Prepare for the breeding season
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 first step concerns the preparation of the breeding cages. Each is carefully cleaned or even disinfected. In each cage is placed, in addition to the "commodore" type feeder (or other model) and the fountain, a dry bone (calcium is essential for the female for making eggs) and a cup containing grit, charcoal of wood.
The artificial light will be gradually increased (10 minutes every two days) to arrive at a daily volume of 14 hours of light (6:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.). Increasing the light is in my opinion the most important point in stimulating zebra finches to reproduce. Specific tubes reproducing as closely as possible the spectrum of natural light are preferred, although it is quite possible to use conventional neon lights. The temperature in the breeding room is kept at 18 degrees.
The humidity level (important for hatching the eggs) is monitored and is between 60 and 75%. If this rate drops to 50-60%, the bath will be given during brooding, from the previous three days until hatching.
Except for the zebra finches which took part in an exhibition, all have just spent a minimum of 2 months in the aviary, the males being separated from the females. For the others, a minimum rest period of 2 months is respected to allow the birds to find an ideal physical condition before breeding.
Therefore, the males are placed in a breeding battery one week (see more) before the females (who remain in aviaries). Now, all have breeding mash.
Zebra finches do not need to be bleached (treated preventively with antibiotics). The breeding mash is moistened with soaked and / or sprouted seeds (I use canary seed and yellow millet) and sometimes enriched with additional vitamins and minerals.
On some chimal (long-feathered) males, the feathers around the cloaca are removed to facilitate fertilization of the female. Some males that are too fat (clearly visible by blowing the feather under the belly) go on a pure alpiste diet.
It is therefore a week later that the females are placed with the males. You have to see it: each female is well, very well-received by the male who was selected and chosen for her ...
Some breeders prefer to place the two mates together in the breeding cage, or the females first in the breeding farm, it is a matter of choice. It is true that it happens that the isolated males in the battery are very "hot" and that the females are literally harassed from the first contact. If you have enough cages, you can also prepare each breeder individually.
In nature, the breeding season corresponds to the wet season, and it is because I think that the bath stimulates the breeding that for 20 days it has been given daily.
It is a week later that the nests are made available to the pairs (other breeders put it on the first day). I use plastic outer box nests (ideal for cleaning) which are lined with coir and hay. They are thus roughly arranged. The birds have at their disposal materials (the same) to complete the construction.
Everything is ready for the first spawning. For the few couples who have already laid in the bottom of the cage, the eggs have been recovered and then will be placed in the nests. In 12-13 days, the first young will hatch.
Since the article was written about ten years ago, I am adding details and modifications since my preparation for reproduction has evolved following the various tests carried out over the seasons. Here is what has changed at home:
I no longer give sprouted seeds and moistened dry mash. I have been following a protocol with COMED products (Brand cited without intention to advertise. The aim is only to help the breeder) for four years now, set up with my friend Stéphane Brunet. We chose this brand because we always refuse to whiten or treat our birds, so long-term effective natural products seem suitable to us.
The birds are in aviaries. The preparation begins with a “fitness” with 15 days of COMEDOL (a health oil) + WINNMIX (vitamins). Then, for a month, we administer the FERTOL oil (tablespoon per kg) which we give once every two days. This oil is associated with RONI for 15 days. The females are caged 15 days before the males. Here, FERTIBOL is used.
Finally, the birds are mated, the administration of Fertibol continues. The mash is used at the end of the preparation, for 7 years now I have only used Raggio Di Sole fatty "Lipo soft" with COMETOSE (probiotics).
Aside from probiotics, supplements are mixed with the seed mix.
I wish you all great success in your breeding !