Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bye Bye Birdie!

Yesterday I drove from Apopka to Cocoa (an hour and a half) and handed over two adults, four eggs, and two adorable nearly 5-week old weened chicks.  I only wanted one canary and now I own only one canary.

Let's back up a few weeks:
When the chicks were just 14 days old, we took our annual week vacation at Cocoa Beach.  You can't exactly leave chicks with a neighbor at this stage, and so they got a vacation too.  I was delighted to meet Mega Bird Store owner Donna when I drove into town for some birdie supplies.  I was already feeling overwhelmed feeding and cleaning up after three chicks and two doting parent canaries, as I knew this scenario would repeat itself in just a few short weeks; Canaries typically have two clutches a year.  Donna asked me if I'd consider selling.  Well, YES!  First I needed to wait for the babies to mature, so I left with her business card.

Knowing I only wanted to own one canary, I went home and pondered which bird to keep.  Keep the adult male, a proven singer?  I would have loved to, but this was not a possibility, as he is a great daddy bird and feeds mommy bird while she nests, then feeds the chicks almost single-handedly (beakedly?) from about 1 week until they are weened at around 4 weeks old.  Although the chicks were weened, Jo already laid a second clutch and I could not separate him from Jo and the current nest of 4 eggs (due to hatch around June 27th) and so I chose the yellowest of the three babies, Chick #2, chosen not only for his color, but also because he seems the most laid back and I need a little bird that will roll with the punches, handle the changes in locale and care takers, as I travel a lot.  He will either  ride along or will be left behind with family or friends.
Chick #2 - no name yet
They say you cannot tell when a canary is a female until she lays an egg.  And you cannot tell if a canary is male until eggs hatch!  Other than a pricey blood test, there is no scientific way to tell the sex your bird as all the parts are hidden away inside.  Non-scientific signs point to the three canaries I had as all male: longer middle toe than females have, hides in nest with head down and tail up when just feathering (girls sit there and stare at you), tries a few notes of a trill, and has vibrant colored feathers. All signs point to males.  But then again, some females share the same physical traits and mimic males in song.

The deed is done, the birds are all gone but one and now I wait to see if this little yellow bird will sing as pretty as his father sings.  This morning I played some YouTube canary songs (it's good training to give canaries something nice to imitate) and my lone bird listened intently, clung to the side of the cage and cheeped and chirped and strung a few notes. When I played his daddy canary's song, my lone birdie got very animated.   It's a beginning, but nothing that would knock your socks off.  Time will tell.

Chicks 1 and 3 - Parting Photos

Please forgive my fingernails.  I had a manicure after these were taken.  Also please forgive the difference in color intensity.  Light/shadows/camera flash seem to make a big change in feather color.  I took the pictures of the birds as I moved them from the big cage to a temporary little cage so I could clean the big cage before transporting them to the Mega Bird Store for sale.

Both of these two chicks have the same facial markings - white bandit masks.  The older Chick #1 is a bit more yellow, stands erect, and has rounder eyes that appeared black upon hatching.  Chick #3 has less yellow, has sleepy eyes (like his mom) that were pink upon hatching, and Chick #3 likes to puff up and sit low.  This could be remnants of him being the baby.  Both are alert and cheerful.  Both showed positive non-scientific signs of being male, and both are vocal with cheeping and peeping.  One of them actually stood erect at his food bowl, stretched tall and puffed out his neck while trying to string together a few notes several times, but by the time I got to the cage to figure out which bird it was, they swapped places several times.  It was impossible to tell them apart from across the room.
Chick #1
Chick #1
Chick #3
Chick #3
Chick #3
Chick #3
with a dot of food on his tail
New Clutch - Laid June 13-17
Should hatch June 26-30
Chick #1

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Meet the Fam

Chick #1, slim and reserved. Stands tall.
Chick #2, laid back and loves the swing.
Chick #3, curious and needy, but he is 3 days younger.
His feathers matured and smoothed the next day.

This video is of the youngest Chick #3 begging a meal from the male parent.  The other two are so insistent, it looks like a fencing match, with the chicks making all the advances!

Daddy bird is bright eyed and friendly.  He is small and his yellow feathers look so intense against white feathers.  He has the sweetest soft feathers that fluff out from his chest in front of his wings. He is first when I put a plate of food on the floor of the cage, probably because he is the main baby feeder. He loves boiled eggs!

