Number 1. Feed selenium and vitamin E. Selenium, a trace mineral, and vitamin E must be part of the diet for the health and breeding of border canaries. Deficiency is associated with various degrees of impaired health such as wide tails, dropped wings, crouched position, diarrhea, dehydration (squinted eyes), tail bobbing, open mouthed labored breathing, vision and balance problems, star gazing, irreversible muscular dystrophy, weight loss, wasting, emanication, and early death. Breeders often treat the birds with antibiotics hoping to stop or reverse the symptoms but the birds fail to respond since the underlying problem is not a bacterial infection. The problem is loss of cell membrane integrity, lesions that develop in the intestine that result in poor nutrient absorption, impaired protein digestion resulting in methionine deficiency that results in a deficiency of digestive enzymes, diarrhea and dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and drop in defense mechanisms against organisms. If the birds are healthy enough to breed, the deficiency can cause double yoked eggs, infertile eggs, dead-in-the-shell and nestling death. If calcium is also deficient, the combined deficiencies can cause egg binding. Cocks have a higher need for selenium than hens. Deficiency in cocks can result in permanent irreversible infertility. Deficiency in chicks is associated with poor growth and poor feathering, impaired protein and fat digestion, and pancreatic atrophy. Unfortunately, seeds can not be relied on for selenium. Selenium content is dependent upon the selenium content of the soil where they were grown. Some breeders will feed canary seeds grown in four different places trying to compensate for this problem. A better approach is to supplement with E 90. E 90, sold by Vydex Animal Health Limited of Wales, is an exceptional product. It is an excelllent source of selenium and vitamin E plus it also contains methionine and lysine. Just three days on this product and the borders stand more correctly and show their thighs! After a couple of weeks on additional selenium and vitamin E, birds with breathing difficulties and loose droppings return to normal. Birds which had wide tails, poor wing carriage and posture after selenium and vitamin E supplements will greatly improve. To purchase E 90, contact Vydex. Their web site is www.vydex.co.uk To 5 lbs seed add 7 ml wheat germ oil and mix. Then add 5 teaspoons of E 90. Mix the coated seed 50% with uncoated seed for feeding. Birds can be overdosed on selenium and vitamin E. While the right amount of selenium results in weight gain, overdose of selenium can causes weight loss. Overdose of vitamin E causes aggression. Aggression can also be caused by too much protein in the diet.

Number 2. Feed B vitamins, especially B12 and B6, folic acid and methonine to aid protein digestion. Excellent sources include sunflower hearts, wheat germ, bee pollen, spirulina, brewer's yeast, vegetable protein powder, canary seed, and quinoa (pronounced keen wah, a seed grown in Bolivia with excellent amino acid content). Always use vitamin supplements such as Vydex MVS 30 that contain not only the usual vitamins, but also amino acids and selenium. Selenium may be either sodium selenite or selenium methionine.

Number 3. Feed a lactobacillus probiotic product to establish a strong normal bacterial gastrointestinal flora. Avian-specific lactobacillus bacteria multiply in the gastrointestinal tract and produce lactic acid which lowers the pH making it more acid. The acid environment is antagonistic to disease produing bacteria. This results in natural competitive inhibition and expulsion of gram negative bacteria and other harmful organisms. In addition, friendly bacteria can synthesize B vitamins that are needed for protein digestion.

Number 4. Feed some foods that are high in phytoestrogens. Plant estrogen helps birds reach full breeding potential. The best source by far is linseed (flax seeds). Other sources include soybean powder, frozen peas (thawed), broccoli, carrot, green and black tea, or alfalfa. Peel the outer tough skin on broccoli. The birds will eat the peeled broccoli stem as readily as they eat the head.

Number 5. During the pre-breeding season, keep the hens in a cool aviary to prevent egg laying before the hen reaches full breeding condition. Cold temperature naturally inhibits egg laying even when the diet is high in carbohydrates. If the room is warm, excess intake of carbohydrates will push the hens to lay prematurely. Frequently check the birds weight and adjust the diet so that they are neither too fat or too thin. Cocks should come into breeding condition before the hens. Defending their territory is an excellent way to bring cocks into breeding condition.

Number 6. Provide a minimum of 14.5 hours of day light at pairing. Increasing the day length is especially important for increasing sperm production. Increase day length by 30 minutes per week or wait till the natural day length is 14.5 hours before pairing. Lighting is one of the three factors that bring birds into breeding conditon. The other two factors are diet and warmer temperature. The best results occur when all three factors are used to bring the birds into full breeding condition.

Number 7. Introduce the cock and hen initially in a cage with a wire divider between them. Feed soft food extras only to the cock. When the hen is ready for pairing, she will beg the cock to feed her through the wire. The next day they should be ready for pairing and mating. Continue feeding soft food through the laying period. Do not feed soft food, greens or extras while the hen is setting. Offer soft food again on the 13th day of incubation. During incubation, feed the setting hen one teaspoon soaked hemp daily. This has a calming effect on the hen and encourages her to stay on the nest. Prepare the soaked hemp by rinsing the hemp and covering with water. Keep the soaking hemp in the refigerator prior to feeding. Change the water daily.

Number 8. Eggs that fail to hatch by noon of the 14th day should be moved to a foster hen who has a high incubation temperature to ensure fertile eggs hatch. These eggs will usually hatch within two days if they were alive when moved and if the foster hen has a good incubation temperature.

Number 9. It is best to use only border hens to raise border chicks. When borders are fostered to other varieties the chicks grow poorly. Other varieties feed large amounts of animal protein which would make their own chicks grow quickly. The border chicks do not thrive on large amounts of animal protein, but rather do better when fed more vegetable protein. The border hen selects from the foods available those foods which facilitate border chick growth. Any questions or comments? You can e-mail me at canarytales@juno.com or visit my web site at http://www.canarytales.com