I set up my aviary about a month ago. I have six canaries, four Java Sparrows, eight zebra finches and three Chinese painted quail. All seemed fine, but this week one of the canaries has just sat on the floor all puffed up and only flew up to roost at night. I then noticed that one of the male zebras is holding one foot up, and doesn't seem to be able to bend his toes. What could be the cause of this?
R.H., via Facebook.
Brian Keenan, current president of the Yorkshire Canary Club, replies: You do not mention the size of the aviary, or the number of feeding stations, but placing so many birds in to an aviary at the same time may have contributed to the problem. Birds are territorial and will fight to establish a "pecking order" in a mixed group. Toes can easily be nibbled or damaged if the birds are scared and fly haphazardly into the aviary wires. The canary could simply be moulting, or perhaps suffering from mite.
I have a question regarding Gouldian finches in an outside aviary. After many decades of breeding in this country, I still see fanciers referring to heating in their birdrooms for these finches. I would have thought by now that our strains would have acclimatised, and be fairly comfortable in the cooler months - albeit in a frost- and draught - proof environment as with other foreign birds.
I have a 20m x 2.4m x 2.4m deep (60in x 8in x 8in) garden aviary, which is thickly planted with shrubs and trees. I have kept Gouldian finches in it, along with a variety of other similar-sized finches, since early spring without incident. They all come in to the aviary shed to feed, and have lots of nest-boxes outside in which to roost etc. I intend to cover the roof of the aviary with plastic sheeting, and the front will be covered with builder's polythene protection sheet this winter. The rear and sides of the aviary are built of brick and block, so only the roof and front are in need of protection.
I would be interested to hear from any Gouldian breeders if they have ever kept their finches in outside unheated aviaries, but protected from the wind, rain and frost, and what their recommendations would be.
I started breeding Gloster canaries last year and I had two pairs, a corona cock and a consort hen, and a consort cock and a corona hen. I got the birds from a breeder in Ireland that had been breeding and showing Glosters for over 50 years, but the consort cock turned out to be a hen. By the time I found out it was May, so I couldn't get a cock bird off the breeder. I put the two coronas together and they had six young – five coronas and one consort hen. I have asked all the top breeders of Glosters in Ireland and no one had the answer of how you can breed two coronas and get a consort from them. Would the hen be safe to breed from as she is a nice small cobby Gloster?
Brian Keenan, current president of the Yorkshire Canary Club, replies: Gloster canaries possessing a corona are able to produce sperm or eggs in equal number, which possess either the factor to produce a crest or the factor to produce a plainhead. When a gene possessing the crest factor combines with a non-crested gene, the crest factor is dominant and the chick develops into a corona. When a non-crested gene combines with another non-crested gene, the result is a plainheaded bird. In theory, each corona x consort pairing will produce 50 per cent crested and 50 per cent non-crested young.
Pairing two coronas together introduces a variance to the above, insofar as the crested gene may be inherited from either or both parents. This results in 50 per cent crested chicks that have inherited the crest gene from either of their parents, and 25 per cent plainheaded chicks that have not inherited the crest gene from either parent. The remaining theoretical 25 per cent of chicks will have inherited the crest factor from both parents, which results in a non-viable crested chick which will die. This is exactly similar to the lethal factor in dominant white-ground canaries, whereby pairing together two white-ground birds can also produce a theoretical 25 per cent lethal factor.
I have recently bought a pair of star finches with the intention of breeding them. Please could you tell me the minimum size cage needed for breeding them? They are currently in my largest cage, which measures 83cm x 38cm x 30cm (33in x 15in x 12in). Would this sized cage be large enough for breeding?
Bob Baggs, foreign bird experts, replies: The length of your cage seems fine, though it might be better if the cage was about 51cm (20in) high and 41cm (16in) deep. This would provide more space if the nest-box was hung inside. Some cage fronts have a small door at the top at one end so that the box can be attached on the outside. This provides more room inside and allows you to easily inspect the box to ring any chicks, etc.
I have a pair of parrotlets. The cock bird I have had for six years and the hen for about five years. Last year the cock bird plucked the hen's feathers from her head and neck, but this year they have both been plucking and now the hen has no feathers on her head and neck. The cock has plucked his chest and back. I have tried all mite and other spray treatment, but to no avail. They have been constantly treading, but no eggs. I have installed a nest-box and the hen goes in, but there are no signs of eggs.
Colin O'Hara, former Parrot Society chairman, replies: Feather plucking is a very difficult subject. It is possible to stop it, but the correct one remedy needs to be found. It looks like you keep your birds in an all-wire cage. Generally parrotlets are nervous birds and do better in a box cage, unless you have them as pets and spend time taming them.
I can see from the photo that you provide wood for them to chew. Make sure you replace the wood often. A soft wood is best, willow is ideal. You also need to give your birds something else to do except picking at each other. Also your birds are now past their prime to breed, so boredom may be the cause of the plucking problem. Feather plucking can also be a habit - not unlike finger-nail biting in humans - easy to do, difficult to stop.