Many breeders look upon the moult as a thing to be dreaded and it is indeed true that birds are out of condition at that time. They have special needs that must be cared for; they will stop singing, become sick, and even die if these needs are neglected; but the well treated bird will sing every day of his moult and give his owner not one moment of worry. He must have the food out of which to make feathers and must have correct temperatures. Growth of body, growth of feathers, and the growth of eggs as well as other bodily functions are controlled by the so-called "ductless glands." These are in turn influenced by external conditions and by the food supply. When the thyroid gland is over active (and this activity is communicated to the sex glands) we have the bird in breeding condition. A reduction of the activity of the thyroid gland gives us a sluggish bird that puts on fat and cannot be made to breed. When it becomes still less active, or its activity is of a different nature, the bird goes into moult. If the balance is correct the bird will grow a complete set of feathers and then stop moulting, but if the balance is upset the bird will stop moulting without growing a complete set of feathers, or it will go into soft moult and possibly continue to grow feathers until it moults itself to death.
An article on baldness in Canaries can be found here.

When a moulting bird is placed on a breeding diet, placed in a cooler room, chilled, or shocked in any way, it is likely to stop moulting before the growth of feathers has been completed. When this happens nine breeders out of ten become excited believing that so-called feather mites are involved. That the moult may be controlled through the influence of temperature has long been known and been made use of by many breeders, although it still seems not to be understood by a great many. It is often too troublesome to be of value to the breeders who do understand it; so many breeders have tried to control the moult by the use of drugs. Potassium chlorate and cod liver oil have been of some value in causing moult, and citrate of iron and quinine is valuable in stopping the moult. There are many cases where both the heat control and drugs fail to bring about the desired results, and in the hope of finding a better method I undertook some experiments With the use of gland products. The experiments are not complete, but it has been found that thyroid extract will stop soft moult and cause the reduction of fat on overfat birds thus bringing them into breeding condition. This extract comes in one grain tablets for human use and for a canary should be diluted with 100 parts of sugar; the bird is then given 1/2 grain of the dilution in some soft food of which it is fond every day for from three to five days. This is a dangerous drug and must not be used for too long a time or without regard to its reaction. When the bird begins to breathe fast and becomes nervous, it is time to discontinue the drug, and I do not think that in any case it is necessary to use it for a whole week or that this can be done without danger.

For the opposite effect thyroid residue is used. This is what is left after the nucleo-protein has been extracted from the thyroid glands of cattle and sheep. It is purchasable as a liquid and contains about 5 % of organically combined iodine. For birds stuck in moult (that is, bald birds) the drug is used in a dilution of 1 to 20, and the dose is one to three drops to the ounce of drinking water. This may be used somewhat longer than the extract, and the reaction is just the opposite from that of the extract. The bird breathes more slowly, becomes sluggish, and goes into moult. But as I said above, the experiments have not been completed and I am not able to say that either of these methods is safe or practical. They are offered here as a suggestion for experimental work by others and I shall continue them myself. This is a new and interesting field and one that holds promise of providing us with methods of considerable importance; direct control of the physiological factors involved.'

Frequently a canary, kept as a pet by its owner who is not a breeder, will finish his moult with a full coat of feathers but will not resume his song. He is very light in weight, seems always hungry, but often stops eating and sits with his eyes closed. His droppings are soft and watery. This condition is caused by trying to moult a bird without giving him the food to make feathers. Many owners of pet birds are too stupid to realize that they cannot get something for nothing when they buy package seed of the cheapest grade; and that their birds cannot get something from nothing when they try to make a coat of feathers on a diet of that kind. Seed, even if it is of the best, cannot give the bird all the elements that he needs to make a coat of feathers in the proportion in which he needs them. To get salts and vitamins that he needs he has to consume many times the amount of seed he would otherwise eat, and the strain at last is too much for even a bird's wonderful digestion.

This trouble can be avoided by feeding the bird as he should be fed during the moult. See that the moulting bird gets rape and canary, more canary than rape in the mixture, in his seed cup and that it is the very best grade of fresh clean seed. See that he has some vitamin D every day or two, together with all the green food that he can eat, and if possible, plenty of fresh seeding grasses. Give him a little sod once in a while, a little egg-food daily, and mix some tonic seeds into the egg-food. See that he has plenty of cuttlebone or other mineral food. Keep him from getting chilled, and he will sing every day of his moult. Many persons have the idea that it is necessary for birds to stop singing during moult, but the well treated bird never does. He may sing a little less than usual, but most of my birds sing all day long during moult, and when one stops I know that I have neglected him in some way and attend to it at once.

The bird that is already suffering with this indigestion and is sick should receive the care just described, and he must have plenty of exercise, too, to help rebuild his body. Even these things will not always save him, for germs attack his inflamed digestive tract and he goes from bad to worse. Such birds have an abnormal thirst. No food will agree with them, and they will empty their drinking cups within a few hours. This condition can best be treated by mixing Stroud's Avian Antiseptic and Stroud's Effervescent Salts in equal parts and putting from 1/2 to 1 grain in each ounce of drinking water; at the same time feeding as directed above and giving plenty of sod with clean, black loam earth around its roots. As soon as the bird's bowels become normal, the medical treatment should be discontinued. If this treatment is not available, fairly good results can be had by putting a little peroxide of hydrogen in the drinking water along with some citro-carbonate. Mix one part of citric acid with two parts by weight of bicarbonate of soda to form a wet paste. Dry it and powder it. Since this is very light in weight, a pile about the size of a pea is only about one-half grain and is the right amount for a one-ounce drinker. To this add ten drops of commercial peroxide of hydrogen solution to the ounce of water. This treatment should be given only until the bowels clear up. Never under any circumstances overdose a bird.

Taken from the book "Diseases of Canaries" by Robert Stroud.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.