Jeffrey Low

Friday, December 13, 2013

Funkie in Molt

So far so good. Now that he is mostly done with replacing the body feathers, all will be channelled towards the growing of the flight feathers. The flight feathers of the tail are doing great and flawless so far. If all is well, the longest pair of tail feathers should be no less than 14 inches. I would very much like to see this pair of feathers growing out nicely and overlapping all the way, as they should be.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rock and Roll

Rock and Roll are now three and a half weeks old. I took a video of them today while they were having their daily dose of morning sunshine. Rock (on the cage floor) is male. I am still not too sure about Roll.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Breeding without supplementing with fishes and small frogs.

For the last 2 to 3 months, Fatina has not been given any supplementary feedings of fishes or frogs. Her main source of calcium is still the dish of crushed sea shells mixed with egg shells. She is currently sitting another clutch of 3 good sized eggs.

 photo 20sept.jpg

Monday, September 23, 2013

My thoughts on the good breeder.

Firstly, the good breeder must be able to understand and appreciate the characteristics of the species. He must be aware of the characteristics that had in the first place, made the species so irresistible and so popular with the hobbyists. He is guided only by a vision in his head, of a magnificient specimen that could excel in all the desired traits and he will not compromise with the fads and trends created to capitalise on the popularity of the species.

At the same time, he must always be conscious of the status of the species in the wild and will do his best to contribute in anyway he can for the conservation of the species. He must always try his best to prevent his captive breeding from causing any significant impacts on the wild genetic pool.

Secondly, the good breeder must also be knowledgeable. He is driven by his genuine passion to continuously seek out the knowledge that could help him towards his goal of producing quality specimens and to provide the best for the birds under his care. He will continuosly strive to have a deeper understanding of matters related to what he is doing and will make sacrifices in order to obtain the answers that he seek. He will not preach what he is unsure of but he will readily share his experiences.

Finally, the good breeder must strike a balance between profits and ethics. The latter serves to preserve the meaning of being involved in a hobby. A breeder with no ethics will not have the integrity that the hobbyists need to rely upon and he will never be able to earn the respect from fellow breeders.

No, I am not talking about myself. I am just reminding myself to never lose sight of my objectives.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

JL54 to be sold to a player.

Last year, Funkie fathered 3 chicks, out of which only a female survived. It was disappointing because we had hoped that there will be male offsprings to give us some indications as to whether his sons will be birds worthy of the arena.

JL54 is now 7 weeks old. I had taken some efforts to get him ready for his new owner. He eats his dry food very well (broiler chicken feed). He is in perfect health and already well exposed to human crowds and street traffic. Since the intention is for him to be tested in the arena, I had also made sure that he is not hand-tamed (human imprinted).

He will be raised by a player henceforth and that will enable us to get the feedback that we want, for future breeding plans.

 photo jl547.jpg

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Feathers are windows to the health

 photo 0d6965a0-9a5a-4780-978b-c66e3f7ea616.jpgRock(JL57) and Roll(JL58) fledged 2 days ago. They went through a physical examination today and all seemed well.

The flight feathers are all good and there are no retained sheaths and no fault bars to indicate any periods of starvation.

 photo rock14.jpg photo roll13.jpg

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ringing shama chicks (closed rings)

I close ringed the chicks when they are between six to ten days old. The ring size I use are the same as those for grass parakeets.

Here is a video taken today. The two chicks are from the latest clutch out of Funkie and Fatina, hatched on 31st August and 1st September 2013. (One is named Rock and the other Roll).

Pick of clutch hatched on 25th July 2013

This is JL54, the only male and pick of clutch from the first successful hatching this year out of Funkie and Fatina.

At 3 weeks after hatching....................................................At 6 weeks after hatching
 photo jl54bb.jpg photo jl54.jpg

Reasonably good head on a quite well defined neck and good strong legs.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Asynchronous hatching - Part 4 (The thrill is gone)

It could have been the thrill worth waiting for. The thrill to watch a successful struggle against the odds. A hatching so asynchronously perfect for this purpose.

But it's not to be. The last-hatched was gone. Gone without a trace. I searched the aviary floor for its remains but there were none.

