Natural Feeding of Orange Ground Canaries
by Ginger Wolnik
The American Singer constitution allows genetic red-factor canaries, presumably from red-factored Rollers. However, artificial color feeding is not allowed, so they will appear orange, not red. The chemical that will definitely disqualify an AS from show is canthaxanthin, which is used by colorbred canaries breeders to get the reddest possible color. This chemical is found in some formulas of pellets, so the AS show breeder must be careful not to feed any during the molt.
Young canaries tend to be more pale than adults. During the summer molt, the color will intensify, but only if there are enough natural carotinoids in the diet. This is required for both yellow ground and orange ground. A natural carotinoid that is easy to feed is beta carotene, which is what makes carrots orange. Feeding carrots every day during the molt will make an orange-ground canary as deep orange as it will naturally get, but will not turn a yellow-ground canary orange. I have proved this myself by keeping both colors of canaries in the same flight with the same diet. The yellow ground birds molted out a deeper yellow but without a hint of orange. The orange ground birds in the same cage started out with just the palest hint of orange in their baby feathers but molted out a bright orange.
One bird's story is particularly interesting. This spring, I obtained a young AS hen from another breeder that was supposed to be orange ground. However, it was very difficult to tell, she was so pale that she looked buff yellow. The breeder had her in the records as orange, though. It turned out, this hen had apparently not eaten enough carotinoids last summer and had molted out paler than her baby feathers and lost her orange color. This summer, she got carrots every day and is now a bright orange! Another hen in her same flight on the same diet who is hard-feathered is a deep yellow. There are also soft-feathered hens in that flight who are pale buff, so carrots will not intensify a soft-feather canary, but a hard-feathered or intermediate bird will achieve maximum color.
The way I fed carrots to my canaries this year was to buy large bags of frozen carrot disks. Each morning, I put about a ½ cup in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes to thaw, then just toss a few disks in each flight. I cut disks in half to feed individually caged birds. If your birds are not used to carrots, they may not eat them the first day and might even be afraid of the strange orange objects! As soon as one bird tries it, the whole flock will soon be looking forward to their daily dose of beta carotene!
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