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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Incubator for shama bird, hwamei, and other songbird's eggs?

Have anyone ever try to use Incubator to incubate shama's or other songbird's eggs?  I personally haven't hear anyone try it before, but it doesn't mean it haven't happen already.  I know people who breed chicken, especially those with bantam type such as serama use incubator to incubate the eggs with high hatch rate with somewhere between 80-90% successful.  One thing of keeping and breeding shama and other songbird type such as Hwamei, Thrush, etc is that sometimes the female refuse to incubate her eggs and/or keep throwing eggs out of her nest batch after batch.  In this case, an incubator might be in good use if there is no other pair of the same kind of bird in the same period of breeding to use as surrogate parent for incubation and raising those eggs.  Assume that the incubator is successful to hatch most of the eggs, the next question is how to hand-rear the chicks from day one?  I hear that the successful rate of hand-rear shama chicks from day one to adult hood is very low; on the other hand, hand-rear shama chicks or other songbirds type from day 4-5 or later yield much higher successful rate up to 80-90%.  Planing out those scenario ahead of time and prepare what need to be done in case it happens can give those precious eggs a fighting chance to survive.

One of the most recommend Incubator from those who breed chicken, especially small type of chicken like serama is The Genesis Hova-Bator Incubator model 1588 (no automatic turner is needed, at least for serama chicken since hand turned gives higher hatched rate than using the automatic turner).
https://www.gqfmfg.com/store/comersus_viewItem.asp?idProduct=77

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New bamboo cage for Hwamei

Just recently bought a bamboo cage for the Hwamei.  The one I bought did not have any kind of treatment to the wood (no paint, no vanish, no protected oil).  I forgot to take the picture of the before untreated bamboo cage, but here is the final finish after a few coat with Formby's tung oil finish (natural color), a coat of Watco danish oil finish (natural color), and thin layer of Helmsman spar urethane for extra protection against water and sun UV ray damage.  According to few woodworkers I asked, one of either three products above is enough to turn raw bamboo cage to a beautiful one and fully protect the cage from water damage; however, I like to protect the bamboo cage from UV ray also.  Depends on type of bamboo to make the cage, even when I use natural color coat (no stain color to the wood), this cage turn out quite beautiful with little darker color than before untreated, but my other cage did not turn darker, just shinier.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wish everyone have a great holidays!  Have a wonderful time with families and friends.  Be safe and don't drink and drive!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Are you ready for upcoming white-rumped shama breeding season?

White-rumped shama breeding season is about to begin in just a few more months.   Bird keepers like me are condition the birds right now with live foods, addition of multi-vitamin, calcium, and other supplements to prepare for upcoming breeding season.   Not only the birds get conditioning, but I also prepare necessary materials for the bird to build nest.  Are you ready for the upcoming breeding season?
First, you need to have a pair (male and female).  From what I hear, the male must be at least 2 years old to be successful fertile the eggs while the female can be as young as 8 months old.  While it is not advisable to breeding the bird at such a young age (lest than one year old); however, sometimes it must be done to increase its population in captivity and give the whole specie a fighting chance to survive in nature.  If there are more captive breed birds, then less wild birds get caught to supply the demand.
Second, during breeding season the bird will consume huge quantity of live foods.  Without enough supply of live food, the babies will die due to lack of food to feed.  We need to ensure that live food with appropriate size is available at all time.  Third, calcium, vitamin B complex, vitamin E, and other multi-vitamin will need to supply the bird, especially the female, during breeding season.  Calcium is needed by the female to produce eggshell, vitamin B complex is needed to aid the bird in the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins which in turn help the bird have enough energy to breed and feed the babies.  Vitamin E used in early breeding season to help bring the bird into sexual active.  Multi-vitamin is also used more than other time to ensure the birds are in good health while breeding and raising youngs.  Not only the parent bird get extra dose of vitamins, but the babies were also supplied with those vitamins and calcium via either dust/coat with live food or mix with water to help them grow up properly.  Last but not least, artificial nest and nest materials are needed so the bird can build a nest to lay eggs and raise babies.

