February 27, 2019

February In The Bird Room --- Month by Month Journal

Late February 2019
In the past, February has been a l-o-ong month in the bird room. I was torn between all the social posts of other breeders with photos of their newly hatched young... and my desire to keep my bird room close to the natural spring here in Montana.  My birds were impatient also.

This year, February has been a wonderful and peaceful time!  I have occupied myself with diet and nutrition research.  Several of the changes in my care and the bird room environment have worked well, and the birds are active and happy.
I have taken time to sit in the rocking chair in the bird room and watch the young singers.  There is a young opal male who loves me sitting close to his cage and trills with a low rumble!  Several young American Singer males act so excited as I sit down... and situate themselves on high perches to serenade me!  It has been a very enjoyable month.
Yes, I am nearly ready for an all new breeding season... and yes, the canaries seem ready.  The males have spent the winter months grouped three or so to a cage, and are beginning to spar.  The hens are flying back and forth in the cage... nearly colliding in midair, intent upon the excitement in the air.

I am still convinced my decision to start my breeding season no earlier than March 1st is the right one.  And a few changes I made to the diet and room environment worked as well as I had hoped.

First, the changes I made in the canaries' diet and the bird room environment:
  • Sometime in December, our home furnace began running more often.  This winter, we humans set the desired temperature a few degrees higher.  Since the heating is a whole-house system, with one thermostat located in the dining room, normally the temperature in the bird room will actually RISE in late December and January!
    This year, I closed the heat vent in the bird room... not completely, but nearly closed.
    The temperature dropped this year, instead of increasing.... and it worked very well.
    On the days we had sunshine, the bird room warmed to the upper 60's, with nighttime temps near 60 degrees F.  There were a few times, it dropped to the higher 50's.
  • I was very consistent about keeping the curtain pulled across the doorway to the bird room, so my family's activities in the evenings did not keep the canaries up past their bedtime!  :)
    Also, as the days began to noticeably lengthen sometime around the beginning of the year, I decided to partially close the blinds in the bird room window late each afternoon.  This worked well to quicken the darkening as nights began.  I wasn't home every afternoon, but I did the best I could, and it seemed to keep the canaries from 'thinking Spring' too early.  :)
    I stopped closing the blinds sometime in February.
  • In years past, I have used a 70/30 or 80/20 canary/rape seed mix during the winter.  This year, I increased the oil seeds, using both rape and nyjer seed, which also raised the protein level and lowered the carbohydrate level.  I also added a small portion of a seed mix that contained egg-based pellets.  It was a very small amount, as I stretched out several cases of the seed mix, which I had purchased on sale.  But in a small way, it contributed to a higher protein level of the final mix.
    NOTE:  My seed mix still contains a higher percentage of carbohydrates than the percentage of protein.  I was simply trying to close the gap a little.  (more on this in my Diet and Nutrition Research article, coming soon)
  • I did not feed supplemental soft/egg food, for most of the winter months.  I did feed weekly portions of grated carrots or other veggie.  Usually, I have free time during the winter, and since I have fun mixing various soft foods for the canaries, my usual practice is to increase soft foods in late winter.  I resisted this year, and did not feed any bread/egg food.
  • I took notice of the joy and excitement my canaries have with the Ioford/DufoPlus combination.  This is a simple vitamin/iodine/iron supplement added to their water.  The strength/amount of each 'nutrient' may be lower than the amounts in other products.  And at first glance, there isn't anything special about the specific combination of these nutrients.  But whatever the reason, my birds love it.  In the past, I have added it to their water weekly during the breeding season.  This year, I ordered large bottles before we had freezing temperatures last fall... and have included it in my winter schedule.  They just love it! 
Early in my research, I gained an impression and formed an opinion.... and I had to study it out... to prove it to myself.  😊
So, I postponed my original plans.  ( See modified February Schedule photo above.) 
I did intend to add a fertility vitamin supplement to the males sometime middle February but I did not do so.  Both males and hens received the weekly Ioford/DufoPlus.
I also intended to begin feeding a soft food... high protein/low carb type.. based upon what I learned in my diet research.  However, I wanted to prove it by a little more research.  So, I did not feed any soft food.

Now, to explain WHY I am SO GLAD to have this PEACEFUL MONTH, before breeding season:

The reasons March is the beginning of my breeding season:
  • Most importantly:  the nesting urge in the hens does not lessen until day length obviously shortens, usually late July or August.  I have gathered many suggestions people use to stop their hens from continuing to build nests.  But, these don't work for me, and the extra worry and stress on both me and the hens was a concern.
    It is a long time until August---  if a hen begins laying eggs in December or January!
  • We often lose our electricity during winter storms here in Montana... and I do not want to be depending upon artificial lighting and heating.
  • Both the birds and myself seem to enjoy 'playtime' in the winter sunshine.  :)
  • I also have an opinion that my younger hens are better mothers after a longer winter...?
    I also have an opinion that there are fewer or no 'first round of infertile eggs'. ( I am still working on this topic.  In the past, I have seldom had problems with infertile eggs, but many people do.  My personal opinion is this is due to breeding urges before the pair is ready.)
  • I have not exhibited in a show or song contest.... so I have not had a specific date as a goal for mature and trained birds. I am hoping to attend at least one show this year!
On My Mind:
My study into Canary Diet and Nutrition has been so interesting!
I learned so much.
I read all sides of each topic.
There were differences of opinions... I read them all.
I made a few notes... found a few simple things that I think are vital to the health of my birds.

After all the study, and looking over the list of 'facts' that I discovered, I realized the next step was to work out a way to actually feed my birds by those principles!

So, I began a series of experiments with actual food products.
I just finished the last one... and am writing up a summary of my research, with photos of the experiments.  I'll add it to this blog as soon as possible.