October 2010 Breeder's Notes
It’s getting close to the end of the month and time for a small report. With the variety of species, ages and a few other factors, it seems there is no one or two breeding cycles any more, but only peaks. Anyone who has bred Zebras and Societies know they can breed at any time. The Pytilias seem to breed, rest awhile, then go back to breed, in a more or less continuous cycle. A friend who also breeds them finds it true at his place, too. It reaffirms the fact that if we are breeding several species of finches, we need them healthy all of the time, as we don’t always know when the breeding bug will hit.
A discussion of drip waterers was on one of the finch groups earlier this month. After a few had extolled the virtues of them, I asked how many also provided daily bathing water. The answers were correct, but I don’t know if the answers match what really happens in their bird rooms. I have not installed drip systems because they are ripe for bacteria, can stop up and give us a false assurance our birds are drinking. On a busy day, I just bet the first thing to get dropped from the daily routine is to provide clean bathing water.
Bathing water is not a luxury, even though the birds love it. It reduces dander, keeps parasites at bay, provides healthy skin, and clean feathers offer better insulation. That’s why a bird will take a bath in the freezing cold. Parents sitting on eggs will also use the bath to give their bodies moisture to transfer to their eggs to keep them from drying out from their own body heat.
Cleaning Perches and Nests
I have had some health issues lately that have affected my mobility. It has resulted in my not being able to do everything I want to do, and some of the cages have fallen behind in getting cleaned. However, I do regularly clean their perches, as that’s what the birds keep in contact with the most. They also wipe their beaks on the perches after eating. I believe of all things, it is one of the most critical things to keep clean. I change them once a week, on average.
I take the dirty perches and put them in a sink of water to soak. Then I use a scrub brush to knock off any deposits. The water is then drained, they are rinsed and get another sink of fresh water with liquid detergent. I let them soak, splash them around and look for anything still on them. Once they look clean, I drain the water and once more put fresh water in the sink, adding regular household bleach—about a 10% solution. The perches soak about fifteen minutes, then are rinsed off and put on paper towels to dry.
I treat cleaning my bamboo nests the same way. Yes, they are reusable, and with the cost of them almost doubling this past year, there’s no reason not to reuse them. Before soaking, gut out all of the nesting material, scrape off any accumulation of poop on the outside and inside if possible. I know it is preferred to give birds fresh nests between each clutch, but sometimes they are working on another one immediately after and you don’t have a chance to change out the nests. So, if they don’t mind and produce healthy chicks, then I don’t mind. But I try to catch them if I can. There’s a small article on this site that was actually an email reply to someone who wanted to know how to pack a clean nest.
Consistency in Day-to-Day Food Prep
I was going to touch on this last month, but the consistency theme turned in a different direction. Even though you may not boil two dozen eggs a day like I do, you might boil enough for a few days’ worth. Sometimes, one or two of the eggs bust open during boiling. I cool my eggs down by running cold water over them after initial draining. I remove the busted eggs, once cooled, and squeeze them in my hand. Usually, there is enough water inside them to throw off the consistency of the mix, leaving it too sticky, even after it has set up for a while. If you don’t do this, you will keep second-guessing how much corn meal to add to your mix. The mix should be a little sticky when you first prepare it, but you see the corn meal absorb moisture and within 45 minutes, you should have a crumbly mix. I have a neat spoon that actually came with a rice cooker. It is wide and thin and lets me cut through the mix to take out the little lumps. Finches do not eat lumps of egg food, which can be verified by seeing them left on their plates at the end of the day.
Cabbage also can be near dry to extremely wet. After washing it, I drain it quite a while, but it is still wet. I prefer chopping it with my chef’s knife as the food processor tends to rip and shred it and you have a big puddle of water as a consequence. When I have a pile of wet chopped cabbage, I take as many paper towels as I need to pat it dry. Finches don’t like overly wet food.
Not only are collard greens the best for the finches, but they have a stiffer leaf and aren’t as wet as mustard or turnip greens. When my grocer is out of collards, I sometimes buy one of the other two and also have a time drying it out. It helps to wash them early in your daily prep, shake off extra water, then spread them out on a couple of paper towels to let them air dry while you are working on eggs and the other vegetables.
Chase Austin on the NFSS group suggested tonight that we should stop using the common name of Cutthroat finch and use the name they give them in other countries: Ribbon finch. It seems Cutthroat has a bad connotation to it, and the birds don’t deserve it. I have heard that they are not good “community” birds, but mine are quite agreeable with many species they reside with, in their flight. The original breeders I have from Africa have really calmed down since their flurry of production of fluffy babies that appear larger than their parents in their juvenile feathers. It could be their seeing several of the Zebras hopping on my head or arms—and I believe this to be true—but also the fact that they have identified when I have provided an extra food dish near where they hang out and feed their babies. As I have mentioned, the landscape of a bird room can change just as much as in nature. Placing food sub-stations where there is a temporary need is pretty automatic here. The babies don’t mind me as they have mingled with me since the git-go, but now the parents let me get within 6 inches of them without flinching.