The Fancy of Bird Breeding
Bird breeding is a fantastic hobby which attracts a strong following. Throughout the world
from the backwaters of the river Amazon to the fashionable apartments of New York and
suburban gardens all over Europe, millions of people derive immense pleasure from keeping
and breeding birds.
However, before one becomes interested in bird breeding, should first sit down and consider
very carefully the question of accommodation, for unless this problem has been thought out
with great care the fancier will probably experience disappointment quite early in his chosen
hobby. Many who have made a start in bird breeding have given up the hobby in despair
merely because they failed to think about the most important things first of all.
Again, if you are a beginner go for a few pairs that are easy to keep and breed. It is most
important with all livestock hobbies that they should be a pleasure and never allowed to
become a burden, for if that happens, you soon grow tired and give up what might have
provided you with countless hours of pleasure for many years ahead.
In order to decide which type of bird you want to breed, examine the very rich assortment of
birds that are being bred successfully by fanciers. Visit bird exhibitions and discuss with
breeders there. Look to see what appeals to you, song, colour, body type or a combination of
To obtain best results buy wisely from a reputable dealer, or better still from a breeder. Buy
only birds that are close-rung (handed) as this can assure you that the bird was bred locally
and in the current year.
Breeding birds, of course, should be totally healthy or else you will get young 1 that will
please nobody. Totally healthy young can be produced only by healthy parents. Remember,
for good fertility feed and house your birds well. As long as you observe the basic rules, with
most species. breeding isn't that difficult.
Although nowadays well over 200 species are being successfully bred in captivity, the four most
commonly bred by Maltese
fanciers are canaries, budgerigars, lovebirds and European finches together with their mutations,
hybrids and mules.
Irrespective of their breed, all birds should be encouraged to breed when conditions are favourable.
This will be influenced by
climatic factors and hours of daylight.
Breeding in Cages
Breeding in cages ensures that a chosen pairing has the maximum chance of producing youngsters of a
particular type or
colour for exhibition purposes. Suitable breeding cages can be purchased ready made. However, most
fanciers prefer to
construct their own according to their requirements, especially where available space is limited.
Canaries are not difficult to maintain. They can be kept quite safely in a mixed aviary with other
smaller finches. Although
relatively hardy, yet they need adequate protection during cold weather.
The breeding season of canaries is more closely defined than in the case of many other seedeaters.
Most of them will be ready
to nest in February in our climatic conditions. Although canaries can be bred successfully in
aviaries, yet as we said earlier,
cage breeding is more common, and prevents the likelihood of cocks fighting each other, but most
important, it is imperative
for selective breeding.
Before placing the hens in their breeding quarters, their claws should be checked, to ensure these
are not overgrown.
Otherwise, they could puncture eggs or drag chicks out of the nest. Sexing canaries at this time of
the year is not difficult since
the cocks sing repeatedly to attract mates. Also, on close examination, their vents are enlarged in
Various systems of management are used for breeding canaries, and a cock can be used with two or more
hens if required.
The hens are caged
individually, with the cock bird near at hand. Once a hen is ready to mate, she will start
cheeping loudly to attract the cock, and solicits feeding by bending forward on the perch,
fluttering her wings. the birds should then be put together for about a week, after which the.
cock is removed, leaving the hen to complete the nest and start laying her eggs. The potter
nest pan lined with felt is the most commonly used although nowadays plastic nest pans
lined with felt are also being used.
Sterilized nesting material can be bought very cheap from most pet outlets and should be
supplied to the birds during the period in which the hen is building the nest.
A hen may not sit tightly when the first egg is laid. This behaviour is quite normal and fertile
eggs will remain viable for several days after being laid. In fact, this characteristic is utilized
by established canary breeders. They remove the eggs for storage until the clutch is
complete then they are replaced in the nest. This ensures that the chicks will be of a more
equal size when they hatch. The chicks should start to hatch after about 14 days later. A
suitable rearing food must be offered (there are a large number of brands available which all
serve their purpose) into special feeders which are being produced to facilitate the provision
of this item. After a few (lay,, they will begin to grow so the food consumption of their
parents will have to be increase(] and a higher level of' protein is necessary.
A closed aluminium band, in accordance with the standard inside diameter of its particular
breed, guarantees a birds' age and origin. Closed rings are compulsory to exhibit canaries in
shows organised by the Bird Breeders' Association of Malta.
Ringing is normally carried out when the youngsters are six to seven days old.
