Basic Avicultural Skills 1

Why do some people breed a lot more birds than others?
Below are some of the basic things to think about.

1. Watch your birds

Sitting and observing your birds is deemed one of the most important factors. But, you can watch your birds all day and it won’t make them breed better. Ah yes. Well what we really mean is that you have to watch and try and interpret their behaviour. To do this you have to know the birds you are keeping.

Let me try and give you a few examples.

You have got some new birds and have released them into the aviary. You let them settle in for a couple of hours then go back and watch them for a bit.
They are sitting there fluffed up and looking unhappy. But do you know what an unhappy bird looks like?

You start to wonder if they are just suffering from the stress of travel, but hang on, could it be they haven’t found food or water yet? There could be four different feeding stations and one would have thought they would see the other birds feeding and drinking and follow suit. But it ain’t necessarily so! Some birds and some species like Tricolor Parrot Finches are just a little retarded and seem to have difficulty finding anything new so we suggest putting ½ doz water dishes strategically around the aviary and scatter seed on the floor and a few seed dishes too. There- that should do the job.

We go back a bit later expecting an improvement but no, still all fluffed up and unhappy. In fact looking distinctly seedy and sitting low down in a thick bush.That’s funny, all I have read say they are ‘up’ birds not ‘down’ birds so why are they not sitting on a high perch?
This time we sit a lot longer. The male flies down to the ground and starts picking seed. Now that’s better. But within seconds the aviary’s dominant male come down to attack the newcomer. Ah! Now we have the REAL problem, they are now at the bottom of the pecking order and are being harassed.

Now if we had watched properly and interpreted correctly we would have found that out sooner.

So just a small example of watching and interpreting correctly. It is all about watching your birds and learning what their NORMAL behaviour is, then when they do not behave normally interpreting why not.

This takes time and with time comes experience.

2. Correct habitat

Birds naturally breed. If they do not it is unnatural. So if your birds are not breeding the question is why?

Now you can categorise birds into 4 very rough groups. Up birds and down birds, ie birds which naturally inhabit the top of the aviary or those which spend most of their time down low. Then there are boisterous confident birds and shy quiet birds. Of course you can split them down further but we might go on forever!

So if you have up birds assume they will want up nesting sites. So what perching, cover and nesting sites have you provided for them?

Now what about down birds. They need looking after quite separately too.

Then we have to consider the needs of the quite retiring birds and erect quiet protective habitats they can live in away from the attentions of the boisterous birds. And the boisterous birds? Give them plenty of things to keep them occupied!

3. Food

I could write a whole chapter on this subject! But this article is about how to think. Basically, other than that being conducted by the STGF and NFB programme there has been no research on finch nutrition. In fact with the exception of poultry there has been very little work done on bird nutrition at all. This lack of information has created its own confusion and has led to a profusion of magic recipes some of which are downright dangerous and many based on ignorance.

The secret many top breeders have is that they overcome the lack of knowledge by providing a wide range of foods.

In most cases, birds will instinctively eat what their body needs, so the secret is to provide a wide range of food items. Other than medications, add nothing to the water as this does not give your birds choice and they may poison themselves by absorbing too much of an additive.

Where possible or practical, supply most foods as a separate item rather than a mix. This allows the birds to eat what they need.

A final tip, green milk seed and sprouted seed are substantially more nutritious than dry seed.
Dry seed which is more than 12 months old has lost much of its nutritional value through the process of oxidisation.

4. Compatible species

Pretty obvious really but often overlooked, keep only compatible species together and look out for that rogue male who chases everyone around. Be aware of the effect of the dominance factor. Even in a mixed species aviary a ‘pecking order’ will develop.
See STGF website

5. Overcrowding

Again obvious and again often overlooked, particularly if you are breeding and the youngsters start to build up. Then of course there is always the temptation of the ‘just one more species’ that catches your eye!

The birds in an overstocked aviary look unhappy and can become a bit ragged in appearance. Losses will also mount as stress lowers the immune system.

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