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well supplied with baths, there will be no trouble about insects; but a bird newly purchased should be very carefully examined before he is admitted into the company of our little pets; and if he is dirty and ragged, and pecks continually at his feathers, and seems restless and out of order, the probability is that he is beset with some troublesome parasites, hidden underneath the feathers. It is not wise to purchase “nest-bags:” they are often receptacles for these creatures, and the poor little birds suffer greatly from them. It is necessary to change their nests when they become very dirty; but this must not be attempted, except with very tame birds who have entire confidence in our good intentions towards their young, until they are tolerably well fledged, as the mother bird will sometimes show her displeasure at having her nest meddled with by refusing to return to it. She may, perhaps, still feed the young birds; but if a cold night follows and she does not cover them, they will perish, unless pretty well covered with feathers. Some birds so much resent all interference, that one cannot venture to examine the nest closely; but it is needful to keep up some supervision, as a weakly bird may die in the nest, and, if it is not thrown out by the parents, it will remain trodden down by the living birds till corruption takes place. When it is necessary to remove them to a fresh nest, they must be handled as little
possible. They should be taken away from their mother as soon as she shows symptons of a desire to build again. One of my birds began to pull out the soft feathers of the young birds and to line her new nest with them. She was not properly supplied with wool, and, I suppose, thought the coming brood would need the soft warm lining. More than three broods in the
permitted—the hen would become completely exhausted. If the two broods have been satisfactorily reared, it is as well to be contented with these; but some hens will continue laying till they moult, or even through the moulting season,
and this is very bad for them. They should be separated from their mates when this occurs: when they persist in sitting on a nest without laying, as they sometimes do, the nest and nest-box should be taken away. The hen sometimes suffers from sitting long in hot weather, and will come off her nest bathed with perspiration. A moderately cold bath and plenty of oatmeal would relieve her. The open breeding-cages admit so much more air than the boarded ones, that the hens do not suffer nearly so much from the confinement in these. My birds are used to being looked at, and do not mind it, so I use long cages with three compartments in each, and this accommodates two pairs: the centre compartment serves as a nursery for the children of both, while their respective parents feed them, and some division is necessary. If the two cocks were close together, they would probably fight through the wire division, and be too much engaged thus to attend to their wives and children. Some pairs do better out of sight of other birds, and must be put into a quiet room apart; but if Canaries are accustomed to be noticed and petted, they will become very tame and sociable, and thoroughly at their ease. If single birds are kept in small cages, and these are generally the best for good songsters (indeed, some birds refuse to sing in company, and prefer a very small habitation alone, to the bustle of an aviary or large cage full of other inmates), they will greatly enjoy an hour's liberty in the morning, and be much the better for a good flight round the room. I have a German Canary who always reminds me to have his cage door unfastened, by a succession of little piteous chirps: he takes a long flight as soon as his door is opened, and then perches upon the curtain-rod or the window-sill, and sings with joy. Then he will fly to the breakfast-table, and help himself to the bread: if there be any flowers in the room he will perch upon them, and demolish every bit of mignionette; and then he goes to the mantelpiece, where there is a small
French clock, and chirps, and sings, and flutters his wings to his reflection in the glass, which I suppose he takes for another bird, for I see him sometimes taking up crumbs of bread and pretending to feed it; he is a most engaging little pet, and sings deliciously. On a sunny, calm day, birds often enjoy the open window, and their cages may be hung outside; but care must be taken to shield them from a blast of wind, and to shelter them from the extreme heat of the
The cages which have a penthouse roof are useful to be put out of doors, as protecting the birds from the extremes of heat and cold which are so injurious to them all. It is cruel to leave birds exposed to these, or to allow them to remain out of doors late at night.