Definitely before their feet become too large for the circular hand to be passed
over. First pass the ring over the three front toes and slide it backwards., This
will trap the hind toe, which is then freed by very careful As .1
result the ring should slide freely up and down the leg, between the foot and
Disturbance to the nest should be kept to a minimum. Breeders of
species are loathe to ring their chicks in the nest, for the fear of
causing the adults to
desert, or manipulate their offsprings in attempting to remove the shiny
ring from their
legs. As a precaution against this, rub damp peat over the ring to
discolour it a little.
Chicks are sometimes found on the floor of the cage or aviary, having
been thrown out or
dragged out of the nest. There is always a chance that they may not be
dead, even if they
appear lifeless. Hold them in cupped hands for a minute or two to see if
they will show
signs or reviving. If this is the case, keep the young bird warmed in
your hands for several
minutes more, then replace it carefully back in the nest. The parents
should return and
As the young birds gain their feathers. the adults will spend less time with
them during the
day. The young canaries will have left the nest by the time they are
three weeks old, and
weaning can then begin in earnest.
After fledging remove the young chicks as soon as they are seen to be
independently as the adults may attack them. particularly if they are
going to nest again.
Some breeders prefer to leave the youngsters with their parents for a
however, maintaining that there is no set back to growth, as may occur if
they are weaned
at an early age. To some extent, this will be influenced by the rearing
and is easier if the cock bird remains with the hen throughout the whole
breeding cycle. He
will then take over the task of feeding the fledglings while the hen will
invariably prepare a
All cages should include soft perches, to minimize the risk of a slipped
three toes of each foot are directed forward over the perch, with one
behind. But, in cases
of a slipped claw, the hind one is deviated forward. This means that the
bird cannot perch
properly, being unable to grip with the affected toe. If this problem
does arise, it may be
possible to correct it by using adhesive tape to hold the toe back in a
parallel with the leg' for about a fortnight. When released, the toe
should assume its
normal position. If not, try binding it up again for another fortnight.
The budgerigar is a native of Australia, and the first living example of
these parakeets were
seen in Europe during 1840. It is said that the famous ornithologist,
John Gould, passed a
pair to his brother-in-law, Charles Coxen. They soon nested and the
popularity of the
budgerigar began to spread throughout Europe..
Budgerigars can be sexed in a unique way, the cere above the peak acting
distinguishing feature. In mature cock birds, this is blue, with the
exception of lutinos,
albinos and recessive pied whose ceres are purplish in colour. Hen birds
brown ceres, which are paler when they are not in breeding condition.
Young hens also
have paler, flatter ceres than cock birds when they fledge, but it is not
straightforward to sex budgerigars just after they have left the nest.
Exhibition budgerigars are usually bred in cages. but it is quite
feasible to breed these
parakeets in a group, provided the nestboxes are all positioned at the
The hen is responsible for incubating the eggs which are white. They will
after 18 days. The average clutch is about four eggs but can exceed eight
occasions. The young birds will be independent by about five weeks of age,
when they should be removed so that they will not soil or damage the
round of eggs. It is advisable to restrict the hens to only two rounds.
Do this by
removing the nest box. Budgerigars are normally not permitted to breed
they are a year old, but they will be mature before this time.
Lovebirds have become one of the most popular group of small psittacines,
and the free-
breeding habits of some species have given rise to numerous mutations
over the past decade. Nine species are recognised, but the Swinden's
lovebird has still not been seen alive outside Africa.
Sexing is straightforward in three species, yet these have proved the
most difficult to
establish, compared with the peach-faced and the members of the so-called
group, where the visual sexual difference exist. Careful observation may
be of value
however, since hens in breeding condition will often flare their tails
close to a nestbox.
The nest varies in size, depending upon the species. At one extreme
prepare a small pad, often using feathers from their own breast, whereas
lovebird and related species construct a bulky, domed structure within
the nestbox., which
can make inspection difficult. The number of eggs laid normally varies
between three and
eight, four being the average. Hens sit alone for 23 days before the eggs
cocks may roost alongside their mates for periods each day. A large
number of colours of
the peach-faced are now being bred, and many are freely available.
There is always an element of luck in having a successful breeding season
species concerned. In spite of the most meticulous preparations,
may arise. Nevertheless. careful preparation will minimise the risk of
poor breeding results.
At the outset, it is important that both the cock and the hen are fit and
ready to breed. For
example introducing a newly acquired hen to an established cock is almost
counting disaster. She will be in no condition to breed and yet will be
by her intended mate.
Once a pair have gone to nest, disturbance should be kept to a minimum
incubation and rearing periods. Some individuals will tolerate
interference more than
others, but there is always the risk that the adults will abandon their
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