In the photo above, you might notice that the stack of cages on the right have no doors. I refer to it as “The Projects.” The stack on the left, however, does have doors and they are closed. I think it has been two years now that I have been running a bevy of cages within a flight room. It started out to see if I could get wild-caught African finches to breed more successfully if they had freedom of flight, but could use cages to breed in, if they desired. Well, they desired. Some went back to the original cages they were in when I removed doors. Others looked to other cages that best fit their needs of placement within the room.
This year, I still have the option for some, but am also beginning to cage a few of the F1s, and even their parents, to see if they will breed without their freedom. I’m hoping for the best as they are now used to breeding in cages. It’s been a messy affair, to be sure, and not something most people would try. But I learned a lot about many species and am the better for it. I also have a lot of Africans that did successfully breed. The whole purpose, besides successfully breeding, was to speed up the domestication of these species so eventually, the birds we release will be ready cage breeders, complete with a good set of inoculates from Africa and the United States, true calls and other benefits as they were all parent-raised with no live food. We have to remember that the common and very tame Australian birds we keep were once wild-caughts. Since these have been bred here 30 years or more, they belie the difficulty factor of early domestication—high mortality rates, no successful breeding and fussy as can be as to their diet.
The Projects are stacked and full. The three cages shown are divided 24s and have a total of 18 nests in them. I just set them up this past week and already there are beaks showing through the feathered openings of some nests. All 18 may not be full at the same time, but over a period of a few weeks, most will have been used. I also call this “Birds on a Budget,” as I don’t have the space or money to buy more cages. But when you have air space and perching areas, the room can hold more finches. I expect most of the residents in this set of cages to be Goldbreasts and Zebras. Ribbon finches in this room still prefer the large bamboo nests mounted near the tops of walls. The reason that Zebras are also in free flight is that I am breeding out mutations to have the mutations, but also to single out those that have the best attributes of normal grays. The normal grays are put in closed cages in the room. The best products from these cage breedings are then singled out and bred in other closed cages.
The finches that have always stayed in closed cages are primarily Red and Yellow Stars, Societies and other Australian/Asian species that have been used in various trials involving diet. The plans are to move forward with the current species we have and when they are being cage-bred, buy in other African wild-caughts I don’t have and start the free flight/open cage process with them.
Hemp Seed Trials Stopped
I stopped using the ground hemp seed on January 10, 2011 for a couple of reasons. A few of the caged birds were starting to show a little fattening up. Then, Gerhard Hofmann, the photographer/breeder in Germany, said the European breeders have stopped using hemp seed with finches, with the exception of siskins and serins. Our regular finches have a hard time digesting the fat in the hemp seed, according to him. Over a period of time, it could result in liver damage. The siskins and serins are used to eating fatty seeds and can digest the fat without problems. That's about it. I thought I had a good, cheap source of protein with the added bonus of all of the amino acids. But not at the expense of liver damage.
Gerhard said the Cutthroats/Ribbons really didn't need extra protein, but they kept tossing on me until I started using it. I don't know. I hope they will continue to produce without the hemp. If I see one tossed baby, then it's back to the drawing board.