This section is devoted to some of the observations, husbandry tips and other things that have been published from time-to-time, as smaller posts to groups or part of discussions I have taken part in.
I learned something from my doctor. After being paraded to my examination room, the nurse closes the door. When the doctor arrives, she always knocks on the door first, pauses, then she enters. A common courtesy. And so it is with my closed flight rooms. Whenever I begin a procedure, such as feeding, changing out waters, refreshing seed cups or maintenance—any time I have not intruded for awhile—I knock on the door, pause until I hear a bit of fluttering occur, then enter. It gives the ones perched near the door a chance to move away, those protective of nests a chance to fly to a decoy point, and those who want privacy in the closet, to go their way. A common courtesy.
There are overhead fluorescent lights in my bird rooms, but there are also ones hanging vertically next to stacks of cages, and several facing upward on the floor or on benches. While I do not consider these lights enough to provide vitamin D3 and supplement for it, they do play an important part besides providing light. The ones that face upward are especially important when some of the fledglings, or even adults feeling a little off, want some extra heat. Some lights have rows of little ones perched on them in the morning, and there are also groups of fledglings huddled around the vertical lights that are close enough to a perching area. It’s true that the lights facing upward do get dirty and filled with nesting material and poop, but worth the extra effort to clean them out when necessary. I’m sure they have saved a few borderline chicks.
How do you keep harmony in a flight or aviary when there may be 15 or more species mixed together? The best way I have found to keep hierarchal behavior from starting is to have multiple feeding stations. The number depends on how many finches are in the flight and where they are placed depends on where certain species tend to congregate for socializing. You have to observe the troop movements and sometimes, the feeding stations might even have to change locations. When two or three clutches fledge at the same time in one area, it’s time to set up enough dishes near them to accommodate them all. It also keeps the airways from becoming too busy and the parents worn out if there isn’t any food in that locale.
As my hybrid flight/cage rooms have several cages with doors wired open, to allow birds to pick and choose nesting areas or just get away from it all for safety, they are all treated as active cages and get a fresh dish of food, fresh water and seed every day. Even if they are only visited briefly, most are used every day, judging from eaten food and soiled water. But some have become very active. Since all of the free ranger birds were kept in cages before being released, I find it encouraging that many want to return to cages to breed or sit a spell. Wild caught birds find a comfort level in cages and their juveniles are born there; and for the visitors, juveniles follow their parents in at times, either to be fed, or to perch close to them. It is already a step toward domestication, and if the birds will be sold or need to travel, they are not as frightened to be caged.
If you have a flight room or aviary, I have suggested to a few people to wire open or remove cage doors and make the empty cages feeding stations to encourage their birds to get used to cages. It could be the stress buster that makes a difference when they are moved or shipped off. You might also find a couple that want to build nests inside the open cages. Why not? They eventually may be sold to people who only use cages. They will settle down faster for your happy customers.
These little hints today all come under the umbrella of “attention to detail.” During the husbandry tasks of feeding, watering and taking care of our birds, we have a great opportunity to zero in on their needs, see what they are doing, how they are doing, and look for ways we can make their living experience better. Our success with our finches is directly related to what we put into, and how diligent we are in, serving their needs.
Birds At Work
It’s been a busy week at Finch Mansion. The guys and gals didn’t seem to mind my own ambition as I cleaned and overhauled a section of one room. They kept on working, too.
The 4 Yellow Star fledglings have started eating on their own, a good thing since mom and dad have gone back to the nest. I think they are trying to make up for last year when they just couldn’t get it right. Patience has really paid off waiting for them. Since they were bloodlines I bought in, I wasn’t sure of their age when I paired them and they most likely needed to mature a little more. Moving them from next to another pair of YSs may have reduced distractions, too. The other pair is also sitting.
The Blue Capped Cordon Bleus that occupied the other half of their divided breeder cage now have a home of their own that is a tad more secluded, has a nest and fake floral cover. Let’s hope their adaptive training with the Yellow Stars pays off. They shared one half of a breeder cage, watching as the Stars went from dance, to sitting, to hatching, to feeding and fledging. I replaced them with a pair of Painteds, hoping they will also get the picture of breeding.
People report that finches respond to various cues--from light and weather for example. I think the sound of begging brings back early memories of life in the nest and helps trigger breeding. If that’s the case, then the reason I breed Zebras is justified, as their babies are loud beggars and let everyone in the room know it's good breeding here.
The surprise today was to walk in one room and see a fledgling St. Helena sitting on a front nest. I saw bonding in a couple of pairs in this colony of 10 a few weeks ago, so installed regular bamboo finch nests in the cage and left them alone. Sweet.
I placed a new pair of Diamond Firetails in a top cage, tried out one of those large hemp nests and before you knew it, the hen made it her home. The last few days she has been seen sitting at the entrance to the nest, so I am hoping there are hatchlings in there. They have been a bit edgy, so I have not peeked. Since mom gave me an evil stare one morning when our eyes met as I looked at her nest while putting food in the cage, I don’t even dare look at the nest anymore when feeding.
It’s a good reminder to keep traffic to a minimum in bird rooms. You don’t know what will set the “predator” trigger off.
Birds At Work (Internally)
I was posting on another group recently about being “Fed Up With Mealworms” and how I don’t use them. That’s another story in itself. I will say that if too much of the exoskeleton (chitin) is ingested it can overwhelm the system and there is also a possibility of pathogens accompanying the little critters, such as e. coli. Included in the post was some information that is good to know…
“Quickly, let me describe a slice of the physiological aspects of a diet, which I refer to as Digestive Efficiency. Finches have an extremely high metabolism rate and it stands to reason that we want to give them food that is not only nutritionally complete, but is also processed rapidly. Freshly boiled egg food with the oils that are essential to supporting its efficacy in the system--along with fresh nutritious vegetables--are the most rapidly processed foods that contain proteins, vitamins, minerals and fats. These are the ones that spend the least time in the GI tract.
“Seeds, insects, prepared egg food mixes and all other dried, pelletized, processed foods that are sold commercially, because of their dense or dry nature, spend on average, 70% more time in the GI tract than the aforementioned veggie/egg diet. In the case of dried foods, the finches must increase their intake of water to soften them and move them out of the crop. Seeds spend 75% of their time in the crop.”
I find this evermore important when we are in breeding season and we have a lot of fledglings eating on their own for the first time. When I saw that Yellow Star fledgling timidly pecking away at some egg food, it reinforced the fact they are not used to eating on their own and have only seen their parents do it.
This is not brilliant, but common sense. The smaller the bits of food and the easier to digest (faster beak to butt time), the easier the fledglings will make the transition to eating on their own. The sooner they can do this, the sooner they are independent of their parents, and in the case of my Yellow Stars, relieve the parents of having to feed them while they are already working on their next clutch.
When I call them broccoli crumbles, I mean it. They are almost powder by the time I get through preparing them. The pieces of “slaw” mix have been chopped down to beak size, and I mean what fits into the beak. The greens are almost puree… I’m not spoiling them. I’m only growing them bigger, better, faster.