Using normal parakeet nest without the top cover
Those vitamins that I use for breeding season
H1N1
 
H4N1

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Canary

I keep a few canary along with white-rumped shama so with the hope that the shama can learn a few canary's songs.  This is one of the few ways to increase variety of song in shama beside bring to the bird gathering or use CD player to play recorded songs of shama.  So far, I confirm that one of the male white-rumped shama H3N1 learned and sang a few note of the canary song.
This was my canary that I think had very nice and long songs, unfortunately he passed away few months ago:

Youtube: best place to post the video clips

I just create youtube account to share some video clips of my birds from now on instead using photobucket account which has low quality video compare to youtube.  Too bad I don't have time and resource to upload all the previous video clips but I do manage to upload some of the clips.  From now on, youtube it is, ....:)

http://www.youtube.com/user/lacvietshama

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Hwamei Breeding Season Summary

I don't think I post this picture before in my blog.  Back in June 09 when I first acquired the female Hwamei, right after introducing her to the her mate she started to lay egg.  I don't know that the pair threw the egg out of the nest or she laid on the cage floor, but unfortunately all the egg (three of them) are found broken on the floor of the aviary.  Either way, none of the egg would survive since the eggshell is very thin and rubbery like.  I suspect the female didn't have enough calcium in her system due to poor care from the previous owner.  I have since provided regular calcium supplements to her and all other birds.  We will see the female will lay her eggs in the nest or not in this upcoming 2010 breeding season and also see if the pair will incubate the eggs or not.  From what I hear and read, breeding Hwamei is extremely hard due to the fact that most of the pair didn't incubate or throw eggs/babies out of the nest.  Just wonder because of the secret nature of Hwamei, insecurity in small aviary, or other factor(s) that could contribute to this problem.  Time will tell!

Currently, the pair Hwamei is doing great in their own small aviary with lots of plants both inside and around the aviary.  Few small finch (zebra finch) are also share the same aviary with the Hwamei.  Both of the Hwamei start to sing at dawn and again at dusk before going to sleep.  Plenty of different type of nest and various building materials also provided.  Will see how the pair behave in few more months when 2010 breeding season begin.

I believe this is the male Hwamei attemped to build the nest



One of the three eggs laid and broken on the aviary floor.


 The Hwamei pair: Male is on the left. (pictures were taken in June-July 09)



The Male Hwamei:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Variety in diets for White-rumped shama and another live food source: Minimealworms - Tenebrio obscurus

I always believe variety in diet for any captive animals is one of the main key for success keeping and breeding that particular animals.  White-rumped shama is mainly insect feeder so feeding the bird with variety insects (dead or alive) help to keep them in healthy state and avoid the synchrome of "picky eater."  It is widely known in fish and reptile keeping that feeding the animals strictly his/her favorite live feeder food for a long time can lead to deficiency of certain vitamin (which can result in sickness or even death) and very hard to convert that animal to eat other less favorite live feeder food later on.  No particular one kind of live feeder food can be sole staple in a diet.  Variation of foods is the only way to provide our beloved animals complete nutrients required.  Each live feeder food will offer a certain key ingredients to bring the shama or any animals in general to healthy state provided other factor such as housing, water, cleanness of aviary/cage are also in good condition.  Cricket has good protein source and easiest way to "gutload" with multivitamin and  calcium.  Waxworm has lots of fat which can be a good food for quickly bring undernourishment bird back to health.  Phoenix worm can provided good source of natural calcium.  Small lizard, frog, or small fish can provide great source of calcium and protein.  There are many live feeder food that can feed to the shama but those above are somewhat commonly available.  Depend where you are locate, some live feeder insects are easily find than others.  In some countries or states, and depends on the season you can catch wild live insects to give to the bird but make sure the wild caught insects are not sprayed with insecticide or carried parasites that can harmful to the bird.  In my opinion, if feeding the bird your own wild caught live insects, it is better to either quarantine them for few weeks to a month before feeding to the bird or freeze them to kill off any internal parasites.  Wild caught food is almost certainly has more complete nutrients than farm raise one, but farm raise insects have less risk of transmitting parasite than the wild counterpart. Minimealworm is rarely available in  the State and expensive.  All the shama love to eat them as they move very quickly unlike the cousin regular mealwormTenebrio molitor which is slow moving; however, in term of cost/nutrient/quantity per feed minimealworm is not a good choice to use to feed the shama.  As the name suggest, minimealworm is very small so each shama can have easily 50 or so per feeding, not counting they are cost like three times more than regular mealworm.  In conclusion, feed those minimealworm as treat once in a while is ok, but feeding those worms regularly will broke out pocket very soon! hehe.

