Friday, June 6, 2008

Frogs in Shama's diet

written January 20th, 2007

About 20 years ago, I heard that a person by the name of Lin Heau Dong had bred shamas in Singapore. I obtained his telephone number and asked if I could meet him. He was gracious and readily agreed. We met. I found that he had only recently started to breed shamas and I think he had had only one clutch when I first met him. He willingly shared whatever information he had and I regularly turned to him for advice from then on. Lin's 2 articles on preparing the shama for competition and the standards to be applied in judging shamas for competition are on my website

In the course of my early meetings with Lin, I noted that he offered only crickets and mealworms to his breeding birds. We discussed as to whether baby frogs should be given. I felt that frogs would be a necessary addition to the birds' diet as the chicks would need the calcium from the bones of the frog. In those days, not much use was made of vitamins for the birds. Lin agreed that frogs would probably be a useful addition to the diet but he was reluctant to use them as he felt that they could pose a source of disease for the birds. While I agreed on the possibility, I felt that the benefits that the frogs would bring to the diet outweighed the risks. Frogs were available for sale in the shops selling tropical fish and I started to add them to my birds' diet.

I have always been lucky with my breeding of the shama. Right from the start, with Lin's advice on the nest-box size, etc I seemed to have no problems. The pair made their nests and had young within a very short time and I soon had a number of young shamas. These were then only of "bird-shop quality"� since my interest was only to breed and issues of quality were not relevant then. It was only later, after I had successfully raised several clutches of chicks that my thoughts turned to quality.

The chicks that I bred, even in those early days, were strong, with good bones. I attributed their health to the frogs that I fed to them in addition to the crickets and mealworms and I urged Lin to also feed frogs to his breeding birds. He eventually did.

I would like to say a little here about the care of frogs. I keep them in a 1 foot long plastic box to which I add a little rain-water that I collect. The water should not be too much as the frogs require only a little to keep their skins moist. The water should be changed daily or whenever it gets cloudy as can happen if the frogs are overcrowded. It is important to use rain-water or tap water that has been allowed to stand for at least 24 hours as tap-water contains chlorine to which the frogs are sensitive and die rather quickly. The box should be tilted so that the frogs can go on to “dry land� whenever they wish. If desired, some live blood worms can be added to the water and the frogs will eat them. Kept in this way the frogs can live indefinitely.

For the birds in my aviaries, I place the frogs in containers that have an overhang around the top so that they cannot crawl out. When available, the frogs are offered to the birds in aviaries daily. For the birds in cages, I might throw a frog into the cage once in a while and the birds immediately eat them.

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