Seeing Quality In The Nest Box


The accomplishment of breeding a stormer or a nest of quality chicks must begin with a proper feeding and management routine that goes throughout the year, from when the bird is a juvenile to when the bird is an adult. During the breeding season, a nice variety of seeds, grits, iodine or pigeon blocks, and titbits that your birds may be accustomed to will all assist to provide that additional weight and breeding fitness that we all aim for when picking our selected pairs.

Soft Food

We provide soft food to breeding couples, however we urge that it be introduced before to the breeding season. This is given to the birds in flight to help them become acclimated to it. We do not provide soft food all year since it would harm the display birds. Mild food, in our experience, maintains the birds in a soft moult and not in tight feather condition. It is well known that when more protein is provided, the body temperature rises, which is not ideal for prospective show birds.

Our Golden Rule

Our golden guideline is to keep to the schedule and not make any drastic adjustments in food, etc., throughout the mating season.

Laying

We carefully wait for the first eggs to be deposited after 10 days after the pairings have been created in the separate breeding cages. Eggs occur in a variety of forms and sizes, including the conventional egg shape, as well as enormous, tiny, spherical like marbles, and a few with pointy ends. Even the structure of the shell may vary. A few are defective, being porous or soft. Some eggs are double-yolked, while others have weak yolks that are not visible to the naked eye when candled. We have never had success hatching double-yolked eggs, thus these, along with little marble type eggs and any fragile shell or porous eggs, are eliminated. If any of them were viable and were left in the nest, there’s a good chance they’d addle or die in shell anyhow.

Hatching problems

In the event of eggs with pointed ends, hatching time might present some issues. Chicks chipping have difficulty turning and often finish up dead-in-shell. A big chick may have difficulty chipping around the top of an egg at times. The chick becomes stressed as it struggles to turn. We’ve learnt to detect the warning signals and typically aid by gently slicing the egg but keeping the top intact so the chick may exit from the shell when rested. We’ve rescued quite a few chicks this way throughout the years.

When pairing up, place multiple couples down at once, with both maiden and adult hens in the pairings. This is useful if anything goes wrong when the chicks hatch, such as hens with no crop milk or sickness in a cock or hen. Chicks may be relocated to another nest and preserved in these situations. If no chicks have hatched elsewhere, a little dropper of warm milk containing glucose may be given to the hatchling. This will often assist a kid in surviving until the hen receives her crop milk or another nest has produced a chick.

Observation

Observations on the appearance of chicks must be undertaken after the season has begun with chicks at various stages. The order of the day is full harvests with rich coloured crop milk in the very young, to full crops of mixed seed in the older ones.
Hopefully, our favored pairings will have produced chicks as the days pass. Several observations are made on various aspects. First and foremost, the chicks should seem healthy and well-fed. Foot and leg size are quality indicators, since bigger feet and legs suggest a possibly larger than normal bird. The size and breadth of the skull are our primary considerations and priorities. We check for this additional dimension because it indicates birds with appropriate breadth between the eyes, as well as the all-important rear skull. This characteristic is visible even before the bird has feathered.

The next step of quality-factor development is feather growth, which might be buff, medium buff, or fine feather. We want to attempt to produce birds with what we call interemediate feathers (medium buff). This is ideal for today’s display bird. On early chicks with medium buff feathering, there always seems to be a coarser layer of down, like a sponge. We also produce couples with directional feathering over the eyes and back over the future capping, which is a must-see at this point.

When chicks exhibit these characteristics, it is important to keep a watchful eye on their growth. We have often heard of fanciers losing their best chicks due to an assault by their parents after they had emerged from the nest box into the breeding cage. We believe that four or five week old chicks that show promise and are huge, with full blow of their head feathers, must seem an intimidating danger to either of their parents, much like another adult bird, and this might lead to some birds being attacked. Even with all of the necessary characteristics, the overall quality of a chick or nest of chicks will only be apparent if both parents are skilled at brooding and feeding their young.

Poor Feeders

We had one encounter with this condition when a good coupling produced four offspring. Both parents did not seem to feed them a diverse range of seeds. It seemed that only particular millets were consumed, and as a result, the chicks did not grow as expected. The youngest chick was moved to another cage with just two chicks. These parents were outstanding eaters and feeders, and their first two chicks were well nourished and growing. The relocated chick was head and shoulders bigger than its original three nest mates when they all left the nest boxes. As a result, if we have promising chicks and the feeding is insufficient, we opt to remove them from their own parents. They will be relocated to nest boxes with excellent feeders. Hopefully, the original couple will return to lay another clutch of eggs, and when they hatch and the chicks are ringed, they will be transferred on as well if the food has not improved.
Breeding excellent young is a combination of “luck” in your pairings, patience, appropriate aviary management, and understanding of your birds. This takes time, and when we initially started in the pastime about fourteen years ago, our major goal was to produce top quality kids in depth.

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