Special thanks to Ellen
Our Passion “Phaeos”
Demand for information about Phaeo canaries has steadily been growing for a long time. You might have read a lot about them, but have not seen genuine ones? Then take a look at our report, and if you want to learn more about these fascinating birds, you are welcome to visit us, the Hintermayer family in Kraichtal, southwest of Germany.
Ever since our first encounter with Phaeo canaries in 1994, our enthusiasm about them has not ceased but even increased up to this day. This report is based on our own long-term experience in owning and breeding these exceptional, perfect wonderful birds.
We started breeding with five females and three cocks in 1995. Eighteen canaries hatched out: 75 percent brown ones and 25 percent Phaeos. All were of such exceptional quality and beauty that we decided to exhibit them the same year. Our brown Canaries won the German Championship – the very first title that we could achieve with our birds. Then, it was still possible to exhibit birds carrying yellow.
Today our breeding stock, divided into polygamous and monogamous breeding, has risen up to 15 Phaeo- and hens carrying yellow. The outcome is about 2/3 Phaeos additionally 1/3 birds carrying brown split in Phaeo. We don’t want quantity – we want quality. Therefore we have to do a selection. We are specialized in yellow and white Phaeos, but breed also canaries of the following colors: brown yellow mosaic, Brown white and yellow, topaz, and agate. We had the opportunity to gain some experience with canaries being yellow, white recessive, brown, or opal.
To provide a broader spectrum for our local bird breeders association’s exhibition, we also keep and breed red-faced finches, three-colored parrot finches, yellow-fronted canaries and siskins.
Our breeding room measures about 15 m², which is not very big, but convenient. It is equipped with Graf-Boxes (80 x 40 x 40 cm) for 32 couples altogether. Furthermore there is an aviary in the rear of the room. A radiator provides the appropriate room temperature during the breeding period. The ionizer fixed at the ceiling cleans the air from dust particles. A humidifier operates the humidity to improve the air quality.
With old newspapers spread in the drawers and boxes, the aviary permits a fast and efficient cleaning. Special sand is used as covering. There is, of course, plenty of grit for our birds throughout the year.
We usually start our preparatory program in September, when most of our birds finished molting. When selecting the birds for the coming exhibition season and championships, we already start matching the pairs in imagination. The selection criteria are, for example: feathering and melanin. Additionally, we are always very particular about the type of birds we mate.
We do not only employ young birds, but also birds that are up to four years of age old as older birds usually show particularly positive and distinct “parent qualities”. Males may support the females constructing them and help with breeding, a decisive factor of utmost importance. Birds that are too old to be employed in further breeding can “retire” in a special aviary, our “home for the aged”. Yet, depending on their genetic disposition, we might reactivate even older ‘retired’ birds for breeding, if they show the genetic properties we are looking for.
The “phaeodrawing” (flaking) is the most prominent feature of these birds. This flaking should start at the pecker-root and run from the head to the back and down the bottom side of the wings. The melanin should suffuse the entire body of the bird and it is primarily visible in female birds. Contrary to what is the case with other colors/birds it is easy to distinguish hens from cocks. Cocks have a mask – that should be as small as possible – but the brown color of feathering is more intensive. The red color of the eyes is a very typical feature; beak, legs and nicks are flesh-colored. Breeding At the beginning of January, we transfer the cocks which we have selected for the breeding process, from their winter quarter to the slightly heated breeding room in the spacious aviary where they can move and fly around. On a weekly basis we keep increasing temperature and incidence of light and move the cocks to separate breeding boxes after a fortnight. Four weeks later the hens are permitted to join the aviary where they get the breeding disposition in the course of time. We decided for this arrangement in order to prevent the birds from attacking each other or carrying out turf war. After three to four more weeks we bring together the respective females and males meant for each other. Then, a standard temperature of 20°C to 22°C is provided in the aviary, the lightning is switched on from 6 am to 8 pm. Humidity reaches 50 to 60 percent. Food During the recovery period the birds get ordinary grain feed without turnip. This we change shortly before the breeding season starts and add sprouted germ food and dry egg food to the grain feed but abstain from adding maritime algae. Once a week we feed small amounts of chickweed and parsley, plants that are rich in vitamin C and minerals. Particularly during the mold we supply cucumber, a vegetable rich in the specific salts that are necessary and important for the growth of the feathers. Throughout the year we give a multivitamin product once a week that we add to the drinking water. Sprout food For this purpose we use niger seed. To make sure that the germ food will not rot in the relative warm temperature, we observe the following steps: We pour the daily amount into a box where it soaks in lukewarm water for three to four hours. Afterwards we put it in a shifter and browse it intensively with warm water. The shift we hand over a big bowl, cover it with a plastic bag, depose it at a warm place (ideally above the radiator) and let the seeds swell for about 24 hours. When the seedlings are about 2 mm long we mix them with dry breeding food and feed the mixture to the birds. It is important to make sure that the germ food is not too wet when you start feeding it. Behavior A bird’s behavior very clearly indicates if the time for breeding has started. Female birds, for instance, begin to tear paper and depose the torn out pieces in a corner or the feeding dish; cocks, on the other hand, start prancing and singing out loudly. This kind of behavior evidences the ideal time for matching the couples. Due to lack of space, we place the cocks in exhibition boxes and the hens in well prepared breeding boxes. Lint is spread on the bottom of the boxes. Once the hen starts preparing a nest, both hen and cock are brought together. Cocks selected for polygamous breeding return to the exhibition boxes after mating to prevent them from getting acquainted to a single hen.
In the beginning a certain degree of disharmony might prevail among the birds. This is a perfectly natural feature. Separating the birds for a few day usually helps to calm the situation.
