Photo: Donald Skinner-Reid. Donald’s 2017-bred clear yellow Scots.

DONALD SKINNER-REID looks ahead to an exciting season which will see him make his bow in the champion classes.

2017 is my sixth breeding season and it is the one that has seen me go from novice to champion exhibitor. While I have enjoyed great success as a novice, now the challenge is to be equal to or better than the “big boys”.

As the third child in my family, I am used to competing with my elders, yet I remain, in terms of knowledge and experience, a novice at canary breeding. At the start of this season, I decided that I had to try to pair the birds less randomly than I have done before. To complicate matters for myself, I keep four varieties: Scots, Belgians, Norwich and Giboso Espanol. I love them all but I can’t take on more, because the breeding season – while I am working full time – uses up every spare moment that I have.

Pairing the Gibosos became simple when I realised that I had three pairs. (I only knew the genders of the birds I bred last year as the season began.) The cock Gibosos don’t sing much, but as the hens become “pregnant”, their gender becomes obvious as their abdomens swell greatly – they are very thin birds!

I only have two pairs of Norwich, so again the pairings were simple. My Norwich are self-rearing and kept for fun, not competition. The Belgians were easy, too, once I knew I had bred a cock and a hen last year, and had acquired new stock from Belgium, of whose genders the sellers were certain.

Now to the Scots. Last year, I bred a great big yellow cock bird and I wanted to maximise my return from him. Paired to his mother and sister, seven of the 25 I have bred come from him, and are remarkable even if I, modestly, say so myself. I was uncertain of some of the genders of last year’s bred birds, but I find that a sixth sense kicks in and body size combined with intensity of colour in the feathers gives you a good idea.

I had 10 pairs and was delighted that all my “guesses” proved correct. I only took one round, because the productivity was huge. I had 100 per cent hatchings from six nests and 75 per cent from the remaining two nests. Two hens failed to come into condition. You find that with the Scots: it’s not unusual for unflighted hens to breed in their second year.

As I write, the youngsters have yet to moult. We are also now at show-cage training time. I was gifted some old Fife training cages and I hang these on the outside of the stock cages. It takes about five minutes for one of a group of four being weaned together to get the idea and hop in. I leave the training cages on, and the birds get so used to them that by the show season I just present the show cage and in they go. Stress by handling is minimised if you can train them that way.

I am pleased with this year’s youngsters. The Scots is a “bird of position”. I believe that training plays a part in encouraging them to display, but really a good Scots sits in position almost all the time. This year’s crop does just that.

A by-product of taking one round is knowing the genders of the young. The hens go to the aviary and the cocks, being in breeding condition, remain “on song”. Their singing encourages the youngsters to sing so I know three birds already.

The strength of chicks this year leaves me feeling confident for the show season. I can’t wait for it to start! 

In future articles, Donald will continue the story of his step up to champion status.

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