Concurrently running on the NFSS board is a string about needing to produce a higher ratio of hens to males (“Breeding for Hens”). It is established that a high protein diet is necessary to effect a change in the ratio.
It is also established that finch parents will not breed unless they see there is enough food available to feed a family. The hen makes the decision on which sexes are produced, based on the quality of diet. If food is scarce, or the quality is low, she will produce more males, as they take less nourishment to make it in the world and stand a better chance of survival.
The egg food diet I give my finches produces a 50-50 percent outcome, which is what my needs are. One person contributing to the discussion said she can get a 5:1 ratio of hens/males, using a high protein mix.
What I am about to give is examples from posts in various groups, as well as from private emails. If you feel I am pointing a finger at you, I may or may not be. Chances are, if I am bringing it up, there is not an isolated case, but several.
“My Cordon Bleu hen ate three pounds of mealworms today! (grin)” Don’t you feel that maybe something is wrong here? The hen is trying to get as much protein as possible, but is eating an inferior source of protein in live food. It is stuffed, but not sated.
It is the quality, not the quantity of protein that is eaten. Egg food has all of the amino acids in the correct balance that a bird needs. It is the most complete diet a bird can get. Remember it isn't the protein percentage; it’s that the proteins are made up of all the essential amino acids in the correct percentages. Mealworms may not have the quality protein necessary for producing a higher ratio of hens.
In the above case, the bird runs the risk of impacting exoskeletons of the mealworms in the GI tract and can die of starvation.
Mealworms also are carriers of pathogens, including e. coli.
It becomes critical delivering a constant supply of mealworms to feed the young. I thought the Worm-O-Matic, one-at-a-time dispensing jar was ingenious, but still it is dispensing an inferior protein, where the quality may vary. Just because the worms are alive doesn’t mean they are full of protein. Their diet could be lacking in the foodstuff to produce protein.
The cost of buying mealworms is prohibitive from a production standpoint. It is difficult to break even if you are selling a bird raised on mealworms.
Raising your own mealworms takes space and time, and time is money—or free time, which I equate as money. If you have the time and space it would be better to raise chickens and collect eggs.
I consider “parent raising” and “no live food” as domestication from a breeding point of view. We wouldn’t waste our money or time feeding mealworms to Zebras or Societies, or the majority of domesticated birds. They don’t need the worms and there’s no point to it. Once birds adjust to an egg food diet, they know there is excellent protein and will successfully breed on it as the only protein source.
“I’ve been told that giving birds mealworms stimulates them to breed.” Have you ever thought of waiting for them to come into their breeding cycle naturally? They will, you know. What’s the rush? When they are mentally and physically ready, it’s just possible they will produce better, bigger and longer. I have hardly had a tossling this breeding cycle, and some of these finches are going to nest for the first time.
As for Africans, I decided I would take on the two main areas I mentioned all at once, breaking the chain on live food while parent raising. This has been very successful, and on a lot less egg food than the quantity of mealworms necessary to supply the same protein, if it is indeed possible.
My Africans are on African Breeding Time, which begins early in November. They are in a breeding frenzy right now, and I did nothing special to make them breed. They just received their normal Green Day Diet with the Egg Food. Well, come to think of it, that is special, and they eat it every day of the year to maintain optimum health. When the breeding time hits, they are ready, and they do produce. In the last six weeks, I have had 10 species produce fledglings.
The natural breeding time for Australian and Asian finches is blurred, but more or less, January is the time they begin in earnest. July is also the start of another breeding cycle. Mine are now sitting and some of the first arrivals of the season are doing well. They do it all on their own, when they are ready. They also stop breeding on their own, or until they have produced enough chicks to pay for their rent and food for the year. Cleaning cages is extra.
Breaking the chain on eating live food seemed to be logical at this point. The birds hadn’t eaten any live food since being trapped. They went into quarantine, then onto the major wholesaler, then the broker and finally to me. By the time they spent their dual quarantines (outside of and inside the new environment) and got used to their diet and surroundings, it had been from 1 to 2 years since they had seen live food. They also knew the egg food and the rest of the diet was giving them everything they needed to produce families.
“But I’ve heard that you just can’t raise wild-caught finches without live food, so I’m going to feed them mealworms as a backup.” Go ahead, prolong the dependence on live food. From a digestive efficiency point of view, everything my finches eat is essential to healthy bodies and reproducing. Anything I give them that doesn’t serve the purpose of supplying the correct amounts of calcium, vitamin D3, phosphorous and high quality protein takes the place of the good stuff and compromises their diet.
I soon plan to write to every website author who proclaims that live food MUST be given to breed. I am going to call it the, “You LIE!” campaign and request they edit their writings to reflect the truth. We have been lied to, unwittingly I’m sure, about live food and a lot of other cockamamie urban legends that keep hobbyists busy treating their finches like lab animals. Where the hell did some of these ideas come from?
When I first started raising finches I was so confused by the contrary and stupid information I was reading, I simply threw up my hands and decided the only answer had to be science-based. I spent countless hours researching everything I could until I was satisfied with the answers and with what I was doing in breeding and taking care of birds. That research continues today and most likely will continue the rest of my life. What I have brought to the table here in various discussion groups is exactly the results of that research, plus my own analysis of observations I have made. If there isn’t a valid reason for something and it can’t be backed up with facts, then it becomes suspect.
Gulf Coast Finches