May 31, 2018

Less IS More

Less IS More
    The morning "coffee crowd" is busy chirping away, squabbling over broccoli bits, and I
imagine them gossiping about their neighbors. I am in the bird room, taking a break from work,  sipping my cup of Joe as the happy conversations of the canaries fill the room.
     My chair is squeezed into a small space between a floor-to-ceiling flight and a stack of
breeding cages. From here, I can see most of the room and am watching the flights of
youngsters, taking notes on their behavior.
    In the beginning of this 'bird obsession' I call a hobby, my bird room had a very different
appearance. There was room for a rocking chair with footstool, a small table for my coffee and notebooks, with hanging plants and lace curtains at the window. But as the number of birds grew from 6 pair to 40 pair, the space for "non-essentials" shrank.
    Last year, I spent three hours in the birdroom each day, plus washing water tubes, seed
dishes, and nests added two more hours each week. I spent the time sweeping, feeding,
banding, and cleaning cages I would rather have watched the parents feed their chicks or sat next to a young male with personality to listen to his first teenage song.
    I am trying to remind myself why I bought my first bird, and the things that I most enjoy. I don’t regret the hours spent in the bird room, but if I kept fewer birds, I’d have more time for play rather than work.
     Less is more. Simple is better than complicated. That principle works for many things.
    Whenever I am asked the question: 'What do you feed your birds?', my answer is
always the same: less is more. I am not talking about putting your birds on a diet. I am talking about keeping things simple rather than complicated.
    The basic diet for all cage birds begins with just a few guidelines. And these principles
apply to a single bird companion, or a bird room full of breeding pairs. Their food must provide nutrients to keep them healthy and be clean and fresh. The diet should be items we can buy easily and, let's face it, must also be priced within our budgets.
     Keep it simple. Some bird breeds have special requirements, but all need protein, fats and carbohydrates. The different types of seeds contain all of these, but in different proportions.  Many bird breeders mix their own seed types; others buy a bag of premixed seed for their general type of bird. It can be fun to do the research and make your own mix, but in all honesty, a packaged mix designed for your bird's breed will fill their need for seed.
     Pellets are popular and contain seed products with other nutrients. Personally, I like to begin with the seed and add supplements and other foodstuffs. Somehow, I keep comparing myself to the birds, and I would much rather eat a variety of interesting foods than a bowl of concentrated All-Food flakes, even if it was a complete meal.
     Seed only supplies a portion of their nutritional need, so we add other items. Following the example of the songbirds outside our homes, our indoor pets will benefit from green leafy vegetables, carrots, green peas, cucumbers and others such as seeds from a green pepper. Feed a small amount, lightly chopped or grated. You can feed these every day, or as an irregular treat on the days you have more time.
    At various times throughout the year, our birds need additional protein and supplements.  During breeding, while feeding chicks, and during the annual molt, add a small amount of animal or plant protein. This can be mashed hard-boiled egg, mixed with whole wheat bread crumbs, or soy protein, mealworms, or sprouted seed. Here again, you can buy packaged foods or prepare them from scratch. There are powdered vitamin-mineral supplements created to be fed separately in a small dish or sprinkled onto the soft mix.
    Now take that simple diet of seed, vegetables, and make sure every bit is fresh. Don't feed stale seed. Don't feed wilted veggies, and don't let the protein mix spoil, if you use moist food.
     Maybe you enjoy creating a complicated diet for your bird. I admit to real satisfaction when I have mixed a bowl of mashed hard-boiled egg, grated carrots, and dried bread crumbs.   Even the crumbs are from bread that I made specially for the birds. But if you keep the list of ingredients small, and you use the same mix every day, you will find it saves time. You can spend several of those saved moments to watch them enjoy their meal.
     Speaking of happy birds, back to my birdroom. One young opal male is perched right up against the front of his cage, very still and watching me. He trills lowly, insisting that I feed him a special  treat. He will eat broccoli and he received a portion with the rest of the room. But he really desires a few flakes of oatmeal, which I always feed him after he asks politely.
     I must keep that opal male, because he returns my affection. So, add one more to my growing list of keeping birds. Less is more? If only I could simplify my Bird Life.

Q: What plants can I grow in my own garden to feed my birds?
A: We can grow many of the vegetables for our cage birds. Some are very easy, such as
green leaf lettuces, kale and carrots which are commonly grown for our own tables.
Other vegetables are more demanding. Green peppers can take three months to grow to full
size. Cabbage and broccoli are often attacked by insects, so I cover them with special netting to keep the butterflies out. Cucumbers are an example of the plants that need lots of space to ramble as they grow.
Don't forget to pull dandelion leaves (from lawns that are not sprayed or fertilized). They are a special treat much enjoyed by my birds.

May 9, 2018

Suspending Sales for Several Months

I will be suspending all canary sales for a few months!
Don't worry, I'll be back!

My birdroom is continuing as normal...
it is the rest of my life that is so busy!

March 22, 2018

Making bread for the birds....

