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Using foster Parents
Should I ? Of course!


Contributing author: Alfonso de la Coba Garrido (Asociación Timbrado Virgen de Consolación, Spain)

The use of foster parents for breeding is a method of reproduction that, although "complicated" in methodology, is without a doubt the best way at given times to raise song canaries. With this method, we pursue certain objectives:

  • Preserve our female breeders from physical waste giving us healthier chicks.
  • Gives us a way to get a goodly number of brothers and sisters of close to the same age, giving us a difference of only one month between the first and third round of eggs. This is a very fundamental move for the proper development of singers in our flights.
  • Realize all our breeding in a very short period of time, two months to raise three rounds.
  • Have a much more secure way of raising young due to the fact that the foster hens used have already proven to be excellent breeders.

For those short on space and birds, this method does have a substantial drawback, that is, it requires double the number of foster moms than the breeder hens used for laying the eggs.

I recommend that you use two or three males for breeding, the best you have according to both phenotype and song quality, and that you use a minimum of two hens per male. It is possible to use up to four females at a time but the more you use the more difficult it becomes due to the time left with each female and the moving of the male around.

In my experience, using the following methodology has been best:

  1. Seven days after taking the eggs from the hen, she lays again.
  2. The male must cross with her at least two days before an egg is laid; upon the third egg being laid she will no longer need the male.
  3. Leave the eggs with the breeder hen for five days, during which time you will make sure they are fertile and then you switch them to the foster mom.
  4. Wait to breed your birds until climate and light are such that most of the hens are in condition: dilated vent areas, carrying around nesting material, feathers etc. This occurs usually around the end of February and the beginning of March.
  5. Divide the day (natural sunlight hours) by the number of female breeders that you have assigned for each male. Make sure that you alternate which hen the male spends the night with. In the case that there are chicks in the cage, move the male back out soon as he crosses a couple of times with his hen. (I am assuming that you understand that we are not redoing copies of previous rounds.)
  6. Do your best to make sure that the foster moms begin laying before your breeders do.
  7. It is fundamental (extremely important) that you use products rich in calcium, such as calciboost, oyster shell grit and other such calcium products.
  8. Make sure that for a period of time before breeding your hens do not get to listen to the males sing. This will keep the hens from rejecting the male that is placed with them.
  9. Provide each female foster mom as well as breeder hen a single young bird flight.
  10. When you bring the males into the breeding area, you put the males with the foster moms for two days before the breeder hens get theirs. This makes each hen have contact with her first round male. With this we obtain:

  • The initiation of the breeder hormones, after which, it is not necessary for them to have contact with the males.
  • The new males will get practice mating with the hens. The males do not get used to mating with just one hen.

  1. After the two days that the males are with the foster moms, you start putting them with the breeder hens. Begin with the hen that has already made her nest and begs for him upon hearing the males. If you have two foster moms for your breeders, you will take the eggs away from the second one the same time (five days) you remove the eggs from the first breeder hen and put them under the first foster mom so that the second foster will lay her second batch at the same time the hen does. This assures success of nest two.

To make things much easier for you and to avoid catastrophic problems, I strongly recommend the following:

  • Make a poster type chart in which you place all obtained results from previous matings. (Breeder cards, dates and times the eggs were removed, changed from breeder to foster, how many birds were banded under each, how many young were lost, how many minutes/hours males remained with females and so forth).
  • Extremely strict control (if using computer, you must keep both hard and soft copy) over distribution of eggs, not only in where they are kept, but also in placing them back in the nest for setting, (avoiding the mix up of whose are whose eggs both in and out of nest), as well as which foster mom you put them with on day five.

I hope that all the above will serve to help you to utilize your next breeding season in a much greater way.

©Alfonso de la Coba Garrido
Breeder # 0-954 Utrera,


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