Don't Sell Those Birds! Written by Marie Miley-Russell copyright 2007, all rights reserved by author
As breeders, we all have in our bird rooms a few birds that are prime targets for selling due to a lack of song or conformation quality. If these birds are healthy and are exceptional parents you might want to think twice about selling them as their true value may be in their parenting ability.
One may have a few birds of exceptional quality and a number of others of mediocre quality. Of course one should only breed the best birds but allowing them to raise too many nests of chicks is not only detrimental to their health, but can also produce chicks which are not as strong as one might wish. By careful use of a number of foster pairs, one can often get as many as four nests out of the more valuable hens without taxing them.
Timing is critical- you need to have your foster pairs in sync with your “producers”. A few days of difference is not harmful, but a week is pushing things as after a week the viability of an egg decreases.
Carefully collect the eggs of both hens and throw out those of your foster hen. When your foster hen has laid her entire clutch, simply set her with a clutch of eggs from one of your production hens. The production hen is then recycled for a week or so in the hen flight, then placed again into a breeding cage to go through another cycle. This time, allow her to raise her babies.
By fostering out successive clutches, you can triple or quadruple the number of high quality babies you produce but only put your most valuable birds through the stress of raising a single clutch. It is important to allow all of the birds a chance to raise at least one clutch- this allows them to express their own parental instincts.
At all times, I have at least one pair of birds which might be worthless but for the fact that they are outstanding parents. Most have never raised their own chicks, but have been responsible for the successful rearing of dozens of babies- many of whom must be banded at less than five days of age due to the diligent feeding of their foster parents.
One particularly exceptional male raised more than two dozen chicks with hens he had never seen until he was placed in their cages to help feed. He was a wonderfully gentle bird that never quarreled with a hen and seemed to truly enjoy feeding both babies and hens. He was also quite possibly one of the least freely singing birds I have ever owned and routinely looked so disheveled that he earned the nickname of “Pigpen”. Nevertheless, he always had a place in the bird room!
One does not need to take these birds to shows – simply keep them at home and care for them well so they will be healthy and strong when the next breeding season arrives. While they may never win a show for you, they could very well raise a bird that does!