According to Webster Dictionary:     a-ri-a. (ä΄rēַə), noun,  1. an elaborate melody sung by a single voice    2. a striking solo performance  [Italian, from Latin ǎera, literally means air]

Aria From A Birdcage

Pedigree Form
Breeding Cage Card

Canary Management

There are many aspects to Canary and birdroom management, ranging from birdroom layout and equipment to the challenge of breeding season... providing for the needs of an entire flock of birds as opposed to a handful of birds kept only as pets.

This section will not attempt to cover all of those details, but will offer to you some unique tips and techniques that I have found useful in my own birdroom.  I highly suggest that you read all you can get your hands on that relates to canaries and breeding them... before you purchase your first breeding cage. 

This is a very rewarding and satisfying hobby, but can also be very demanding of your time and attention, not to mention the expenses of setting up a workable birdroom. 

Uniformity

As much as possible, keep the cages and equipment in your birdroom uniform. This enables you to rearrange and interchange things easily. 

I've found this especially useful in things such feeding cups and drinkers.  By using the same style throughout the birdroom, I always have clean containers to replace the dirty ones.  They clip right into the holders that are already in the cages, making this a quick process.  The dirty ones can be placed in the sink until I have time for washing and disinfecting them.

This extends to even the cages themselves.  All of my breeding cages are identical, and outfitted the same.  I always keep an extra cage or two clean and ready, and when I am pressed for time, I can pull a dirty cage off the shelf, slid one of the extra cages into its place and put the occupant into the clean cage.  The dirty cage can wait until the weekend when I have time to give it a thorough cleaning.

 

Versatility

When choosing cages for your birdroom, think "versatility".  When I first started, I equipped my room with a battery of twelve double breeding cages, each one having a wire divider that would easily slide in and out from the front of the cage.  I cut out some solid dividers of corrugated PVC signboard, the kind that makers of outdoor signs use.  It is durable, rigid, lightweight, and washable.  In addition to making slide in dividers with this material, I cut pieces to slide along the outsides of the cages so the occupants have privacy from their neighbors.  Without them, the males would be busy scoping out the hens in the next cage, and the hens would be making eyes at the someone other than her "intended".  This isolation also helps them to claim that space as their own, and feel secure.  This modest setup allows me to divide the cages to make twenty four individual cages or remove the dividers and make twelve large cages. 

I should also warn you that within a year, I was doubling the number of cages I had, as my interest mushroomed.  Don't let that scare you, because one of the keys on any hobby is managing its size to stay within your own budget, how much time you have available to devote to it, and your individual resources.

I chose a cage that was 24" long, 16" tall, and 16" deep.  This size makes a very nice home for a single male during most of the year.  When breeding time comes, the dividers go in as I introduce him to the hen.  The pair raises their chicks together there, and the chicks eventually get transferred to another divided cage for weaning.

When I started out, I also looked for versatility in room arrangement, so I placed my cages (both breeding and flight) on rolling stands.  This made for easy cleaning, as I could roll a set of cages out into the middle of the room and have access to the walls and floor space.  I was also able to change the configuration of the room to suit the season, and having the moveable cages made it possible.

Other Resources

Every keeper of birds needs contacts and resources far beyond what can be offered in this simple website.  Look for a breeder to purchase your foundation stock from that is willing to answer questions you have along the way and serve as a mentor for you.  Having someone to obtain sound advice from and point you in the right direction is extremely valuable. 

Enjoyment

Last, but not least, one of the things I've found to be most important for those keeping canaries and managing birdrooms is ENJOYMENT.  This is a hobby that is and should be fun. 

Hours and hours of time are required in being devoted to this fancy to be successful.  I have heard that the key to success in anything is this....hard work.  Although this is true, I have also heard that if you work at something you enjoy, you will never work a day in your life.  This means that it won't seem like work so much if you're doing something you enjoy.  Success in canary keeping is the result of enjoyable work.  The hours I've spent in my birdroom are hours of my life that I will never get back, but I can't think of any other way I would have rather spent them.

I've placed an overstuffed chair in an area where I can sit and observe the birds and their activities.  It gives me a quiet place to "consider the birds" and marvel at what intriguing creatures they are.

If you keep canaries, enjoy them, enjoy the work, enjoy the planning, enjoy the challenges.  Enjoy the songs they offer up to you in appreciation for the care and attention you give to managing the details of their lives.

 

Organization and Setup

The key to successfully managing a bird room is organization.  I find this to be especially true for folks like me who have a full time job outside the home.  The hobby of keeping birds can be very time consuming, but can be done well if you are organized.  Many of the tips you will find here hinge on organization.

