[12 Steps to Success Intro]
Step 5: May – The beginning of the breeding season
May 1st is when we pair our birds up for the breeding season and introduce their nesting boxes to the aviary. By this time most of our birds have completed their molting or are about to finish and they look absolutely beautiful!
We separate our birds by sex for 4 to 5 months of the year which we believe definitely contributes to them being eager to start breeding. We have found flock breeding to be the most successful method. This is where you put a group of birds together in a cage and let them choose their mate. Most of the birds will do this almost immediately, stake claim to a nest box and start building or adding to the nest you have pre built. This method of breeding is another reason it is very important to keep good records on genetics and keep track of the head and breast colors you pair together.
Please see #6 June for more information on banding your baby birds and keeping breeding records.
At this point we cut fresh creeping red fescue grass about 8 to 10 inches long which we grow in our yard. Dry Bermuda grass is an adequate alternative for nesting material and will work just as well and is available on our shopping pages. These are both special thin bladed grasses which do not come from mowing the lawn.
We form the creeping red fescue into a bowl shaped nest in the bottom of the Gouldian nesting boxes. We use our fist in a circular motion to form a small cup shaped area in the grass in the center of the nesting box. Gouldians are lousy nest builders so this will help get them started.
Another very important reason for doing this is if there is not a good bowl shape in the grass or cupped shape formed in the grass, the eggs that are laid will not stay confined to one small area and roll around the nest box which will cause inconsistent incubation and a low hatch ratio as the birds chase the eggs around the nest box trying to sit on them and keep them warm.
After forming a good bowl shaped nest in the nest box we sprinkle a light dusting of poultry approved insecticide powder over the top of the newly formed grass nest. This will help keep any insects out of the nest box during the breeding season which would attack the baby birds. Also when the adult Gouldians go in the box to breed and add more grass to the pre built nest they get some of the poultry powder on themselves which will help kill any feather mites they might have that the Ivomec did not get, if any. Poultry dust is available in our shopping pages.
If you are breeding more than 1 pair of Gouldians per cage you should always have at least 1 or 2 extra nesting boxes available, more than the number of pairs per cage so the birds have a good selection and do not fight over them. A shortage of nesting boxes can cause territory issues and some Gouldians will enter another bird's nesting box and throw out their eggs or babies to take over the box for them selves. This can also sometimes happen with new inexperienced birds breeding for the first time but they will usually get past this stage with trial and error and become successful breeders.
It is a good idea to keep a pile of cut grass in the bottom of the cage or aviary during the breeding season at all times for the birds to pick up, play with and pretend they are building a nest. Also they will usually add more grass to their nesting box after the first batch of young baby bird's leave the nest to cover any existing bird droppings or un-hatched eggs and then they start on their 2nd batch of eggs.
This is when you should also introduce a cup or bowl of Frisky Finches high protein vitamin enriched baby hatchling food to the bird's aviary to get them used to it being there before the eggs are even laid. When the babies hatch out, the adults will access it as necessary.
We use our own mixed baby hatchling food which is specially blended for our Gouldian finches and is rich in the calcium, vitamins and minerals needed to produce large healthy strong babies. This is also available in our shopping pages.
Frisky Finches Premium Baby Hatchling Mash/Food is a large part of our "secret to success". Our baby hatchling, chick and young bird mash is so power packed with everything necessary for Gouldians or any seed eating bird that I contribute 40% of our breeding success with Gouldians to it. We have been mixing and using this blend of breeding mash for over 10 years and I am convinced this really helps to give baby Gouldians a big kick start in healthy growth and development. If it will work this good with Gouldians just imagine what is possible with other birds... Finches, Parakeets, Doves, Pigeons, Quail, Pheasants, Chickens... We highly recommend you try this product. You will be very happy with the results, and so will your birds.
Another aid to breeding is the flax seed which is mixed in with the breeders season/winter Gouldian Seed Mix during the molting and breeding season which the birds will also access as necessary.
