SCOTTISH NORWICH PLAINHEAD CANARY CLUB
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THE MOULT AND COLOUR FEEDING
BY CHRIS GOODALL MAY 2004
After my youngsters are weaned off, they remain in the breeding cages until they are six weeks old. During this time they are fed on the food they were reared on, namely egg food and soaked seed. At this time they will drink copious amounts of water and care should be taken to ensure fresh supplies are always available.
At six weeks of age they are transferred to a large aviary, where they will remain until the moult is nearly completed. At this stage the youngsters are introduced to dry food. Crushed hemp, rape and pinhead oatmeal are given in addition to the egg food and soaked seed. Canary seed is added to the diet a week later
It is vital during the moult to provide a diet that will assist your canaries to produce the quality of feather desired. The selective pairing of the parents will determine 3/4 of the feather quality. A balanced diet, rich in protein, to supply essential amino acids is necessary to produce the finished article. Sprouted seed, hard boiled egg and sunflower hearts are all high in amino acids. Canary seed, the staple diet is more valuable at this time of the year than any other as it contains silicon in the brown coating of the seed, and enters the blood stream in small amounts to help in feather making.
Extra vitamins can be added either, as I do, by using commercial products at the recommended dose or by giving a natural source such as dandelions or spinach. Oily seeds such as niger, hemp, maw, and linseed can be added to the diet in small quantities. These will provide the extra oil that is necessary for feather luster.
First round youngsters will start to moult at 8 to 10 weeks old, second round youngsters at a slightly younger age. The new feathers replace the old in a definite pattern, beginning along the breast and back, finishing with the neck and head.
The moulting process with the breeding birds is controlled by hormones. Because of their different hormones the cock bird will lose his sex drive and song, and generally start moulting before the hen. A few tips that will aid a successful moult are, give a bath or spray on warm clays, this is most beneficial in assisting the growth and condition of new feathers. Keep birds in draught free quarters. This is a requirement throughout the year, but more so during the moult as this can stop the moulting process altogether. We say they are "stuck in the moult" and will be extremely unwell. If this happens try to keep the bird warm, add a pinch of Flowers of Sulphur to the soft food, and as a tonic Syrup of Buckthorn administered at the rate of one drop to the ounce (30mls) of drinking water. This should get the moult started again.
Finally although the birds need plenty of fresh air and good light it is advisable to moult the birds out of direct sun. The object is to moult the birds with good even colour and we all know the bleaching effect the sun can cause. Which brings us on to colour feeding.
Norwich Canaries have been colour fed for showing since the 1880's. At first the hot Natal pepper was used, and then it became the custom to use prepared cayenne pepper from the Capsicum plant. This method, which in my case, involved mixing four parts egg food to one part pepper with a little olive oil to infuse the pepper into the egg food. I used this until Canthaxantin took over in the early 1960's.
I can remember the first time I saw Norwich at a show fed with this new product. It was at Kings Lynn C.B.S., approximately 1963 and the birds belonged to Dr. Smither of Peterborough. The birds were very patchy and a burnt rusty colour because the colouring agent had been given too strong and not at regular feeds. This is still seen at shows today as fanciers try colour feeding for the first time. It usually takes a couple of years to get the quantities right.
The old method of cayenne pepper can still be used today, but most breeders will be using a product sold under the brand name Carophyll Red*. This is a water soluble product and can either be used in food, or water. I use both methods and I will endeavor to describe the way 1 colour feed my birds.
Throughout the moulting season, which usually starts with the first cock bird dropping feathers about the third week in June, till the end of December for the last ones that dropped feathers. The birds in flights are colour fed on a three day rotating sequence.
The first day they receive the carophyll in the water. The reason I stated in the last paragraph, "I will endeavor to describe" is because it is difficult to give exact quantities as most people have a different measuring utensil. I use a 2 2 ml. spoon that comes with Vydex Products, and a level spoonful of carophyll Red is mixed with 1.5 litres of hot, not boiling water. Most people will advise boiling water, but I find this makes the Carophyll separate and within hours sinks to the bottom.
On day two I colour feed in the food. My mixture is prepared as follows. 10 grams. of Carophyll Red is mixed in a coffee grinder with 1 lb of the egg food that is used during the breeding season. The Carophyll must be mixed evenly throughout the 1 lb of egg food till its consistency is of a coarse powder. One part of this mixture is then added to six parts of egg food, cold water is added to make it crumbly and given at the rate of I teaspoonful per bird. When cold water is added to this mixture the egg food will look just the same as it did when given to rear your youngsters. If you add warm water the egg Food will be pink.
On the third day they do not receive any colouring agent at all. On this day they receive a mixture of equal parts of condition seed and pinhead oatmeal that has fish oil addled to it the evening before to soak in. Each bird is given 1 heaped teaspoonful. A level teaspoon of fish oil to 1 lb of seed is recommended, to which I add the same measure of a commercial multi-vitamin and mineral product which will adhere to the oiled seed.
This three day sequence continues till the birds just have the neck and head to moult. They are then removed from the aviary and caged separately. From then until the end of the show season they are fed only colour food starting at the rate of a teaspoonful every other day, and when they have just the face to finish they only have half a teaspoonful every other day.
Some breeders only do the colour feeding in the water, this is fine if the birds are being moulted out in flights. I would not advise coloured water in the cages as it stains the woodwork. If you have no flights and moult out in cages, I would advise using only colour food at the rate of one teaspoonful per day for two days, then miss a day. If the birds droppings are pink to red in colour this will indicate the strength of colour food is correct.
This is the worst period of a fancier's year with feathers everywhere and the birds are not at their best. However, it is worth it when an ugly duckling turns into a prized Norwich Canary.
Best to use a good quality white cock to a soft-feathered Buff hen and a Yellow hen.Keep the best feathered, best shaped young - if a cock, pair to a Buff hen, watching that white is maintained and lessening the amount of yellow feather in young. Watch also that you do not pair hard-feathered to hard-feathered or soft to soft. You will produce good quality white hens which can be mated to an exhibition quality Buff cock.
Pair Cinnamon to Green - giving you Green Cinnamon carrier cocks. Pair a Cinnamon cock to a Yellow/Buff self or variegated hen - giving you Green cocks some of which, not all, will be Cinnamon carriers. Pair such a carrier cock to a Cinnamon hen giving you Cinnamon cocks, and hens,Green ~Green carrier cocks. Do not pair Cinnamon to Cinnamon too often as it weakens the young, causes blindness, creates too fine a bird and feather. Keep bringing in self Green cocks. Best pairing Green Cinnamon carrier cocks to Cinnamon hens. Keep these birds out of your normal main stud of birds.