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Bengalese Finches
British Birds
Budgerigars
Canaries
Cockatiels
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Should I pair up my rescue turtle dove?

Age is just a number: Philip Schofield has bred European turtle doves into their late teensI have a rescue turtle dove that has lost half of one wing so I cannot release it. I keep it in an aviary measuring 6.1m x 3m (20ft x 10ft) along with a trio of golden pheasants, and they all get along fine. I have built ramps so it can get on to a perch and go up to roost.

I have been trying to locate a breeder so I can get it a mate, but I’ve had no luck so far. Do you know of someone who could help? My bird is a cock turtle dove, so I need a hen, but would be interested in getting several so I could breed them. I have no idea how old my dove is − it’s been two years since I rescued it and he is strong and healthy.
T.K,, Bury St Edmunds.

Philip Schofield, Avicultural Society council member, replies: As a wild bird, it is unlikely to be old. I have had European turtle doves breeding successfully into their late teenage years. Golden pheasants are ideal aviary companions, although they may take the doves’ eggs if these are accessible. This species is liable to night frights and subsequent injury, so you should encourage them to roost under a solid roof. The seed mixtures sold for getting pigeons into the loft after a race are ideal as a basic diet, supplemented with smaller seeds and fresh (not soaked) wholemeal bread, especially when rearing young. Grit, sand, cuttlefish and commercial pigeon minerals should always be provided.

You will need to contact DEFRA about an Article 10 certificate for your bird.

Why did my clutch of Bengalese chicks die?

W.J.U's Bengalese finch chicks may have died through not being fed by their parentsI have just bred my first clutch of Bengalese finches. One pair had three babies that were due to fly the nest, but unfortunately the three died for no apparent reason. The second pair had two eggs and one has hatched. Do their nest-boxes need to be a certain height, because the three that were due to leave the nest had fallen out of it on a couple of occasions? I also noticed that my zebra finches were sometimes in or around the nest. Could this have any effects on the loss of the babies? Also would you suggest that I use breeding cages for next year? When should I start pairing them up? What is the best way to sex them?
W.J.U., Derby.

John Ward, panel judge of the National Bengalese Fanciers' Association, replies: Bengalese do not usually require their nest to be at any particular height, but like most birds they seem to prefer the nest-boxes that are fitted high up in the flights. I have found in most mixed collection aviaries, for some unknown reason, certain nest-boxes will be more desirable than others. Perhaps because of their position or the way they are facing. I always like to provide more nest-boxes than the number of pairs giving them a choice. Unfortunately there will probably be a little squabbling when the nest-boxes are first introduced, but things will soon start to settle down as the normal pecking order is established.

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Can I house zebra finches in a modified greenhouse?

A greenhouse can be used as a flight, providing the temperature can be controlledCan you tell me if zebra finches can be housed in a greenhouse? The greenhouse is about 3.7m x 2.4m (12ft x 8ft) with a path down the middle. What I was thinking is, at one side board the top back and sides, and mesh along the path making a flight. The other half could be used for things like tomatoes. The door would be left open on summer days and the vent at the far end would also be open allowing cool air to flow through.
S.S., via Facebook.

Peter Harrison, top breeder and exhibitor of zebra finches, replies: I’m sure with the correct alterations your greenhouse could be converted into suitable housing for zebra finches. The obvious concern is that the temperature would need to be controlled to a reasonable extent.  As much as extreme high temperature is not to be recommended, equally great variations must also be avoided. Buildings with lots of glass tend to warm up very quickly, but also temperatures plummet on clear nights.

Another cause for concern is the close proximity of tomatoes. Any use of pesticides/fertilisers, and of course any contact with some foliage, could be fatal if consumed by the birds.

What's the best way to bathe my birds?

Caged canaries are better off being bathed in external baths affixed to the cage doorI am a keen reader of Keenan's Canary Clinic and in a previous column you stressed the importance of bathing your birds. Being a new Fife canary breeder (I hope to get Glosters too) I am eager to learn. Is it possible that you could explain how best to bathe the birds? I’ve joined a club, although it is more than30 miles away.
B. C., Millom.

Brian Keenan, cuurent president of the Yorkshire Canary Club, replies: Canaries will benefit from baths on a daily basis throughout the year, regardless of the weather. If housing your birds in an aviary, a dog bowl, or the saucer used under large plant pots, are both ideal containers to use as a bird bath. Allow about 1.8cm (3/4in) of tepid/cold water in the bottom, and let the birds splash away to their heart's content. No soaps or detergents are necessary, although you may find it beneficial to include an herbal mite preparation in the bath water. Always provide the bathing water early in the morning and remove before noon. This enables the birds to dry thoroughly before roosting, so they do not catch a chill. This is especially important during the winter months when the hours of daylight are shorter.

Canaries kept in cages are better bathed in external bird baths affixed to the cage door. Always wire the door open so it does not trap the bird in the bath. Do not over-fill with tepid water. It is good practice to allow young canaries to bathe from the age of about four weeks to help them overcome their fears of bath water. They will retain their liking for a good splash throughout their adult lives.

Birds that will not enter the bath freely can be kept clean by spraying them with a fine spray, which can be found in any garden centre. The water in the spray can be quite hot, but will become air cooled immediately as it is sprayed at the bird. A useful tip is to mop the birdroom floor immediately following bath time – you do not want to slip and end up on the floor yourself!

Why do I keep breeding lutinos?

Cockatiel broods can often throw up surprises because many adults are splitI have what I thought was a normal pair of cockatiels, but every second clutch or so a lutino appears. What sex would that lutino chick be? Also, if I paired a lutino hen to a white-faced cock, what sex will the chicks be?
T.A., via email.

Pauline James, experienced cockatiel breeder, replies: Most cockatiels are split for some mutation or other and in the case of your birds the male is obviously split for lutino. This means that he carries the hidden gene for this mutation that he has inherited from his parents. This is a sex-linked mutation and hens cannot carry the hidden gene. Any lutinos that you produce can be sexed as hens, and some of the males will be split for lutino.

Pairing a white-faced cock to a lutino hen is not a good partnership, unless the cock is split for lutino and the lutino hen is split for white-faced. You could expect to get some lutinos, some white-faced, the odd white-faced-lutino (an all-white bird), and the rest would be normals. The males would be split for lutino and some of either sex could be split for white-faced.

However, if your birds are not split for these mutations, that pairing would produce only normals – some split for white-faced, and the cocks would be split for lutino – so rather a waste of two good mutations.

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