There are lots of fanciers nowadays burn the lights and heaters to get an early start but it’s not for me. April onwards is the natural time for the birds to breed.

When I started off with the birds, my mentor, an old boy called Fred Blenkinsop ( father of the late Dick Blenkinsop one of the top BORDER  breeders) gave me one piece of advice, and that was, (NEVER PAIR UP UNTIL YOU CAN SEE TO FEED THE BIRDS AT 6am IN NATURAL LIGHT). During all of my years breeding canaries I have never wavered from this piece of advice which means I get started around the middle of April and my last setting date is (16th June).

I like to use straight pairs for my breeding and retain 12 pairs each season along with four extra hens with a maximum target of  40 youngsters, which is enough for me as I only breed for my own needs. I retain what I think are my best birds and match up using a (Line Breeding) system. Breeding for certain colours has never been an issue with me, I take what comes along. I won the Carlisle National  in 2006 with a variagated yellow cock that was bred from two exact opposites. He was by a clear buff cock out of a self green yellow hen.                 _________________________________________________________________________________

                                                                    PAIRING UP .

It is advisable that both sexes of the breeding pairs are of a minimum age of ten months before being mated..

During the first week of (April) each selected pair is to be placed in their breeding cage being separated by a solid slide. From the (7th April) the slides are to be opened slightly during the day so that the sexes can become acquainted with each other and when a hen is seen to be allowing her chosen cock to feed her she is coming into breeding condition. From the (14th April) the slides are to be opened fully on a morning to watch the reaction of the hens. If a hen squats in a mating position at the immediate sight of her cock she is in full breeding condition. If she does not squat she is not ready and is to be tried again the next day. When a hen is seen to be squatting in a mating position and no fighting is apparent the pairs are to run together during the day until 7pm then separated. I continue this procedure for two more days then put the nest pan in position. Once the nest pan is placed I leave the hen on her own during the day if she is showing interest in it so she can nest build without being disturbed. I let the cock back in with her on a night so mating can take place. The main mating strikes will take place at daybreak. When the first egg is laid the cock is to remain with the hen until she is set. The first three eggs are to be removed and replaced with dummies and the hen is set on the morning that the fourth egg is due. Once the hen is set the cock is to be removed so she can get on with the incubation without being disturbed. The cock is to to remain in view of the hen throughout the incubation period being allowed to run with her when I am present in the room. When the chicks hatch the cock is to be allowed in with the hen for short periods at a time until they are five days old. When they are five days old a careful watch is to be kept on him and when he is seen to be feeding the chicks he is to be allowed to run with the hen at all times.

I check the eggs for fertility after six/seven days and If a nest has clear eggs I allow the hen to sit and lift in her own time then separate her from the cock for a further seven days before re-mating for a second round. I let the hen sit full time in case she is required to be a foster mother. If you do not want the hen to sit the full cycle separate the pair and re mate after seven days but this could lead to another round of clear eggs.

To check the eggs for fertility I now shine a torch on the edge of the nest and the light reflects back onto the eggs and you can see if they are clear or shaded. This prevents the need to handle the eggs. In the past when checking I have dropped eggs, put my fingers through them or disturbed the embryos creating dead in shell. This example nest has only been set three days but you can see the difference in a fertile and clear egg. The first on the left appears clear and the one at the front fertile



When rearing chicks the birds are fed twice daily with no strict timetable but it is usually around (9am) and again at (7pm).

From the twelfth day of incubation the baths are to be placed onto the cage fronts for the hens and are to remain in position throughout the rearing cycle. Soft food, soaked seeds and green food is to be supplied in equal quantities each being increased or decreased as required for each pair as the chicks grow because each pair will feed differently. Charcoal Is to be supplied daily to help prevent the hens from developing sour crop. I change the nest pans when the chicks are ten days old.

When the chicks reach nineteen days old I place a second nest beside the existing one ready for the second clutch. If the hen wants to reuse the existing nest the chicks will just jump into the new one. If it is placed at the opposite side of the cage the chicks could be forced out of the nest and onto the cage floor too soon.

I wean the chicks off when I see that they are feeding themselves which is usually around 24 days old, but I will leave them longer if possible if the parents are not turning against them. (I try to leave them until the hen is set on her second round). I wean each nest into a single cage without perches during the day for the first two days. I use sheets of newspaper on the cage floors which are changed at least twice daily. On weaning they are to be given soft food and soaked seeds daily with the soaked seeds withdrawn from the evening feed. They are to be kept on this diet until they are two months old. At two months old plain Canary seed is to be supplied in the seed hoppers and pinhead oatmeal is to be introduced as an addition to the soft food and soaked seeds being offered at the evening feed. At three months old the soaked seeds are withdrawn being replaced with Broccoli florets or lettuce and the extra hard seeds. The soft food is still to be supplied daily until the moult is complete.

Don’t be afraid to experiment during the breeding season if nests look like they are going wrong. In the past I have put ten day old chicks under pairs that have only been set a few days on eggs and they have been reared without any problems at all.


                                                                  Nesting Materials.

For nesting materials I just cut hessian sacking into four inch squares and tease them out into strips for them to make the outer nest and then give them strips of soft white toilet tissue or kitchen roll for them to use as a lining. The nest felts are secured with double sided tape then sprayed with an anti mite solution.


Below a  piece of carpet wastage can come in useful when it comes to making nest linings.


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