Obrazy na stronie

to feel the cold intensely. They are generally much less tame than the house birds, too, and therefore no object seems to be gained by placing them out of doors, unless they are allowed to range the garden and shrubbery at pleasure, and means are taken to protect them from all invading foes, so that they may be able to build and rear their young in safety. My birds, having never known liberty, are perfectly happy in their large winter cage, and welcome their visitors gladly, instead of fluttering about in alarm when any one goes near them. Such a cage as this should be open on all sides, domed or waggon-shaped, and wired with tin wire, unless made of lacquered brass, which must be freshly lacquered once in two years. This is handsomer in appearance and lasts longer: the tin wire will always become blackened by time, but the rust on it is not unwholesome, whereas the green rust on common brass wire, when corroded, is poisonous to the birds. The wood should be either mahogany or varnished deal; the former is the best-less liable to warp and less likely to contain insects than the latter. The seed should either be put into “bird-hoppers” or in long covered boxes outside of the cage, with china or glass trays to take in and out of them. The hoppers keep the seed clean, and the birds peck it down, and scatter away the husks. The water should either be placed in glass fountains, the mouth of which goes into the cage for the birds to drink from, or in similar trays in boxes to those of the seed-boxes. The object is to keep both seed and water from becoming dirty and from being scattered and splashed about: some birds waste their seed a good deal, and if a great quantity is pecked out of the hopper, it is well to examine it carefully lest it should be bad, musty, or tainted by mice, and so distasteful to the birds. The old-fashioned bird-glasses are objectionable, not only because they sometimes slip on one side, so that the bird cannot reach the hole, for this exhibits an amount of carelessness as to the comfort of our little prisoners which is not to be tolerated, but because, if very full, the seed and water fall into the cage, and if not filled up well, or if the water is sprinkled about by the birds, they are often obliged to stretch their little necks painfully to reach their food. Sometimes, too, the young birds contrive to get into the glass, and are in danger of suffocation or drowning, as they cannot turn round to come out again. A fountain in the middle of the cage looks exceedingly pretty, but it becomes so dirty in a few hours that I do not recommend its use. A bath, wired round like the cage, should be fastened on the doorway, and in this the birds should have a bath every morning, unless on a very cold sunless day. When they have all washed, however, it should be removed, as some birds are so fond of washing that they will go in and out of the bath again and again, till they become completely chilled.

In winter, the water in which they bathe must never be quite cold. It is well to have a second board and two sets of perches for a large cage, as these can be washed and dried after being splashed by the birds. Coarse gravelly sand must always be spread over the board, and the cage must be thoroughly cleaned out every day. The perches should not be fastened to the cage, but be removable at pleasure: they should be round and smooth as a bamboo. A swing suspended from the centre of the cage is a source of amusement to the birds. They much enjoy a pot of mignionette or chickweed, and soon devour every flower and leaf. A fir-branch may be given to them occasionally too: of course any plant injurious to Canaries must not be put within their reach. Plantain-stalks and millet in the ear are very good for them, especially in winter. All birds like variety in their food, and although sugar and sweet cakes are forbidden dainties, cracknels and plain biscuits are good as occasional luxuries. The staple food must be canary and bird turnip-seed (the small summer rape-seed), a small quantity of hemp-seed on cold days, and a pinch of maw or poppy-seed occasionally, always to be given during moulting. When the birds are building, they must have hard-boiled egg chopped very small, and stale bread crumbs, grated and mixed with a pinch of the same seed, every day. This egg food should be always freshly mixed and given; if left to become sour it will kill the birds. Stale sponge cake is the best substitute for it if eggs are very scarce; but this will not do for the young birds. While the hen is sitting she can do without the egg food; but as soon as she is about to hatch, a supply must be put into the cage for the nestlings to be fed upon. Chickweed, groundsel, or lettuce should be given to Canaries three or four times a week, excepting during the breeding season: if not given often they will eat so greedily of green food as to make themselves ill.

