Training For What?
The process of putting young Roller males up in the song cabinets for the years Song Contest evaluation by an independent Judge represents one of the greatest challenges and rewards to a breeder. The breeder can "hear" what his breeding program and efforts have produced. There is no single right way to carry out this "Training", for every breeder you talk to a varied response can be heard. One fact is certain, it does take time and patience with the birds while in the Song cabinets. Even if you just raise rollers for fun in your backyard, you should try this procedure over the holidays to determine where your at with you stock and strains. Here I will only try to outline some general guidelines that have proved successful for me.
By this stage to the season most experienced breeders have an idea of how many birds need to be evaluated for Show selection. Those who are retired may already know which birds are the best, and the marginal birds may be separated from the rest. However for the rest of us, slaved to working days, we may not know definitively which bird is worth keeping and which to cull. Thus, the process of putting the young rollers "up" represents of the first occasions to hear, with out interference or doubt, what the years planning, breeding, and handling has produced. This process is critical for this years evaluation and next years planning. The quality of the harvest arrives!
For larger, aggressive breeders with greater than 40 males this Song training and evaluation period represents a significant task, and requires extra training time and possibly show cabinets and cages. For others with less than 25 males this represents a smaller task, yet will still demand significant hours to properly evaluate young birds in the song cages. For many breeders the method involves putting your birds up twice: First, the young males are put up about a month before the target show date for 7 days and evaluated. Following this first period the good birds are put together in a flight and the remaining birds are culled. Second the good birds are put up again about 8-10 days before the show for final team matching.
The birds are brought out 2-3 times daily from the Song cabinets. If they don't sing in 5-7 minutes, and they seem jumpy put them back in the cabinet. Most birds will not sing the first 2-3 days ( I don't count the first day) while others will sing the first day, yet others the 5th or 6th day. Open the cabinet doors up for 15-20 minutes in the morning and night for them to eat, drink, and yes - sing. Most birds will not eat much the first 3 days in the small cages. The process of bringing the birds out during 2-3 times per day promotes song on demand. Early on a low whistle can be used to encourage song for birds not cooperating They should sing within the first 2 minutes when their trained, but during the first 3-4 days this may take 5 minutes. If they don't sing after 5 minutes with some encouragement, put them back in the cabinets and bring the next team out. Be tough on them! Don't leave them out for longer than 10 minutes if they aren't performing. Observation is critical when the birds are taken out of the cabinets. If their playing around, eating, or maybe jumping, then put them right back in the Show cabinets. ( Note: If you take a bird directly out of a large flight into the song cage it may take a good week for him to settle down in the small cage ). The point here is a disciplined regiment that promotes and encourages song. Recall a canary sings because he has a song. If he's not giving it, there must a reason. Try to keep him happy with small amounts of various greens or peppers every other day. I push a small sliver of fresh apple through the cage wire as well. Provide a "finger" treat cup with such seeds as: sunflower hearts, rape seed, ground safflower, or hemp. Look at their stools when changing the paper. Each bird is different. Foods high in oil may give him loose stool. A bird not feeling well will most often not sing well.
During the first 2 minutes of initial song some birds may push and only produce their rolling tours - bass roll, hollow bell roll, hollow roll, glucke roll etc..., and not sing the beating tours. When they relax a bit, the beating tours (flutes, shockel, and glucke) in a better presentation will be sung. Watch closely for this. When listening to the birds take careful notes and record in your training log what impresses most about the bird. Study the birds background and determine if your theoretical breeding worked in practice. Also be sure to compare nest brothers. First impressions are important, however allowing the bird to sing in the 10-15 minute range will also reveal any faults or rogue tours, that may not be apparent in the first 5 minutes. This is where I disagree with some breeders that recommend not listening to your birds for more than 10 minutes or they will go over the top and get hoarse. Considering the fact that in the flight they sing all day long for long periods and hours, it seems a contradiction, or an excuse. A good bird with outstanding powerful song should be able to produce an extra 5-10 minutes of song in the show cage!
The Roller song is evaluated primarily for tone, the most important criteria of this man made song bird. During this period of Song training and evaluation its important for young breeders to recognize that out of the birds he or she purchased, most offspring will not make it to the show bench. Rollers are divided into high register, medium register, and low register tone birds. Out of your young birds, perhaps 80% will fall into the high and medium category, while the remaining percentage will be the low tone birds. These low tone birds are what we strive for in our breeding program methodology: (strain, inbreed, crossing, hybridizing, sex-linked or colony breeding - To be Described in Future Articles ). The deep and hollow birds are most desirable.
During the first 3-4 days of Song training its important to pair the birds up with other birds of similar tone. Low tone birds cannot compete with high register birds in the song cabinet, so match the teams up accordingly and wisely. Also look for the good Hollow Roll and Bass expressions. The judges remember the best Hollow birds, and the ones that have good variation. Don't be too quick to throw out a birds with high bells, especially if they are clear, and he can come back down in register and demonstrate good deep toned Hollow Roll or Bass. This variation, in my opinion. makes a beautiful full sounding bird. These birds will score points. Listen to the Flutes or Glucke, it must have depth and clarity, and should be delivered without being racy or pushy. Each year the birds that win the show all have excellent Flutes/Glucke and Hollow Roll/Bass.
Cull or separate any nasal or pushy birds from the good tone birds by the end of this first Song training period. Don't look back and try to stick with your first decision. Any bird that's marginal doesn't belong in the show. The primary objective of this period to training is to identify the birds with good tone. If your training twice before the show don't be too quick to judge the birds completely during this first time up in the Song cage, since he may not fully developed. This all depends on the hatch date and the date your listening to them. Birds born in March may be ahead of a June bird. Patience is required during the first 5 day period of training. Let the birds sing and observe song characteristics such as continuity, clarity, volume, variation in depth, stance, and disposition. Birds that usually score well in the show are good performers who settle down and sing, while wild and flighty birds, who may sing beautifully in the flight, and who wont perform in the small cages will cause a breeder nothing but grief at showtime. Entering marginal disposition birds in the show, that may sing well at home and show nervous tendencies, may get nervous and not sing in front of the judge. This is risky business. We work all year for 30 minutes in front of a Judge!
Following the first 7 day evaluation, put your birds with the best tonal qualities back together in the training flight to promote focused song direction. Provide bath water when coming out of the song cages and into the training flight. Keep them darkened down and don't overfeed stimulating or "hot" seeds during the remaining days before the Show. About 8-10 days before the Song Contest/Show these good birds are put in the cabinets again and final evaluation and team pairing is performed. Since these birds are already trained they will start to sing in less than 2 days in the cabinet. Let your ear guide you as best you can. This final process has no room for second guesses and indecisiveness. It is this expertise in the hobby that seems to separate breeders apart. This is a "Black Art" that is seldom described on paper. Some breeders have a knack for putting birds up. I believe the best teacher for this is experience through empirical evaluations, or in other words repeated tests and evaluation with your birds, coupled with discussion with others. Invite your fellow birders to listen to your birds. Discussion of song and characteristics is very helpful. People with musical ears are also helpful. Use common sense, this is not rocket science. During these last days move your birds around to different rooms or surroundings with different lighting and sing them for 10-15 minutes. The birds that are more flighty will identify themselves. Train them tough, don't baby them. Some birds are born song leaders while other are followers. Avoid making any changes to your team 3 days before the show, unless an emergency. Putting together the right combination of rollers together to form a harmonious team is an art, not an exact science. To the novice trying to