The GOLDFINCH (Fringilla carduelis).—This is a great favourite amongst cage birds, and deservedly so, for it is a very sprightly, beautiful bird, and is very affectionate, docile, and intelligent. It is very happy in an aviary; but I do not like to see a Goldfinch confined in a very small cage, as he is so restless that he is scarcely ever still, and is continually climbing about, trying all the wires of the cage, and twirling his beak along them. On this account he ought not to be kept in a bell-shaped cage, as he is apt to grow giddy. He is very easily tamed, and may be safely allowed a flight round the room while his cage is cleaned. He is capable of great attachment to his owner, and may be taught various amusing tricks, such as firing off cannon, dragging a little waggon up an inclined plane into his cage, opening a box for his seed, ringing a bell for it, and hauling up water from a little well underneath the cage; and all these he will learn very readily, and without any coercion.
Some of the tricks which professional exhibitors of birds make a trade by, I fear, cause their Canaries and Goldfinches a good deal of suffering, and much cruelty is practised to make them proficient in them; but I have taught Goldfinches all the accomplishments named, excepting firing off cannon, without difficulty, and
they have appeared delighted to exhibit their cleverness. One of my birds lived in a cage made with a seed-box attached to the wooden back, and he always lifted up the lid when he wanted a seed, and soon grew so crafty as to take out two or three seeds at a time, and put them by his side between the wires. I taught him this in a couple of days by fastening a piece of silk round the lid, and gradually lowering it till it was quite closed; and he learnt nearly as soon to draw up a little silver bucket with water, from the glass which formed a well, suspended by wires from the bow window attached to his cage. In the floor of this was a hole, across which went a narrow bridge of wood, to which a little ring was fastened, attached to a tiny silver chain holding the bucket, which was about the size of a thimble. I drew the bucket up to the bridge at first, and fastened it while the bird drank the water, then let it down and refilled it, and drew it up nearly to the top, and I gradually left a longer and longer length of the chain between the bridge and the bucket. The bird soon found out that he must pull the chain up into the cage, but let it go while he drank, till he comprehended the necessity of holding it with his foot; and as soon as this was made clear to him his education was finished: he hauled up a bit of the chain, put his foot on it, hauled up another length, and held that, and so on, till the bucket came to the bridge, and he could drink out of it. He never forgot the art, and was often so proud of his cleverness that he would pause to sing, after he had drawn the bucket within his reach, before he quenched his thirst. This bird was never happy out of his cage, and when it was out of repair, and he had to live in a cage of ordinary construction, he pouted and moped, and was exceedingly displeased with his new abode. Of course care must be taken that the lid of the box is not heavy enough to distress the bird, while holding it upon
his head, and that the machinery of the bucket, chain, and well is always in order: any hindrance to the bucket’s fall into the well to get refilled would be most serious, and cause the bird great suffering. A chain attached to a waggon may be drawn into the cage and held in the same manner, and the bird may be taught to ring a little bell by suspending it in a corner of the cage and leaving him without seed till he is hungry, pulling the string attached to it and ringing it, and then putting some favourite food into the glass. He will soon discover that whenever the bell rings he gets this food, and will seize the string and ring it whenever he is hungry. The Bullfinch and Siskin will learn all these accomplishments, but Canaries never understand the art of holding the chain with the foot when they have drawn it up; at least, I have never succeeded in teaching any of mine to overcome this difficulty. A mule bird, with Canary and Goldfinch parents, was very quickly taught it. Goldfinches will soon learn to come out of their cages
for any favourite food offered to them, and to fly on the hand or shoulder to receive hemp-seed, of which they are very fond. A gentleman in Ireland had two pet Goldfinches whom he allowed to fly out of the window, who brought home several wild birds of their kind day after day during a very severe winter, to eat of the seed in their cage, and they were fed regularly as long as the cold weather lasted; as many as twenty flying into the room, into the open cages provided for them, undisturbed by any fear of their hosts.
The Goldfinch is a great friend to the farmer, for he lives chiefly upon the seeds of weeds, groundsel, burdock, and thistle, of which last he is so fond that he is often called the “ Thistle-finch.” Lettuce and cabbage-seeds he also approves of, and in confinement he should have these occasionally, his ordinary diet being canary and bird turnipseeds: he is especially fond of hemp-seed, and will sometimes refuse to sing unless provided with his favourite food; bu he must not be fed exclusively upon this seed, it will cause blindness and excessive fat. A few hemp-seeds daily