Care and Breeding of the Gouldian Finch

By Scott Ramos of the Exotic livestock staff.

Let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Scott Ramos and I am a part time employee at Exotic SuperPet. At the young age of eight, my father introduced me to the fascinating hobby of birds. We started off with a few pairs of zebra finches, and have grown to now having an extended collection of many species, including our specialty, Gouldian finches. The knowledge I have gathered is from both educating myself with books, articles, and of course hands on experience, I consider myself to be a near expert on the care and breeding of these beautiful birds. I am writing this educational article to assist both the advanced and beginner hobbyist in the challenging aspect of keeping and breeding Gouldian finches. I hope my personal experience can help others to understand the species and their care.

Introduction

Gouldian finches were once only viewable by native Australians but are now are frequently available here at Exotic SuperPet. These small birds intrigue many by their bouncy and alert personalities, but captivate all by their colorful plumage. Gouldians are thought by many to be the most beautiful of all bird species in the world. Australian natives often refer to these birds as “the king of all finches”. With a few basic tips on their care, feeding, and housing, breeding these little wonder will become a very achievable goal. Before we jump into the general care of Gouldian finches, let’s briefly discuss their history.

Species History

As I have already mentioned, Gouldian finches are endemic to only Australia. Which means they are only found there and only there. The first “Goulds” introduced into captivity were in England during 1887,  these were birds that were given to Lady Gould from Lord Gould after he was amazed by these birds during a trip to Australia, and that is how the Gouldian finch got its name, shortly after, they spread to Germany where they were housed in a public display.  From then on the Gouldian finch took its rightful spot in aviculture and their popularity spread throughout the entire world. Today these finches are found in homes all across the globe.

Nature of the bird

Gouldians are loved for there nature and personality. Being flocking birds, it's best to house at least a pair of Gouldians together. They can be very alert and attentive to what's going on around them. The males soft, yet beautifully sung song not only attracts many hobbyists, but hopefully an awaiting female. They often can recognize their owners, and with enough patience and persistence they will sometimes jump onto your hand to devour a yummy treat. I have read many books and articles describing the personality and nature of these birds, but did not truly understand, and appreciate it until I owned a pair myself.

Are Gouldians the Right Bird for Me?

This is a question that must be taken seriously. You have to realize these birds require daily maintenance. Although this may only include replacing their dish with fresh water, if forgotten it can be a deadly mistake. Another consideration is if your home can suitablely house a pair of these magnificent birds. These birds can tolerate temperatures slightly lower then 65 degrees for short periods of time, but I recommend you try to keep it at least 65 for their well being. During the summer months, given that they are provided with fresh water at all times, they have been known know to be fine in temperatures as high as 95 degrees. These birds are very susceptible to drafts, as are most birds, so a cage near a window or frequently used door would definately be unacceptable. There is no need for artificial lighting, as long as the location the cage is gets sunlight for the majority of the day. If you don't feel you have sufficient light, fluorescent bird lights are available here at Exotic SuperPet.  As long as you follow a few simple rules, keeping these birds can be done quiet easily.

Housing

Housing these birds can be done in one of two ways, either a cage or an aviary. Caging for the beginner hobbyist is by far more practical, although aviaries are a good thing to aspire to. The minimum cage size I recommend for a pair of these birds is 24” long, 12” deep, and 16” high. I always recommend buying the biggest cage that your budget allows.

There are many aspects that go into a cage and its containments. Make sure the spacing between the bars is no larger then 3/8 to half inch. This insures that the birds can not escape, get their head stuck between the bars, or even break a wing. . Another consideration is the amount of feed cups you need. Obviously you need one each for food and water. Also a feed cup for egg food (which will be mentioned in a later section), and an extra feed cup for the occasional treat. That already is four feed cups, the average cage only comes with two.

Often times the cage you are purchasing will already come with a few perches to place in desirable spots. If an additional cement type perch is purchased, it will save you the hassle of having to get the birds nails clip every few months. There are many different style perches from plastic, wood, and even actual pieces of branchy natural perches. Place the perches in the cage so the birds have sufficient places to perch, while still having enough room to fly about the cage.

We offer a bunch of different kinds of bedding for the bottom of your new cage. The one we recommend, and use for our birds is Corn Cob Bedding. It does not fly all over the place and is safe for the birds. All you need is about a half inch layer of the bedding and change it once a week or as needed.

