Gouldian Finch chicks
Above are photos of two chicks that one of my Gouldian Finch pairs produced. Gouldians are trickier to breed than Zebra or Society Finches, so I am going to outline how I set up my Gouldian pairs for breeding. My second pair that hasn’t produced chicks yet is preparing and spending time in their nest box so I have high hopes for them.
I initially kept my Gouldians in an aviary with several Society Finches and a pair each of Spice and Zebra Finches. This worked just fine initially, but I separated the Gouldians into separate cages when I decided to try to breed them because Society Finches will often meddle with other birds’ nests. Additionally, with each Gouldian Pair in a separate cage, I could know which birds produced which babies.
The Gouldian pairs are in cages like this:
Gouldian Finches need more protein when breeding than when they aren’t, so to get the birds into breeding condition, I increased the amount of high-protein foods in their diets. They didn’t seem to like the commercial egg food I bought, so I began feeding them whole cooked egg (ground in a food processor) and Orlux insect patee food. I also offered ground greens (usually broccoli flowers), sprouted seeds, dry seeds, and a cuttlebone. Twice a week I also give them a small dollop of peanut butter with some Hagen “Prime” vitamins sprinkled on it.
When sprouting seeds, I generally prepare them in batches that conain sufficient amounts for all my birds for two days. Sprouts tend to grow mold quickly, so keeping fresh batches prevents anything from going to waste. Any eggs I feed are prepared fresh that day and are taken out of the cage a few hours after they are put in. Water dishes for the breeding finches are changed twice daily.
I placed the nest boxes up in the back corners of the cages. Since Gouldians seem to like to perch on top of their nest boxes, I left enough room between the top of the nest boxes and the cage roof for them to do that.
I gave them wooden parakeet nest boxes that can be opened from the top, which makes nest checks easy to conduct. For nesting material, I offered timothy hay, a little disk of nesting string (from a pet store) and non-scented Eco Bedding. Both of my Gouldian Finch cocks added a large amount of bedding of all types offered to the insides of their nest boxes. I had to stop offering nesting material to the pair that bred when nesting material was starting to flow out of the nesting box entrance.
The incubation period for Gouldian Finches is about two weeks. Incubation may begin after the third egg is laid, or after all eggs are laid. Clutches can contain up to seven eggs, although mine laid three (and one was infertile). Both parents will spend time in the nest box and once the eggs hatch, both parents feed the chicks. However, the chick will rely on yolk for the first two days or so. Once the parents start feeding the babies, it is often possible to see the food in the chicks’ crops (expandible food storage sacks on the sides of their necks). These are clearly visible in the top picture in this post. The white specks in the chicks’ crops are seeds they have been fed. It is perfectly normal for the crops to look very distended.
Gouldian Finch chicks have bright nodules on the corners of their beaks (visible in the second picture from the top). These help guide the parents in feeding the chicks in a very dark nest box.
Gouldian Finch chicks fledge (leave the nest) about 24-26 days after hatching. They will still be fed by the parents for about two weeks.
Newly fledged young are no where near as colourful as the adults and will be pale green, grey and cream. After about 6-8 weeks, they will start to moult into their adult plumage. The whole molting process can take a few months. During this time, the young need to be fed a very nutritious diet, composed of egg food, dry seed, greens and sprouted seed. When the young Gouldians start molting into their colourful adult plumage, they have to replace every feather on their bodies and that an is energetically expensive process. Bird feathers are also made primarily of protein, so molting birds need a lot of it in their diets. Once the moult is over, the ration of egg food offered can be cut back so the birds don’t get fat.