I bought, or should say rescued, a Fife canary a month ago that was in appalling condition. I was told the canary is about two years old. It's got an overgrown beak. How do I go about trimming it?
Brian Keenan, publicity officer of the Yorkshire Canary Club, replies: The easiest way to trim an overgrown beak is with nail clippers – never use scissors as they can slip.
Hold the canary securely in one hand with its head showing above your first finger and thumb, and tail pointing down your wrist. It will probably grip your little or third finger with its claws, as if they were a perch.
Simply raise your thumb and place it securely on top of the bird's head. This will effectively keep the bird's bill closed, with the tongue safely inside. Snip off the overgrown mandible with a single snip using the nail clippers. Do not try to shape the beak to a new point. The canary will easily do this itself, using its perch or some cuttlefish bone when back inside its cage.Read more...
When is the best time to start breeding red-bellied macaws? This is my first attempt at breeding, so are there any specific requirements these birds need?
Colin O'Hara, one of the UK's top parrot breeders, replies: You have chosen probably the hardest macaw to attempt to breed. It's very difficult and only a few are bred in the UK each year compared to all the other macaws. They are not easy to maintain, and there is no best time to try to breed your birds. Supply a nest-box all year and if they are old enough, compatible and both fit, they will make an attempt to breed late spring to mid-summer.
Give your birds a good diet of nuts, fruit and vegetables. Offer a seed mix without too much sunflower seeds. Keep up a supply of fresh branches and twigs to keep the birds active and occupied. The more you can keep the birds active, the better your chance to breed them.
I've been out of the hobby for 16 years, but I am very keen to get back into it by breeding goldfinches, starting with two or three pairs. What's the easiest to start breeding with – English, Belgian or Siberian? Can you cross-breed English and Siberian, and would this strengthen the bird? What size aviary will I need for two or three pairs? Could you give me advice on feeding for when they have young ones? Apart from seeds, will I need softfoods, greenfoods and live insect food?
Bernard Howlett, eminent breeder of British birds, replies: There are nine wild, black-headed races of the goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis). The British bird (C. c. britannica) is best suited to British conditions, and will breed inside or in an outside flight. There is no Belgian race. The further north a race lives, the larger and paler it becomes. All of these races can be paired to each other and all are fertile. There is no evident to support the view that birds would be strengthened if bred together, but birds from dry, cold climates are less likely to do well outside Britain's damp conditions.Read more...
What type of food should I be offering my lovebirds during the breeding season? Should I increase the greenfood that I already provide?
K.K., via email.
Keith Jones, qualified show judge, replies: It is important that you stop feeding greenfood to your adult lovebirds before the eggs hatch. Replace greenfood with a proprietary eggfood, which you can feed either dry or slightly moistened with water. Many brands of eggfood are advertised in Cage & Aviary Birds every week. Feed the adults a good lovebird seed mixture, oystershell grit and cuttlefish bone, to ensure the chicks get a good start in life.
Lovebird chicks are very small when they first hatch and greenfood will cause very loose faeces in the nest-box.Read more...
Could you please tell me why I have a pair of budgerigars that are eating the eggs as they lay them? The birds have iodine blocks, cuttlefish, and eggfood with mixed vegetables every day. The water in my area is hard, so I use calcivet sparingly in the water.
Dave Herring, former Budgerigar Society president, replies: I wish that I knew the answer because this year my wife and I have had two birds that do exactly the same. In our case both were very young, and perhaps were not yet ready to settle down to breed mentally, although physically able to do so. We have split up those pairs and will try them again later.
Sadly there are some hens that appear to enjoy eating newly-laid eggs, and will therefore not find any additions a reasonable substitute. If chicks from that hen are so important, you may be able to take them away and foster them as soon as they are laid.Read more...