Top view (the meter shows in reference is in cm)


Underside view

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Adaptation and Environment Factor that bring White-rumped Shama into breeding cycle

All creatures have amazing adaptation to new weather environment.  Take human for example, we can live in basically in any weather environment from super hot Sahara desert in Africa to super cold Antarctica in South Pole.  Even the white-rumped shama could not survive in cold climate like us human, it can be keep in temperate zone or more precise Mediterranean climate like Southern California without or minimal heat provided at night.  In Hawaii and Florida which is more like Tropical climate, the bird can be keep and live comfortably just like in its native land.  In fact, in Hawaii, white-rumped shama has establish itself and live free in several islands such as Oahu and Kauai.  In colder climate, if anyone want to keep the bird, one should provide heat in cold period such as winter time or keep the bird inside the house most of the time of the year and only bring the bird to outside when temperature is warmer.
Amazingly, breeding season of white-rumped shama keep in temperate zone like Southern California is almost the same as the bird in Hawaii, or in South / Southeast Asia.  In Asia, breeding season is right after the rainy or monsoon season which around January to September and peak in April to June.  In Hawaii and Southern California, breeding season is from March to August which also happens at or near the end of rainy season.  Following are average temperature (low and high), average rain fall, and average length of day in a year of Oahu (Hawaii, USA), SaiGon (VietNam), and Anaheim/Los Angeles (California, USA):

 






As we can see, daylight length might be the main factor for the bird to enter breeding cycle even the different in daylight length in Asia (where this bird is native) is little over one hour.  Amount of precipitation or rain might also play some role too but compare the amount of precipitation between Asia and California, it doesn't make much sense when bird keep in California climate also enter breeding season similar time like in Hawaii and in Asia.  Increase in daylight temperature might also be a factor but that could not explain why the shama can start breeding in Southern California on March with avg. temp of 70F compare to 77F in Hawaii and 92F in Saigon.  Maybe it is the combination of all the factors above along with increasing available in insect food that trigger the bird to enter breeding cycle?  Or maybe other factor such as barometer, UV ray from the sun, etc... is the main culprit????

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dried food for white-rumped shama

There are many different dried food that commercial made for insectivore bird but none specifically made for white-rumped shama.  In Southeast Asia where this species is native, bird keeper usually made his own special mix of dried food for the shama beside feeding live wild caught insects.  Specific ingredients and amount is often kept secret or varies depend on the keeper.  Basically, roast broken rice under low heat until it turns somewhat dark yellowish, but do not let it turns brown.  Take chicken egg yolk (no egg white) and mix with roasted broken rice.  Slowly roast the mixture again until dry and then can feed to the bird along with daily live foods.  Some people want to add roasted peanut, roasted corn, and/or sun dried shrimp, fish, or insects to the mix.  If they want to feed the bird dried food in powder form, then put everything into the food processing after roasted each ingredients separately or if they want to feed the bird pellet form, then adding egg yolk last to the mix powder and use meat grinder machine to make pellet form.
As for myself and many hobbyists in the State, commercial dried insectivore food is the best choice to use to feed our bird as most of us didn't know the exact formula or too much time consuming to make one.  Mazuri Insectivore and Orlux Insect Patee Premium are the two popular dried food choice as both food have high crude protein level (around 28%) and provided variety of vitamins.  Some people also import/buy dried food from Asia and mix with whatever ingredient that they feel will help the bird.  I have tried both of the dried food above but since I only keep bird for about a year, I can't tell which one is better than other; however, according to one of the best friend/mentor of mine in bird keeping, Orlux Insect Patee Premium mixed with dried cook chicken egg yolk yields good result with good song performance and tail length in bird which is the method that I also use.  Mazuri Insectivore also gives satisfactory result but since I want to add more ingredients to the dried food (to somehow try to make a perfect dried food for shama), Orlux Insect Patee Premium is the better choice for me.  During the course of bird keeping since last year, I also mix the Orlux/egg yolk powder with Mazzuri pellet, fish food pellet, and powder grasshopper.  Combination with feeding variety of live foods and gutload the crickets/cockroaches with the same bird food and dog food, the result is good in term of increase tail length on the second molt of H1N1 but so far I'm still not completely satisfied as I notice most of my bird are reluctant to eat dried food (except the Hwamei which eat like pig :) ).  My friend who feed his birds with the same dried food (minus some of the extra stuffs I add in) and all his birds are eagerly to eat dried food with large amount.  Maybe with those extra stuffs that I added in cause the food to have different/funky smell which the bird didn't like?  Come to think of it, I think so!
Recently, I found a place to sell freeze dried silkworm pupae which use to feed to koi fish.  According to online sources, freeze dried silkworm pupae has min crude protein of 55.3% , min crude fat of 32% (I know the live food composition table in previous post listed silkworm only has 9.6% protein which I believe is true protein percentage, not crude.  Crude protein is total protein of a feed includes true protein and other nitrogen containing substances such as ammonia, amino acids and nitrates).  When I mix 1:4 ration of freeze dried silkworm pupae to Orlux insect food, suddenly all the shama eat dried food with joys.  I think the smell of dried silkworm powder makes the dried food more tasty.  Hopefully with extra protein added to the dried food, it can help to keep all the bird in healthy state.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Live food composition

