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Meroman

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About Meroman

  • Rank
    Mega Hunter
  • Birthday 19/10/60

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Co.Dublin
  1. My first hook beaks

    Nice birds, they've got great colour in them.
  2. Here's an article written by Paul Girvan a few years back. Every once in a while, a question from an eager novice or newcomer appears in Cage & Aviary Birds, asking how to breed mules from a Goldfinch or Siskin that they have just acquired. The limited space available means that the answer is usually restricted to basic hints on success in the art of muling. For many years now, i have taken great delight in trying to produce miniature mules. At first, i did so because i was fascinated by the idea of going against nature and breeding something both beautiful and unique. More recently, though, I have concentrated on providing quality miniatures for the show bench, and while i won many best miniature mule awards at my local C.B.S shows and even at our all britsh shows, my proudest moment with miniatures had to be winning best miniature at the prestigous Irish Bird Breeders Society show in Dublin in 2004 with a Siskin mule. Hundreds, probably thousands,of miniature mules are reared each year, and their breeders should be applauded, as not everyone who tries is successful. There is probably no "right way" -and definitely no "wrong way"- but i would like to highlight two methods that have rewarded me. Both involve unflighted Finches and unflighted Canaries. Although a proven muling finch can be relied upon to carry out his duties even with a Canary that has previously been mated with its own kind. After the young Canaries have moulted out and cocks and hens have, hopefully, been correctly sexed, i like to introduce the finch to his intended partner. Ideally, this should be in a double breeding cage, with just one perch situated at one end of the cage. This keeps both birds fit and flying from the perch to the end of the cage and back, usually resulting in approx 2 metres of flight. This is especially important when Siskin cocks are used, because they tend to put on weight through lack of exercise and overfeeding on Niger and Hemp seed,which they will seek out above all other seeds, resulting in obese birds that are useless to any breeding programme. They should be restricted to a good Canary mixture with no added Niger or Hemp. Pairs are kept together all winter and ,hopefully ,come spring, the combination of familiarity, and the fact that they have shared the same perch for months, will have created a bond. If the birds have bonded, the signs will be obvious come April, when the Finch cocks will be seen feeding the Canary hens as their begging cries become more persistant as the breeding season approaches. This is more evident with the Siskin cocks, which seem to be more tolerant of our presence in the birdroom. Goldfinches ,however, seem more shy, and a bond can often only be confirmed by peering through the corner of a window or the gap of a half-opened door. When the hens are ready to go to nest, they will be seen carrying mouthfulls of whatever nesting material is available to them : wood shavings, feathers or newspaper. When this is witnessed the nest pans can be introduced along with proper nesting material. This is an important stage for me. At this point, I treat my Siskins and Goldfinches differently. I am sure that other breeders have their own way, but this method works for me, with 23 miniature mules bred from 4 hens in 2004. When the nest is complete, i split the Siskin cock and Canary hen by way of a wire divide every evening. I reintroduce him in the morning, after i have replaced any eggs laid with dummy ones. This is done until the clutch is complete. The Siskin cock is then kept apart as before, because Siskins, above all other british finches, have a tendancy to eat the eggs and cannot be trusted !!!!. However, more often than not the Siskin can be relied upon to fertilise the eggs in the first round. All going well, he can be reintroduced once the young mules have hatched, where he will happily carry out his parental duties [help with feeding the young] even after the youngsters have left the nest. I use different tactics in trying to breed Goldfinch mules at this stage. Instead of leaving the Finch cock with the Canary hen, I shut him off, again by use of a wire mesh divide, and I run a Canary cock with the hen until her clutch is complete. I do this firstly, because I can obtain young Canaries for the following year, and second, as the Goldfinch sometimes does not come into full breeding condition until May: eggs laid before this are usually clear. When the young Canaries hatch- and not before, because Goldfinches, like Siskins, are partial to eggs- the finch can be returned to the hen. One of the benefits of my way with Goldfinches is that, when the hen is ready to go to nest for her second round, the Canary cock to which she was previously mated can be brought into view. I do this by way of an all-wire cage suspended from the ceiling. With any luck, she will respond to his singing, and the Finch will successfully mate with her, resulting in a cluth of fertile eggs. This should be done four or five times during the course of the day or evening, for no more than ten minutes at a time. It is also important that the fancier leaves the bird- room at this point as the Goldfinch- and who can blame him? - likes his privacy. In producing show quality miniature mules, my best results have come from pairing yellow Siskin cocks to yellow green Fife hens, or yellow Goldfinch cocks to yellow half Fife, half Irish Fancy hens. Many people advocate the use of coloured (red factor) Canaries. In my opinion, whilst these tend to produce quite colourful miniatures, when the Goldfinch is used, the offspring tend to be on the large size and do not quite catch the judge's eye. Maybe if the smallest intensive red hens were used instead of today's exhibition reds, which, to me, seem to have grown larger, some nice eye-catchers would grace the show bench. I hope this article helps other fanciers, be they newcomers or 'old hands', to be successful and inspires them to pick up a pen and share their knowledge with all of us.
  3. Am Making A Small Flight