After making an angel food cake, there were 13 egg yolks left....
It took me a few minutes to think of making 'bird bread'.
I can't believe I didn't think of it immediately! :)

I tore the bread into pieces, pulverized them in my food processor and dried them on large sheet pans in my oven. 
I expect to be making lots of nestling food  in a few weeks!  :)

Someone will ask about my bread recipe, and I didn't use one.  I do have many 'bird bread' recipes, and most of them have turned out fine.
But this time, I made it simple:  I just started with the extra egg yolks, added whole wheat flour,  quick oatmeal, a very little salt (which I don't usually add) and 2 TB yeast.  Yes, it was baker's yeast, which I would not add to any bird food that was not bake.
I could have added other things like red palm oil, a bit of sugar (maybe), apple sauce, etc.
But this simple recipe made a very nice loaf, that crumbed well.

After it was cool, I cut it in cubes, which could be frozen to be served a cube at a time later.
This time, I ran them through my food processor, and then spread the crumbs on baking sheets in a very low warm oven.
After they were dry, I froze them for use later... mixed with some cooked or raw veggies/grains/seeds... and mashed hard boiled egg.

I DO have a food processor just for the birds! :)

January 6, 2018

Montana Canary Friends Meet

Sharing a photo of three canary breeders in Montana!

Left:  Debbie of Savoy Singers Aviary
Middle:  Bruce of Canary One Aviary
Right:  Tom of The Bird Connection

December 22, 2017

The Best Advice for Your First Canary

I was fortunate to have received GOOD ADVICE when I was buying my first canaries, from several breeders and hobbyists.  Their words of wisdom have proven helpful since that first day I put my new birds into a cage in my house, and to this day are the basics I follow every day in my bird room. 

To those who are thinking of getting a Canary Companion, and to those who have emailed with questions, I will pass along the tips and instructions that I feel guaranteed my enjoyment of canaries as companions and exciting 'housemates'.

The very first TIP:  find a breeder or hobbyist to talk to personally.
If you can find someone close enough to visit, by all means do so.  If you must look online for a 'canary mentor', there are many places to find someone willing to help.  And don't give up if the first person just wants to sell you a bird.  I found three or four breeders online who took the time to ask ME questions about why I wanted a bird, what experience I had, and just what I was hoping to get as a perfect companion.

This person will also be very helpful after you get a canary.  If it appears sick or you have questions about it's behavior, you have that person to contact for an immediate answer.  The right person can be a very enjoyable friend in this new venture into Canary Keeping.

And who knows, you may find a kindred spirit in the process!  I have found several wonderful, interesting people, of all levels of experience raising canaries, whom I count among my best friends.

The second TIP:  buy a bird in person, if at all possible.
You may not find a canary breeder locally, but don't overlook the small hobbyist who may only have a few for sale.  They may have birds more used to daily and individual attention.

If you can see more than one canary, acting normally in an average size cage, you will be more likely to see the differences in personality and activity... and of course, you can hear differences in song.  Many breeders do not allow visitors into their main bird room, but will usually have their birds for sale in an area open to potential buyers.

This was a learning experience for me!  And invaluable!  I learned more in those two hours spent in Bruce's birdhouse, than the days spent reading all those books.  Just observing how they were fed, how their perches were set up, what area of the house they were in, etc.  was wonderful.  Of course, listening to the breeder talking about his birds and their differences was enjoyable --- and his enthusiasm was infectious!

So, PLEASE, search for other canary people within visiting distance, even if you buy your final bird elsewhere!

Third TIP:  Read, read, and read again!
You can find advice online for nearly every topic.  There are many canary associations and clubs with articles on their websites.  There are forums and groups exclusively for canaries.  Browse them all.

And don't forget books.  Some canary books that read like textbooks, but I have found others that are great entertainment besides giving helpful information!
( My Favorite Canary Books by Debbie )

Remember this next TIP:  There is NO ONE PERFECT WAY to care for a canary.
If you asked the same question to 50 canary people, you would get many different answers, and each person is convinced that way is the only way.  Remember, when someone says a certain way is the only way, what he really means is, it is the only way for him.

Everyone's home, climate, daily schedule, and even time spent with the bird will be different.  And what YOU want from a canary companion may be entirely different than everyone else!

TIP number five:  Have fun!  
The basics of having a canary in your home are pretty simple.  And the rewards are so very many!
*** Some of my favorite links: Seeds of Canary Information
*** My Personal Advice: Canary Care Sheet (pdf)

December 20, 2017

Stay in touch for some Off-Season Fun!

Thank you to everyone who bought birds, or who just called or emailed to visit about canaries!
I had so much fun, sharing your interest, your personal experiences with canaries and other cage birds, and your joy in canaries.
I don't post advertising or talk about anything but canaries.
Your email subscription is handled entirely by FeedBurner, so your email is safe from any spam.  (You will receive a verification email, which requires you to click a link to 'opt-in'.)
I DO list the wonderful and helpful weblinks I discover, and some of my observations in my bird room.
I also have plans for some Canary Fun this winter.... so stay in touch!