Species Selection | Number and
Gender | Breeding | Unexplained
| Introducing New Birds |
What to do
to illness, personality conflicts are the most stressful problems
in the aviary (for both myself and the birds). For this reason,
I try to follow the advice of others regarding what birds to
mix and how many - no matter how much I might want that beautiful
orange weaver, he will only cause me stress if he's not compatible
with the other birds in my aviary. I know from experience what
happens when you think you might be able to bend the rules.
Of course, even when you follow the rules, there is no guarantee
that everyone will get along. And sometimes you can break the
rules and end up just fine. Following are some of the causes
of personality conflicts between finches.
The first thing you must look at when setting up an aviary is
which species do you want to keep. Not all species are going
to get along well together.
I first got my aviary, it included a Java Rice finch. He was
a beautiful bird and he sang all the time, but he terrorized
the other birds round the clock. He could catch another finch
by the leg as it tried to fly by. I am sure he would have killed
someone if we hadn't given him away promptly. He just did not
mix well with the other smaller birds.
I don't want to get anyone upset here
by saying that you cannot mix Java Rice finches with smaller
finches. Many people have done this successfully. Other
people, like myself, have had problems. I don't blame my
problems solely on the fact that we mixed the Java with
smaller finches. Other factors likely contributed -- perhaps
keeping the Java without a companion of the same species,
not providing the Java with enough personal space, or possibly
he was just an aggressive personality. My personal belief
is that if something in your aviary is out of balance, it
might show up first in the behavior of the Javas. Hence,
the problem is not necessarily with the bird, but instead
with the environment. Therefore, I would advise that you
do plenty of research into the needs of the Java (or any
other species, for that matter) before housing them in a
mixed aviary. Rob
Salem's Java Finch Pages is a good source of information
dealing specifically with this species.
very nice compatibility
chart is posted on NetPets.com.
Many species are listed on this chart and grouped into type
I (Gentle), type II (Medium to Tough), and type III (Can Be
Tough) personalities. It is probably best to mix only species
from the same personality type, at least when you are first
starting out. I stick with the gentle personalities - and you
can see from the list that there are many to choose from. This
table also provides you useful information about characteristics
about each of the species, including diet, hardiness, ease of
of the species within a particular group may not necessarily
get along well together. For example, strawberry finches, while
normally being a gentle species, may not mix well with other
birds that are red in color. Research should be done on each
species to try to ensure all desired species are compatible
with each other. This won't guarantee a conflict-free existence,
but can go a long ways toward avoiding potential problems.
note that zebras, although in the group of gentle personalities,
can be aggressive at times in their own right. Some people do
not expect this because they are frequently recommended for
beginners. However, they are so highly recommended for beginners
because they are very hardy and easy to breed, and there are
many zebra finch color mutations that make breeding zebras more
interesting. They can be forgiving of beginner finch-keeping
mistakes. They do, however, have a very strong personality.
I tell myself sometimes that I will not get any more zebras
because when there are conflicts in the aviary, the zebras are
usually at the heart of it. But then things quiet down again
and I appreciate them for their curious nature and amusing antics.
(I'm not trying to stir anyone away from zebras - they are wonderfully
fun birds - I am just giving you the heads up that they can
at times be a handful).
The number and gender of birds is also an issue. In general,
a bird will prefer the company of its own species. So it is
preferable to obtain at least a pair of each species - the pair
can be a same-sex pair or a true (male-female) pair. Three birds
of a species can be a bad thing, as the third bird will end
up odd-man-out and could be picked on by the other two. A particularly
bad situation is having two males and one female, as there will
be great competition between the males for the affection of
the female. Likewise, two pairs can sometimes be a bad thing,
as competition can arise between the pairs. A single pair or
three pairs or more should generally work out better.
is the cause of many social problems in the aviary. For this
reason, the more space you can offer your birds, the better
off they will be. For many species, the recommended space guidelines
are 2 to 3 square feet of floor space per pair. In general,
height should not be factored in. But offering more square feet
per pair can go a long ways towards a more peaceful environment.
Be sure to research the space guidelines for the species you
are interested in. I follow the 3 square feet rule. I believe
I could get away with 2 square feet, since I keep gentler finches
and I do not breed, but by using 3 square feet per pair, I ensure
that they all have a little extra comfort room. Since the new
aviary is about 12 ft by 2.5 ft (floor dimensions), that provides
30 ft of floor space for a maximum of 10 pairs of birds. (Note:
I don't count the button quail who live on the bottom, since
they do not require perch or flight space).
Breeding season can bring out aggressive tendencies in birds
that were previously docile. During this time, birds frequently
become very territorial and will aggressively protect their
nest. My masked grassfinches, normally the calmest of my birds,
became quite territorial when they were sitting on eggs. Never
mind that they were both female and the eggs were infertile.
and Evil, once best of friends, suddenly turned on each
other for no apparent reason. They eventually calmed down
and now tolerate each other, but no longer are a pair.
Sometimes, a problem will just pop up out of the blue. A pair
of male zebras in my aviary who had previously been the best
of friends, sharing a nestbox and all, one day, suddenly turned
on each other. For a few days, there was terrible bickering
between the two. I thought it was just a temporary thing and
that they would work it out. Just when I was about to give up
on the two and separate them, they suddenly mellowed out a little
and tensions cooled down. They never made up, though, and to
this day sleep in separate nestboxes. One zebra made friends
with the societies, and the other occasionally preens the masked
grassfinch, but they do not hang out together much any more.
Introducing a new bird to the aviary can upset the social order
within. It is not unusual for a new bird to be chased about
quite vigorously upon introduction. It is good practice to introduce
new birds in pairs or greater, whenever possible, so a lone
bird isn't singled out for picking on. This is going to be a
very stressful time no matter what, so I usually try to give
my birds a little time to adjust before I step in and take any
actions. I make sure no one is getting hurt and that the new
birds are allowed access to the food and water (placing food
and water in multiple places during this period usually helps).
Within a day or two, things usually settle down.
people recommend placing the new bird in a cage near the existing
birds after its quarantine period so that the birds can become
a little familiar with each other before introduction. This
may help to reduce the chaos that may ensue upon introduction.
Others suggest moving the existing perches and nestboxes around
before introducing a new bird, so the environment becomes new
to everyone and everyone needs to define new territories.
When conflict arises in the aviary that either threatens the
health of a bird or persists for more than a couple of days,
the aggressor should be separated from the others for a while.
(Note: a little bit of chasing around is okay even if it persists
for longer periods if no one is getting hurt and it is not incessant
- this is a judgment call that you have to make). Reintroducing
the aggressor bird at a later time may help change the pecking
order, turning the tables as the aggressor is now the new bird
being reintroduced. This may be particularly helpful if the
victim of his aggression is a new bird, as it will allow the
new bird to establish relationships and familiarity with the
other birds without the interference of the aggressor. If tensions
never settle down, the fighting birds may have to be separated
permanently. Allowing them to cohabitate will only cause them
and you unhealthy stress.