Plastic finch baths are strongly recommended, and greatly appreciated by your birds. During the cooler months, I place about a half inch of water into a “hang on” bath, and place in onto one of the doors to the cage. Sometimes a clothespin is needed to keep the door open so the birds can enter the bath. During the hotter summer months, it is very important to provide fresh bathing water at ALL times. This goes along with fresh drinking water as well.

Feeding

Gouldians, like most finches, have an extremely high metabolism. They are almost consistently feeding. If they go more than a few hours without food, it can lead to death. This being said, making sure that fresh food is available at all times is a must. The finches must consistently eat to keep up with their active and energetic personalities.

The basic component to any finches diet is a basic seed finch mix. Personally I have found that an even 50/50 mixture of egg-cite finch, and canary mix provides the birds with the correct balance of nutrition. The Gouldians will husk the seeds of their shell, eat the seed, and by doing so the empty shell is left behind. These empty shells are light so can easily be removed by lightly shaking the seed dish, and gently blowing the shells off into the trash. This will save you money by not wasting the shelled, uneaten seed below. Be sure seed hulls are not mistaken for food.

Your new birds may be able to survive on just a seed diet, but by no means will flourish. Extra protein should be provided, and can be done so in a few different ways. As you remember earlier, I mentioned how you would need an extra dish so that egg food could be provided. Egg food is simply a mixture of dried eggs in a crumbly bread like substance. This provides your birds with the necessary protein they need. Another home made protein packed treat for your birds is a hard-boiled egg. After the hard-boiled egg cools, cut it directly in half the long way, and give half to the birds, shell and all! The birds will also consume the shell, which provides beneficial calcium for bone health and egg production. Treats such as leafy greens, millet spray, and mealworms would also be greatly appreciated from your birds.

Breeding

Let me first state of by saying that I do NOT recommend attempting to breed Gouldians if you have not mastered their basic housing and feeding requirements. Breeding finches is a huge responsibility and the consideration to breed these birds should not be taken lightly.

In order for breeding success, make sure the potential parents are both in good health. This can include having clear eyes, full plumage, and of course the birds should not be emaciated. You also need to pre-condition your birds to insure your breeding success. You must have egg-food available at all times at least a month or two before they begin to breed. It's vital that you provide such things as hard-boiled eggs, mealworms, and leafy greens on at least a weekly basis. This entire process will start the breeding cycle of these beautiful birds

First you must purchase a wicker nest ( preferable a larger size)or nesting box for your birds to build a nest in. It must be hung in the highest area possible within the cage. Nesting material is also a requirement. Before hanging the nest, gently stuff a handful of material into it, to sort of jump start the process of nesting building for your birds. Any left over material can be placed at the bottom of the cage and your birds will happily begin to construct their nest to their liking.

The birds are conditioned, and the nest is built. Now you have to continue to provide them with the necessary care, then sit back and let nature take its course. Your pair will lay on average between 4-5 eggs, laying one egg a day. The male and female will alternate sitting on the eggs. 15-16 days later the babies will hatch and you have successfully breed Gouldians! Yet the task if far from done. In the early stages of the babies life it is again stressed to provide Mom and Dad with the necessary nutrients. Do not disturb the pair by trying to take down the nest to peek at the babies, it would not be uncommon for the parents to totally abandon their babies if done so.

About 3-4 weeks after the babies first broke out of their shell, they will be ready to leave the nest, but not the parents. Once the babies come out of the nest there is real no need for them to ever return. It is still necessary for them to stay with the parents for an additional 2-3 weeks since they have not learned to eat by themselves yet. When the babies first emerge from the nest, they will be a dusky green color. The babies will not show their colorful, vibrant plumage until after their first molt, which can take as long as 6 to 9 months.

There you have it. You now know the basic requirements and some important tips on how to successfully breed, and raise Gouldian Finches. You are almost certain to run into a problem along the way, but this should not discourage you from trying again until you have reached success. When you run into a problem the knowledable staff here at Exotic SuperPet will be more then willing to assist you.

Conclusion

It would be impossible to squeeze all the facts and information in an article of this size, so you are bound to have built up a few questions. Like I mentioned before, if you run into any problem or have a question, or even just want to share your stories of success, you know where to find me. I thank you for taking the time to read this article and hope it has intrigued an interest in the fascinating hobby of keeping and breeding Gouldian Finches.

Note from Bill Parlee, Exotic SuperPet partner, and President Emeritus of the National Finch and Softbill Society: We are proud to have Scott as an Exotic employee.  He is knowledgeable in many fish types as well as his bird hobby.  We suggest you take advantage of his expertise.  Scott works evenings and some weekend days.

Learn more about finches - Join the National Finch and Softbill Society