Most of my life I have had and bred Gouldian Finches, so when I run into like-minded bird breeders the topic quite often will swing with much excitement to the new nest box that is being tested by one of the breeders with his explanation of how and why he has decided to improve on what he was already using, hoping that the changes will improve his success.
I have found over many years, if the birds are in top breeding condition they will breed in almost anything, I have heard of birds going into a hole in the wall and breeding inside the wall cavity. Though, in saying that, we should consider, it’s not just about birds breeding in something strange but how successful was their effort to successfully raise a large and healthy lot of young in an unsuitable nest.
Yes, I have tried most nest boxes; some looked great, some very different and some had potential. But in my opinion none ticked all the boxes so I have always returned to what has proven over the years to be the most successful and yet the most simple of all nest boxes that we have used.
My liking is for a nest box that will cater for large nests of young. If the nest box is not sufficiently large enough to comfortably carry five or six young as they get bigger, say at the feathering stage, then potentially you may run into trouble e.g. things like sitting in their own droppings. This of course is then a dirty nest; their feathers may become soiled and smelly. Sometimes you will notice the young are damp; this is what is called ‘sweating’ and of course leads to disease. The sweating problem has also been linked to the food that is being fed. I like to keep the droppings as dry as possible so some of the above is diet-related as well as having the problem of the nest being too small.
My nests boxes are made out of 13mm thick timber or ply – the thicker timber is very efficient when used as insulation for the nest box. As we use thicker timber in our boxes we adjust the size to keep the inside measurements of the nest always the same, the outside nest measurements being 230mm long x 145 mm wide and 155mm high with a tight fitting lid. One very important requirement for Gouldians is the location entrance hole and also the size of the hole. I place the entrance hole on the 230mm side of the box on the right hand side near the top with the size of the entrance hole being 44mm. Any bigger hole, say 5mm bigger and my birds won’t use the box. Security is a major issue with Gouldians when breeding; that is why I never use a nesting box with the hole in the end (that is in the 145mm side); too much interference from inquisitive neighbours making it unsatisfactory!
Nesting grasses are another interesting subject. Grasses are governed by their availability at the time they are needed. Gouldians are not real fussy and will use a mixture of grasses. My preference is Couch Grass because of the moisture content when first picked. Sadly couch is very hard to find in my area as the council has a spray program which ‘zaps’ any decent clumps of growth that would have been perfect for my use. One of the most used and a very popular grass amongst finch breeders today is November Grass. This is the ideal grass for foreign finches or any other finch that will painstakingly line the nest with feathers, which is a great lining cover for the coarser November Grass. I find when our birds use November Grass they build a much looser nest which is not ideal for day olds, although this year we have had a win as the Gouldians have lined the nest with chopped lucerne that we are using on the floor instead of sand.
Another trend today is to commence breeding at Christmas, being December in Australia. This is when it is VERY HOT, as December, January and February are the three hottest months of the year. I have found these months far too distressing for my birds. As well as the heat, we also have an issue at this early stage with breeding young cocks that are still immature. We have always put our boxes in place on the 1st March and finish breeding in August – making our youngest cocks still only 7mths old but old enough to breed and the oldest cocks 11mths being the better option for breeding, so when they start to breed, we feel it gives us a better chance of fertile eggs.
Because we have control of when our birds breed, we like to give them a recovery time of 7mths after last year’s breeding season. So when we introduce the nesting box in March it definitely acts as a ‘trigger’ for breeding to commence. This all helps to make us confident that the first nest of eggs are fertile!!