Above: Pleasing sideline: a 2019-bred black-faced silver mutation. Photo: Dave Brown

 

DAVE BROWN is reaping the benefits of changes made to his birdroom, with some one hundred zebbie chicks already ringed. It’s just a shame about all the DIY he’s had to do

 

WHO would have thought, not even the end of March and there are one hundred chicks ringed? Never have I enjoyed such a smooth-running start to the season. The birds must be enjoying the new birdroom environment, as compatibility, fertility and hatchability have all been excellent.

It would be interesting to discover what part my birdroom timer and dimmer lights, plus the dust extractor, have played in the good results. A new dehumidifier also seems to help build a pleasant environment.

The only slight snag to so many youngsters so early on in the season is that the chicks’ planned accommodation (new flights in the old birdroom) is not quite finished, with the woodwork needing another coat or two of gloss paint following a good couple of layers of undercoat, and the wire fixing. Not very time-consuming jobs if you have lots of time. But getting my canaries ready to breed has proved a bit of a distraction to sorting the young zebra finches’ living quarters. I find water-based gloss paint preferable as it doesn’t take on the yellow tinge after a season or two, as the oil-based stuff tends to.

The other delay to flight preparation was the need to deal with some bamboo that had actually appeared inside the birdroom! The old birdroom is a modified metal-framed garage and a clump of bamboo growing outside the shed had sent out runners. These had grown under the metal frame and started growing in the cavity between the interior and exterior walls, causing the interior hardboard lining to bow under the pressure of the growing shoots. The additional job of digging out the bamboo clump in the garden and then the runners inside the shed, as well as fixing a new lining, all took up extra time.

As an interim measure, I ordered a double-storey metal flight cage online to accommodate both the growing youngsters and the resting adults. Placed on the front walls of the new birdroom, I cannot overstress how useful these cages are, with wheels so that they can be moved easily when cleaning the shed, wire grille floors that mean droppings and stale food are out of reach of the birds, and roomy interiors that house a fair number of birds comfortably. On top of that, they were extremely easy to put together which is a bonus for DIY inadequates like me. I am so pleased with the cage I have ordered another to fit next to it.

Despite not making it into the new flights yet the youngsters seem to be thriving. My plan to reduce the seed bill slightly by decreasing the number of millet sprays fed and replacing it with dishes of small panicum seed, seems to be working. Millet sprays have not been excluded entirely and are still on hand when chicks first leave the boxes as a way of encouraging birds to eat, and then every few days when in the weaning cages solely as something to offer a bit of interest and stimulation.

Thankfully, there are a few youngsters beginning to catch the eye but I seem to have the usual scenario of high numbers of normal cocks and chestnut hens and few normal hens or CFW cocks. Hopefully, this situation will rectify itself when I pair up the birds again after the break they are currently on to rebuild their reserves.

Outside of my main colours, I’ve found myself doing some experimenting this season and one of the main objectives to breed a couple of black-faced silvers has been achieved. Hopefully, a few more of this mutation combination will appear in future nests, although it is always a bit of a gamble with the dominant mutations.

Surrey-based Dave Brown breeds zebra finches and frill canaries.

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