This is a summary table of some of the live food that we use to feed white-rumped shama and by no way this is the complete summary of all live food.  I collect the information from multiple website on internet and I know that some information in this table is not the same with other website posted.  I try to use the information that from scientific studied or at least seems to be somewhat scientific studied rather than from live food supplied website.  Each method studied might yield a slightly different result and even the same live food but from different region or different food feeding as caught in the wild or farm raise can give total different quality of fat, protein, etc.  With this tabel, I hope it can shed some new knowledge on which live food is best or which combination of live food is best for our beloved bird.
NOTE: I should clarify that I recently found out that Silkworm pupae has at least 55.3% crude protein which roughly about the same as 9.6% as the collected table below (crude protein = true protein aka organic nitrogent x 6.25 which assumed protein has 16% nitrogen).  I do not know all the protein percentage in the table below is crude or true protein but looks like most of them are true protein or at least calculated based on the moist insect mass not as dried mass.  If calculate as dried mass, crickets should have approx. 64% crude protein based on this article: 
http://www.nagonline.net/Technical%20Papers/NAGFS00397Insects-JONIFEB24,2002MODIFIED.pdf

Fat ( % )
Protein ( % )
Calcium (ppm)
Calcium (mg/100g)
Phosporous (ppm)
Iron (mg/100g)
Vitamin C (mg/kg)
Moisture ( % )
Fiber ( % )
Ash ( % )
Carbohydrates ( % )
Crickets (Acheta domesticus)
6
21
345
21.53
4328
9.5
105.9
71.96
1.29 - 3.2
1.52 - 2.17
3.06
Mealworm (Tenibrio molitor)
13.64
18.65 - 21
133
3.28
3345
N/A
38.1
58.74 - 62.89
2
1.2
3.62 - 4.00
Superworm (Zophoba morio)
14.19 - 17.9
18.92
124 - 173
10.8
2320
N/A
9.8
58.91 - 61.92
2.6
1.29
5.81
Phoenix worm (Hermetia illucens linnaeus)
9.4
17.3
8155
N/A
5355
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
5.81
Roach (B. Laterallis)
5.13
36.5
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
63.63
1.19
N/A
N/A
Wax worm larva (Galleria mellonella)
20.12 - 22.19
15.7
283
13.14
2161
N/A
23.6
61.73
1.6 - 7.69
1.02
2.54
Fly larva
5.96
15.32
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
69.02
2.7
1.24
8.46
Silkworm pupae
5.6
9.6
N/A
41.7
N/A
1.8
N/A
75
N/A
7
2.3
Earthworm (Dendrabaena veneta)
2
10
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
85
N/A
1
N/A
Giant Water Beetle
8.3
19.8
N/A
43.5
N/A
13.6
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
2.1
Red Ant
3.5
13.9
N/A
47.8
N/A
5.7
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
2.9
Small Grasshopper
6.1
20.6
N/A
35.2
N/A
5
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
3.9
Large Grasshopper
3.3
14.3 - 26.8
N/A
27.5
N/A
3
N/A
N/A
2.4
1.2
2.2
Termite
N/A
14.2
N/A
N/A
N/A
35.5
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Beef (lean ground)
16 - 25
27.4
N/A
N/A
N/A
3.5
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
0

Cold and Rainy Week

Starting the begining of the week, the weather suddenly changes to much colder than normal with raining. It rains almost all day on Monday. At night, the temperature drops down to 38.7F and temperature in the morning only comes up to upper 50s F. All the birds are ok but didn't active much on that rainy day. On Tuesday, event there is no more rain but the weather is still very cold with little windy. I change all the dried food as some has little water splash in during the rain which can cause molt in a very short time. I don't want the bird eat spoiled food which can cause sickness. Sickness during cold weather is one thing I don't want the bird get as its immunity is not as strong as in the warm weather. On Wednesday morning, there is lots of sunshine and temperature should be above 60F. All birds behave as normal and start singing. The Hwamei pair was also observed to take a bath.
For those who lives in temperate zone like Southern California, which the temperature in winter can go down to nearly 0C or 32F (only a few nights during the winter season. Average night time temperature in winter is about 46F), unless keeping the bird outside all summer long until winter in an aviary, it is better to bring the bird inside the house or at least keep them inside a patio. Because white-rupmed shama is a tropical bird, it needs time to adjust to the cold weather of temperate zone. If you live in colder climate which temperature in winter can goes below 32F or stay near 32F most of the time, then the bird needs to bring inside the house or have some kind of heating system to keep them warm. From my experience since last winter, white-rumped shama and other tropical birds can live comfortable outside aviary during the winter if the bird has long time to adjust to outside temperature (i.e, keep them outside all summer long until now) and temperature only goes down to 30s F for a few days during winter season with or without heating provided at night.