Management and breeding methods
Articles on behavior, breeding conditions, the constitution of a strain, its improvement, the creation of lines. Breeding directions.
As you embark on a breeding season, here I give you some tips for preparing your zebra finches for the next few months.
Our birds are certainly easy to breed, but perhaps these are details that will encourage reluctant couples to breed or produce more fertilized eggs. This article does not pretend to give the method to prepare your zebra finches for a breeding season but simply to inform about a possible organization for an optimal breeding season. This is the one I put in place.
The selection of breeders was made at the end of the summer. The choice of couplings is of course essential, and always chosen according to the qualities to be improved and defects to be corrected in relation to the zebra finch sought, while trying to respect as much as possible the "rule" of chimmel couplings on intensive and vice versa. It will take the necessary time to form breeding pairs; many criteria must be taken into account depending on its objectives (show birds, working birds, carrier birds, etc.). It has happened that very good animals have not been mated because they have not found the perfect match. Better to be patient than to mate to “number”. Quality will always take precedence over quantity.
The young zebrafinch are now about three weeks old; seeking to escape the lack of space, the oppressive heat of the brood or simply wanting to discover the world, they will begin to emerge from the nest.
This outing is not definitive, as they still return for 2 to 3 days, but less and less often. Sometimes, when the young begin to grow up, one of them starts to fly out of the nest a few days before the expected release date, you can leave it out of the nest if conditions allow, the parents will continue to take care of it. If you need to put it back in the nest, place it gently preferably in the evening and keep your hand in front of the fly-off hole, until all the young have regained their calm.
One morning when all the young are out, the nest will be removed and cleaned before a new laying or in preparation for the next breeding season. The nest will be restored when the young are weaned and thus separated from their parents.
It is common for parents to start a new laying before the end of weaning the young. There are no rules on the matter: Sometimes the parents start hatching while taking care of the young that come out of the nest, sometimes they will pluck the young and stop taking care of them. It is up to the breeder to be attentive in his observations. At home, I prefer to remove the eggs laid on the ground to give them to another couple or to give them back to the couple after weaning when the timing allows.
The weaning period corresponds to the period when the young bird will learn to feed itself and thus acquire its autonomy. It is therefore a delicate period when it will be important to observe the birds so as not to make the mistake of separating a young person from his parents too early. Usually a young zebrafinch will be weaned around 35 days of life. Again, the observation is strict; and no need to take risks, it is a matter of a few days.
The young chicks were fed by their parents who regurgitated the seeds and/or mash that is distributed daily at this time. Now they must learn to peel the seeds and eat them alone. The sooner the chicks are self-sufficient, the sooner they will be weaned.
The parents themselves reduce the regurgitation of the pate.
But if young people feel the need they will go looking for it alone, it is easy to access food that will serve as a transition. In addition, some breeders provide young birds with sprouted seeds: These «soft» seeds are easy to peel and ingest. For my part, as soon as I leave the nest, the birds have at their disposal some millet in clusters (red and yellow that I alternate every day).
I chose to describe this day of October 15, 2020 because it is not like the others.
Indeed, it marks the beginning of breeding with the first births of gray zebrafinch in the 2020-2021 breeding season !
Eight pairs of grays mating since September 26 of this year.
Today, 3 couples have had births, 2 couples convent their fertilized eggs and 3 others have to re-lay after a "white" laying. The majority of this year’s breeders are primiparous, I do not hold them against this false start which can turn into an excellent season. As long as I observe well the behaviour of these young future parents (the younger ones are about 11 months old).
If you use this type of nest this trick can be useful.
Last year, a male regularly messed up or removed nest materials. Certainly with the aim of starting another brood.
The bottom of these nests being flat, the eggs were found scattered and therefore a risk of not being incubated was very possible.
So I looked for a solution to avoid this inconvenience. By trying out several types of concave shaped nest bottom, among others those in rope and coconut fiber, by incorporating them into the plastic nest. This male continued despite everything to want to remove these funds !
Then, I tried a white felt concave background that I taped to the nest.
