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Tuesday, 09 December 2008

Image Translated and reprinted from “Canaria” the official bulletin of the Royal Society of Belgium for Roller Canary. G. Geo

In writing this article on the breeding of Roller canaries I particularly write for those who are interested in research, for those who are prepared to study the birds, those who are interested enough to further our fancy.  I would like to commence by saying that I made many mistakes in the past, I have, I hope I learned from them, and you, I am sure may be spared them.

For the past 50 years the Roller canaries of Belgium, Holland, and Germany have proved themselves to be the finest in the world; no other country has been able to rival them.  Encouraged by our Belgium Federation, stimulated by the many treatises on t he song, together with all the published articles of theories and practices in our Journal – Canaria, we are amateurs of this fine hobby of bird keeping, do most of our work in the winter.

The Roller is descended from the Hartz or Saxony strains of birds, and are much sought after.  The song is usually excellent, the strains have been sustained, and the birds themselves have become thoroughly acclimatized.

There are various methods of breeding canaries:
 1. By breeding 2 birds in a cage, using a double breeding cage,
 2. In a flight cage, using 1 cock with 3 or 4 hens,
 3. In a battery,
 4. In a large outside aviary or room where 3 cocks are at liberty with a large number of hens.

First method:   This is the most natural method, where a cock and hen pair, make the nest, mate, lay their eggs and rear the chicks.  During this natural sequence of events the parents alone feed and rear the chicks to weaning time.  This is the method of choice resulting in the production of fine, well-developed youngsters.  The couple are left together until after the third egg is laid, when the cock is separated from the hen by dividing slide which halves the cage, and after hatching is completed, the cock is allowed back to help the hen to rear the babies.

Second method:  The little flight method. 1 cock and 3 hens are placed in a large cage, 4 ft. long, 30” high, and 15 – 18” deep.  They are left alone to get on with their family affairs.  It will be found that the cock will help feed all the youngsters indiscriminately.

Third method:  The battery method is gaining favor these days.  The cock is introduced to a hen, mating is observed and the cock is then removed, kept for 2 or 3 days then is introduced to another hen, this is repeated as many times as required.  This is a good method of being sure of gaining many young from a particular sire.

Fourth method:  In a large aviary or room.  This method is mainly used as a means of exhibition.  It is a very pretty sight to see 5 or 6 hens with their attendant cocks rearing their young in full public view.

Light, Air and Sunshine:  In all bird room and aviaries, provision must be made for the admission of plenty of light.  The windows should be placed towards the east or southeast, where the sun penetrates for the greater part of the day.  FRESH AIR is essential; the windows must be open for at least part of the day.  It is also advisable to have the sunrays play on the cages wherever this is possible.

Vermin:  One of the main causes of lack of success in the breeding of birds in the presence of red-mite in the bird room.  To eradicate the pests, the cages, perches and nesting receptacles should be regularly washed with a carbonic solution.  Always use a good insect powder.

Perches:  These should be of thickness of a finger and should be placed well apart in the cages, do not use too many, thus forcing the birds to move freely, providing themselves with plenty of exercise.

The Nests:  First of all small pieces of hay are offered, and then give teased out string jute or wool.  The potential good mother makes a beautiful nest, but if a good one is not forthcoming it is a quite a simple thing to make one for her.  The nests are changed each week.  At the same time the cage cleaned out and the floor is covered with grit or sand.  After each nesting a clean one is supplied which has been disinfected and insect powder shaken under the felt.

Bathing:  Allow a bath daily during the summer and twice a week during the winter.  Only allow the birds to bathe during the morning so that they are quite dry when they go to roost.

Feeding:  Correct feeding is of the utmost importance.  One feeds a mixture of various seeds so that any bird, no matter what its taste, may be satisfied.  Some birds acquire a preference for a particular diet and careful observation will ensure that the birds will be adequately fed.  The staple diet should be 50% summer rape with 50% canary seed, with a small amount of linseed (flax) added.  During the breeding season one adds to the mixture niger (thistle), and pinhead oatmeal.  A useful fat addition is bacon rind, and for protein, ant eggs are useful.  When preparing for breeding, and during the actual rearing of the chicks, a moist mixture of hard-boiled egg and soft biscuit meal is given.  The Soft Food is prepared by crashing up a hard-boiled egg with an equal quantity of biscuit meal, then one adds a small amount of cod liver oil and then the whole is made damp with water or milk; it is then stirred up until a pasty condition is formed.  Calcium is indispensable to the diet and can be supplied as chalk in the diet, or as cuttlefish bone hung up in the cage.  There is also a water able solution called Calciboost.  Water is renewed daily and should always be accessible.  Greenstuffs canaries are dainty feeders; they love to pick at lettuce leaves, spinach, cabbage and all the other brassicae.  Fruits such as sweet apple, pear and soft fruits are greatly appreciated.

Reproduction:  Only the best birds are selected for breeding.  They should be very fit and well developed.  It is of the greatest importance that both the cock and hen are descendants of good singers.  Their pedigree should be known.  In action they should be quick and alert, constantly on the move and should be singing incessantly.  The hen should be lively, a little fat, with a rounded belly.  Her eyes should be bright and big, her tail and wings should show sings of spreading, her chirp answering the call of the cock should be accompanied by well-defined body sway.  The hen should be a two year old, mated to a current season’s cock, this mating gives the best results.  Males up the 5 years old may be used so long as they have been used annually for breeding.  Old males that have never been used for breeding become impotent.  The Mating Time depends upon the light and the temperature.  Where an unheated room is used it is usually early enough to breed 2 or three weeks later.  For birds kept outside in an aviary, May is the usual month.

The Laying of the Eggs:  After the birds have been paired for 8 to 10 days laying commences and an egg per day is usually laid.  The egg is laid between 6 and 8 o’clock in the morning.  The first clutch is usually 3 or 4 eggs, but subsequent clutches sometimes reach 5 or 6.  It is important that eggs hatch on the same day – so the first egg is removed and is replaced by an artificial one.  The process is repeated for 2nd and 3rd eggs and all three eggs are returned to the nest on the evening before the 4th egg is due. While away from the nest the eggs are stored in the sand.  A daily glance, where possible, should be given to the nest while incubation is going on.  If eggs become dirty they should be sponged off.  If any become pricked with the claws of the parents the holes may be sealed with collodion.  Strangers should be deterred from visiting the bird room during this time.

The Young:  The eggs hatch after 13 days of incubation.  At first no food is given, only warmth and rest.  When the young birds begin to feel hungry the mother bird will begin to seek food for them.  In the raising of the young the cock birds are usually very devoted.  At 7 days the youngsters should be banded.  When they are 12 days old their plumage is nearly complete, and at 21 days old they are ready to leave the nest.  At just about the same time the hen is ready to nest again.  The parents will continue to feed the young for 4 to 5 weeks, but by this time they are self supporting.  The young birds are then placed in a large cage so that they become fit and strong through exercise and flight.

Recognizing the Sexes:  The plumage in the young males glistens more than the female and the varying in the plumage are more marked.  Young cocks at 6 or 7 weeks old are already warbling and they can be certainly sexed when the proud owner observes the swelling of the throat.  Gradually the song advances until the true tones are distinguishable, and six weeks after the beginning of the song the cocks are placed in separate cages to be ultimately schooled.


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