This article was written by two experienced bird breeders (Stuart Whiting and Dave Coughlan) as an introduction to the mules and hybrids world. They are explaining the differences between mules and hybrids and also, how to breed mules and hybrids.
The breeding and exhibition scene of high-class birds is very big in Europe. I will try to explain as easily as I can.
Breeding two different breeds of canary (cross breed) although we still call them hybrids, it is a slang thing.
Breeding a finch with a different species of finch (eg. Goldfinch male x Bullfinch female) is called a hybrid.
A canary crossed with a finch is called a mule.
However, all finches x bullfinch hens are hybrids. Even canary x Bullfinch hen is still classified as a hybrid and not a mule because of the following:
Basically, it,s never ever been known in the bird world for a male bullfinch to tread and fertilize any other type of finch or canary. The courtship behavior of a male bullfinch is a lot slower and the timing is wrong compared with other birds.
Male bullfinch simply can’t fertilize anything other than its own species. Only the hen can be used to produce any hybrids.
Goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, brambles, linnets, twites, siskins and redpolls can all produce mules and hybrids from both sexes.
The mules & hybrids over a 30 year period Stuart bred and exhibited are as follows:
- Goldfinch mules,
- Linnets mules,
- Twite mules,
- Siskin mules,
- Redpolls mules and
- Greenfinch mules.
The birds that were used to produce the large type exhibition birds were all quality champions bred Norwich canaries. A few miniatures were also bred using small Irish fancy and fife canaries.
- Goldfinch x Redpoll, Goldfinch x Siskin, Goldfinch x Linnet, Goldfinch x Greenfinch, Goldfinch x Bullfinch
- Linnet x Redpoll, Linnet x Siskin, Linnet x Greenfinch, Linnet x Bullfinch
- Redpoll x Siskin, Redpoll x Greenfinch
- Siskin x Greenfinch
- Greenfinch x Bullfinch
- Canary x Bullfinch
- Chaffinch x Greenfinch, Chaffinch x Bramble
The bullfinch and chaffinch hybrids are without a doubt the hardest of all hybrids to breed.
A bit about mules and hybrids.
Of all the hybrids that I have bred in all this time, the only one that I simply could not breed after many close attempts were the redpoll x bullfinch.
A few redpoll x bullfinches have been bred in England but now are increasingly very rare and expensive. The average price of a redpoll x bullfinch hybrid is over £400. A lot of money for birds that won’t ever breed again.
The majority of quality mules and hybrids are purely bred for color, song, and exhibition purposes.
Most mules are surprisingly very hardy and can withstand very cold conditions providing they are not kept in any drafty and damp areas.
Also, a lot of mules can live to a very good age, some have gone well over 15 years or more.
When we exhibit our mules it is often best to use carraphil red color food which is basically a powder form that is added to the drinking water at a correct dosage when the birds moult. When a bird moults, this color food is pushed through the quills of the feather and this is how the colour is attained.
However, it is not necessary to color feed any canaries, mules, or hybrids if you are not interested in exhibiting. A lot of people enjoy keeping mules just purely for the song and rightly so as the song is often a lovely sound from the birds.
Hi, Dave Coughlan here.
Following on from Stuart,s post, I said I’ll write a few tips on muling from my experience.
When muling there are two things you must aim for:
For exhibition mules only use yellow canaries and full yellow-greens better again.
With miniature mules the smaller the better, so use Irish or Raza hens.
For large mules, only a Norwich canary will do. Put your chosen mule pair together immediately after the moult, the sooner the better to form a bond. if there is some bickering don’t worry unless it’s highly aggressive behavior.
The mule pair will stay together right up to march then I separate them for a month. When the pair are reintroduced they should mate immediately.
When the hen is building up, put a male canary in a small cage hanging from the breeder. The hen will squat and the muling finch will gladly do the deed. Personally, I have been concentrating on mutation mules of late and will do a quick rundown of the different muling finches.