In countries with mild climatic conditions and ideal for our birds, this allows them to be reared outdoors or with sufficient light in a room thanks to the sun.
It is different in other countries and depending on the period or the breeder decides to mate his birds. Sometimes to make this period coincide with the holidays or others.
In this article, I describe solutions that I know to overcome the lack of light and give the right conditions to our birds according to the different periods of their life in our breeding rooms.
1. What lighting brings
Suitable artificial lighting can ensure the activation of vitamin D3 essential for the growth of young zebrafinch.
Vitamin D3 deficiency can result in a misshapen or limp beak or paw. Conversely, do not overdo the administration of vitamin supplements which will produce even more harmful effects.
2. What we are looking for when managing the light
This makes it possible to be able to breed in the unfavorable seasons to recreate the ideal conditions. Simulate in some ways at best which will stimulate the birds to reproduction or to rest.
In winter, prolonging the light can also give birds more time to feed in order to withstand low temperatures (I am thinking of the case of outdoor breeding).
Conversely, reducing the length of the day can help calm a bird. For example, an overly excited male who destroys the nest to start a new lay. Giving it a break in a dark place can temper it before another attempt.
The changes in brightness duration between 2 periods must be gradual. Too abrupt a change can cause false moult or unusual behavior. A change of 5 minutes per day is suitable. You will notice as changes in behavior, excitations during the increase of this duration.
3. Solutions to manage light
a) Cycle with 2 programmers and 1 night light
The most economical will be to use 2 programmers (mechanical or electronic) and a night light.
1. Benefits of ringing your zebrafinch
This will allow you to know their year of birth and to identify them, which will be essential for establishing a genealogy and monitoring your breeding. Each ring will be the identity card of each of your zebrafinch.
In addition, if you wish to have one of your zebra finches compete, only those who are ringed can participate. The ringed zebra finches of the current and previous year are eligible to participate in a gathering.
Then, a breeder will always prefer to buy a ringed zebrafinch on which he can be sure of the year of birth of this one and be informed of its origin.
2. How and when to ring the chicks
Video that illustrates how to handle the baby bird to ring it :
1. Define your objectives
First, in my opinion, it is necessary to target and define its objectives: Choice of mutation (s) to be selected, studies of the characteristics of the chosen mutation (s), knowledge of the type of genetic transmission, creating a network of breeder likely to work on similar objectives to have starting subjects. The breeders will need to have confidence in your project and your insight. They will also be concerned about the fate of their surrendered birds.
Essential conditions to then start the construction of a strain and start a selection in order to tend towards your defined objectives like any project.
Finally, define your idea of the bird you want to get. Without forgetting the characteristics of the mutation or combination in which you are projecting yourself.
2. Tips for getting started
Choose the starting zebrafinch with the fewest possible flaws. Be especially careful not to start with birds of uncertain genotype.
Example: If you have a project to build a strain of gray, check if they would not carry a mutation with recessive inheritance (like black chest, black cheeks).
Ask the breeder giving you your first specimens, ask to see the parents to be better fixed. Observe the different qualities and areas for improvement of each one, keeping in mind the zebra finch you want to achieve.
Observe the harmony and the whole of the birds of the breeder, a homogeneity will make you appear a good work of the breeder.
3. What is a strain
You have to imagine the stump of a tree, its trunk and its branches, made up of ancestors, descendants, sisters, brothers, etc. Different methods exist depending on the type of genetic inheritance of the mutation or high combination to advance a strain.
The problem of eggs that do not hatch, despite being fertilized, encountered by breeders gave me the idea of this topic.
The importance of the humidity level during egg development and hatching in our rearing rooms pushes us to find solutions to regulate it, especially during dry periods.
I use an ultrasonic humidifier, adjustable and ideal:
I also use, either in parallel with the humidifier or when there is only a need for a small adjustment of the humidity level, a much less expensive solution: Ceramic saturators (around 5 euros per unit in DIY stores) :
I hang them on the oil bath radiator (which dries the air less than electric radiators of the radiant type or commonly called "Toaster").
The principle of evaporation caused by heat from the radiator works well, however it takes about a day to see the effects.