The thrill is gone...

(The two older chicks from this clutch are doing well and they will survive).

Friday, September 6, 2013

Classic case of convulsion due to thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency.

Sometime towards the end of March this year, Funkie had a convulsion soon after he was paired up. Convulsions in shamas can be due to various causes but this was a classic case of one that was due to thiamine deficiency and most probably an acute deficiency, arising from the diet being provided for the breeding pair. The live food diet that was provided consists of insects and baby carps. The inclusion of baby carps (known to be high in thiaminase, an enzyme that will destroy thiamine) in the diet was because guppies were not available to me then and it was meant only to be a temporary measure to supply the much needed calcium for the breeding hen.

It is quite possible that the farmed insects were unable to provide sufficiently for thiamine and this could be made worse by the thiaminase from the baby carps, resulting in the deficiency being manifested very quickly soon after the introduction to this breeding diet.

Opisthotonic posturing, sometimes described as star gazing is one of the typical signs of a shama convulsion caused by thiamine deficiency. Paralysis of the anterior neck muscles will cause the neck to arch backwards. There will be total lost of control over the anterior neck muscles during the convulsion and the bird will be unable to point its beak forward as in a normal situation but instead, the beak on the retracted head will be pointed skywards, hence the description of 'star gazing'.

The other classic sign of the shama convulsion caused by thiamine deficiency is the paralysis of the leg muscles, starting from the toes. The bird will lost its control of the leg muscles and will be unable to stand or sit upright. It will normally be found lying on its back or side. It could also sometimes be found sitting wobbly on its hocks. The bird will normally be quite still but when touched, will try to struggle, toppling all over the cage floor, only to confirm the paralysis of the leg muscles.

Convulsions in shama caused by thiamine deficiency can be revived most of the time with an oral dose of vitamin B-complex.

The above video was taken on 30 March at 6am when Funkie was found convulsing on the cage floor. An oral dose of liquid vitamin B-complex (made by dissolving a B-complex tablet in water) was given immediately via a syringe.

The following video was taken about 10 minutes later. This was the early stage towards recovery. The bird had managed to be upright but was only able to sit on its hocks. It made an attempt to fly too soon, before regaining full muscular control and coordination, resulting in its falling back onto the cage floor.

The following video was taken a while later, showing the bird regaining full muscular control of the neck and picking up the mealworms being offered.

the video below was taken at the point when the bird was approaching full recovery from both the neck and leg paralysis, displaying sufficient muscular coordinations to shake its feathers.

Soon afterwards, it was able to fly up to the highest perch of the aviary to join the female.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Asynchronous hatching - Part 3

In captivity where there will be no shortage of food supply, will asynchronous hatching that had resulted in the disparities among the chicks from the same clutch be of any significance to the survival of the later-hatched chicks?

Here is a video taken today of the last-hatched. The posthatching vigour after 24 hours is a very good indication that it has so far, been capable of competing well with its older and more developed siblings for food and parental attention.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Asynchronous hatching - Part 2

The third chick hatched this morning. Being 3 days younger than its oldest sibling and 2 days younger than another, it will be greatly disadvantaged. The size disparity is clear to see.

In the wild, the youngest chick from asynchronous hatching being weaker, will not be able to compete with its larger siblings for food during times of food shortage and may starve to death. In this way, the brood size will be reduced when there is a need to balance with the food availability.

However, mother nature can often times be quite contradictory and hard to understand. Studies in some passerines have shown that mother nature will at the same time, also provide the last to hatch with a fair chance to compete with its larger siblings for survival.

Before the eggs are laid, the mother bird, besides the accretion of standard nutrients, will also deposit maternal hormones in the yolk. One of these hormones is testosterone. The eggs will not receive equal amounts of testosterones but instead, the first egg to be laid will receive the least amount and the last to be laid will receive the most. Testosterone plays a compensatory role in the posthatching environment. Studies have shown that elevated yolk testosterone will enhance postnatal growth (e.g. Schwabl 1996; Eising et al. 2001; Navara et al. 2005). This will benefit the survival of later-hatched chicks. Higher yolk testosterone is also hypothesized to enhance posthatching begging, further benefiting the later-hatched chicks.

