I have known Tony Bucci for nearly half a
century. He wrote the following article several years ago. He sent it to
me to share with all of you. I find the article very interesting to
read. I am sure many of you will get some tips from Tony's wisdom.
Enjoy! My Experience Breeding Gouldians By Tony Bucci, San Pedro,
Back in the early seventies I have
several planted outdoor aviaries where breeding Gouldians proved to be a
greater challenge than I expected.
We live close to the ocean where
afternoon breezes and morning fog don't encourage the well being of
these delicate birds. I had many losses, especially during the molt.
After several bad seasons I gave up the project.
With increased availability of mutations
and the challenge still there, in 1982 I decided to try breeding
Gouldians again, and chose to cage breed indoors. Case breeding offers
the opportunity to use more pairs in less space under a controlled
For the Canary breeder who already has
the bird room and breeding cages, it is an easy transition to make.
Canary breeding season ends when Gouldians are ready to start. After
routine cleaning of the breeding cages, they can be outfitted for
Gouldian breeding. The only major change is the nest. The cup shaped
canary nest is replaced with a nest box. The nest box is hung in front
of the breeding cage with the entrance of the nest box facing the cage.
Some modification must be made to the front of the cage to allow the
birds access to the nest box.
My breeding cages are 24 inches wide, 12
inches deep and 18 inches high. I am sure these dimensions are not
critical but that is what I have. The cage is a wooden box with wire in
the front only. Perches are placed at each end, giving the birds some
I set up several pairs of Gouldians, and
for each pair I set up two pairs of Societies. Society Finches are also
housed in individual breeding cages with a nest box as I described for
Since breeding takes place during the
fall and winter, the night temperature drops below a comfortable level.
To keep the temperature at 65-70 degrees F, I use an electric heater.
The heater is a radiator style with sealed oil and thermostat. This kind
of heater is not harmful to the birds, as opposed to the type of heater
with exposed hot wires. The hot wires burn dust particles, which creates
harmful gases. It should never be used in the bird room.
I set up for breeding Gouldians in late
August and finish in January. At the beginning of breeding season I
begin to extend the daylight with artificial light. The lights I use are
Vita-Lite, by Dura Lite Co. (Duro Test Corp. is no longer in business).
The length of the day is increased gradually during the first month of
breeding season, an increase of half an hour per week, until the length
of the day is 15 hours long, which is sufficient to stimulate them to
breed. For Societies, the length of the day does not appear to make any
difference. At about five P.M. they are all in their nest boxes, whether
the lights are on or off.
Placing a small amount of nesting
material (dry grass) in the Gouldian nest box and in the cage for them
to use will entice them to get going on nesting. Some will tear the
newspaper on the bottom of the cage and take it in the nest box.
Gouldians are notoriously bad nest builders. Some don't build a nest at
all. They simply go in the nest box and lay their eggs. For that reason
I have made wooden blacks that fit on the bottom of the nest box. The
blocks have a concave surface to keep the eggs in the center.
Once Gouldians start laying eggs, I
check the nest box every day. When the first eggs are laid, I place a
paper sticker on the nest box and write the date when the first egg was
found. Then I keep track of each egg until the Gouldians skip laying
eggs for two days. This means they have completed this clutch of eggs.
For the record, I enter the number of eggs laid after each date.
If Gouldians show an interest to sit on
the eggs, I let them, and if they successfully raise their babies I will
continue to let them raise their own. But if they fail, they are no
longer trusted and their next clutch of eggs is placed under Societies.
