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How to Rear a First Class Bird

Young Fifes with their Mother

Rearing Foods

Young Fifes need a diet of softfood, greenfood and a softseed in the form of chickweed or soaked seed.

Each type of rearing food should be given fresh at least daily whether it be chickweed, softfood, greenfood, soaked seed or a mixture of these. Offer softfood at least twice a day and greenfood daily. Increase the supply of rearing foods offered as the youngsters grow.

Bathing Hens

Baths should still be offered throughout this period, particularly the morning the young hatch. Most hens enjoy a bath at this stage. Some bathe regularly during incubation as the moisture assists hatching but others refuse during this period.

Sweating Hen

As the young progress the hen will continue to swallow their droppings for the first week or so. This is perfectly natural and they pass straight through her.

Weaning and the Moult

At 18 – 19 days old the young Fifes start to venture out of their nest and explore. Several days later they will leave the nest in earnest. At this time they will start to peck at most things to see what is edible and at 22 – 24 days old they will start to eat broccoli or softfood placed in the cage. Now is the time to wean them.

Do not follow the recommendation of old canary books and remove them at 21 days. This is usually far too early and will almost certainly lead to unnecessary deaths.

Place the young Fifes in twos and threes in small cages with newspaper on the cage floor. I prefer to use training cages, which are similar to but larger than show cages, but show cages will do. I place kitchen roll on the floor of these as it is more absorbent – for a few days the young Fifes will spend a lot of time on the floor.

Under no circumstances place perches in the cages.


Young birds must be offered a selection of foods placed on the floor so that they are literally standing in the food. Offer the softfood, greenfood rinsed under the tap and an apple quarter dipped in my recommended condition seed. Within minutes at least one young Fife will be pecking at the seeds on the apple or on the greenfood and sampling the softfood. Very soon they will all follow – and they are weaned.

Ringing & Moving On

On the third day I remove the youngsters, clean their feet and place a numbered, coloured plastic ring on one of their legs. These are called split rings.

I place the ringed youngsters in the small end section of one of my long flight cages.

Hard Seed

At the 4 – week stage I introduce the youngsters to hard seed. Some old canary books recommend delaying the introduction of hard seed until much later, stating that they will not be able to digest food. This is nonsense.

Baths & Spraying

At this time of year offer baths as frequently as you can, but try to clean out the cages a day or so after bathing. During the moult, particularly in July and August, the youngsters should be offered baths several times a week. Ideally the young birds should be offered a bath each day but I can only manage to bathe my birds and clean out their cages once a week. They still thrive because of my feeding regime throughout this period.
During September the baths can be reduced and replaced by a daily light spray of warm water for a couple of seconds. This will make the bird preen every day and put a sheen on the bird’s plumage.

End of Moult

During September I add sunflower oil to the dry seed mixture in place of the seaweed powder. This oil is the easiest natural vegetable oil to digest and I feel it completes the sheen on the feathers and is simpler to administer than linseed tea. Once again, small measures are called for. I apply half a cup full to a bucket of dry seed and mix the seed well by hand. Allow the mixture to soak overnight and then give it to the birds. Continue with this over the next few weeks.

Early Training

Towards the end of July many of the first-round Fifes will be coming through the moult and some will be exhibiting show potential. Some fanciers start to train their young birds of around 6 weeks old. This is fine if you have the time but at this stage the rearing of the second-round youngsters requires a great deal of effort. It is easier to wait until August or even September to start training in earnest. To make the task easier, once I have filled my first three flight cages with about 60 youngsters around mid-July I start to hang my training cages on to the flight cages to get the birds used to running in and out of them at will.

Encourage the young Fifes to run in and out of the training cages, without removing the cage. This is easily done by placing condition mixture in the plastic drinkers on the training cages so that the birds go in to get a titbit. Hanging watercress, chickweed or other greenfood from the top of the training cages also encourages them in. this gives them total confidence in the training cages as they see them as places where certain goodies are available.

I place kitchen roll on the floor of the training cage and change it daily but a sprinkling of cat litter on the paper will absorb the droppings so that the paper can be changed every 2 –3 days if time is at a premium.


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(c) Terry Kelly & SL