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Helpful Hints From Top Breeders

Breeding the Swavely Way

An article written by Mr. Don Swavely for the benefit of canary breeders. Dr. Rob Marshall would like to thank Mr. Swavely for the permission to share his experiences with the canary fraternity.


Mr. Swavely writes:


"It is now January 2000 with the breeding season completed; so what was the end result?

During forty-odd years of breeding, one could imagine that all that could be learnt would have been achieved; not so. Every year, it seems, a new idea on how to breed more young in less time appears, and 1999 was no exception.


The hobby has been fortunate to have the services of some extra-qualified vets, who have enough knowledge on bird-breeding and are prepared to help. Also the hobby has quite a group of long-standing members who, like myself, experiment with new systems and, when successful, pass on the benefits so we can all learn.


So with the knowledge learned over the last five years, my plan for '99 was as follows.

Firstly, around late June - August, all birds selected for breeding were put on a ten day course of Doxycycline hydrochloride (in season 2000 and 2001 I administered Doxycycline hydrochloride for 30 days and found the results more pleasing). The general opinion formed by vets is that psittacosis is the main cause of poor fertility, so to be sure all birds are free of psittacosis, a course of Doxy is advised.

The next decision I made was the methods previously used in pairing would be changed. Like most breeders, I use 1 cock to 2 hens and always found problems with fertility. The other option to this is to use feeders such as Glosters to rear Borders; this was successful but instead of twenty-five pairs, I had fifty pairs, and room was a premium. So after a few years of breeding, I had sufficient cocks to pair pairs in double holes and I didn't have to move the cocks.

The next decision was to start the breeding later with the view of breeding 2 nests before Christmas and still breeding my average number of young. I paired the birds on the 15th of September and against earlier years, "no fighting", which results when the hens are not ready to nest and receive the wrath of the cock who has been ready for a month. The first round was 60% fertility with 61 reared. So my theory of starting a little late was right. I was fortunate that most nests were 3 full out of 5, so that no overcrowding was experienced. The 2nd nest was not so productive, owing to some of the parents concentrating on feeding young and around 20% of pairs were clear. After one week the eggs were removed, the pairs given 3-4 days with no nests, which were then replaced for the hen to build with reasonable success. The target of Christmas was achieved with 100 young, an increase of 20% on previous years.

So to date, I have paired 2-3 weeks later, have discarded the feeders and used mated pairs; next, came my feeding. As in past years, my soft food mixture remained the same but the sprouted seed was the next major change. Here's where the Club's paid dividends; in past years I had soaked my mixture for 8-12 hours, washed it thoroughly, left it on bags and occasionally sprayed with water. The result that was noted was that the seed only shot small shoots with the parent seed rather hard. For years, one of Ryde's members had been laughing at my methods and to prove his point he brought a sample of his finished result in and I had no option but to follow.

His formula is 3 parts Canola (rape), 2 parts wheat, 1 part Safflower, 1 part French Millet. Soak for 8 hours with a teaspoon of Demostos, wash thoroughly through a 10-inch sieve and leave to drain. Repeat morning and evening until the shoots are 3/8 of an inch long and the seed is yellow and soft. The time of the year determines how long it takes, but around 4-5 times in spring and 3-4 times in summer. I immerse my mixture in the washing tub and remember to use Demestos and at all times, as it stops bacteria. In the season of 2001 I drowned the seed, leaving it underwater too long, which made the seed wet. Rinsing with hard tap water will make it okay.

The other additional thing I do during breeding is to feed the babies up until ringing each night by syringe (or in my case a small screwdriver) with Hienz Hi-Protein Baby food (six-month-old formula) mixed with water to suit. I know I didn't like the idea three years ago, but I estimate that I saved ten young and ten minutes a day would be the maximum time taken.

The greens that I have used over the last twenty years is Buk-Choy (enhances colour, but is not colour feed) and in the case of one- to seven-day-old chicks, a tip of using Broccoli was once again passed on to me at a meeting (which is a very good tip).


In conclusion, pairing pairs, no feeders and saving space.
  • Pairing late, no disputes and less time needed for breeding.


  • Using Doxycycline hydrochloride makes certain that the birds are healthy.

  • Using soaked sprouted seed (new mixture), better feeding.

  • Using Neftin, no egg binding and no loss of hens.


Breeding Results

Alan Simpson's soft food recipe uses hard boiled eggs, breeding crumbles, and Dr Rob Marshall's health supplements to produce excellent breeding outcomes.

A comprehensive guide to achieving a superior level of health and happiness in both the exhibition and pet canary.

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