South East Queensland Zebra 
Finch Society Inc.

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guttata ZEBRA FINCH STUD by Tim Hartung 2016

Posted on July 31, 2016 at 6:40 PM

After years of planning the perfect setup, if that is ever possible, and 18 months of construction I can reveal that the “guttata Zebra Finch Stud” Birdroom has now evolved. Now this is stage one of a three stage project, no time limit, but I believe I now have the near perfect setup for ME to develop a Zebra Finch stud. Now the real work begins in bringing all those plans and ideas together as I develop my line of birds.

My new birdroom is small by some standards but for me with our young family and work commitments it suits me just fine. I have allowed room to expand as time allows in years to come. I wanted something that was serviceable from a central place; breeding cabinets, flight cages, all those usual necessities including power, found in a birdroom. Running water will come in stage 2. Important to me was the satisfaction of building from the ground up, that sense of achievement, and fitting into our country theme; this also helped to control costs. Organised and easy to clean was another important factor as some say I suffer from OCD 

The end result is a timber framed birdroom 3m x 3m x 2.2m with insulated walls and roof, 18 plastic breeding cabinets (47cm x 35 cm x 38 cm), 9 holding cabinets and 2 flights 1.5m x 0.75 x 1.3m, lighting, a/c (if required) and a fridge for all those extras. The interior is fully lined with corflute sheets aiding in insulation and along with the plastic breeding cages making the whole setup easy to clean. LED strip lights are set up on timers to come on at 5am and off at 6pm each day allowing me time to feed the birds each morning.

My goal is to develop a strong cabinet bred line of birds, quiet in nature that will require minimal show training. Now to achieve this will take time and effort as the original birds are mainly aviary bred stock. However, I have been pleasantly surprised how quickly some pairs have settled and bred yet others will require more patience but persist we must. For breeding the 18 breeding cabinets are divided into 9 separate breeding cages; not a lot of pairs but quality over quantity is the goal. With this new setup I will be able to breed year round, even in our cool frosty winter months on the Darling Downs. Selective breeding and culling heavily has always been my motto.

Currently I am concentrating on developing a line of Greys, Fawns and along with Black Fronts these are the main focus. In addition, I have the odd pair/s Dilutes, Isabel’s, Carabel’s and Pieds. With a variety of mutations this gives me the option to move eggs/young should the need arise while allowing me to keep track of parentage. Also helps to keep me acquainted with different mutations for judging purposes.

Each breeding cage is setup with exterior mounted feed and water dishes. Small ash trays are used for extras and canary finger drawers are used for the soft food. For nesting receptacles, I researched a lot of setups and came across plastic nest boxes. I tracked down a local supplier and these have served well to date. Being able to be hung on the outside of the cage allows for quick inspection and easy of cleaning. We don’t get the hot humid days during summer found on the coast and with pre punched ventilation slots I have not had any issues with ‘wet’ nests. Some pairs have been reluctant to accept these and the usual cane nests or canary nests have been used to get them familarised with their new housing. Future generations should readily accept the new nest boxes. November grass is added to the nest, cup formed in the base and grass left covering the entrance. This way I can quickly identify those pairs that have started working the nests. Extra grass is placed in the cage and feathers added once the nest construction is underway. Hopefully eggs appear soon after.

Nests are checked daily, a couple taps on the box before opening warns the birds I’m about to lift the lid, most birds get used to this routine and some hens won’t even move. Young are closed rung at 10 days of age. Each pair is normally allowed 2 rounds of young before either giving the cock another hen or replacing the pair.

Once the young fledge a second nest box is hung allowing the parents to start the next round. Once the young are seen feeding themselves, approx. 3 weeks, they are transferred to the 3 bay holding cages on the opposite wall of the birdroom to mature. Once fully coloured they are then transferred to the separate cock and hen flight cages. During this stage potential show birds are run into show cages to familarised themselves for showing.

I believe in the KISS principle and feed a simple diet without over complicating the matter. These days there is a myriad of feeds especially developed for caged birds and there is no need for use to try and find the perfect combination; the work has been done for us. I feed Golden Cob Finch Mix as the basic seed mix. I have found the mix clean and never any wastage so don’t even bother trying to mix my own. It may cost a little more but I find it worth the extra expense. Water is stored in 1lt glass coke bottles (remember no running water yet) and added to this is Vetafarm Aviclens. My grit mix consists of 2 parts fine shell grit, 1 part Avi-Natural (diatoms), 1 part PVM Powder and cuttlefish is pegged inside the cage. This is the basic diet available each day year round. In addition, Vetafarm Superior Egg & Biscuit, greens (Buk Choy, Lebanese Cucumber or English Spinach leaves), Greens and Grains/QFS Tonic Mix and spouted/frozen seed mix is fed to all birds on a rotation each day year round. During the cool months’ finch mix coated with Vetafarm Breeding Aid and is fed once a week. All these extras are fed in small ash trays on the cage floor. The day prior to young hatching the egg food and soaked/frozen seed mix is supplied and maintained daily along with a dish of Greens & Grains/QFS Tonic Mix until young are removed from the parents. I find this mix is the first the young will pick at before weaning onto the normal finch mix. This is maintained while the birds mature in the holding cages until moved into the cock & hen holding flights. The development of the young is important and maintaining this diet gives the birds every opportunity to grow and develop to their maximum potential.

At this point any birds that don’t make the cut are put into the cull aviary while those retained are left to mature in the cock & hen flights. About every 6 months I will go through the cull aviary in case some have matured better than expected. These are compared with their siblings before making the final cut. In the past when developing a certain line of birds, I have only kept the best cock & hen from each pair for future breeding and only then if they make the mark. I found this was a quick way to improve the particular line while bringing in those certain features the birds were lacking.

Stage 2 will see an extension of the existing birdroom to double in size and Stage 3 will see the addition of small flight aviaries for breeding some rarer varieties. Now it may be that stage 3 will come before stage 2 only time will tell but I am more than happy with the current setup. Now to produce the results I’m after; the easy part (building) has been done.

I hope this article will help new and existing breeders understand how I go about my breeding and give you some ideas for your own set-ups.






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