Photo: Tony Edwards. Tony had a major step forward with pink-eyed whites (albinos) in 2011 and usually gets good results from this colour.

 

Early days, but the 2018 breeding season has proved fruitful for TONY EDWARDS, with certain colours doing well. However, there are inevitable exceptions to provide a challenge

I AM well into my 2018 breeding season with some pairs now hatching chicks in their second round. A red-grey & white hen mentioned previously was found dead on the floor of the cage one morning when her six chicks were eight days old. (See January 31 and February 28 issues for earlier breeding bulletins.)

There were no signs of illness with the cock and he appeared to be feeding the chicks well, so I decided to leave him as a single parent. However, six is probably too many for one bird, so two chicks were fostered to a pair of dilute fawn & whites that had hatched three chicks on the same day. These birds were not great feeders initially – the single cock was actually better for the first week – but eventually they got the message.

If I get a pair that isn’t feeding well after a few days (I don’t expect newborn chicks to be fed immediately), I will remove the nest-box for about 15-20 minutes. Normally, one or both parents start to feed and, on returning to the nest-box, the chicks are fed. A word of caution: don’t get distracted and forget a nest-box has been moved! I have a routine to check nest-box positions on leaving my birdroom and not to leave a nest-box off, unless I know that I am definitely returning straightaway.

All six chicks, four chestnut & white and two fawn & whites, have reached independence, but none have attractive markings. Hopefully, they will have decent type and, because they are all split grey, I can use some of them in rebuilding my stock of variegated greys. It is unlikely they will be used to produce chestnut & whites.

Breeders often have different results with their assorted colours, which can also vary from year to year. My pink-eyed whites (albinos) got off to a great start. One pairing of a crested albino cock to a silver & white hen (split albino) produced seven fertile eggs, of which five hatched; all were albinos and two were crested. It was not until June last year that I produced my first crested albino chick. Other pairings also produced albino chicks and I have a few that look very promising for showing.

Most of my dilute fawn & white have produced chicks and some of these are encouraging. My chocolate & whites, after a slow start, have picked up both in terms of quantity and quality, but the fawn & whites have not been far short of a disaster. Last year they were probably my best breeding colour and nearly every pair produced numerous chicks. The hens have all laid well, but fertility has been very low. I am unable to explain the different results, because all my birds get the same preparation diet and caging (age is not a factor) and the choice of breeding cage is unlikely because I don’t block colours together.

I have already started to adjust my pairings to give more pairs of chocolate & white and fawn & whites, in order to try and address their current shortcomings. Sadly, in addition to the red-grey & white hen, I have now lost four more breeding birds, quite an unusual number of losses for me. All were chocolate & white hens. Two had laid good-sized clutches, but died before starting to lay a second clutch.

It is my standard practice to give pairs that still look fit a second chance. However, if I get clear eggs for a second time, I usually replace the pair. After two clear rounds I usually find that the birds have put on weight but this year, with the odd exception, this is not the case. However, I still like to give hens about a month in my aviary before I consider using them again.

I normally have much better cock birds than hens, so cocks in failing pairs are unlikely to be used for several months, or not at all, unless they are of exceptional quality. I have a fawn & white cock with a super outline that produced quality chicks last year. In his case, I have broken my rule and he has been allowed a third breeding attempt with the same hen. If the eggs are clear again, however, he will either be returned to the aviary or allowed to foster a good-sized clutch of four or five chicks. I find that, very often, a subsequent round of eggs are fertile after a pair has worked hard raising chicks.

When resetting pairs with clear eggs or after fostering their chicks to other pairs, I discovered that hens usually laid again after six or seven days this year. With new pairs, using birds taken from my aviary, I found that egg laying took longer, being the usual 10-14 days, rather than before 10 days, which occurred with the majority of the hens at the start of the breeding season.

To sum up: so far, I consider this breeding season to be average in terms of the number of chicks, but the quality – except in the case of the fawn & whites – is very encouraging. It is still early in the season, so there is plenty of time to breed more quality chicks in all my main colours.

Tony Edwards is vice chairman of the National Bengalese Fanciers’ Association. 

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