is a lot of discussion on a lot of sites and in many books
about how to pair birds who will successfully mate, lay
eggs, incubate, and raise healthy chicks. Many people go
to great lengths to try to ensure success, occasionally
including a (frequently unsuccessful) attempt at handfeeding.
if it is so difficult to raise healthy chicks, it should
be a breeze to maintain a non-breeding aviary, right? Ha!
of all, for many birds, breeding is not the difficult experience
you read about. Although individual birds are different,
some species seem to be born natural parents, whereas other
species have to work at it.
those species that are deemed "difficult to breed"
- do not assume this means you can keep a true pair and
they will not likely mate, lay, or incubate. They may in
fact do all of these things, only to hatch chicks that they
do not feed or care for. No one wants to keep their populations
in control at the expense of little chicks who starve to
how do you do it? I know of three different methods, none
of which are perfect. You have to choose the one that best
meets your needs.
Birds of the Same Sex
As long as you can accurately sex the birds, this is the
most fool-proof method of ensuring no babies will be born
into your aviary. I would recommend keeping males. Males
of many species are the ones who sing. Also, in sexually
dimorphic species, the male is frequently more brightly
colored. Since males do not lay eggs, they are not susceptible
to some of the health problems (such as egg-binding) that
females are prone to. (Remember, female birds can and frequently
will lay eggs even without the presence of a male.)
of the same sex will usually bond just as easily as a true
pair (as long as there are no available members of the opposite
sex). Remember that many types of finches are capable of
hybridizing with each other. This means that if you acquire
two males of species A and two females of species B, it
may happen that the natural instincts to breed may cause
a male of species A to mate with a female of species B.
Therefore, you should probably make sure all of your birds
are of the same sex, not just birds of the same species.
problem that may arise in an all-male aviary is an increased
level of aggression. However, I believe aggression is more
of a problem when birds are breeding (or when they are overcrowded),
so by removing the possibility of breeding, you are actually
reducing the overall level of aggression. There are, however,
a few species for which it is not advised to house two males
together, so again, be sure to do your research.
this method seems fairly straightforward, it is a little
more complicated than it appears. The major problem lies
with species that are not sexually dimorphic. It can be
very difficult to sex these species. One has to rely on
behavior or very minute details that are never tell-tale
signs of gender. Even the best breeders can make mistakes.
This happened to me with my societies. They were supposed
to be the same sex, but then one day I had a nest filled
with beautiful little hatchlings. Surprise!
Removing the nestboxes is another popular alternative. Although
many types of finches like to sleep in a nestbox, it is
not necessary, and over time they will become used to sleeping
on a perch. Gouldians almost always sleep on a perch unless
breeding, by the way, so if you have or want Gouldians,
they will not miss the nestboxes at all. In the wild, the
birds only nest when raising a clutch, so depriving them
of a nestbox is a natural approach.
birds will continue to lay eggs in odd places, such as on
the floor or in the seed dish, but chances are they will
not lay as frequently and they probably will not incubate
these eggs unless they find a good nest substitute. If they
do try to incubate the eggs, you will have to remove the
eggs. I have found that placing seed dishes down low or
on the floor will prevent the birds from nesting in them.
On rare occasion, an egg shows up in the seed dish, but
the parent bird never tries to sit on it or nest there.
have chosen this method of birth control. I already have
birds of different sexes, and I have found it is easier
to acquire birds in male-female pairs. I was afraid they
would really miss their nestboxes, but they really did adapt
quite well to going without. In addition, I believe the
aviary is a much cleaner and more sanitary place without
the nestboxes and nesting material. I have not had a contagious
illness spread through my aviary since removing them. While
I know the attachment that finch keepers have to the nestbox,
if you really don't want to breed, I highly recommend this
method of birth control.
This is probably the least appealing choice, but sometimes
there is no better alternative. You have to be very careful
when you remove eggs. First of all, some hens are egg-laying
machines. If you remove each new egg as it is laid, she
will continue to lay more and more eggs. This takes a great
toll on her health.
prevent her from laying endlessly, you should replace her
eggs with fake eggs. Fake eggs can be purchased from craft
stores (supposedly Walmart's craft department sells fake
nests with eggs the approximate size of finch eggs). I bought
some fake eggs from a breeder who got them at a bird show.
I have also heard of people using appropriately shaped pieces
of pea gravel as fake eggs.
the bird is not fooled by plastic eggs. In these cases,
someone once recommended hard-boiling infertile finch eggs
and using those as dummy eggs. (Be sure to mark the hard-boiled
eggs with a felt-tip pen so you can tell which are fresh
and which are not). If you do this, I request that you candle
the egg and make sure nothing has started to develop inside
the egg first. The Finch Niche's breeding
page provides information on candling eggs.
make sure to remove the eggs as soon after they are laid
as possible, before the embryo has started to form. The
embryo will not start to develop until the mom has been
incubating for a few days.