Above: Jon tops up his youngsters when they need a hand, and also offers his show birds a treat or two to sustain them 


If you see youngsters struggling in the birdroom, step in and help, says JON ASHBY – this season has seen a lot of hand-rearing to maintain productivity

“WHY aren’t my birds feeding their young? They are just wasting away! They must be ill or have fledglings disease, which I have read about online.” These are all comments and statements I have read and had said to me on a number of occasions across the past six or seven months by different breeders of all levels.

So, what is going on? Well, these breeders are not alone and I’ve had similar issues myself. Lots of pairs are filling eggs and then rearing babies until they are nearly fully feathered or even to the point that they have left the nest-box, but then they simply stop feeding them. Often, this is to the extent that if you aren’t topping up these babies with a crop needle each day, sometimes twice daily, using a hand-rearing food, the young are wasting away and perishing.

So what is it…?

My birds are not ill and I have no French moult in the shed, which readers should note in its most severe form is “fledglings disease”. So, I am left scratching my head as to why certain pairs in my two sheds are giving up on their babies.

The good news is that by crop feeding I am getting birds to a point where they do eventually begin to sustain themselves once they are out of the nest-box, in most cases. However, getting them to that point has taken a great amount of work, including hand-feeding twice a day.

My own experience of this is that it decreases in the warmer months and so I believe the issue is climate- related. Now, this may be different from shed to shed, but in my configuration of birdrooms within my Hertfordshire garden, this is the pattern. This is despite offering lots of softfood, easily consumed red millet sprays and loose Japanese millet, on top of groats, canary seed and mixed millets all fed separately.

Having spoken to senior fancier friends also having to deal with this troublesome issue, they agree that you simply need to hand-rear through it. Top up birds to a level dependent on their wastage, age and fill of crop when they are examined prior to crop needling.

Sharing out the young

My better feeding pairs get additional babies to rear from cages that house poor feeders. I am also not slow at moving babies on to different foster parents if they are not being cared for by those they are first transferred to.

Typically, it seems that the better pairs in my shed are the poorest feeders. However, I scrutinise my babies daily and if some are falling behind I jump in and intervene without unnecessary delay.

At times like this it is easy to see that when problems arise breeders become disillusioned with the hobby. But perseverance will see fanciers into less choppy waters. On this particular subject, I am keen to know if other breeders are experiencing similar problems for the first time this breeding season, or have done so before, and how they have approached it. Write and share your experiences.

Jon Ashby is the show coordinator and publicity officer for Bedfordshire BS.

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