December 28, 2016

The Importance of SEASONS in your canary's life

I briefly mention this in my Canary Care Sheet, and incessantly mention this in my emails/talks with new canary breeders!  It is a topic that I now have as one of the top three priorities in my own bird room.

ALLOW Seasons For Our Canaries!

When I began breeding, I was used to having the canaries' cage in our dining room.  As I bought more canaries, I moved the cages to an end of the living room near a window.
I was in the habit of watching and listening to the canaries throughout my day as I moved around the house.  My family would set newspapers on the top of the cages, when they needed the birds to be quiet while a movie played on the TV.  In general, the canaries lived with/alongside us humans.

As a result, they got up when my husband turned on the living room lights as early as 5 a.m. and went to bed when the last of the family turned out the living room lights, most often after 10 p.m.  Our bedtime hours are the same 12 months of the year.  And while we were wishing for more sleep than 6 hours each night, I now think my canaries were also feeling the effects of that long day-short night!

Canaries are one of the bird species that responds to daylength to determine breeding and resting seasons.  There are other factors in use also, such as temperature and diet.  Our wild songbirds and other finch species vary in how they respond, but we see a very clear example of 'SEASONS' in our outdoor birds, as they migrate to and from warmer climates, following the seasons, and breeding most often one season a year.  Some finches, native to different areas than our North American climate. breed at all times of the year, as diet and temperature allow.

But our canaries are one of the species that breed when the temperature is warm, food is plentiful, and the days are long, allowing the young birds to go through a short night without food.  They also have a natural molting period once a year, triggered as the days go from long in the summer to shorter days in winter.

If you own poultry, you know of the molt in late summer to early winter.  You also will be familiar with hens hatching chicks, or see chicks for sale in farm stores in the spring season.

So, let's come back to our canaries who live in a cage in our house!

If we expect them to follow our day/night schedules, they will be 'stuck' in one season.
From experience with my first canaries and from observation of other canary owners' experiences, I can describe a 'worse case' scenario of canaries living in the 'normal' activity of a human household:
The canaries act about the same all year around... singing some, quiet some, and occasionally laying eggs.  There may be more feathers falling on the floor at one or more times during the year, but there is most likely feathers falling a few all the time.

The canaries in this situation, do not go through the Seasons!  They are stuck in one artificial season.

IF you want a superbly healthy singer, or a successful breeding pair, PLEASE give them SEASONS throughout the year!

One simple solution, that many owners of single singing males already know, is to put his cage near a window in a room that is slightly away from the general activity of the household.  I have seen many people do this with great results!  In this way, he is allowed to wake up and go to sleep as he wishes, influenced as much or more by the natural light from the window as the subdued light from other rooms.

I have seen my own birds, asleep near the dark window, ignore us as we get up, turn on lights in another room, and move about our day.  Soon, I hear the birds begin to awake, get a drink and search their feed dishes for breakfast.  In the evening, with the lights out in the dining room, they retreat to their favorite perch, and go to sleep, even while we are watching a movie in an adjoining room.  They may wake up and watch me walk past as I finish chores before my bedtime, but in the dim light, and the window dark, they go back to sleep even as I am still cleaning up in the kitchen.

Since I have increased the number of canaries in my house, I have dedicated a room entirely to the canaries, and it is much easier to keep their room in tune with the seasons outdoors.  If you wished to begin breeding at a certain time earlier, it would be a simple thing to begin artificial lighting, increase temperature, and adjust diet to 'change their season' to whatever you wish.

But I am perfectly happy with my canary room lighting up with the dawn light coming in the large window, and darkening as dusk falls outdoors.

I am not saying all is perfect!

As we turn on the light in the entry nearby in the mornings, I have had to hang a curtain over the open doorway to the birdroom.  And the canaries do wake up to some degree, when they hear our activity in the rest of the house.  Plus, I am still working out when/how much to close off the heat/ac vent in  their room.  With each year in this room, I am learning what is best for my birds.

I do think they are healthier.... and I no longer have feathers 'all over' year around.  They molt at the proper time, and begin to think of breeding only after a period of rest.

I do have some adjustments to make to MYSELF!
As winter comes, I have fewer chores outdoors, so I have more time for indoor hobbies.
That means, I want to spend more time with the canaries:  experimenting with new foods, feeding treats, and dreaming of next year's chicks.
Every winter, I have to fight the temptation to begin breeding early.

I have to remind myself of the times in the early summer when I watch a tired hen building a nest yet again... watching her and the ragged male as they struggle to raise yet another clutch of youngsters.
They don't automatically stop after a nest or two!
And I want to keep the good ones, and my favorite pets, for years to come.
The sad fact is they can/do 'work themselves to death'!