    What birds did you put in your new flight?
  4. Hopeful Hybrid Pair

    Good luck with them Gnipper, the goldie usually doesn't come into breeding condition until mid to late may so if you get an early round of blind eggs dont lose faith in the pair.
  5. Last season

    You've some nice birds there. Great to see goldies breeding in cages.
  6. Mealy Redpolls

    Tenbob I think its going to be one of those seasons, I've only bred three chicks from seven pairs (goldies,siskins and chaffies) so far and there's not that long left to turn it around so I'm not holding out much hope for the next few weeks.
  7. Any British Nesting Yet

    Indeed Fireman I agree it has to be the weather... Good luck with the bullies, anyone I've spoken to here that's breeding them are not having much joy with them with one exception, a mate of mine is putting native bullie eggs under Siberian hens and they are rearing them for him...
  8. Any British Nesting Yet

    My season so far has been bad to say the least. I have one chaffie and three siskins to the sticks at this point, I've had lots of clear eggs, hens jumping the nest because of thunderstorms at night (I assume) and nests being torn apart by cock birds in the same flight. I've also lost three birds since May which does not help. The clear eggs make me think I didn't get my birds into good breeding condition but I've done the same thing for years now with much better results. The joys of keeping Natives I suppose!!
  9. Any British Nesting Yet

    Sorry to read that Keeper its always a challenge with natives......
  10. Any British Nesting Yet

    Any success with the Goldie.siskin pairing Keeper?
  11. A Few Photos From The Show Bench.

    Yes Neil, the South county show is one of the oldest cbs shows in Ireland and still going strong. The INBBS run their young stock show in conjunction with it the October bank holiday weekend and then have their main show the third weekend the following January every year... Both shows are well worth a visit...
  12. Any British Nesting Yet