Societies will incubate the Gouldian's eggs, hatch them, and raise the
baby Gouldians to full maturity. I must admit Society Finches are not
infallible, but in 95% of cases they do their job of fostering
If the eggs are removed from the
Gouldians immediately after they lay their clutch of eggs, they will
rest for 10 days and start laying their next clutch. Again, I will write
the date of the first eggs laid, and then for every first egg of
subsequent clutches I will do the same. This record keeping gives me an
indication of when to look for a new clutch of eggs and when to remove
Most pairs will continue to lay the eggs
until I stop them some time in January. I had hens that lay up to 85
eggs in a season. Unfortunately, not all of the eggs are fertile. Only a
very small percentage is fertile. At times, the whole clutch will be
As I mentioned before, Societies are
housed much the same as Gouldians. The Society nest box also has the
concave block on the bottom to keep the eggs in the center. There I
place two or three fake eggs for them to sit on. If the Societies are
compatible they will soon begin to sit on the eggs. Some pairs will
spend lots of time in the nest box, but will not sit on eggs. Therefore,
to assure myself that they are really incubating the eggs, I test the
eggs by bringing the eggs to my face, one at a time, to feel how warm
If the eggs are warm, Societies are
ready to accept the eggs from the Gouldians. If eggs are not available
from Gouldians, the Societies will continue to sit on the fake eggs
until they are replaced with Gouldian eggs, and then continue to
incubate until the eggs hatch.
When I set up Societies I take two
healthy birds and put them together. The pair of Societies need not be
male and female. Two males will incubate and feed just as well.
At the time Societies are feeding
babies, in addition to the modified finch mix, I supply them with
nestling food. I do the same for Gouldians if they are feeding. I
continue offering nestling food to the babies after they fledge, and
during the molt.
The basic diet, which I provide for my
Gouldians and Societies, is a well-balanced seed mixture.
I supplement the seed mixture with a
daily ration of a good nestling food. Cuttlebone is a must all year
round, especially during the breeding season. I also give them greens
To prepare the final nestling food, boil
½ cup of finch mix for two minutes. Drain the water, and place the
boiled seeds in a bowl. Add one teaspoon of wheat germ oil or cod liver
oil, and mix thoroughly (I alternate wheat germ oil with cod liver oil
every time I make the nestling food). To this, add one cup of the
previously prepared dry mixture, one grated carrot and one grated
hard-boiled egg (I used a food processor for grating). Mix, and save in
the refrigerator. I do not keep this moist mixture longer than five
The reason for the use of cod liver oil
is because I did experience problems with rickets and soft-shelled eggs.
The sign of rickets in young Gouldians is weakness of the legs, and
difficulty in flying. Soft-shelled eggs cause egg binding. These
problems come up when breeding indoors where sunlight is very scarce.
Sunlight effects conversion of provitamin D3 to vitamin D3.
Cod liver oil is a good source of
vitamin D3, which is needed to synthesize calcium. Cod liver oil did
solve the problem of rickets and egg binding.
Wheat germ oil is a good source of
vitamin E. It has been suggested that vitamin E will improve fertility.
I must admit, lack of fertility is still my biggest problem.
Out of 75 eggs laid I managed to raise
21 young. This same pair, the previous year, laid 73 eggs, and I saved
only 15 young. The main reason for low yield is unfertile eggs.
After the young Gouldians fledge I have
found they should remain with their parents or foster parents for at
least eight weeks. After they are weaned, they are placed in a small
flight with other young Gouldians. In order to prevent pair bonding, the
males are kept in a separate flight from females.
The size of the flight is of utmost
importance. If a young Gouldian is placed in a very large flight after
being removed from his parents or foster parents, there is a good chance
it will die. The reason, I assume, is stress. Therefore, a small flight
and good high protein diet should take them through the molt. My small
flights are two by two by four feet. What I consider a large flight is
four by eight by eight feet or larger.
Yes, Gouldians get imprinted on to their
foster parents. I have seen young male Gouldians courting and displaying
to the Societies. To prevent pair bonding I keep Societies in a separate
flight. When breeding time comes, the selected pair of Gouldians are
placed in a breeding cage all by themselves. There are no others for
them to choose from and he or she gets what is available in the cage.
Perhaps if I gave them the choice to choose partners (colony breeding) I
would have better fertility. Unfortunately, it would no longer be a
selective breeding situation.
Imprinting does not appear to be a
problem, providing young Gouldians are separated from Societies at an
early age. I have fourth generation fostered Gouldians that are still
This article is not intended to tell a
success story, but to document my experience in breeding Gouldians I am
not happy with the results as compared to the results I get in breeding
Canaries. Perhaps in the near future I will be able to tell you how I
solved the problem of infertility. Can you imagine raising 75 young from
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Best regards to all,