I’VE been keeping birds for the past two years. I have 10 pairs of zebra finches, two pairs of Gouldians, six pairs of Bengalese, one pair of red-headed finches, one pair of owl finches, one pair of star finches, two pairs of tiger finches and one pair of cut-throats. I’ve only been successful in breeding the zebra finches and I am looking for advice on the others.
The tigers and Gouldians are kept in two different double-breeding cages. The birds are kept in a 3m x 2.4m (10ft x 8ft) indoor aviary and they have a 5.5m x 1.4m x 1.8m (18ft x 4.6ft x 6ft) outside aviary covered in on top ¾ of the way. I would appreciate any advice on the breeding of the mentioned birds. J.W., Co. Antrim.Read more...
I have a large flight with cockatiels that needs a good spring clean. How do I go about this? My husband has hosed it down with a pressure washer, but that has not relieved the smell. What products can I use that won’t hurt the birds? How many times a year should I scrub it down?
What about replacing the perches?
My husband doesn’t want to because it took him a long time to find tree branches for that natural aspect. Can’t he just use new dowels from the hardware shop? How can I make the aviary mite-proof? My husband is disabled and I want to make this cleaning regimen easy for him to use and one he can keep at. Any suggestions or product recommendations would certainly be a help.
K. K. S., via Facebook.
Les Rance, secretary of the Parrot Society UK, replies:
I think that you should try Tamodine-E, which is an iodophore disinfectant suitable for general purpose aviary disinfection. It has the benefit of having a built-in colour-marker, which means you can see where you have treated and where you have washed it off. Use it both before and after the breeding season. Treat the perches as well; you can buy dowels but I would retain most of the natural perches as they provide valuable alternative diameters for your cockatiels to exercise their feet. It is not possible to make an aviary completelymite proof, but the use of mite sprays on the surfaces could keeps cages free from bugs for more than six weeks.
I'm looking for some advice regarding breeding Bourke's parakeets. What size nest-boxes are the best? Do I need to put shavings in the bottom or is there a more suitable material? What depth of material should be used at the bottom, and what foods are the best for rearing and weaning the youngsters?
Colin O'Hara, one of the UK's top parrot breeders, replies: Bourke's are not fussy as to the size of the nest-box. It is better that you have easy access for inspection without disturbing the birds too much. A box 25cm (9.8in) deep x 15cm (5.9in) square is quite sufficient. Hang the box a little on an angle so the birds do not drop straight down on the eggs. Shavings makes it difficult for the birds to compact to make a nest hollow and eggs can become lost among the shavings. It is better to use coarse sawdust at about 3cm (1.2in) deep.
When chicks hatch, supply them with spouted seed mixed with a commercial eggfood for the parents to feed the chicks, as well as the normal seed mix.
A good way to start young chicks feeding for themselves once they leave the nest-box is to supply millet sprays in addition to the normal feeding. Good luck with your breeding.
What are the best foreign birds to keep indoors? I have bred canaries indoors for years and now I am looking for another hardy breed that doesn't need a heater on all the time.
Bill Naylor, experienced former keeper at zoos and bird parks, replies: By indoors, I assume that you mean a birdroom. Venturing into keeping foreign finches can be daunting. Many are now expensive, but the following are reasonably priced and should not disappoint; Java sparrows, zebra finches, Bengalese, spice birds, cut-throat finches and diamond doves. They are all easy to maintain, don't require heating and all breed well in captivity. If you have small flights, pin-tailed whydahs and Bourke's parakeets are ideal, as are other grass parakeets. You can combine any of the above in a mixed-species group.
I have a Gloster canary hen with a heavily feathered vent. Do I need to trim the vent feathers to ensure fertile eggs? What's the best way to trim the vent?
Brian Keenan, chairman of Liverpool and District YCC, replies: Hold the canary in one hand being careful to hold the legs away from the scissors. With a small pair of sharp scissors, trim across the top of the belly above the vent. Blow the feathers away from around the vent and trim down the sides. Take care not to trim the ring of guide feathers immediately around the vent, which are needed as a guide for mating.