For the song, most small canaries will do and probably the best canary to use are roller canaries. From the time the young mules are in the nest, they will learn the song they hear. If you want to strike them correctly it’s best to remove any male canaries from the bird room. The best singing mules are linnet and goldfinch mules, and should be trained every day with a CD or YouTube video of which male was the sire.
Different topics and pics are below.
The goldfinch usually only fills eggs from the start of May when the black tip on his beak disappears. Here you can take a round of straight canaries in April. Let the goldfinch back in when canaries chicks are 10 days old. He should help to feed and will be ready to fill eggs in the second round. Below is a male mule from a native cheveral goldfinch x Norwich hen.
The one thing you have to watch with siskin is they get fat in cages, so the oily seed has to be controlled. What I do with these, is keep them a month in the breeding cage with his muling hen, then a month in the flight to keep it fit. The siskin will fill eggs in April and must shut him off every night or he will break the eggs. When you set the clutch, slide him off and only let him back when chicks are 10 days. Here are some Siskin Norwich mules I bred, and a young 2020 pastel siskin mule.
Redpolls are very chummy and will bond with any hen. The redpoll should be ready to fill eggs with his muling hen around the 3rd week of April. They can be trusted not to break eggs and they will even help incubate. The one drawback of redpoll mules is that you can get deformed chicks. But when they are right, they are lovely mules. I’ve bred them in miniature cinnamon, dark, large cinnamon, and agate male The miniature cinnamon below won a lot on the bench, the agate below bred in 2019 was deformation free but his Isobel sister was born without a lower mandible.
Linnets will breed with any birds when in full condition. They are ready to mule in April and can be trusted not to break the egg., I’ve bred some lovely dark and variegated miniature mules, but for a few years, I had a golden linnet male that produced a lot of big Norwich mules. The bird below did a lot of winning on the bench. He was a real showman.
Probably my favorite mule. A good coby dark one takes a lot of beating, but lots of scope to breed colored mules with all the mutations. The difference with this pair is fitness. The muling pairs already mentioned are OK to be kept in double breeders, but the Norwich canaries and greenfinches being big birds, a flight cage is needed and the amount of food controlled. They can breed either way, Norwich male x Greenfinch hen or Greenfinch male x Norwich hen. Here is a white Greenfinch Norwich mule I bred last year that got the best current year mule or hybrid at Stafford.
Only the hen bully can mule or hybridise, again a flight cage is needed, hard to get but a stunning mule.
Again like greenfinch mules, you can go either way. Crossbill male x Norwich hen or Norwich male x Crossbill hen. The Crossbill will come into condition even before the Norwich. A flight cage will be needed in this case too. Irish exhibitor James Maloney has been breeding this mule in great numbers and was unbeaten ranking the best mule or hybrid in all top Irish shows last year.
A really attractive mule, and a coby yellow male off a Norwich is stunning.
Buntings can’t mule with canaries, but can hybridise with each other. Here is my yellowhammer male, that I may look for a Reed bunting hen for him.
I don’t think chaffinches or bramble finches have regularly muled with the canary other than the odd example, but are highly fertile in hybridise with each other.
these are just a few little pointers for lads looking to mule, it’s a wonderful part of native/British birds, and it’s like a lucky bag, no two mules look the same.
Hope this was some help.
5 thoughts on “Mules and Hybrids. How to Breed Mules and Hybrids.”
really educating read
Very interesting and great read
Hi I’m very new to this i have a linnet mule hen would she feed young or would i be better keeping her in a separate cage
There is a possibility of a hen linnet mule to feed other chicks but it is not as common.
You can try, but keep a close eye to be sure that the chicks are properly fed.
The hen should be fine to be kept in the same enclosure with other chicks. Even better, the chicks could learn how to eat, drink and bath.
If the mule would be male, then the risk would be higher for the chicks.
Hope this was helpful.