Seasons of the Gouldian Finch (part 2)

Missed Part 1? Go here



Pre-breeding Diet

At this point, the finches have (hopefully) lost excess fat and spent time flying in aviaries or large cages to become stronger. It’s time to get them ready for breeding. That means increasing the dietary nutrients to include protein, fat, carbohydrates, and amino acids, for starters. In addition to the seed diet they’ve been eating, add some oil seeds like niger. Begin serving CHOP or soft food mix every day.

These changes should bring on a hormonal change, much like Gouldians have in the wild when experiencing rainy season. At this point they are still in same-sex aviaries. Experts advise that this season last 4 weeks. I live in an area where there are hurricanes; at least one year recently, a hurricane threw everyone off including the passerines, and the pre-breeding diet, for mine, did not seem to have them adequately ready to breed. When ready, the males do the mating dance to each other and the females begin to bicker. NOTHING was happening. I extended it another 4 weeks, wondering what I had done wrong (until other breeders started saying the same thing). They still had a strange, slow start. The point is, don’t be afraid to extend the pre-breeding term if needed. If they aren’t ready there’s no point in trying to rush things.

Breeding Season

At this point the birds are paired for breeding. The same diet is continued, with maybe a slight increase in the egg food mixture or other CHOP. When the eggs hatch, increase this further to sustain the hen through the rigors of feeding babies.

Breeding season lasts about 4 months, during which time it is best to provide the highest value food and supplements possible.

Molting Season

After 2 or 3 clutches, it’s time to reverse the procedure. Remove nest boxes, separate males and females, and molt will commence. If it doesn’t, feel free to place them back on the austerity diet for a week or two, then return to the breeding diet for the duration of molt (possibly as long as 6 weeks)

That’s it! Now we’re back to where we started, with the resting season.

Choosing to Follow the Austerity Diet

Whether you choose to follow this plan or not is strictly a personal choice. I’ve had years that I used it, and years that I didn’t. Some breeders who’ve perhaps bred something other than passerines find it ludicrous and state that they’d “never do that” to their birds.

But in addition to the previously mentioned benefits, we now have the chicks to consider. Keeping finches on a complete diet during the breeding season means the parents have enough fuel to get through the job of hatching and feeding little ones. The chicks may grow faster as well, given abundant food. And the chicks should be healthier.

Why don’t more of us follow this plan? I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t know it exists. Still others have “heard” it’s a load of hooey. And we are inherently lazy – so tracking and changing the diet every few weeks is work. I myself have skipped it many times, in part because I just forget to incorporate an austerity month. As I stated, it’s your own personal choice. But if you’re interested in doing things as nature intended, maybe you’ll want to give the austerity diet a try.

Why Use an Austerity Diet?

What It Is

The austerity diet refers to the austerity period, a seasonal climate in the Gouldian finch’s native region of Australia. Their natural habitat only has two climates, one is wet and one is dry.

Gouldian Habitat. Photo Courtesy Birds in Backyards.

Near the end of the dry season, it’s not surprising that seed has become scarce, plus what little seed can be found isn’t full of nutrition. This lack of resources has a physical effect on the birds; their bodies go into a “rest” mode.

This may sound harsh to the average finch owner, whose bird room is probably fit for Gouldian kings and queens. No way would we let our Gouldians go hungry! But for those who understand the life cycle process, this slowing of available food resources helps keep their bodies conditioned for breeding. It helps to synchronize the readiness for breeding between the male and female- even though they may be separated during this season.

How to Utilize It

Here’s a chance for improving on the quality of your flock. Use the austerity diet for 45 days. Supply limited seed and nothing else. It’s okay and even encouraged to keep them on the diet longer, up to 6 months, but give it at least 6 weeks. If they’re overweight, they may slim down some. There won’t be any hormonal / breeding behavior going on during this time.

Will they like it? No, probably not – but listen; our birds have it made. Lady Gouldians in the wild have to travel far just to get water during this season. and we’re only backing off on foods.

Be sure to avoid giving:

  • Supplements
  • Fresh foods, wet foods
  • Protein-laden foods
  • Treats
  • Sprouts

“But Tanya,” you protest, “You’re always saying to give them those things!”

Yes but… not now. Right now we want those bodies to get ready for the next season: breeding! More>>>

Gouldian Finch Quarantine Protocol

I get so many questions about quarantine practices, I decided to make a post to refer you to. Quarantine is necessary at 2  times: when a bird is ill/injured or suspected to be ill, and when a new one comes into your aviary.

Bringing a new bird into the aviary is what we are going to discuss today. Whether you have 2 or 200 Gouldian finches, it’s simply not worth it to expose them to illness. You could end up losing the entire aviary! So when bringing one in it is necessary to quarantine.

Quarantine to Prevent Illness in the Flock

In a perfect world, we would put the bird on a different air system than our current birds. However, that’s often impossible for various reasons. I keep my Gouldians in a bird room in my home (no more guest room! :D). I do live in Florida, so at some times of the year I could house new finches outdoors in the pool’s screen cage. I have a nifty countertop there that’s about 8 feet long and sheltered on 3 sides and is under roof. So if the temperatures are between 60-80, which truthfully only happens in March and maybe April, they can stay there. Otherwise it is too hot or too cold.

So usually mine are quarantined in a separate room of the house. I have never had problems with this. One must understand that there are risks involved – illness could potentially spread inside the home. But hand washing and using clean, disinfected dishes goes a long way in preventing it. So does keeping food bins separate to avoid cross-contamination.

In other words, don’t feel guilty if you must quarantine within the same air system. Just be smart about it.

That’s the why and the initial how of the matter, but there is one more issue:

WHAT are we trying to accomplish by quarantining the bird?

We’re trying to prevent bringing disease into our flock, and we are also trying to eradicate any disease or parasites the new bird(s) may have. To that end, I’ve developed a quarantine protocol that is 60 days long. 90 days would be even better. My quarantine procedure will remove external and internal parasites and give the owner plenty of time to observe the bird(s) and get them to the vet if needed.  Continue reading “Gouldian Finch Quarantine Protocol”

Perches for your Gouldian Finches

Did you notice that the perches that came with your cage were all 1/2-inch dowels, and they’re extremely smooth?

Yeah. That’s not what we want.

See, your Gouldian’s feet get sores on them when they have to stand day in and day out on the exact same surface. So it’s best to give them varied types of perches –different lengths, widths, and different types of surfaces. You can find a lot: sand/cement covered, twisted wood, real wood branches fitted with screws to fasten them on. These are great because they get to exercise their feet.

You’ll need finch sized perches, by the way. Their feet should wrap about 3/4 of the way around it, if it is a dowel perch.

I’m not saying don’t use the dowel perches, but add some other ones in addition to.

Just stay away from those sandpaper covers you can put over a perch, they’ll hurt them. And avoid the plastic ones that come with the itty bitty pet store cages; just watch your birds and you’ll see how uncomfortable those are.

A few good types of finch perches: