Colour feeding and the Moult





From the ugly duckling to a swan in 8 weeks

Young Drab Goldfinch mule


After the breeding season in July adult birds start to moult all there feathers need replacing so that they have a new set for the next 12 months with sitting on the nest and rearing youngsters the feathers get damaged this moult usually last 6 or 8 weeks



Young birds at approx 8 weeks old start to moult from a drab colour that helps camouflages them whilst in the nest, to there bright adult colour depending on species, hens are usually drabber than males this helps them to hide whilst sitting the nest and the cocks brighter coloured for display purposes when finding a mate



Young birds don't moult out there wings or tail until there second moult so we call them "UNFLIGHTED"

Once a bird reaches its second moult and does moult out its wings and tail we call them "FLIGHTED"

If a wing or tail feather or any feather infact gets knocked out for any reason it will always grow back within 6 weeks or so


The birds flanks (sides) are the first to moult then the wings and rest of the body then finally the head is last to moult, in the pictures opposite you can see  Goldfinch mules at various states of the moult the only way we can see the changes made to a bird during the moult is when we colour feed these birds, as the new feathers grow in they are replaced with red ones so we can easily see the changes as the moult progresses as young  mules do not moult out there wings and tail these feathers will not be coloured in the first year so you can easily tell the difference between a unflighted mule and a flighted mule the yellow wing bars of the Goldfinch remain after the second year these will turn to orange


In this picture we can see clearly the yellow wing bars, and also the feathers that have been replaced, the head of the Goldfinch mule will show the blaze of the Goldfinch once the moult is complete and will be brighter red than the body turning this drab bird into a colourful little beauty and ready for the show bench, the reason our shows start in October and run through the winter is to coincide with the end of the moult when the birds feathers are at there best,

To achieve this colouring I usually start to add Carophil Red to the water in the last week of June or the first week in July to be sure of catching the first feathers that are replaced, birds especially mules that have not been breeding will start to moult earlier than birds that are breeding adult birds usually dont start to moult until they have finished rearing young, but if you let them breed very late thay with eventually start to mould whether breeding or not, if the bird looses an odd feather after the moult it will grow back the drab colour unless you add colourfood until the feather has regrown.

This picture shows 2 different coloured mules this colour difference is due to the feather type, the bird at the back we call a "BUFF", and the bird at the front we call "Yellow" these feather types take the colour differently yellows are much brighter coloured, Buffs are drabber even when colourfed this is why yellows do better on the show bench,

Color food must be given at the same strength all through the moult or else the bird will end up patchy in colour, if the mix is to strong the bird will show a burnt effect and will not be so bright, if not strong enough the bird will be pale, so it is important to gain experience with colour feeding,

Here we see a young Bullfinch in immature plumage this bird cannot be sexed until it moults then it is transformed into whichever sex it is. Cock or Hen


Here we see the complete article an ugly duckling into a swan  a Goldfinch X Norwich Canary mule in full colour


Goldfinch mules bred from Red Factor or Irish Canaries will be even more intense that this bird, as miniature mules with there small feathering are much deeper coloured,


To mix your colourfood add 2 mustard spoons of Carophil to a Litre plastic milk bottle pour over some hot water from the kettle, leave for 24 hours then fill the bottle with cold water, fill your fountains with this mixture, always use fountains as the colourfood will settle to the bottom of the drinker and the bird then gets the strongest mix.

All birds are different, and it takes experience to get the strength of your carophil exactly right for each bird, unfortunately it is generally to late that year to rectify your mistakes and you must wait until the next moult to try again. 


If you do not colour your birds every year the bird will moult through its original drab colour


The bird on the left is a Crossbill mule

Showing the size difference between the Northern Goldfinch x Norwich Canary Mule and the smaller Native Goldfinch x Irish Fancy Canary Mule