Wait! Wait! Don't Sell That Hen!
By: Bryan Chin

First published in the American Singers Club newsletter, October 1999.

So you didn't get the results you wanted from the Hen you bred this year. The unfortunate thing is that you may be throwing out the Hen and her daughters that may have helped improve your line of American Singer Canaries. From the results of her young, you now have some evidence of her background. One of the keys to successful breeding of American Singers is making smart choices in your breeding program. Random crossing between birds may give some good results, but your consistency in raising good quality birds will be less.

With the assumption that you are choosing quality males to breed you can realistically evaluate your Hen's potential for future breeding decisions. I will take you through several scenarios to assist you through the thought process to keep a female or not.

If a breeding resulted in males with loud songs from a father that has medium volume, your female probably carries the trait for loud volume. Immediately you know that this may be a good breeding candidate for one of your males that is excellent in many ways but has too soft of a song where the judges cannot hear him to be properly judged. This cross could result in a bird with improved volume that is just right. This in turn will prevent you from selling a male with low volume that could be beneficial to your line of American Singers

We further analyze the female by looking at her loud offspring males. If the loud males show poor traits such as no freedom, cutting off, holding, and several bad notes you probably will not want to use their mother for breeding. If they do not carry these bad traits, from my experience I have found that the loud male has many attributes that will contribute to my breeding program. They usually have a greater variety than the soft volume males because to get the volume they must open their mouths to project. This opening of mouth gives the bird more latitude to create different notes. I usually notice a lot of beak action of opening and closing that was inherited from its Border background. A low volume bird usually has mostly closed beak action that is closer to the Roller background. Just try this experiment…Keep your lips together always and try to make as many different sounds as possible. As you can see, you sound pretty boring. So, if you want to improve your variety, using a louder hen may help you with this, but only if her offspring show good variety. From my own training in singing my instructor always told me that volume really depends on how hard I push the air from my lungs through my vocal cords. So an American Singer that has good beak action and controlled airflow can give you an excellent song with variety and proper volume. The mistake that many breeders do is when they breed for lower volume birds and fail to look for the mouth action and pick the ones that has a lot of closed beak phrases. It is like putting on a muffler and decreasing the variety. This muffler effect will also make the tone of the bird unclear and sour. In human singing you are always taught to keep the throat open as wide as possible to hit the note on key and then by moving the mouth in certain positions with the tongue to define the syllables. Your bird volume must be controlled by the bird's ability to control his lungs and beak position (various opened widths) not by keeping his beak shut.

Another scenario is if the offspring from a hen is very soft with little variety. This is the reversal of what has been mentioned before. This kind of hen is ideal to cross to a male that is too loud but has great variety and tone. You may ask why not just use a roller female instead? This is a realistic possibility but you must make certain considerations. A hen from your line may have certain advantages such as inherited freedom, tone, and conformation. Using your own female may allow you to save one or two generations in development. Now that you have the basic idea on why you may want to keep your hen for next year's breeding program lets go a little bit further on other factors may affect your decision. If a unique song phrase appears in your line and you want to keep this in your line. You cross this male with this trait to three hens in your line and the results are one female produced three males having one male with the unique trait and her other sons did not. The other two hens you bred produced males with none of the unique phrases. From a genetic point of view you realize that this unique phrase is more than likely a recessive trait. Lets say that the hen that produced the desired male, did not produce any females that year. How would you produce more of these males with this unique phrase? The solution to this is to keep the female that produced the one male with the unique phrase and the daughters of the other females that did not produce sons with the desired trait. Since the daughters were fathered by the male with the unique phrase the chances are that about 50% of them carry this desired trait (this is based on that the unique phrase is influenced by a single gene. If multiple genes affect it the percentage is lower). You don't know which of the 50% of the daughters carry the unique trait so you must keep all of the females for breeding. You will then breed the hen that produced the male with the unique phrase and the daughters from the other hens to either the original male or his son with the trait. The results from these crosses will then tell you which of the daughters carry the trait for the unique phrase by listening to the sons they produced. By using this method you will have greatly increased your chances of producing males with this unique trait for the next breeding season.

If the hen you started with produced a son with the unique trait and produced a daughter. That daughter is still an unknown to you because she still genetically has a 75% chance of carrying the desired trait. This means that there is a 25% chance that she does not carry the trait at all. It is best to use her as well as the other daughters that have the same father. Using the other daughters also prevents you from excessive inbreeding. This method is also useful in introducing new traits from another line of birds.

Copyright © 1999 Bryan Chin. All rights reserved.

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