Above: Don Bird’s breeding cages. Note the external nest compartments to left and right – these facilitate quick unobtrusive inspections. Photo Don Bird
Your canaries’ nests are their most essential resource, so you don’t want to skimp on design or materials… but that doesn’t mean you’ve got to spend a fortune, say our panel members
Dorset-based DON BIRD breeds rollers in both birdroom and aviary for pleasure
I use exterior-mounted nest-pan compartments on the birdroom breeding cages. I like them as they allow for a quick nest inspection when the hen is off the nest feeding. Ringing chicks is also a lot easier. When I first started using them, I found that hens often left the nest when I was in the birdroom. The plastic doors provided are like grilles, so all movement in the shed is visible to the sitting hen. I replaced the original slides with wooden ones with a few ventilation holes drilled in, the extra privacy meant that hens started to sit tight.
Another thing I’d recommend when using external nest pans is to make sure you fit a perch that is level with the middle of the pan, which allows hens to enter and exit easily. They obviously only have one way out of the enclosed compartments, unlike an open pan.
Standard shop-bought nest felts are too large for my nest pans, so I use hessian sacking, which I cut to size. I cut three slits in it to allow it to follow the contours of the pan and then glue it in with wood glue. Don’t use waterproof glue, as you want to be able to soak the felts off again at the end of each round of chicks. I start the nests off for my birds: using a warm light bulb is a good way of moulding the right shape. Extra material to finish off the job is provided in racks hung on the cage fronts.
PADDY DUNNE has many years of experience with a range of canary breeds
I save money on my nest felts by making my own. From my local hardware shop I can purchase a roll of sisal pipe lagging for £1.50, then simply roll it out and cut it into squares measuring 41/2in. One roll makes 50 nest felts.
Canary fanciers usually secure their nest felts to the pan by either sewing or gluing. Another way is a discovery I made in a pound shop. I pierce the felt with twist ties that come on a roll. Thread it through the nest-pan holes and twist to secure underneath. It’s a good quick way of attaching the felt and one I’ve not found any problems with.
A few pounds can be saved when there are chicks in the nest, too. I often see plastic splash-backs being advertised to attach behind the nest pan, which are intended to protect the paintwork from the chicks’ droppings. However, I find an old bit of cardboard cut to size and pinned to the cage wall does the job just as well. Finally, be sure to save those larger plastic yogurt and margarine tubs. When it’s time to lower the nest pan to allow for the second round, they are perfect receptacles to sit in it.
DAVE COLLIER, a Gloster breeder since 1957
I use a conventional plastic nest pan. They are easy to clean and long- lasting. The medium-sized pan I choose will comfortably house three chicks. The only real disadvantage to the plastic pans is that they are very rigid when screwed to the back of the cage wall. A bit of movement in a pan is in fact a good idea, as it is a trigger for the chicks to reach up to be fed when a parent bird lands on the rim of the nest. Some time ago, I solved this problem by gluing two small springs to the back of the nest pan, which allows for a bit of bounce in the pan, while still being securely fastened to the cage wall.
It definitely works. My garden and birdroom back onto a railway line and the vibrations sent through the shed wall when a goods train rumbles past are often enough to get the chicks stretching and calling for food, even when the parents are sitting around on the opposite perch!
I don’t need to buy nest felts as some years ago I had some woollen ones crocheted by the local knitting circle. I fit them in the pan by melting down carbolic soap in a bit of water, they stick well and I think the soap is good at discouraging mite. They clean up well after being soaked and washed thoroughly and have lasted for around fifteen years to date. If anyone is thinking of getting some made up, then it’s important that they are 100 per cent wool, since any material with nylon in it could lead to birds’ claws getting caught up and trapped. ■
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