In captivity, free-flow food supply will be provided and there will be no exception for this clutch. Hopefully, this last-hatched chick will soon catch up with its older siblings.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mother knows best

Earlier observations while experimenting with crushed shells as the source of calcium supply to the egg-laying female had revealed that it may be possible to also supplement the newly hatched chicks with this same source of calcium.

A decision was made to further experiment with this form of calcium supplementation using our newly hatched clutch. Right from the start, fishes (and frogs) were excluded from their live food supply. As a result, the parent birds were left only with an all-insect live food to raise these chicks. An all-insect live food diet will be grossly inverted in the calcium to phosphurus ratio. Will the parents utilize the crushed shells, just as the female had during the egg laying period, to correct this?

Video of Fatina coating a mealworm with the crushed shells before bringing it to the nest to feed one of her newly hatched chicks:

Video of Fatina rolling a cricket in the crushed shells before bringing it to the nest to feed one of her newly hatched chicks:

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Asynchronous hatching - Part 1

Shama eggs will hatch asynchronously. This is typical of most altricial species. The interval between the hatching of the first and the last eggs can be from a few hours to a few days. Much will depend on the onset of incubation.

The Second successful clutch this year from Funkie and Fatina started to hatch since yesterday morning, with a day's interval between the 2 chicks that had hatched so far. The first of four eggs of this clutch was laid on 18th August and the last egg was laid on 21st August. Night time incubation by the hen was observed to start after the second egg was laid. The remaining two eggs, if also fertile, are expected to hatch by tomorrow or the day after.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Calcium for the egg laying female shama - deviating from the norm.

Four failed clutches from Funkie and Fatina earlier this year had jolted me out of my complacency to re-examine certain areas regarding nutrition for breeding birds. Infertile and thin shelled eggs as well as the occurences of fits just cannot be ignored anymore and there was an urgent need for some serious thoughts on the inadequacy of the diet used for my breeding birds. They were fed with a diet of full live food which can be quite deficient in some nutrients.

Due to the risk of overdosing, I do not advocate heavy supplementations with vitamins and minerals and had instead, decided to switch the breeding birds from a full live food diet to feeding on mainly chicken feed until the eggs are hatched. Insects were used only as a supplementation for their valuable protein. This I feel, will take care of most of the deficiencies caused by the solely live food diet, except for the calcium inadequacy, which is the likely cause of thin shelled eggs. The starter formula for broilers that I had chosen to use, although will have sufficient calcium at the level to support maintenance, will be insufficient to provide the female birds for the high calcium requirements for egg shell formation during the days of egg laying. The option of supplementations with fishes and frogs will provide for a safer source of calcium supply but had seemed to me to be unpredictable at best. Previous observations of their use had not been totally without occurences of thin shelled eggs. Fishes were also being used during the period of the four failed clutches but had obviously failed to serve their purpose.

Using liquid calcium supplements may seem to be another option for me. Liquid calcium is quickly absorbed. This fast acting feature, I think can be best put to use during an acute deficiency to quickly restore normal muscular contractions. It can also be of good use as a supplement when needed, to prevent bone calcium depletion due to its deficiency in the diet. However, the risk of oversupplementing with liquid calcium cannot be ignored and at the least, that will interfere with the absorption of other nutrients. Just as in deficiency of this mineral, excess calcium will also affect the egg shell quality. Moreover, the solubility and fast acting properties of liquid calcium will render it to be not an ideal source for egg shell formation. I will try to explain this below.

The calcification of the egg shell at the last stage of the egg formation before it is laid, will take up to many hours (in chicken, the egg enters the shell gland of the oviduct about 19 hours prior to oviposition and calcium deposition is most rapid during the last 10 hours). Female shamas lay their eggs in the morning, hence most of the egg shell calcification will take place during the non-feeding hours at night. Calcium for the egg shell comes from the circulating calcium and when the circulating calcium is depleted, bone calcium will be mobilized. Studies in chicken have shown that when calcium is mobilized from the bones for egg shell formation, the egg shell quality is poorer. In contrast, a constant supply of this mineral from the digestive tract throughout the non-feeding hours at night, will yield better egg shell qualities. Hence, liquid calcium which will not be retained in the gut for a prolonged period, will not serve this purpose well. A slow release form of calcium may be required if I were to see improvements in my situation of thin shelled eggs being laid.