The first three eggs we immediately replace with plastic eggs to guarantee a simultaneous hatching of the entire clutch. A reversal of this process takes place when the fourth egg has been laid: We remove the plastic eggs and put back the proper eggs. A special lamp helps to establish whether the eggs are inseminated or not (characteristic criterion: red dot = arteries). After 13 days of breeding by the female, the young birds should hatch.
The same day the hatching took place it is possible to distinguish the Phaeos from birds carrying yellow: a Phaeos skin is fairer, the eyes are red. Although the eyes are still closed at this date, one can realize the color through the eyelid. We control the nests once a day.
Some four weeks later, the squabs will be independent enough to live on their own. We separate them from their parents and transfer them to a bigger cage of about 1.50 x 40 cm x 40 cm, where we keep watching them for another fortnight. Only when we are convinced that they will be able to manage we will transfer them to our spacious aviaries. There they get educated by an aged bird who teaches them where to find water and feed.
In order to treat the birds with care, we do not permit a hen to breed more than two breeds. Additionally the space, which is at our disposal is restricted to 100 – 150 beringed birds. Ever since we have started to engage in birds breeding, this number of birds has been sufficient for our supply of really beautiful show birds.
Phaeo and birds carrying yellow ranks first in our priority list, only then comes mating Phaeo with Phaeo. In theory a first mating results in 50 percent Phaeo and 50 percent birds carrying yellow, all future matings produce 100 percent Phaeos. Occasionally parents, particularly when they are younger birds, refuse feeding the Phaeos in the nest. This we ascribe to the red color of the young birds’ eyes. As there are usually other nests with freshly hatched young birds, we put the brown birds in one nest and the Phaeos in another.
Before and after breeding period we put much effort in carefully cleaning the breeding boxes with a high pressure cleaner and in fumigating the perches. Additionally we fumigate our breeding room as follows: We fix sulphur slices inside a fireproof bucket and inflame them. It is advisable to immediately leave the room, as the acrid sulphur-containing vapors are harmful for the eyes and the lung. One should not enter the room for the next 24 hours, and, then, at once provide for intensive ventilating. For those who are not familiar with sulphur: This is an agent traditionally employed in viniculture to clean and to conserve empty vine casks. In the past sulphur slices served for indirect fumigation of vine by filling the vine cask with vine without cleaning it before. Usually cotton mineral fibre soaked with fused sulphur is used as carrier material. It is of rectangular shape, about 22 x 3 cm, and can be fixed with the help of a precut hole. Sulphur rings are available, too. Sulphur slices usually contain between 3g and 6g sulphur, and twice as much sulphur dioxide is set free in the burning process. This sulphur dioxide kills bacillus and fungis and, if present, eventually bugs. It goes without saying that cleaning the boxes once a week is a fundamental of bird breeding. For this purpose warm water, a detergent, sponge and dry cloths will do. It is easy to clean the drawers as they are covered with newsprint on which, again, sand is spread. The drinking vessels have to be cleaned every day, the feeding dishes once a week. During the breeding period we clean the drawers once a week only to avoid disturbing couples. We do not see any use focusing in clean breeding boxes that are empty as the parents did not lay eggs due to permanent disruption.
We put very much emphasis in training our birds at the best. Prior to an exhibition we transfer from the aviary to the show-cages at the beginning for five to ten minutes only. We keep expanding their stay until they are used to spending the entire day there. Engaging a radio is a prerequisite: It helps getting the birds acquainted with different voices, pitches, and sounds. During an exhibition birds are shifted from the shelves to the tables, where the birds are judges from a jury and they are always moved to and fro. In order to get them used to this procedure, we keep carrying the birds in the cages through the breeding room, putting them on a desk or even on the floor – we would not call dainty, what we are doing then. Additionally, the regular visits of children from our local kindergardens who come to watch the growth of the birds, could be interpreted as special training. Their cheerful and loud twittering, exited running back and forth, curious observing the birds in their cages, helps a lot with getting the birds familiar with the typical restlessness and background noises of an exhibition. We usually exhibit our birds at the following exhibitions:
* AZ-Federal Exhibition in Kassel – International Exhibitions For Colored Canaries in Leuven and Philippsburg – Baden Association For Canary Breeders as well as the German Mastership
* and last not least the world championship
As a basic principle we only sell our birds from mid October onwards, when they have completed the molt. To date breeders from Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia, Austria, and USA bought birds from our stock and are perfectly pleased with their offspring.
Meanwhile there are a lot of “Phaeo enthusiasts” in Germany who breed and exhibit these birds. At the recent AZ-Bundesschau, for instance, 31 Phaeos were exhibited, at the German Mastership in Bad Salzuflen 7 collections and 15 single birds – a strong upward trend according to our experience. Although breeding Phaeos is in no way more difficult and does not require more skills than breeding other kind of colors, many breeders’ patience seems to be limited. As we have explained above, when one starts breeding Phaeos, the outcome very often results more in birds carrying yellow than in Phaeos. At this stage it is rather difficult to select a promising collection, as they are still split in cock and hen. Yet, every breeder specialized in mosaics is acquainted with this minor ‘problem’. We also noticed that many Phaeos lack the fat color or the melanin is more or less blurred. Or the typical
Phaeo-melanin fades away when breeding Phaeo and Phaeo for years. Another source of problems with Phaeo breeding is, that many bird enthusiasts buy birds from various breeders which basically is not wrong but poses some difficulties in following the proper line, which is impossible to accomplish within one year. However, in the meantime there are not a few breeders who, just as we successfully did, started with a few couples. And we wish you many moments with eyes shining with joy with these noble color canaries.
We would be pleased if our little field report and the photographs added to it, will draw your attention to and rise your interest in Phaeo canaries, the color that is our passion. If you want to learn and see more, just drop in and have a look at our aviaries and breeding station. You are most welcome!