Old World Aviaries: About finches—
by Fenton Mereness
E & F Birds
Not only birds are triggered by environmental factors. During the recent holidays, two events combined to trigger this article. I had the pleasure of making egg food (15-dozen worth) and adjusting our canary room lights on the same day. This convergence prompted me to reflect on the many calls we receive concerning pet birds that are not acting as their custodians wish. The vast majority of the questions we are asked are answered with recommended changes to food and/or environment. Late January or early spring is an excellent time to review how we are accommodating our pets.
Emily and I raise a whole bunch of canaries. Some years we have been very successful, but occasionally we have not been. Last year, for example, was not a good year. When we reflect on our successes and non-successes we can almost always identify a nutritional or environmental cause. Moving the birds from an environmentally controlled aviary in California to an Austin area garage with 3 weeks of high 100-degree heat plus a failure to recognize that both the finches and the canaries were on lights timed for finch breeding may have had something to do with the poor results.
Anyway, the breeding season for all birds starts in the spring, following a period of molt and rest. Breeding condition is controlled by hormones, glandular secretions, and metabolic changes. The days become warmer and longer naturally in nature. If we have our birds indoors we need to emulate nature. As the days become longer you will note behavioral changes in your birds. Using canaries as an example, the males will become aggressive, and the hens will start gathering paper, strings and feathers with which to “feather their nests.” It may become necessary to separate pairs until both are reading the same page of your bird book.
If you want your birds to breed you need to begin to supplement their diet. Vitamin E is reputed to assist in breeding. In the spring when the grass grows, increase the amount of greens your birds receive. Somewhere I heard that hemp seed would increase breeding success. I grind it for the birds that can’t crack it. What do the wild birds find in the spring to eat? Bugs, termites, grubs, worms, and whatever indigenous protein they can find crawling or flying. It is very important that we provide a good source of protein. We have a recipe we use and like. (See: Emily’s high-protein cornbread mix, accessible from the Info Page.) Other recipes are favored by other successful breeders. You will eventually find one that works for you. If you have pairs of birds and would like to help them have a successful breeding season now is the time to give them special attention and care.
To recap, get out your manual and refresh your memory. Monitor the heat and light in the birds’ room. Increase or adjust the birds’ food to include greens, fruit, vitamins and protein. If you have mixed varieties in the same flight it may be necessary to move some. Observe and ensure that the male doesn’t become overly aggressive by coming into season before the hen. Provide adequate and appropriate nests and nesting material and enjoy nature and life.
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