Successful Breeding of American Singer Canaries and Breeding for Success


What we all desire in our breeding room is to improve the overall quality of our stock with high quality singers and have a realistic number of chicks every breeding season able to produce new Champions.

Conditioning AS canaries for breeding

American Singer Canaries need to be conditioned for breeding, which means building the birds up to their peak health performance. The peak performance is reached at the time canaries are paired together. Reaching the breeding condition too soon, disaster can occur (for instance, hens laying eggs in their flight cages before being pared and so losing valuable time). Also, breeding Canaries before reaching the peak condition will also fail to meet our expectations, not getting the results we want (for instance hens not laying eggs, suffering from egg binding or fighting to death their partner etc.). Experience has taught breeders how to successfully achieve peak conditioning at the right time by controlling the breeding room environment (lighting, warmth, and humidity), controlling parasites and infections, providing the right food supplements etc. Based on that, experienced breeders are likely to have more balanced stock than the beginners. Overall, the experienced breeders have a major advantage, learned over a number of years. Any Novice breeder should tap into this wealth of information and improve their breeding results.

Preparation before Breeding

Most Breeders start breeding American Singers in January and breed through April Hens and Cocks should have already been separated after the last breeding season. You should trim the vents and toenails on all your breeding stock prior to pairing them up. Do not trim or pull out the guide feather on the vent of the bird. These are the feathers that come directly out of the vent. Have a plan. Take your time and write down on the breeding notes all the reasons you thought why this would be a good pair and produce the youngsters you expect. If you don’t get the results you were looking for, then these notes will come in handy for the following breeding season. It is not suggested breeding more than two clutches a season. If you over breed your birds then these birds might not be able to breed next year. Talk with Champion Breeders that have best results for last years. These breeders do not fear any new competition from the Novices and will give useful information. Join American Singer clubs, which will provide you with valuable information in their newsletters and websites.

Pairing the birds, the quality issue

Quality and quantity do not always go together hand in hand. Novices will have a limited range of birds, which may have been bought from a number of sources, or may have come from a single source. A single source is obviously better, as the stock will probably have been supplied as matched pairs. Given that the supplier experienced breeder will explain why certain pairings should be made and why others should be avoided, then the pairings made by the original breeder should be continued, certainly for the first season. There is plenty of time for changes in year two, depending upon the first year results and so the beginnings of a new line can be established. Many Champion breeders use an established method of pairing “Best cock to multiple Hens”. This has the advantage that the best blood is distributed more quickly. It is certainly a method in favor for Champions. Novices are advised initially to pair “Best to Best” (certainly for the first season or two). “Best to Best” means pairing compatible birds (several couples) in such a way as to develop the best features in the room. By breeding in pairs, the workload on the Novice is reduced, and they can concentrate upon rearing the chicks to maturity. Problems will still occur, but are minimized to single pairs only, which is more containable. There is plenty of time in the future to become more adventurous, once the basics have been mastered.

Increasing Quantity of Quality Singers

Related to quantity, a point worth mentioning is the use of foster parents. Fosters are simply those birds which are proven parents, or of less quality than the leading birds. Taking the eggs from “Best to Best” pair, and placing into the nest of the foster bird, is a way of maximizing the results from your best stock, which means you can maximize production from your top pairs, resulting in perhaps three nests of young, when only two may otherwise have been possible. Fostering eggs works, which is simply a matter of getting pairs into condition simultaneously.

Controlling Parasites and Infections

To prevent the disaster happening in the breeding room, first you must consider using a treatment plan against parasites and against any possible spread of bacterial infection.

Always keep a good hygiene to prevent infections

Clean and disinfect the floor of breeding room. All cages and perches should be cleaned regularly and disinfected.

Treatment against parasites

Twice a year and also 60-80 days before breeding, treat all the birds with IVOMEC (or SCATT), which will kill all the internal parasites and all external blood sucking Mites. Every two months spray all the birds and cages with Avian Insect Liquidator for killing all Feather Mites and all crawling insects. Sprinkle Sevin powder 5% (or Organic Ingestible Diatomaceous Earth (D-Earth)) into the corners of the breeding room, into the bottom of all cages and into the nests

Treatment against bacterial infections:

To prevent any possible Leg infection, every month dip the legs of all the birds in Listerine/ or diluted white vinegar/ or iodine. Three weeks before breeding treat all the birds with Ronivet-S/or Ronex for cleaning any possible Protozoan infection or mild Bacterial Infections. To prevent bacteria development in drinking water, tube drinkers should be washed prior to refilling with daily fresh water and also you can add some drops of Apple Cider Vinegar or a drop of liquid Iodine in 1 Liter of drinking water (which also is good for the feathers).

Lighting Management

Canaries need at least 13 hours of daylight to breed. Remember do not go over more than 14.5 hours of daylight or you will throw you birds into a molt. You can read more about the effect of light on the life of the canary at this link: http://www.flyingangelsaviary.com/light.html

Nutritional Requirements

To bring canaries into breeding condition you should feed them prior to pairing with high protein food, sprout seeds, greens, fruit pellets, niger seeds, hemp seeds, Spirulina, egg food and full spectrum Vitamins. Two weeks before breeding treat all the birds with Vitamin E & liquid calcium added into drinking water. Place cuttlebone in the cage as an extra source of calcium. Do not feed spinach; the iron content in spinach blocks the formation of calcium. Feed the birds with a good mixture of enriched mix of seeds all year long. Seeds that canaries eat: Canary Grass Seed, Flax, Rape, Niger, Hulled Oats, Hemp sunflower seed etc… When feeding rape seed only use the red canola rape, black rape seed is a commercial grade seed and not good for canaries.

Increase immune system of the birds

Three times a year and at least 4 weeks before breeding treat all the birds with Guardian Angel and/or with extra strong Herbal Immune system booster (added drops in water for three days). Add drops of Apple Cider Vinegar into drinking water twice a week.

Bath

Birds need baths at least twice a week. Bathing helps keep down the dander in the room as well as giving the feather the conditioning they need to keep the skin soft. This will help to prevent feather lumps especially in older birds. I add a drop of iodine in the water to prevent bacteria from accumulating. Bathing also insures hatching since living in a dry climate eggs need a certain amount of humidity to break out of their shells.

Caging

The Average breeding cages should be 16″ Tall X 24″ Wide X 13″ Deep which can have both a wire and a solid divider. You need enough room for your pair to breed and feed their young. Place a nest material holder on the cage and fill it with nestling material. A canary nest is round and usually made of plastic. You will need to sew a nest pad, which is made out of cotton to the bottom of the plastic nest.

Introduce the Cock and Hen

Watch for signs that they are in condition. Cock will drop their wings when they sing and their song becomes harsher and louder. Hens will most often begin to tear paper and their vent appears red and swollen when they come into condition. They may also raise their tails and appear to squat when males are nearby. If both cock and Hen are in condition the male and female will begin to “kiss” through the bars of the wire partition. Once this occurs you can remove the wire partition but watch for any fighting. If they begin to fight, separate them immediately and watch for signs that they’re still both in condition.

Removing the eggs

You should remove the eggs every day once laid and replace them with a dummy egg. Put back the eggs in the nest when the fourth or fifth egg is laid. If you use this method it will ensure all the chicks are hatched in the same day and have the same opportunity to get fed and banded all at the same rate of growth.

Candling the Eggs

The eggs are candled between 5-8 days old and if all the eggs are not good, remove the nest from the cage for one week before putting it back. Give the hen and cock time to rest and breed again. Producing eggs takes a lot of calcium out of the hen’s body she uses her own calcium that is stored in her bones. So you don’t want to over breed her or you might not have this hen to breed next year.

Hatching

Eggs hatch between 13-14 days old. If the hen sits tight the eggs will hatch on the 13th day. Hens that do not sit tight will usually hatch eggs 2-3 days later. New hens are the ones to watch, this is all new for them. If your hen is not in full breeding condition she will not sit tight and you will have a problem with clear eggs or hen not feeding the babies. Don’t rush the process. If the eggs don’t hatch by the 16th day, remove them to see if the chick inside the egg is still alive. If the egg is dead you should open it to examine why the chick died. This information will help you prevent this from happening again if you can find the cause. Always wash your hand prior to handling eggs. Prevention of problems is always the key.

Banding

Chicks can be banded between 6-8 days old. The club secretary will have a record of those bands you purchased.

Weaning

Chicks American Singer Canaries can start to wean as early as 3-4 weeks but they may still be getting feed by their parents. If a chick does not look happy and is not eating, after being separated, place the chick back in the parent’s cage for another day or two until they are ready. Once in a weaning cage try to place the chicks according to age and keep the same food regiment as they grew up on. Give them daily baths especially if you plan on showing your birds in the show. Do not over crowd your birds. They fight for perch hierarchy, food, water, flying space etc… When feeding put several dishes of feed around the flight so that all the birds do not have to compete for one dish or feeder. This will also reduce the stress of too many birds trying to get food. After the first molt, you can separate the young males, what you think will be a show bird. Each show bird should be in its own cage from June until after show season.

Molting

Canaries will start molting after breeding season has ended in May and complete molting by beginning of July. At this time you can reduce your lighting to 9.5 hours of day light in your bird room. Keep the temperature moderately cool and give your Canaries a daily bath. Feed seeds reach in oil and food with extra protein for the proper development of their feathers. Keep giving to them essential daily vitamins and minerals along with calcium, egg food, sprout seeds, greens, fruits and enriched seed mix. Cuttlebone should always be in your flights and cages. A young canary will molt all of its feathers the first year except their tail and wing feathers. Therefore, they are called “Unflighted” as compared to adults, which will lose their tail and wing feather and are called “Flighted” birds. Remember feathers are mostly made up of protein, so when developing these new feathers they need extra protein in their diet. To control feather dust try misting the bird’s feathers regularly with a mixture of one tablespoon of Listerine to one quart of water. Also, The Listerine will act as a mild germicide which means it will alleviate their itching and scratching during molting season. All birds should be kept in flight cages during the molting season.

Show Your Bids

Do not get discouraged from the judge’s opinion which is subjective and only one person’s opinion on any given day. Take your birds to many shows and see how your birds perform under a different judge on different days. You can learn a lot by reading Judge’s comments and by asking them after the show what they think of your birds and what suggestions they have as to what you need to improve your line. Showing your birds is competitive, but it’s also a social hobby which you should enjoy, win or lose.

A summary of advises for Breeding for Success:

  • Selection of pairs is the key to breeding quality birds
  • Try to follow a practice of breeding together the best birds possible
  • Quality Breeding should consist of a combination of inbreeding and out-crossing
  •  When inbreeding, make sure that the good Genes carrier ancestor(s) appears on both sides of the Pedigree
  • Repeated, unrelenting inbreeding is likely to lead to the collapse of the bloodline
  • When introducing an out cross ideally it should come from another top bloodline which has itself been subjected to rigorous selection over a number of generations
  • You should accept that when bringing in new blood sometimes you have to go backwards in order to go forwards
  • You should accept that even with the best breeding plan you will still produce more bad birds than good ones (Usually around 15% of the new produced stock is good)

Ask for help finally, do not be afraid to call for help. Call your local Champion Breeder and ask for his experience for everything which is new. He or she will be pleased to help you if approached reasonably and after all, they will enjoy the hobby too!

Yours in fancy,

Arben Bebeti