LONGTlME bird fanciers inevitably draw comparisons between the Border Fancy now and when it first started many years ago, and on doing so some of today's fanciers have a clinical attitude to their pastime. It is almost as though they tossed a coin to decide between collecting stamps or keeping birds. The same people set out to gain knowledge, but not friends. The advantage of being a genuine fancier, as the vast majority still are, is that you collect knowledge and friends along the way. Although attitudes have changed, the same cannot be said of most of the methods used in maintaining a stud of exhibition Borders. Preparations for the breeding season has changed little in 30 years. In February you should be midway through the conditioning programme. Softfood is offered once a week during January, and then is stepped up to twice a week in February and will be increased further, to three times a week, in March. It is most important at this time to watch carefully for any Canaries that are reaching too high a level of condition too early - feeding is the main factor controlling condition. Borders basic diet consists of a Deluxe Canary mixture. A softfood mixture is made up as follows: the basis is an eggfood mixture. You then take a teaspoon full of cod-liver oil and malt and dilute it in half a teacup full of warm water. When cooled, this is poured onto one cup full of horsemeal and blended with a cup of the eggfood until the mixture is crumbly. Two tablespoons of either Kraker tonic grains or Canary condition seed are added to each cup full of mixture. When there are chicks in the nest you can also add one hard-boiled egg to each cupful. The softfood mixture is fed in finger drawers to the cocks, which are housed separately at this time, and in dishes to the hens, which are housed in groups of four to six. Once they become available, young dandelion plants, including roots, are offered twice a week.

Drinking water:
Drinking water can contain a trace of purifying Vanodine V18 at the recommended rate. In spite of recent comments to the contrary. I am convinced that Canaries need grit to enable them to digest their food properly. Mix mineral and oyster-shell and put it straight onto the cage floor. They do not receive cuttlefish bone or soaked seed. That is the diet when they are developing at the desired rate. However, if any of the cocks start to became hyperactive, bouncing around and feeding the bars -- their supply of softfood is withdrawn until they cool down. It is imperative to conserve the cocks energies until mating. It would be wrong to suggest that it is easy to identify exact degrees of breeding condition. Even breeders who have kept Canaries for many years have difficulty. Newcomers are advised to visit as many birdrooms as possible and to learn from observation. As March progresses the hens will be placed in double-breeder cages. Normally install the nest-pans at the same time - young hens are especially helped by familiarity with them. Clay nest-pans are mounted on top of plastic plant pots. Pierce holes into a pot at least 1 inch up from the base and place a 1 inch layer of wet sand in the bottom. The sand serves the double function of providing humidity and stability. The tapered shape of the plant pots helps to keep them clean as droppings tend to fall clear. Tie pieces of string to cage fronts to tease the hens into trying to use them as nesting material and offer twice-weekly baths. You expect the cocks to be approaching high condition by this time and you should try to keep them out of sight of the hens. An ideal arrangement is to house a cock in a cage adjoining the hen's so that merely withdrawing a slide brings them together. Sparse amounts of dried grass are placed in the hens cages and as soon as you detect the first signs of a nest being built you can introduce the cock. If the timing is right, the cock will sing, the hen will squat and mating will take place immediately. If this does not happen it means that one or other of the partners is not ready - it's as simple as that. Like many other Border breeders, the majority of my cocks are used purely as stud birds and so maintaining only eight breeding cocks (four Yellows and four Buffs) to service 22 hens is good. A cock can be introduced to three hens in the same day as long as a few hours rest is permitted between each encounter.

Leave the nest:
A fit Cock will mate ten times with the same hen in the space often minutes. It is perhaps easier to understand now the reference to conserving cocks' energy. Most hens react very well to this system and carry on to lay and incubate their eggs alone. However, there are always exceptions and the occasional hen will be seen to fidget and leave her nest because she craves the company of a cock. You can check whether eggs are being incubated at the correct temperature by holding them to your cheek. You soon learn to tell when things are going wrong. If you decide that a hen needs a cock's company, it best to install the cock in the neighbouring cage with a wire slide separating him from the hen. He can then feed her and she can see him. Letting the cock in with her, risks broken eggs as he might try to mate her on her nest. Young and old Canaries sometimes need extra consideration. For example, a young cock may benefit from being paired first with an experienced hen, although top breeding condition should make almost any pair compatible. Similarly, it is best for some older birds to enjoy the constant company of an attentive mate. There is much to be said for linebreeding by pairing one cock with several hens, but a reliable pair feeding their chicks is always a pleasing sight. Whichever arrangement is used, if conditioning has been correctly timed you should find the first egg about eight days after pairing.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.