Why a moult? What’s it all about? Once a year, all of our birds shed of feathers. Some birds will drop a few feathers during the year, but the perfect scenario is that the birds moult just once a year.
The moult lasts eight to ten weeks and nothing is achieved by trying to rush the birds through. Some fanciers offer shading during this period but it is fancier-preference, rather than either being better for the birds. Most would agree that it makes little difference at the end of the day. However, the case for shade is that the birds are likely to stay calm and put their energy into growing new feathers rather than too much activity.
The moult can be a stressful time for all birds. They need to be watched carefully as they are at a low ebb. Never forget that feather is all protein and if we need good feather quality in our birds, they need quality Haith’s seeds and softfood such as the relatively new Prosecto Insectivorous – which is over 23% protein.
We are lucky with Canaries and British Finches that we have kept to a set breeding season of spring, and young birds start to moult at eight – nine weeks old and adults start to drop feathers as the breeding season comes to an end. Try to snatch a third round from a hen, and she will probably drop into a moult, or even fall apart, while she is feeding her last nest of youngsters. Hens are not machines and in most cases are programmed to have just two nests of youngsters a year – and then moult!
Some fanciers think that using lights and getting started early with breeding will enable them to take the extra round from the hens – but that does not usually work. The moult comes at the end of the second round. With an early cycle there no advantage, other than getting a few early youngsters with no real extra time with the breeding.
Most Canaries and British Finches start breeding during February/March and in June they start to drop feathers. Some of the larger varieties, like Norwich and Yorkshires, might take a bit longer to come into breeding condition so pairing up comes a bit later with those birds.
Make no mistake – keeping and breeding these birds successfully is all about good management and that includes feeding Haith’s top quality seed mixes.
Feeding before the moult:
Before the moult, the birds will be on top quality food during the breeding season – one of the quality Haith’s Canary (such as De-Luxe Canary) or British Finch Mix and softfood. Keep feeding Haith’s Condition Seed during the breeding season for top fitness and then into the moult.
As breeding comes to an end, the adult birds start to drop out of fitness and moult. It usually starts during or towards the end of the last nest of rearing or when the pair is finally separated. Don’t try to stop the moult – it’s natural, and they need to drop feathers and re-grow new.
Our Canaries and British Finches always need access to Haith’s Mineralised Grit – at all times of the year – especially before and during the moult so the birds get the required minerals and they get the full nutritional benefits from the Haith’s quality seeds. It’s worth offering a fresh supply every week and that encourages the birds to feed on it!
During the moult:
Don’t stress the birds – keep them quite, not too much light and “let them down” slowly – as they drop feathers and re-grow a new coat. They need a richer diet – more protein – some offer softfood, others not – it’s a personal choice, but they still need a qood quality Haith’s Canary Mix or British Finch Mix with lots of canary seeds with plenty of protein.
Add Haith’s Linseed, for the oil, it contains to the diet on a “little and often” basis for the improved feather quality it will bring to the new feathers. – Haith’s special Kraker seeds need to be given if we want quality feather, help the birds come through the moult and give them that extra treat by the way of a tonic. Towards the end of the moult, many fanciers offer softfood a couple of times a week for the protein and minerals – just little at a time.
Young Birds drop body feathers but not the flights – hence the name “unflighted” in their first year. The key to this is the colour that runs down the whole flight in adult birds – not NOT in young birds.
Softfood is withheld by many fanciers during the moult and given by others. Whatever - it’s little and often but Haith’s Condition seed is added to the softfood in most birdrooms.
The last of the new feathers to grow come on the head – once the head-feathers are completely through – the moult is over.
After the moult:
Lots of hard seed in October needs to be given, such as one of Haith’s super-clean, and well balanced Canary Mixes that contains plenty of canary seed. Softfood is usually withheld in most birdrooms until breeding preparation starts. Let the birds harden off on hard seed alone, is the policy in many successful birdrooms.
During the showing period, the birds benefit from the addition of Haith’s Kraker seeds seed as a tonic before they go to the shows – and when they return to the birdroom.
We don’t want birds too fit during the show season, especially the cocks, or they “pull” at the shows and don’t display themselves to best advantage in the show cage. One of the problems with January shows is that the birds can be too fit and some will not show themselves properly to the judge – and be thinking about breeding!
Written by Fred Wright