    Hope you get them to the sticks fireman....What livefood are you using?
  13. A few photos of natives on the show bench at the South county show in Dublin & the INBBS show from a few years back...The last photo was taken at the London & home counties show the same year 2009 I think...
  14. I've only ever met him once, a true gentleman and a top birdman is Alan...
  15. An article written by Alan Haury. I have always had a great fondness for Lesser redpolls. A Lesser Redpoll cock was the very first bird that I owned. I was seven years old. This bird lived in an old budgie cage in the house and I fed it on mixed canary seed and family left overs !! The area I lived in had lots of Lessers. We had different names for them (Tillys – mountiers ). Many local birdmen would always try to obtain the ones with the red breast. You could obtain these birds for £1 a pair !!! As I got into my early teens I started to seriously breed British Birds (Goldies were the first I bred). I started showing birds when I was fourteen. At the local show the junior section was very competitive. On leaving school I showed as a partnership with a friend called Chris Coulton. He was a few years older than me and his Dad took us to the shows. One Saturday at Skelmersdale Show we were lucky enough to get Best Novice CYB and Best Novice Exhibit. A local hero of ours Mr Terry McCracken won Best British Bird In Show and Best Exhibit with a greenfinch. We always admired the quality of Terry’s show team. Three to four days after the show Chris received a letter from Terry saying how wonderful the Lessers looked. I was well chuffed that such a good birdman thought this. In his letter he asked if we had any spare birds that he could buy. He gave his phone number and said to reverse the charges!! Chris phoned Terry to inform him that I had bred 17 young. We arranged to meet at the No1 Labour Club in Haydock. That’s where Haydock Bird Club and Lancashire held their shows for many a year. I took Terry to my parent’s house to see my very small set up – we hadn’t lived there long. I gave him the choice of 3 – 4 birds. Terry was pleased and picked 2 of the birds and asked how much they were or were there any birds I would be interested in. So straight away I said a pair of greenies. With a smile he said he had none at present but would put me on his waiting list. Being young and foolish I didn’t want to go on a waiting list. So I asked if there was any chance of a pair of siskins. He said his friend, the late Derek Oldknow, had some. A few weeks later he fixed me up with a wonderful pair of siskins, especially the hen. A few weeks later our local bird club got a mini bus down to the All British Show in Doncaster. When I got there I bought a catalogue and going through the classes I noticed Terry had entered two Lesser Redpolls. So straight away I went to look at the class, this was when Lessers and Meallies were in the same class. There were over thirty birds in the class and Terry was first and third!!!! Straight away I recognised the birds as the ones Terry swapped me a few weeks earlier. On seeing this I shouted Chris and a few of the lads over – they didn’t believe me!!!!! They said that a Champion of Terry’s status wouldn’t be getting birds from a novice to show!! After a while Terry noticed Chris and me and shouted me over. The first thing Terry said was have you seen your redpolls and how well they had done. He said you have some nice redpolls there and you should concentrate on them. That is where it all began. Later the following year we decided to show at the All British at Winsford. It was our first major show. We won all the redpoll classes. We also showed the two siskins and the hen won a major special. The following show season we split our partnership as Chris had other commitments. Over the next four years I did relatively ok with the Lessers in the novice section and I had one or two good softbills as well at the time. When I moved up to Champion I would be lucky to get one in the first seven placings. After a few more years, still struggling, I decided to reluctantly part with all my softbills and to concentrate only with my Lessers and Goldies. Looking back now there have been some really great Redpoll men and these names stick in my mind; Val Emmery – Wales, Kevin Dodd – Blackpool, Terry Ball – Anglesey and Jack Lloyd – Lancashire. I asked every one of these if I could buy a bird off them and had help from Kevin and Jack. The two biggest breaks that helped me were first obtaining a cock bird from Mick Brookes from London. This bird was a few years old and had a dropped wing but could fly ok. I remember the anticipation of picking the bird up from my local railway station. When getting it home I noticed it was bigger, better coloured and with better flank markings than anything I have ever had. The red flush went right between its legs but obviously it was no good for showing with the dropped wing. I managed to breed from this bird for three years, putting it with as many hens as possible. I can trace my current stock back to this old cock. I believe it had been bred by a gentleman from Scotland called Mr Bullock. My second lucky break was meeting an Irish man from Cork in the bar at the National Show in Birmingham. We got talking about redpolls and he said he had plenty of these small brown birds. After exchanging phone numbers I arranged for a friend who kept greyhounds to collect them for me. So with the Irish