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Breeding Cages

I stick with the advice of the great mentors I've had over the years and consider myself a "line breeder" rather than "out crosser".

My birds are currently comprised of three families based on their background/pedigree.. and I breed best to best within each family, being careful not to double up on any visual or underlying faults.

If you visit don't be surprised if you see a few pair up breeding whatever time of the year it is.

I don't breed by the calendar... but prefer to put pairs to work when they are in tip-top breeding condition no matter what the date or season.

Living just north of Kansas City we usually have very hot, humid Summers, and frigid cold snowy Winters.

The birds are housed inside a garage and temperature is controlled wherever possible to reduce the extremes..more for my benefit than the birds.

I do try to give all the birds at least a three month break in Summer while they go through their heavy moult.

The birdroom has 24 breeding cages so going in to a breeding season I like to have 30-36 cocks and 48 hens in the breeding team. The hens are at least 9 months old, and the cocks 12-15 months, with the telltale white iris.

Usually around late September the birds in the flight will start coming into condition.

The cocks will start bouncing on the perch, chasing hens, and fighting with other cocks. The hens start calling in a high pitch, chasing their favorite cock, and laying horizontal on the perch, tightening her feathers, and vibrating her wings.

At the first sign of this the cocks and hens in the breeding team are separated by sex and placed in smaller flight cages ready to be prepared. It does not take long once the birds are separated for any pairs that bonded in the flight to "forget" their mate.

The birds that continue to show the tell-tale breeding condition signs after 10-14 days are paired up and placed in the breeding cages with nestboxes attached.

Feathers around the vent are plucked on both birds before they go into the breeding cage.

The nestbox has a little Diatomaceous Earth placed in the concave (to guard against mites) and a good handful of pine and cedar shavings.

The shavings will tell you when the hen starts exploring the nest box, and when she starts cleaning the box and pitching the shavings into the cage it stimulates her natural breeding instincts.

Most hens will be in the nest box within 24 hours. If she has not entered within 7 days she is not in breeding condition and is returned to the flight.

I expect to see the first egg laid within 14-21 days. If she does not lay by the end of 4 weeks I assume she is not in condition and she is returned to the flight.

Pairs or hens that are returned to the flight are replaced by new pairs from the "breeding team flight cages" that are showing signs they are ready to breed.

If the first round of eggs are clear, and the pair is still very active, the hens is permitted to lay a second round. If they also prove to be clear she is either given fertile eggs from another pair to incubate, or the pair is returned to the flight.

By continually cycling pairs that prove not to be in condition, have clear eggs, or maybe have other issues, within a couple of months all your breeding cages have nests with fertile eggs or chicks. This provides plenty of options to foster eggs and chicks should anything go wrong.

If the process started late September, and the first pairs are in my 24 breeding cages a month later, by the beginning of February the first round of chicks are on the perch... and all cages have pairs with either fertile eggs or chicks.

If they remain healthy pairs that are producing the best chicks are permitted to go three rounds with chicks in the third round fostered out.

Pairs that produce mid-quality youngsters are broken up after their second round, and replaced with birds from the "back-up breeding team" to see what they can produce.

By late May the pairs are broken up as their last nest of chicks go to the baby flight cage... They first go to a small flight cage for a couple of weeks to adjust, and then to the flight cage for their Summer Break that lasts 3-4 months.

By using this process of rotating pairs as they come into true breeding condition I usually average 10-12 chicks per breeding cage over the season.

Keeping Pedigree Records & Statistics

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