Organize your supplies and equipment.  Place all of your breeding supplies such as nest pans, liners, plastic eggs, breeding record cards, etc. together so they are handy when breeding season approaches.  I keep mine in a plastic tote on the bottom shelf of the breeding battery.  When breeding season in done, the reusable items go back into the tote after cleaning, and I replenish the other supplies so I will be ready for the next year.

Be prepared.  Make up a medicine cabinet with basic medications and related items.  A traditional wall cabinet is handy, but a plastic tool box also works well.

Having a kitchen close to your bird room will really add to the efficiency of your setup.  At the minimum, you need a sink to wash drinkers and seed cups in and a small refrigerator to keep your fresh foods and bulk seeds in. 

Many of the solutions, food additives, medications and products used are manufactured or packaged outside of the United States, so are measured in metric units.  It is handy to have a Conversion Table so you can quickly convert the metric measurements to ounces and pounds.  Sometimes you even need to know how many teaspoons make up a tablespoon, or approximately how many ounces are in a fourth of a cup.  Here is the Conversion Table I have posted on the wall in my bird room's kitchen.  It's approximations are close enough conversions for most comparisons I need to make.

 

Recordkeeping

Every keeper of birds needs contacts and resources far beyond what can be offered in this simple website.  Look for a breeder to purchase your foundation stock from that is willing to answer questions you have along the way and serve as a mentor for you.  Having someone to obtain sound advice from and point you in the right direction is extremely valuable. 

  • Calendar:  I keep a calendar on my desk in which I plan and record various things that happen during the year.  This calendar becomes a sort of diary, or journal, that can be compared to previous year's calendars for evaluation of the overall success of the breeding program.  The first thing that goes onto the calendar when I set it up for the new year is the lighting schedule for the birdroom.  I use this for a reference when I am programming my timers each week.  I also record show dates and bird club meeting dates, target dates for setting up pairs, song training schedules, etc.  The note pages in the back of the calendar book are used to record planned pairings for the breeding season, and what the hoped for results of the particular pairings will be.  Linda Hogan, in her book Canary Tales, states that if your program resulted in 85% of your total eggs set being fertile, and 85% of those fertile eggs hatching, and 98% of those hatchlings being raised, you have had a satisfactory breeding season.  As I build on my successes, and learn from my failures, these calendars serve to remind me where I've been and help me plan for the future.

  • Pedigree Information:  I keep an informational sheet I have on each of my birdroom's inhabitants.  The form describes the individual bird by band number, color, breeder, and hatch date and has a model to draw out the bird's identifying markings.  The bottom portion of the form is a traditional "family tree", where the detailed information about the bird's ancestors can be recorded.  The family tree is essential when planning pairings for the breeding season.  Each block where the bird and its ancestors are identified has enough space to record the Band Number, the bird's Color, and the Breeder's Last Name.  I also make a note beside any block where the particular bird or ancestor was a winner at ASC shows, or notations about traits they are carrying.

  • Breeding Cage Card:  This 4x6 card is used during the breeding season, with one card used for each nest.  I print it on a page of card stock, and cut out the individual cards, slipping them into sleeves made from the pages of an inexpensive photo album.  The protected cards are hung on each breeding cage, using a name badge clip that can be purchased at office supply stores.  The name badge clip has a clear plastic loop that snaps easily onto a cage wire, leaving the hinged metal clip dangling.  As nesting begins and eggs are set, dates are recorded on the card to remind me of when certain events should occur (candling, hatching, banding, etc.).  It also allows for recording the number of  eggs that are set, the number of eggs that are fertile, the number of eggs that hatch, the band numbers of chicks, etc.  You can even note how many chicks are successfully weaned.  This card has been very helpful to me in being organized, and allows me to record and keep important information which will eventually be transferred into my computer program.  The cards, themselves, would give a breeder good records if kept in a file box.  You could even use a different color of card for different years or family lines if you wanted to color code your records.

  • Cage Tags:  A handy way to know "who" is "where", or to keep track of which cages need special foods, is to use cage tags.  Different colored tags can represent different things, such as a certain color indicating certain family lines.  Others can be used to show which cages have breeding pairs, or setting hens, or are feeding chicks.  Notice the yellow tags hanging at the upper left corner of this small flight cage.  These tags were made by cutting rectangles out of a plastic report cover, punching a hole in one end, and cutting a slit to the hole.  Use a fine line permanent marker to write the inhabitant's band number, coloration, and family line.   Although these home-made tags seemed like a good innovation at the time, I found that some birds were determined to peck and pull at the tags until they were on the floor.  I replaced these yellow home-made tags with a sturdy plastic tile, similar to a bread bag closure, that the birds can't remove.  The new tags are inexpensive and "bird proof".  I order these in bulk, so contact me if you need some.... I always have several hundred on hand.

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