birds and the bird from London things just clicked. Diet the main staple diet I give is Bayers Goldfinch/siskin mix and Bayers Wildfood. I feed blue maw, white/brown perilla, niger seed, oyster shell grit and a big piece of cuttle fish in each cage and outside flight. Eggfood Cede eggfood, frozen peas (pour boiling water over them and microwave for around 4 – 5 minutes ), scrambled eggs, blue maw seed and a small amount of sausage rusk just to make it go that bit further. Three quarter Cede and one quarter sausage rusk and mix all the ingredients together. I start to give eggfood after Christmas and give one finger drawer per cage. I cage all my birds singularly during the show season. After my last show I start to give them mini mealworms and frozen white pinkies ( I leave them out for a while before offering them to my birds), these are given once a week so the birds get a taste for them. Soakseed My soakseed consists of Bayers and Manor Farm with a little niger added. seed consists of Bayers and Manor Farm with a little niger added. Wildfood I’m a great believer in giving as much wildfood as you can get. I start with coltsfoot, dandelions, chickweed, sow thistle, milk thistle, sorrel, mugwort, fat hen, ragwort, meadowsweet and alders during the winter. Breeding Lessers will breed in cages and small flights. Mine are outside flights. I use both every year. I have a block of thirteen flights built on a 24’ x 8’ base with a passageway running through the front. I use these for lessers, goldies and twites. Each is set with four nesting sites. I use small metal baskets with coconut fibre lining. The nesting material I offer to the birds is coconut fibre, white kapok, white horse hair cut into very small lengths and sometimes I use 100% cotton wool (no man made fibres) if I cant get enough kapok. I usually breed in single pairs but if I have a real good cock I will run him with numerous hens. I use a small amount of conifer cover around each nest basket. The bottom of the flights I cover with horse bedding with small silver birch branches placed low down for the young to perch on. All the flights are covered in corrugated pvc but there is an 18’’ strip at the back of the flights which is felted. This provides some shade. I have wire trays in the flights for chickweed and sometimes the Lessers actually build their nests in the chickweed!!! Pairing Up (the harder part) I usually pair up a few weeks after the All British Bird Show. This takes me a few weeks as I get all my previous breeding records out (it is so important to keep accurate breeding records). I don’t always pair best to best. Over the years I have tried different combinations. In the past I was obsessed with getting a good colour by pairing the best coloured birds together each year. By doing this I slowly improved the colour but the Lessers were getting smaller. So then I tried to put the size back in without losing the colour. I achieved this by using big heavy feathered birds Show Standard the standard states that type, colour and markings will give a combined total of 60 points. Colour should be rich, nutty brown. As we all know there are a few shades in nuts. I know people now prefer the warm conker colour. I was trying to get mine as dark as possible. After colour and type I wanted to get real strong, heavy markings. On a few occasions I have managed to get four lines on each side (this doesn’t happen very often) usually you will get three lines. Try to avoid birds that show too much white on the front of the chest. Try to get the brown to come down as far as possible. I have never been bothered about the size of the bibs as most adult cocks lose the bibs in the second year. Shape – try to aim for the wagon horse shape (shapely and cobby). I am not too keen on the over large birds on the show bench now – the ones with thumbnail sized bibs and large beaks. As we all know the cock Lessers only get the red chest the following year but I have had hens that are three and four years old get a red flush on the chest ns that are three and four years old get a red flush on the chest and some people would mistake these for cocks. These hens are the birds that throw good coloured young. Show Training I wait until the young have finished moulting and start by running them in a show cage (no more than one hour a day). The show cage fronts have half inch spacers instead of the five eighths. This stops the birds putting their heads through the wires. I have some training cages with Perspex fronts. This stops the birds jumping on the wires. Some birds are naturals and don’t need much training. My biggest disappointment is when I breed a real good bird and it throws its head back in the cage (known as a twirler). This happened last breeding season. I would love to know the reason why this happens? Size No 2 show cages are used but I would love to see the Scottish No1 allowed back in use in England. At this moment in time Sean Fitzpatrick is trying to revive the No1 cage in England. I colour feed when the birds are six to seven weeks old using carophyll red in their drinking water. Redpolls are one of the quickest British birds to moult and are always ready for the early shows. There is no need to put redpolls on any sulphur drugs. Lessers are not long lived birds. It is so easy to lose a strain. You need to keep having a decent breeding season and to always keep some spare birds if possible.
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