Mommy bird is quiet and calm, almost sleepy.  Her feathers look white until she bathes and the yellow under feathers show up.  She LOVES to splash around in the tub and if I don't put one in, she climbs into the water bowl.  She will take the first bath, preen and dry, then goes in again.  She likes green leafy veggies.

The babies started showing interest in food today.  I tried to slip up and take a picture of them eating, and #1 hurried to a corner to hide, pretending if his back is away from me and he cannot see me, then I cannot see him.  Chick #2 continued eating (see photo above), then flew up to his swing for a nap. Chick #3 hopped up to his father's perch and begged for food, fluttering and being all babyish.  Like mommy bird, all three babies seem larger than their slight daddy bird.  As soon as they grow longer tails, it will be difficult to tell them apart, especially Chick #1 and daddy bird.  He has the same little chest fluffers as his father, so sweet.


Arrival date: June 14.  Anticipated hatch date: June 28.
Update on babies: Chicks #1 and 2 are nibbling on the soft food I provide on the bottom of the cage. Chick #3 is a big fluffy begging baby. He doesn't show any interest in leaving his parents.  If anybody wants a canary, please let me know!  Age now, 3 weeks and 5 (and 2) days old.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 24 - Separation Anxiety

This seemed like a good day to move the chicks away from the parents.  The two older chicks were pecking at the food plate, but still demanding food with the baby, who seems so babyish compared to his brothers.  I read that if you put all the chicks into a new cage, only a couple of perches 2" above ground at one end of the cage, and at the other end a variety of finely chopped soft foods on a dish on the floor and water in a cup.  They should figure things out in a "follow the leader" sort of way.

If the chicks peep loudly all day long, it means they're hungry and need to go back to the parents to be fed. Sometimes they give up and feed themselves, but after an hour of peeping, I gave in.  The pitiful cries from chicks and the parents woeful responses was deafening!  Call me a weenie, but I never could let my "real" babies "cry it out" either. Instead of moving the babies back to the big cage, I decided to move the parents into the small cage where the perches were low and food on the floor.  This way they'll watch their parents eat from the exact same place they'll need to go.

We have company in our house this morning.  My son's fiancee Vanessa and her girlfriend that came in town last night spent the night in his room and Robert slept on the living room couch.  This is my reason for silencing the incessant peeping.  I've decided to move the adult birds out of the baby cage a few times daily, extending the length of separation each time.  Like learning to wear contact lenses, eventually this cage won't seem so scary without the old folks, and hopefully the chicks will adapt less traumatically.  

Mother's nest is ready and she likes hanging out in it, empty that it is.  I will let the adult birds overnight in the big cage with the nest, because if Jo needs to lay an egg, it is usually in the early morning.  She won't sit on the eggs until she has finished laying the entire clutch, which I encourage, because I don't want the 3-day age difference like we've experienced with these chicks.  This age difference is like having a human baby 2-3 months younger, and with birds the loudest, boldest and biggest get fed first.  Right now, I see the two adult birds and two older chicks roosting on the upper perch, while Chick #3 is fluffed up beneath them and sound asleep, with poop raining down from above.  He's not a dummy, he's still just such a baby.  How quickly parents forget and only 3 days ago, the other two were just as immature.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Canary Chicks Day 23 - A Nest Visit

Momma Jo has been ignoring everyone as she is very busy building a new nest with the clean material I offered. The babies have been busy begging food from Daddy Jess, who is as busy as a one-armed paper hanger. It appears that he has lost some weight and I wonder if I should be concerned.  Somehow Jessie still manages to whistle his beautiful song a few times daily, which is always followed by an attempted sexual interlude with Jo.  This nano-second of romance somehow will result in fertilized eggs.
Curious about Jo's nest building, the chicks went
back for a  visit to celebrate the good old days.
Daddy is clinging to the cage wall, ready to feed
babies and Momma bird is nearest to the camera.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The canary chicks no longer use the nest at all.  I cleaned the nest out today and provided new nesting material, and now Momma is happily working on lining a new nest.    Tonight there is one chick sleeping on the swing, one sleeping on a perch. and the youngest is sleeping in the seed bowl and twittering to himself.   Daddy is exhausted from running all over the cage feeding three demanding chicks.  There is a buffet of food appropriate for a baby bird, and they watch with great interest as their parents eat, but the chicks don't quite get the idea of feeding themselves.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Canary Chicks are Cool