Keep both of these products available to the birds throughout the breeding season at all times.
"This part you're probably not going to like"
Raising Gouldians is a little like growing a garden, if you are in your garden all the time, every day watching, weeding, primping and prodding, it will seem like there is not much growth or progress going on and it takes forever to get any vegetables, but if you give your garden what it needs, water, the proper fertilizer, occasional weeding and "LEAVE IT ALONE" suddenly one day you will notice it has grown up and is plentiful with tons of vegetables.
Your Gouldians are the same way, if you "LEAVE THEM ALONE" they will be very successful breeding and produce a tremendous number of babies through out the season.
Never go into the nest box when the babies have started to develop feathers or are close to coming out of the box. This disturbs them and they will leave the nest box to early which usually ends up in death. It's best to let them come out when they are ready and try to leave them alone most of the time!
It is OK to occasionally take a peek in the nest box during the first week or two until their pin feathers start growing into baby feathers but do not do this daily! The more you leave your birds alone the better results you will "BOTH" have!
We have found the most productive years for most Gouldian finches breeding are from the ages of 1 to 3 years old. After most Gouldians reach the age of 3 their hatch success ratio starts to decline. They can go on for another 3 or 5 years or more breeding after that and still produce allot of babies however the numbers will decline as the years pass and generally speaking this decline usually starts after the age of 3.
Some Gouldian parents can have as many as 10 babies in one hatch although few pairs are ever this successful. It flat out exhausts them trying to feed all those babies! At times we believe some pairs will actually toss some babies out of the nest after they hatch just to reduce their work load. This seems to happen more frequently with older birds that are winding down on their breeding years like from 5 to 7 or 8 years old.
The standard numbers of baby's younger pairs produce range from 2 to 6 per hatch and some eager pairs will even produce up to 8 babies per hatch.
Another good method to increase breeding productivity is to pair an older more experienced bird with a 1st year breeder. The older bird will teach the new parent what to do. This works either way, putting a young hen with an older male or vise versa.
You do not have to keep the same pair of birds together every year, they will accept a new mate each year however if you put them both back in the same cage the following year they will usually go back to their old mate. If you change the pairs or mates each breeding season it helps to keep the gene pool fresh so not as many of the babies are directly related and after 3 or 4 generations they are even more removed genetically. This makes keeping track of the genetics or the records allot more complicated though. I guess a little like 3D chess....
Continue with the regiment of feather glow liquid vitamins, calcium and other supplements.... 4 days on with the liquid supplements, 3 days off with plain water....
May through November we give our birds a lot of Golden Spray Millet piled up on the bottom of their cages. This is done for several reasons. We believe it gives the birds a secure feeling that there is ample seed available for breeding and feeding their babies at all times plus the spray millet is easy for the birds to feed the new babies. It is also easily digested by the baby birds along with the hatchling food and after the young birds leave the nest box it gives them something to play with while learning to eat seed. Last they love it!
Gouldian finches have light blue spots on the sides of their beaks which are used as a glowing landing strip for the adult bird's to find their babies mouth in the dark. Gouldians in the wild nest in hollowed out trees and burrows which are dark and secluded. These spots glow slightly which helps the parents find the babies mouth for feeding in the dark.
The spray millet we give our birds also helps the young Gouldians rub off the blue baby spots on the sides of their beaks as they mature into young adults and they love to chew on the spray millet seed and play with the stalks.
The nesting habits of the Gouldian finch in dark secluded places is why we recommend using the type of nest box which have a side porch entry with the nesting area in the rear or back of the box accessed through a small 1 ½" inch hole. Gouldian nesting boxes are approximately 6" x 6" x 11" long. These nesting boxes with the side porch entry are specially made for Gouldians and are also available on our shopping pages.
This article is copyrighted 2006 for Frisky Finches and is not meant to be reprinted, replicated, or republished without our expressed written permission. Thank you.