The breeding of Mules & Hybrids is one of the earliest forms of aviculture practised in this country and its origins came about from the keeping of mixes species within an aviary. It was noticed that the resulting progeny possessed a charm of colour, song and vigour that was markedly different to the base species. Questions are often asked about the ethic’s of these breeding’s as it usually results in infertile birds.
HYBRID - The term “Hybrid” is used for the resulting progeny when the breeding pair is of different species of British Finch. The term “Hybrid” is also used for the cross of a Canary with a Bullfinch.
MULE - The term “Mule” is used for the resulting progeny when one of the pair is a British Finch and the other is a Canary.
The following information has been supplied by our President, Roger Tippett.
As far as Mule breeding is concerned the Norwich Canary is used for exhibition Mules, the red of the Colour Factor Canary is used to produce Mules of good colour and many of the smaller Canaries will produce good song birds.
As an exhibitor I try to use the yellow feathered Norwich as this produces the best balance of size, shape and colour that the exhibition demands. The down side of using the Norwich Canary is that it can be poor at rearing youngsters and most Norwich breeders will have some smaller types of Canary to use as foster parents who generally have greater vitality for feeding youngsters.
When attempting to breed Mules, the selected pair are introduced early in the season which allows more time for compatibility to be reached and young birds are best used for this, however there are no golden rules and many a good mule will come from splitting pairs mid season to form new pairs.
The chosen pair will be introduced into a double breeding cage with two sets of drinkers and feeding dishes, this can be reduced if no bickering occurs. The feeding routine can be put into place to bring the birds into condition as the ambient temperatures and daylight increases with the season. Often the Canary will be in condition before the finch and a round of Canaries can firstly be taken. The use of a treble breeding cage will allow the partitioned off Finch to watch proceedings and he may be allowed to help feed the well developed Canaries. When the young have fledged and have been weaned off, the hen will prepare a new nest and start to lay. As each egg is laid, remove it and replace it with a dummy egg as some finches are notorious for damaging eggs and therefore not to be trusted. When the clutch is complete, replace the dummy eggs, section off the finch with a wire slide and after 5-6 days the eggs can be checked for fertility. If all is well, young will follow and once again the Finch can be allowed to help with the rearing process. Most experienced bird breeders will know the breeding season is littered with problems and the “Disaster a Day” rule applies, it is even more relevant with the production of Mules or Hybrids.
To finish a Mule for exhibition, it must be colour fed to enhance the natural colour and the yellow feathered Mules will attain a brighter plumage than the buff feathered. The yellow feathered Mules are highly prized and command much respect on the show bench and when attempting to purchase such birds, don’t be surprised by the prices quoted. By October you can spot the birds that have attained the qualities required for the show bench and show cage training can begin.
British bird shows extend from October until February so try to visit some of them, get a show schedule and try your hand at exhibition but remember, the exhibition world is not for the faint hearted. For those who do not wish to exhibit their birds, join a club and experience the great friendship and comradery that can be found throughout the year.
Note. The breeding of British Birds in captivity is clarified with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which lays out clear conditions for the buying, selling and exhibiting of certain British Birds. Any British Birds kept in captivity or offered for sale, whether they are Hardbills or Softbills, must have been bred in captivity and close ringed with an approved size ring for the species.
See British Hardbill for further Housing, Feeding & Breeding Information.