Several other studies in chicken have also indicated that using a less soluble and larger particle sized calcium supply in the form of crushed oyster shells can improve the quality of egg shells because they remain in the gut longer and will act to provide a slow release form of calcium supply during the non-feeding hours. The remaining question in my mind then was whether the female shama will consume crushed shells. Shamas are not like the seed-eaters that will consume grit as part of the diet. Will the instinct to seek out nutrients in times of need be able to drive her to consume something most of us would have assumed to be not her natural source for nutrients?

My previous experiments had indicated to me that female shamas will consume small trumpet snails when these are provided during the egg laying period. However, they will only consume baby snails about the size of sand grains and will leave out the larger ones. On several occasions, I had also witnessed female shamas consuming the egg shells of their own eggs after they had hatched. From these observations, there could be a possibility that they will also take to crushed sea shells and egg shells if these are provided. I proceeded to crush some egg shells and Yap(dance4rain), my good friend and shama breeding partner, provided me with some crushed 'lala' shells (lala is a popular shell fish consumed here, usually fried with sambal). These were mixed together and offered on a shallow dish. In order to have a clearer picture of the result, fishes were excluded from their diet (I don't feed frogs because they are not available here) and no other calcium supplements were provided. During the laying of the next clutch, the female shama was observed to eagerly feed on this mixture of crushed shells daily during the few days of egg laying but stopped as soon as the last egg was laid. The result was a clutch of 4 eggs and 3 of them hatched successfully. The remaining infertile egg was also observed to have good shell quality. I had continued to supplement calcium this way and she is now sitting on another clutch of 4 good sized eggs.

It may be too early to tell if other females will likewise be as eager to feed on crushed shells during the egg laying period. However, the current situation so far is encouraging enough for me to decide that I will also try this form of calcium supplementation with my other females when they are ready to be bred.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My first pairing 2013 - Funkie to Fatina.

Funkie was paired to a female named Fatina. They were both bred by DDS. This carefully planned pairing from an established line was done with the objective to perpetuate their much desired traits, the result from a decade and a half of selective line breeding by my good friend. Hopefully, this pairing, besides further strengthening their common desirable traits, will also lay the foundation for the much hoped for combination of their individual yet complimentary characteristics.

Funkie is the son of Apache, most well known for his song quality and easily one of my favourites from the DDS stable of captive breds. Funkie has inherited well from his father, the vocal aggression to intimidate during a confrontation and the ability to form a wide repertoire. His eagerness to show off his vocal ability is most desirable. With his short, almost unnoticeable pauses between songs, he would effortlessly, churn out half a dozen songs in the time others could only sing one.

Equally admirable is his tenacity in the face of adversities. Having gone through a bad molt due to circumstances beyond my control, he was still able to go into breeding mode. Up to now, he had already fathered a clutch, despite having a fit (probably due to dietary abuse) and at the same time being tested to the limit in my quest to prove that sequential polygynous breeding in captivity is possible. Such tenacity is as important to me as any of the most desirable physical attributes when it comes to traits that we would hope to breed into future generations. Other non physical qualities are his parental ability to care for the young and his calm disposition during the period when it will be needed most. He had showed no tendency this far, for egg or chick destruction even under the most intimidating circumstances and this I think, should be an important trait to breed for as well.

Funkie is slightly lacking in the desired 'good sized head'. His tail carriage although very showy in terms of variety in movements during a chai, could do better with improvements to height of flick. Fatina on the other hand, was chosen from a background known to have the head type and tail flick qualities to hopefully, compliment Funkie's attributes. At his best, Funkie's tail length was 14 inches. Fatina's tail length, with my conservative estimate, is no shorter than 7.5 inches. A desirable tail must also be soft and curved besides having substantial length. Coming from a line of well-bred birds known for their elegant tail feathers, Funkie and Fatina is also expected to breed true for this trait.