birds arrive. If he seems to be a helpful father and wants to assist in feeding the young, he may be left in the cage afterward. If he seems bored with the whole business, take him out. If you are using two hens, the cock should be removed from the breeding cage as soon as all the eggs are laid.
7. INCUBATION: Eggs begin to hatch thirteen days after the hen acts. About the twelfth day, start feeding the hen a special diet for the young birds. Restore the egg food, give the hen plenty of soaked seed (it should be fresh daily), regular dry seed, and a drop of viosterol.
8. FOOD FOR THE YOUNG: The parent bird usually feeds its young for a little over two weeks. Young birds start to shift for their own food when they are somewhere between two and four weeks old. The diet of egg food, codliver oil and soaked seed should be available for the chicks. As soon as the youngsters learn to eat dry seed, taper off on the soft foods gradually. The young can be put in separate cages as soon as they are able to shift for themselves in securing food. Some breeders recommend the use of bread and milk as a good soft food diet for the young birds. Greens may be added to the diet when the fledglings are a month old.
IMPORTANT: Canary hens sometimes won't feed their young. A newly hatched bird has enough nourishment in its body to subsist for about two days, but after that if the parent fails to feed you will have to resort to hand feeding if the chicks are to be saved. Some hens are better nurses than others, and if you have another nesting hen she may accept responsibility for the hungry, neglected chicks. Lacking a foster mother, you should put the nest of chicks in a warm place; arrowroot biscuit and hard-boiled egg yolk or a commercial nestling food should be fed; warm the food and administer on an average of once every two hours (for birds under a week old); the food should be mashed with a little milk and may be given with a medicine dropper; feedings on a three hour basis may be undertaken at the end of a week, and administered less often as the young birds gain strength and take more food at a feeding.
9. As soon as the young birds start shedding their first infant feathers it is time to start feeding color food-provided that you want to improve on nature. Young birds may be put together in flight cages up to about the age of six weeks. At that time the young males give evidence of their sex by attempting to negotiate a song or two, and you can separate the brood.
10. The hen may be ready to breed a second time about the time the first hatch of birds is three weeks old. If no nesting material is available, she may pull feathers from her first chicks. Provide her with a second wire nest and nesting material. If you have only one pair of adult birds, the cock will probably have been with her up to this time and may take over the feeding of the first hatch. However, if the domestic situation seems to jeopardize the welfare of the young birds, take them out of the breeding cage and assist their feeding by hand. This is usually not a great problem, for the young birds are pretty well able to help themselves by that time, and would shortly be removed from the breeding cage anyway.
GENERAL NOTES ON BREEDING: This outline is simply an attempt to provide the prospective breeder with a basic plan. Naturally, there are many points of the art not covered here. For this reason it is well to consult with some experienced breeder to round out your knowledge of the subject. The experience of raising one or two broods will usually provide you with enough practical information to get the hobby well organized.
As soon as the young birds have been transferred to their own cages, you can start bath training. Most young birds take to it naturally, but you may have to give the youngsters a lesson by putting them into a bath bowl and sprinkling them with water.
The chief job in teaching a young canary to sing is to let ~ him hear the tunes you want him to sing. When the young birds are over their first moult, the males should be started on their song schooling. Your training equipment may consist of a trained singer, bird-song phonograph records, a piano, or your own voice.
1. Use separate cages for the birds and screen the males from each other (females should not be allowed in the training room).
2. Darken the room (except for two hours of exercise, morning and afternoon).
3. Place your music source-bird, phonograph or whatnot-in front of the cages and turn the music loose.
4. The longer you train the better the variety and tone of your bird. Two months' training is not too much, and training periods should be instituted every now and then to keep your bird in good singing form and to teach him more music.
NOTES ON CANARY SONG: The imitative capacity of the canary is tremendous, and birds with good song characteristics are capable of amazing things. There are canaries that imitate other bird calls; sometimes rollers can be taught to whistle; you can even teach an intelligent canary to sing a popular tune. Since the canary is easily capable of such brilliant performance it is well worth your while to spend careful effort in laying the foundation for his training.
If you can be patient and regular in training lessons, perhaps you would enjoy a less frequently followed hobbyfish training. Darting, shimmering aquarium fish are quiet pets. In their world of water they seem unaware of man. But these pet fish do learn to eat from a man's hand, and fish in private pools can be taught to answer a call to the water's surface. But-I'm going to tell you about the whole alluring hobby of keeping fish pets.