Have you noticed that I haven't named my bird babies?  If they were Curly, Larry and Mo, well, I would never be able to part with my Three Stooges.  So we have Chick #1 and Chick #2 hopping and flying all over the cage.  They still won't feed themselves yet, so whenever they see a parent, they open their squealing beaks and beg with fluttering wings.  I do keep soft food (cooked quinoa, seed, and fresh fruits and veggies) on little birdie trays on the cage floor for the moment they decide to give it a try.   I've been playing canaries singing on Facebook to encourage daddy bird to sing more often (he sings once or twice a day) and I occasionally hear a few notes from the babies.  Chick #3 is still nesting, but this morning I saw him pop up onto the edge of his nest, where he sat and watched his brothers hop about the cage, with as much of a wistful look as an expressionless birdie face can conjure.  Maybe it was just curious interest.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Canary Chicks Day 19

The two older chicks like to stay perched on the edge of the nest. Because of this, when I put the birds back into their "big" cage after our beach week on Sunday, I purposefully placed the nest close to the cage floor. Occasionally the older one will pop onto the perch I placed next to the nest, but most of the time they stay on the nest's edge.  Since the most aggressive birds get fed first, the two that are older seemed to be hogging the food source (mom and dad) all morning long.  I just noticed baby chick #3 on the nest edge, a little wobbly, but demanding his fair share of food. Chick #1 was just pushed off his perch and s-l-i-d down the bars that he was clinging to for dear life.  He somehow was able to reach the perch with his beak and give himself a leg back up into the safety of his nest.  I wonder, can he make his way back up if he does go to the floor of the cage?  A few minutes later, he FLEW to a slender perch I'd placed mid-cage.  Here's a video of his first adventure from the perch. daddy bird giving encouragement and loud tweets.  I think all three chicks are males. Notice how the other two lay low?  (Chick #1 does this too.) That's the typical boy response,  'Just lay low and nobody will notice we're here'.  If there was a female, she'd sit up and stare at you with an 'Are you looking at me? Well then, I'll just sit here and stare right back at you.'  FYI- Babies are messy. I clean the cage nightly.Oh, and I'd like to thank the inventor of clothespins!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Canary Chicks Day 16 - Take A Walk!

Trying to figure out the sex of my canary chicks, I have exhausted all three ways to "guess" - by activity level, longer middle toe, and to tap on the nest and the boys will duck down while the girls sit up and stare.  The nest tap results in all three birds laying down and staring.  Nobody puts their tails up, but nobody sits up, however all three stare.  Confusing.  Maybe they're too old for this test.  Maybe they aren't old enough.  An inspection of their toe length makes me think they could be males, as the longer toe seems quite a bit longer tan the other two toes, much more like their father and very unlike the mother bird's feet.

Today I put the three chicks on a towel on the floor.  I kept the caged parents nearby so they could keep an eye on their babies, however they are pretty relaxed about my intrusions.  The other times I removed the babies, it was to clean out the nest or clean poo off the babies' feet or feathers and I kept them in my hand. Oh what fun the babies had today!  It was the first time they've been out of the nest, feet on the floor, and had room to stretch and hop.  The babies flapped their sprouting wings.  They hopped around and all three seemed pretty active.  Baby Chick #3, being three days younger than the other two, is clearly smaller and weaker with less plumage.  He would hop and then rest.  His level is equivalent to the other two when they were three days younger, so I am not worried about him.  I put the chicks apart and they would go toward each other to hover together as if they were in the nest.  The biggest/oldest chick is stealing the scene, hopping on a dollar and coins (for size reference) and then joining his brothers for a rest.  You can hear the adult male chattering, babies peeping and finally, the mother bird with her louder peeps at the end of the video.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 14 - Feathers!

May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day.
May songbirds serenade you every step along the way.
May a rainbow run beside you in a sky that's always blue.
And may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through.

When the parents feed the chicks, it is fast and furious!  There's a lot of movement with long stretched necks, open mouths, nonstop baby tweets and place changing, which includes stepping on each other.  The two older chicks (by 3 days) sometimes stand tall on their little toothpick legs.  Each chick may get two or three touches of food from the parent's beak, then all is quiet.  Don't feel bad for the one in the back, he will get fed on the next go around.  Sometimes the parents show up ready to feed, but the chicks are all too full and just ignore them.  I noticed one of the chicks preening his new feathers today.