Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Phenomenal Egg-laying Machine- Part 2

Day 1 - 27th August 2008
All the 5 eggs from Icon's 6th nest hatched by 7 a.m. today. The last chick must have emerged from its shell sometime during the night as the mother has still to remove the egg-shell. Here are the 5 chicks:

The Icon pair have now had 25 chicks from 6 nests so far in the 2008 season. With the 12 chicks that they had from 4 nests in 2007, they have had 37 chicks in 2 years. Both parents still look in top breeding condition and I will probably let them continue to nest if they want as I am interested to see how many chicks a healthy pair can have in one season.

Apart from the Icon pair, I intend to stop all shama breeding for this year. Max's chicks are due today and after this nest I will separate the pair. I just have too many chicks this year to properly care for all of them.

As someone who line-breeds, I am always on the lookout to ensure that my breeding program is on the right track. One of the first indications that things are going wrong with a breeding program is reducing fertility. The abundant fertility of this 4th generation pair of Icon and his mate show that all is mostly well with the program.

From the 5th nest I have spotted a chick that has the potential to be outstanding. He has an upright posture and he flicks his tails well over his head. He is DDS152. Why did I band this chick DDS152 when my other chicks are being banded DDS220+? What happened was that I had forgotten to band the chicks from the 5th nest until last Sunday when I had taken out the chicks to show to Michael and his friend Dennis. It was only then that I realised that the chicks had not been banded. The usual bands were by then too tight to fit 2 of the 4 chicks but I found slightly larger bands that I had purchased but not used because they were too large. I had no alternative but to use the slightly larger bands and the two largest chicks were banded DDS152 and DDS153.

Day 2 - 28th August 2008
The chicks look almost the same but they have grown much larger. Their bodies have filled out and now occupy more of the nest.

Day 3 - 29th August 2008
By Day 3, the chicks are starting to feather out. The growth starts with the wings and the sprouting feathers can be seen. The chicks also respond more readily to stimuli such as a tap on the nest-box. This is all it takes to get them to gape for food. The mother has continued to brood the chicks but she spends more and more time outside the nest and is kept busy feeding the chicks. The chicks are now big enough to generate their own warmth and it is no longer critical for them to receive their mother's warmth. I expect that tonight, the mother will roost outside the nest-box but close to it.

As can be seen, the mother is looking after the chicks well. I only mention the mother as Icon has never himself fed the chicks or removed their droppings. He is the ultimate macho male and only uses the hen to satisfy his needs. He does look into the nest sometimes and he can be aggressive if other shamas are brought close to his aviary but on the whole he leaves the care of the chicks to his mate. This is unlike some of my other males who take a great part in bringing up the young. Some of my males will even brood the eggs when the hen is outside.

Day 4 - 30th August 2008
Last night, the mother did not brood the chicks as they are sufficiently feathered to provide their required warmth. I removed the chicks today for hand-feeding as the mother is feeding the chicks less and seems to want to nest again. Also, with 5 chicks in the nest, it is becoming a bit over-crowded.

Compare the photo below with the Day 3 photo and it will be seen that there has been substantial growth in one day. BTW, to have a good comparison of growth, I have taken all the photographs at about 7.30 am each morning.

Day 5 - 31st August 2008
Its 5 days since the last egg hatched. However, the eldest chick was hatched about a day earlier and it is about 6 days old. The eyes open at about 6 days. The wings are continuing to feather and so is the ridge along the back.

Day 6 - 1st September 2008
This is what shama chicks look like 6 to 7 days after hatching. The wing feathers are still in their sheaths. The chicks will probably start to preen to open up the sheaths tomorrow or the day after. It will be seen that the youngest chick (lower, left) looks like the eldest chick in the Day 5 photo and this suggests that he is a day younger.

The Icon pair are still in top breeding condition but I have decided to stop all my shama breeding for this year as my helper is finding it difficult to manage so many birds. I have separated all the breeding pairs in preparation for the molt.

Next year, I intend to do little or no breeding in my home and to reduce the number of adult shamas that I have in my home so that that I can concentrate on their training which I find more enjoyable than breeding at this stage.

Day 7 - 2nd September 2008

Day 8 - 3rd September 2008

Day 9 - 4th September 2008

By the 9th/10th day the feathers have developed in their sheaths and the ends of the feathers are emerging. The chicks are almost fully grown. The bulging eyes that we saw at birth and the first few days have become almost normal as the head has grown. Also, the wide beaks are narrowing.

The eldest chick was placed on scales. An egg is about 6 grams. About 20% of the weight is lost during incubation and at hatching, a chick will on average weigh less than 5 grams. By the time it is ready to leave the nest it is almost 5 times the weight at hatching. The white stuff that you see on the scale are bits of the sheath from the wing feathers that have sloughed. The chick will preen its feathers to remove the sheath and open up its feathers.

Day 10 - 5th September 2008

By the morning of day 10/11, the eldest chick is fully feathered. That's him at the top left of the photo. The wide beak has continued to narrow. Always, the last part of the chick to fully feather is the head. Often, even when the chick leaves the nest, the head has not fully feathered.

To show the extent of growth, I placed an egg beside the eldest chick in the photo below.

This is the 2nd eldest chick. The eldest chick (in the photo with the egg) is actually about .3 grams lighter. By the 10th day, the chicks are starting to slim down as they lose body mass. They still continue to eat ravenously but the growth is mainly in the feathers.

The 2 eldest chicks emerged from the nest today. The older in the morning and the younger in the afternoon. The remaining 3 chicks are expected out tomorrow.

Day 11 - 6th September 2008
All the chicks were out of their nest by 11 am this morning.

Day 12 - 7th September 2008
The chicks were banded today.