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Feature Articles

Red Factor Canaries

Red Factor, intense colour.
Red Factor, intense colour.


I believe getting your birds in breeding condition starts while your birds are in the moult.I like to have an early finish that is normally over before Christmas. That means an early start for the breeding season.

When I have finished breeding with the henbirds, I put them out in a flight on their own. After finishing with my non-colour birds they also go in the same flight. I do not colour feed my breeding henbirds and they stay in the same flight until next season. The cockbirds go in a different flight and their diet does not change much over the whole year, although they are fed less greens in the winter. In the flights I have suet fat all year round which is a great source of certain vitamins needed.

Red Factor, frosted birds.
Red Factor, frosted birds.

The greens I use are, Lettuce in breeding season for the hens and young canaries. In the winter I use Broccoli and Cauliflower leaf. These they get 2-3 times a week. Their feed diet does not change much through the year. Canaries also love grit and fine gravel mixed together. I like to let them bath 2-3 times a week. For the cages I keep birds in, I made bird baths from perspex. They clip on the front of the cage where the door is. When I built my aviary I thought about ventilation, cold winds and rain, so I built my aviary enclosed with windows that open, east, west and north. If it is a sou-wester blowing, I close that side down and leave the windows open on the east side and I can vary this depending on which way the weather is coming from.

My breeding room faces east and north which means in spring and summer I get plenty of good light and heat. However in the winter although the sun was shining on the roof, I was not getting the light and heat the same, so I changed the roof by replacing the iron with clear plastic. That has made a lot of difference to the aviary. The birds love sitting and sunbathing under the plastic. I also have louvres and a fan extractor, plus a fan to move the heat around in the birdroom. If everything goes reasonably well with the birds going through the moult and winter, I pair the birds off on the first weekend of September. If I buy birds in I like to have them as early as possible as that way I have plenty of time to let the birds settle in. Some breeders will buy birds in later in the year (too late) and then when they don't breed complain that "he sold me poor birds".

In Cabinets for breeding.
In Cabinets for breeding.

I breed with about 15 pair of red Factors. Normally I get about 60 - 70 young each season. Before pairing up I trim their toenails and dust them for mites, then I also put the cockbirds in first and follow that by putting the hen in the same day. Intensive Red hen to Apricot cock is how I mate 2-3 pair and the rest are paired by putting Intensive Red cockbirds to Apricot hens. (I do this as the Apricot hens seem to be a better breeder) Sometimes they may fight after pairing and if they are still fighting after 2-3 days, I change the cockbird around. If he is still fighting with the new hen, I put him back in the flight.

Before putting the nest pan in I tie felt material as a base and find the canaries particularly fond of the leaf of twitch to build their nest with. When the eggs start to arrive, I take them away as they are laid and replace with dummy eggs. On the fourth egg I put the eggs back so that all chicks should hatch on the same day. When the eggs are 5-6 days old I check them to see if they are fertile. 2 days before hatching I take out the cock and put him in a flight with other cockbirds and leave the hen on her own. I have done that for about 10 years and I have never had a henbird desert the nest. I have found that since I have been doing this I don't lose as many chicks as I used to. I feel the benefits out weigh the downside of this practice.

The downside is when the young canaries are 3 weeks to 1 month old and the hen begins to lay her eggs for the next round. The eggs of course are infertile because of having no cock in the cage. By the time the young canaries can feed themselves and you put the cockbird back in with the hen, you can lose 2-3 weeks before you get fertile eggs again. At least you have ended up with 4 or even 5 chicks on the perch instead of maybe only 3 on the perch the standard way.

A good pairing will include an intense and a frosted bird.
A good pairing will include an intense and a frosted bird.

If you think the hen cannot manage on her own, don't worry, as you will find as I have that the hen will in most cases do better on her own. I feel the cockbird becomes a nuisance in the breeding cage. My theory as to why this is the case goes back to genetics. A cockbirds genetics tell him to look for food in the wild and he is kept busy doing this, but in the cage the food needed is just sitting there for him. He gets bored and then starts to cause trouble.

When the young canaries start to feed themselves, I put them in a cage by their own and put the cock back in the cage with the hen. Then when the young are 6 weeks old I put them in a flight and start to colour feed them. When I see a young bird starting to whistle I put a blue plastic ring on his leg and put them in a double breeding cage. I find you have more control over the birds feeding and managing them this way.

Properly colour fed Red Factors, are very attractive in an aviary in numbers.
Properly colour fed Red Factors, are very attractive in an aviary in numbers.

I show my Red Factors when not judging so I always like to have my own birds in good condition, colour and feather quality. Before the show season starts I sort out the poor coloured birds and put them back in the flights.

Their seed diet is the same all year round. I use canary, rape, hulled oats, white millet, blue maw, niger and wild seeds that you can buy from a seed merchant.

My softfood I make up myself. My recipe is as follows:
10 parts breadcrumbs
5 parts cremoata
1 part farex (original)
1 part castor sugar
1 part blue maw
1 part niger
Between breeding season and colour feeding I go through about 40kg of softfood a year.

When feeding out I add one hard-boiled bantams egg to a cupful of this mixture. I also chop up dandelion leaves and suet fat and add this to the softfood.

Red Factors colouring up during the moult
Red Factors colouring up during the moult

When colour feeding I colour my birds through their softfood opposed to the water. I use canthaxanthin powder. If you wish to use it in your birds drinking water. In mix 1 level teaspoon to 1.5 litres of water.

In my breeding room I have 14 breeding cages facing north and 6 facing west. When I built my breeding room, the 6 facing west I got poor results from, but over the years I have noticed that more and more young birds are coming from this bank of cages. The question I have for readers is this: Have you noticed a change of patterns in your breeding room ?? I certainly enjoy keeping, breeding, showing and judging these beautiful canaries and would recommend others to give them a go!

Being kept together out of breeding season
Being kept together out of breeding season

The guidelines for the use of colour feed, supplied and recommended by the N.Z. Canary Colour Breeders Society is as follows:
Dry Canthaxanthin 10% Water Soluble
Dry Canthaxanthin may be given in the drinking water or in the soft food. If given in the drinking water, dissolve the powder in a little hot water and then dilute with cold water.
1/4 Teaspoon to a large drinking file of water.
1/4 Teaspoon to 50 grams soft food
Starting when chicks are about 8 weeks old.

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