Whole oatmeal or groats should be given to them every day, sometimes a piece of bread soaked in milk, not boiled (unless given as medicine); a little lump of bay salt, or a piece of cuttle-fish or old bruised mortar, they will like to peck at occasionally; and a slice of apple, pear, and potato now and then, or rice pudding. Birds thatare accustomed to receive these delicacies from their mistress's hand will look and ask for them whenever they see her, and they will help her much to win their affection. They require warmth in moulting (always a trying season to birds), and plenty of nourishing food: a rusty nail in the drinking water acts as a tonic if they appear weak, and a small piece of Spanish liquorice is good for hoarseness. I have seldom found any remedies of much avail to birds, excepting boiled milk by way of an aperient, a lump of chalk if they have eaten too freely of green food, and a warm bath when they are moping or egg-bound. Mr. Kidd recommends a very small quantity of raw beef, scraped, and moistened with cold water, once a week during moulting, and other bird-fanciers give spiders and ants' eggs; and perhaps these may be


useful now and then, as most birds are partial to insect food. But meat can hardly be required for seed-eating birds, and I have heard instances of its doing them great harm when continually given, by fevering their little bodies to such an extent as to cause their feathers to fall off, and exciting in them carnivorous propensities, which made them attack their companions viciously.

Hard egg or stale sponge cake would be much better for birds when they require especially nutritious food. For surfeit or inflammation, or an egg-bound hen if very ill, two drops of castor oil might be given with good effect; brown sugar is good for a hen under such circumstances. Cage birds are occasionally troubled by hardness and obstruction of the oil-gland above the tail, at which they are continually pecking: this should be anointed with fresh butter, and if very bad, gently pierced with a fine needle before applying it.

When old birds become weakly and drooping, a little sponge cake steeped in sherry may do them good, but this must be sparingly given, or it will fever the bird and produce inflammation. A warm bath at 96° is very useful to an egg-bound hen, but great care must be taken against breaking the egg in holding her in the hand. This is a safe remedy for most ailments to which birds are subject: they must be held in the hand so as to immerse all but the head in the water, for three or four minutes; then taken out and well dried, and placed in the sunshine or near a fire, to get their feathers thoroughly dry. The feet will sometimes get clogged with dirt, or with the materials for the nest, and if the bird is not fond of bathing, and will not cleanse them, they must be soaked in warm water and carefully relieved of their “clogs.” An old bird's claws will sometimes grow so long as to prevent its perching comfortably, in which case they must be very carefully cut with a sharp pair of scissors, taking care not to draw blood. It is better, however, to avoid catching birds as much as possible, especially if they are wild and fly about in alarm. They often do themselves harm by their fluttering: when ill they are generally quiet enough to submit to be taken up to be put into a bath. All cage birds should be tame enough to recognize their mistress as a friend, and not to flutter about wildly at her approach; and then they will tell her of their wants, go down to the glasses if they want fresh food or water, look up at her and chirp, and pull her hair perhaps, if they want materials for a nest, and attract her attention to their nestlings if anything is amiss with them; and they will generally allow her to take them

up in her hand, without rushing frantically about the cage as a new or untamed bird will do.

Early in spring, towards the end of February, if the season is warm, or early in March, the hen Canaries must be removed from the cock birds, or they will fight with one another for the favour of the ladies to whom they take a fancy. At the end of March or at the beginning of April, if the weather is cold, the pairs may be put together. If they build too early in the year, and the young birds are hatched in cold weather, they often suffer from it, especially if the hen does not cover them constantly. It is not wise to allow the birds to choose their own mates: in order to produce strong and beautiful offspring, careful selection is requisite; an old cock and a young hen, or a young cock and an old hen, should be mated; and the colours should be well contrasted; for instance, a jonque cock should have a mealy hen, and a green bird a yellow mate, and so on. A clear deep yellow bird without a spot of black about him, should be put with a variegated green and white hen, to produce even-marked and ticked birds. Some of the young birds will as a rule follow each parent in colour, and have a much better plumage than if two birds of the same colour were mated. Two crested birds must never be put together: the progeny will probably be baldheaded. A still stronger reason for not allowing birds

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