THE BEGINNER AND
THE BREEDING OF THE
(by Yves Villers)
(Translation Steve Mc Donald)
Bird-Market Eric, the bird-breeder
My purpose in writing this article is not to rival other authors, many of whom are more experienced in this subject. Several of them have written articles about this magnificent bird that are more scientific than mine. However, Ibelieve that my modest experiences as an amateur breeder may have an unique value to beginners.
Indeed, it has only been five years since I first became interested in the breeding of Gouldian Finches and only last year did I achieve some success. Gouldians usually have heads that are red, black or orange, but there is also a rare variety that has a yellow head.
* NB : article written in December 1987.
PURCHASE OF BIRDS
It is best to contact a well-known breeder if you wish to obtain a good reproductive pair. The A.O.B. magazine is a good place to find addresses and informations about commercial breeders.
Generally, the color of the female finch's head will determine the head color of the offspring. It would be presumptuous to say that you will have immediate success after buying some Gouldians, as it may take a bit of time and some patience. It would be a good idea to obtain at least two pairs to begin. It is recommended that you also purchase three or four pairs of Japanese Sparrows for each Gouldian pair, to serve as surrogate parents.
Some people attach little importance to the time of year for breeding, but in fact, the Winter months will be the most productive for beginning the reproductive cycle. Early in November, it will be easiest to successfully set up nests for both the Gouldians and the sparrows. After Summer is over, it would be good to add some Alvityl syrup for the chicks to the water fountains. I don't believe you should give this vitamin supplement all year round, as if they become accustomed to it, the special effect at the start of the breeding season may be diminished. The amateur who begins on a small scale will lose time if success is expected without the assistance of Japanese Sparrows.
Sometimes the female Gouldian will incubate the eggs well for ten days or so, but then may desert the nest. If a pair of sparrows is not also nesting and ready to take over the finch eggs immediately, they will be lost. Sometimes the Gouldians will incubate the eggs to hatching, but then will abandon the chicks, also requiring the surrogate parenting of the sparrows.
It would be somewhat utopian to think that the breeding of Gouldian
Finches will be financially lucrative. In fact, the two main
benefits of this enterprise will be to help preserve and increase the numbers
of this species and to produce birds for trading with other breeders.
You may be able to obtain other species in trade and avoid the cost of
purchasing them outright. Gouldians acquire their full colors
only after 6 to 8 months of age and will have more trading value when their
beautiful adult plumage appears.
It would be more prudent to install Gouldian nests when the Japanese
Sparrows are in "condi- tion of incubation", because the Gouldians
can be capricious about laying almost immediately. But, on the other
hand, most often they will delay laying for several weeks. If one
wants to avoid having the sparrows hatch their own young, simply pull out
their eggs and replace them with plastic ones. This will extend the
time that the sparrows will continue incubating. Sometimes
the sparrows will obstinately refuse to lay, but this is not usually a
handicap, as they can often be tricked into incubating, by placing three
or four plastic eggs in the nest. If a plastic nest is used, it is
a good idea to put some plastic overhangs around its edges and to line
the bars of the cage with cardboard at the bottom. This will
help prevent eggs or young birds from being pushed out accidentally by
the parents. When the eggs arrive, usually six at the most,
you may wish to remove some of them. I advise you to mark the eggs with
white Tippex liquid to avoid the possibility of confusing them with the
THE GOULDIAN FINCH AND ITS CHARACTER
This species is usually very quiet and settles down to roost just after
sunset. They aren't singers, but make many gurgling noises that are
pleasant and vary with individuals. You may note that they
appear somewhat disturbed when they see that their eggs have been taken
away and they may systematically destroy the nest. They may
then take some horsehairs and begin rebuilding the nest. By placing a plastic
egg in the new nest, you may incite the Gouldians to begin laying again.
You should limit the nesting cycle to 3 or 4 times per year, to avoid exhausting
the birds. When they have laid 5 or 6 eggs, remove the plastic
ones and place the real eggs back in the nest (until now, you should have
kept the real eggs in a small box in a dark area and have turned the eggs
every day. The temperature should have been kept at 18º C (64°
F) or higher.
FOOD - - HEATING
The Gouldian Finches are not difficult to please and will be contented with a good feed mixture for exotic birds to which you should add an extra measure of millet. Some millet clusters and other assorted seeds for health maintenance would be a good addition to this diet. During the breeding periods, you should provide them with (breeding swill CEDE or ORLUX). In fact, this species does not drink large amounts of water.
In Winter, some extra lighting is useful. In my own aviary, I let the normal light begin in the morning and then keep the artificial light on until about 7 pm. This gives about 12 hours and 30 minutes of light. Some breeders advise giving them as much as 21 hours of light each day, but it seems to me that the amount I provide is adequate. It helps to dim the light gradually in the evening to simulate natural nightfall. If you don't have a sophisticated dimmer system, you can turn off the brighter flourescent lighting tubes first and leave a standard incandescent light on for awhile longer.
Providing even heat for the birds should not be difficult. Some books have indicated that at least 24º C (75° F) should be maintained, but I believe that is clearly exaggerated. A temperature of 18º C (64° F) to 20º C (68° F) will cause them no discomfort during the day and at night, 13º C (55° F) will be adequate. If the weather is very cold and their cage becomes chilled, you may add a small electric heater that is controlled by a thermostat and a timer.
In conclusion, Gouldian Finches are truly attractive
litle birds and their breeding, even on a small scale, can
bring amateurs a great deal of pleasure.