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Friday, April 30, 2010

5 1/2 weeks old chicks

These two chicks are 1st clutch of 2010 season from H3N1 and H2N1 parents. By now, they are almost 6 weeks old and can eat/drink on their own. Actually around 3 to 4 weeks old, they begin to eat on their own thou they still beg for food from the parents if given the chance. Seems that the female has little darker color compare to normal female. The same parents produced at least one dark color female in last year which is the female H32N2 that I currently try to breed with H5N1 male.

Egg binding

Recently, a friend of mine has issue with one of his breeding female white-rumped shama: egg binding. According to my friend, he saw the female stands/lay on the floor of the aviary in the morning, fluffy feather, and seems to have hard time breathing. Normal bird should perch on the tree branch, alert and active. As seen before in previous year, he immediately caught the bird and bring her inside the house in bamboo cage and use incandescent light to keep her warm. He then gave her few drops of liquid calcium. Few hours later, she is able to lay the egg, and seems to recover the ordeal.
In two years of bird keeping, I hear few stories of egg binding in pet birds, especially around breeding season start. Lucky for me, I haven't have this issue in all of my birds (knock on wood ;) ). Female bird when in breeding season need great amount of calcium (usually stored in the bone) to be able to form eggshell properly. Once the reserved calcium is depleted, some calcium from her own bone will be use. And when there is not enough calcium to form eggshell, the egg inside her body will has soft shell and it can cause the female bird great difficulty to lay.
Lacking of calcium in daily diet is the main cause for egg binding in pet birds, especially insectivore bird like white-rumped shama. According to bird keepers in Asia, supplement normal daily insect diet with small vertebrate animals such as small lizards, froglet, small fish, or feeding small shrimps with shell once in a while can be enough to reduce this egg binding issue. In country like where I live, small lizards and froglet are almost impossible to find, and small fish (even feeder fish) is somewhat expensive, supplement daily diet with either liquid or powder calcium is almost the only choice to prevent this issue.
For those who keeps pet birds indoor, even with plenty calcium supplement, the female bird might still get egg binding. The cause is not due to lack of calcium, but lack of Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the only vitamin D form that the bird can use, found only in animal products such as eggs, milk, insects, and liver or synthesize by the bird when bird is exposed to sunlight. The short wavelength ultraviolet light in the sunlight aids in the formation of vitamin D3 on the skin. The exposed skin of the legs, feet, around the eyes, and in other areas on some birds, exude an oily compound called technically 7-dehydrocholesterol. When the ultraviolet rays strike this substance, they produce a chemical change that transforms it into cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3. The vitamin is then resorbed into the skin over a period of time to supply the birds' vitamin D requirement. These ultraviolet rays cannot penetrate window glass, though they will go through quartz glass and most clear plastics. Vitamin D3 is crucial for the absorption of calcium into the body. Without vitamin D3, whatever amount of calcium the bird eat, it will come out the bird body with all the undigested wastes.
Other causes include obesity, lack of exercise, oversized or mal-formed eggs, excessive egg laying, oviduct infection or damage, heredity and senility are all causes of egg binding.
Sign of egg binding: according to Linda Pesek (DVM) in her article "Egg binding in breeding and pet birds" here are some of the clinical signs: "A hen may appear depressed, have an abnormally wide stance, and make repeated straining motions. Some birds may be puffed yet perching, while others may be found on the bottom of the cage. Some birds may even be found dead on the floor of the cage or aviary without any previous warning. Droppings may be larger than normal or no droppings may be passed and the vent may be dilated and swollen."
Treatment: As in case of my friend, keep the bird warm (85-95F) and give couple drops of liquid calcium will do the trick, but it's all depend on when you discover the bird has issue with egg binding, and other factors such as how poor condition of the bird is. Again, here is what Linda Pesek wrote: "Egg binding should be considered an emergency. Medical treatment is initiated to stabilize the bird. The bird may be given fluids intravenously or subcutaneously as well as antibiotics, steroids and calcium. It is placed in an incubator at 85-95 degrees F with moistened air. If the egg is not passed within a few hours, additional calcium as well as certain drugs to stimulate contraction and expulsion of the egg may be administered. Sometimes it is necessary to sedate the bird with isoflurane and manually pass the egg. If this is not possible due to the large size of the egg, ovocentesis or aspiration of the egg's contents, followed by collapse of the egg and removal of the shell may be necessary." Ovocentesis or aspiration of the egg's contents can be done by using syringe with sharp needle to puncture the eggshell and remove the contents inside. Once the egg collapse, the shell can be remove using small forceps. I would imagine this process is very tricky to do and risk of infection is very high. Sterile all equipments use, antibiotic might need to give to the bird after the procedure, and proceed with great care.
Long term prevention: Review the daily diet and make change if necessary. Adding calcium supplemental 3-4 times weekly during breeding season and 1-2 times weekly when outside breeding season can help. Provide the bird with natural sunlight few hours daily or use artificial light bulb that specifically made to help bird/reptile produce vitamin D3 regularly to ensure bird can have enough vitamin D3. Give plenty of room for the bird to exercise. Observe the bird carefully during breeding season to caught the sign of egg binding early.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How young can the white-rumped shama start to breed?

In chicken, both the hen and rooster when reach age around 6 months old, they can start to breed. Young rooster might needs few more month of age to produce fertile eggs. I wish this is the case for the white-rumped shama, but it's not! :)
As few others who breed this bird before me, and from what I learn, the female can start to lay egg at around 1 years of age (the following season after the first molt), while the male needs to be around 2 years of age to produce fertile eggs. In this breeding season, I have one pair that the male is two years old and the female is one year old. Both produced babies in their first ever clutch which confirm with what I learn. In other pair, both the male and the female are one year of age and in their first clutch, as of 16th days of incubation, no eggs hatched!
In conclusion, young shama can start to breed successful at an age of one year old in case of the female, and at an age of two years old for the male. As with other birds and other animals, first few years of breeding might not yield the most offspring. Too old or too young of a bird won't give max potential to produce offspring. I suspect that the shama will reach their full potential after 3-4 years of age.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Some new pics of two chicks from first cluth '10

Chicks are couple days old after left the nest.

Chick #1: probably a male

Chick #2: probably a female

Mother (just finish taking a bath) and her two chicks enjoys the morning sun

04/11/2010:  With some sun coming out today, I fill the bath container with some water.  The parents are so happy to jump right in and to my surprise, both of the chicks copy their parents and also jump in the water to take a bath for the first time in their life.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Hwamei pair 2010 Breeding Season

The pair are introduced and live together since around Oct 2009.  They are eating together, preen each other feathers since the introduction.  Recently around last week of March 2010, they both start to carry on their beak nesting materials, jumping from branches to branches but seems to do not know what to do with those nesting materials.  The male calls with the sound like roo..roo...roo..roo constantly and beating his wings real fast.  The female sometimes answers the call of the male and starts finding nesting materials at the aviary floor and she also jumps from branches to branches to follow the male.
First week of April 2010, observed that they pick a nest site and start dropping few nesting materials into the nest; however, they have not seen to do any "fixing" of the nest site.
As of 04/11/2010: Looks like that they finish building the nest.  They begins to stop carrying nesting materials to the nest.  The male start to stand in front of the nest most of the time, but they still sleep at their usual spot at night (higher near the top of aviary while the nest is just about 2ft up from the floor).  The nest location is hard for me to see any egg inside yet.  Will patiently await to see if this pair can produce any chicks.