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A Finch Breeders Ideal Setup - Is it Possible ?

The "Ideal Setup" should meet all our needs
The "Ideal Setup" should meet all our needs

At the Auckland 'Finch Convention' I gave a talk that looked at "Specialist Aviaries for the Breeding of Finches". Some could see the benefits of concentrating on certain species with the sort of specialist aviaries described, and agreed with most of the points presented. Others I'm sure, had different ideas and possibly felt there were alternative ways that could be taken to produce results. That's fine by me, as I never feel like I have the correct answer all the time !!

The point of relating this experience is to help us realise no one has the perfect setup. There will always be improvements that can be made along the way, even if we think we have thought of everything at the start. However if we always approach any article, discussion, or talk with an open mind, looking for something that we can use in our own setup, that will improve it, we will benefit every time.

A few points mentioned at the outset of this article then, will help us see that the "Ideal Setup" is always relative to a number of things, that everybody will differ in, such as the following:

How many aviaries will depend on space
How many aviaries will depend on space

* Our Budget.
* Space available.
* Species to be kept & bred.
* The size setup we can reasonably care for.

Remember too, we are relating this article to how we primarily keep and breed finches in this part of the world, (Australia & New Zealand) This is usually achieved in reasonable sized aviaries, with finches being kept this way all year round. This would be anything but ideal for breeders in Europe, the U.K. or many places in America, where many breed their birds inside, in cages, perhaps in a heated birdroom. Although the factors we have listed will still apply even to that scenario, what is the ideal breeding setup for finchkeepers in those locations is far different to what is ideal for us in this part of the world.

And even with our various conditions and needs taken into consideration, I'm sure, after reading it, some will say, that's not how I would do it!! In the end there is room in this hobby for a range of different setups and no one can say they have all the answers.

Typical large Australian finch aviaries.
Typical large Australian finch aviaries.

This article is an attempt to address the needs of the Finch Breeder, that wants to concentrate on some species in particular, while still enjoying other varieties as well in their aviaries. Many just don't get opportunity to build such an ideal setup because they have been keeping finches for many years already and have had to be content with making changes along the way, either knocking down a few aviaries and rebuilding them, or just making moderate improvements over the years, possibly still being dissatisfied with the finished setup, wishing they could start over again.

Fortunate ones like myself, (although a lot of stress and work is involved) move house and even location over the years and get a chance to rebuild aviaries, making the setup a little better each time, remembering the mistakes we made before so as to not repeat them. I personally have moved seven times the last 27 years and built aviaries in every location and still feel I could certainly improve the setup I have. The other drawback with moving is, each time you are faced with new varying weather patterns and layout of your yard. This calls for adapting your aviaries to these new circumstances, and sometimes the situation is not always ideal, although an astute finch breeder will make sure that beside the new house, the yard will also have the required room and aspect for your new aviaries to be accommodated in. This requires your wife or partners cooperation, something that at times can take some convincing. Usually though some form of agreement is reached, (even if it costs you a moderate shopping spree for them!)

When an architect is commissioned to draw up plans for a clients house they are given a set of instructions that outline the clients needs. This is referred to as an architects "Brief" These needs must be incorporated into the house plans so that when the construction is finished, the new owners will have everything in it that fills their needs. Well let's give ourselves a list of things we want to be incorporated into our "Ideal Finch Breeders Setup". Our "Brief" is as follows:

1. Must have a central small birdroom to house seed, carry cages, hospital cage, livefood, etc.

2. A number of Specialist breeding flights, to breed a few special species.

3. Some larger aviaries for mixed collections.

4. Two smaller holding flights

5. Some cages or cabinets for holding birds or for breeding.

6. A quarantine area for sick birds away from the main collection.

7. This is all to be built an average town section.

Does this sound like the sort of setup that you would like ? Perhaps you have it already ?? For those that don't, lets then look at how we could set out our complex, incorporating all of the features we have described.

Holding flights and cabinet cages.
Holding flights and cabinet cages.

1. Centrally Located Birdroom
This is not an essential but does make caring for your birds, that little bit easier, having everything at your disposal. If possible, making the birdroom in a spot where aviaries can run off from it, will, serve two purposes. Beside acting as a room where seed and other necessary accessories can be stored, it can also act as a safety corridor for at least some, if not all of your aviaries, depending on your design. Within this space, is also where you locate some small cages for holding birds on a temporary basis, spare birds or young birds, selected for others to look at before purchase. Alternatively they could also be used in a breeding programme, if that's our plan.

The other option for a space that accommodates all of the things outlined, is a larger walkway along the back of the flights. Instead of only making our walkway 600mm wide, it can be larger, say 1m to 1.2 wide. This allows room along the back wall, for cages as well as room for seed storage bins. Some shelving can be conveniently located as well, which allows you to keep carry cages, spare nestboxes, hospital cage and other bits and pieces. For long term convenience, a small stainless steel sink with running water installed, will greatly speed up your maintenance programme. It means soaked seed can be washed here, water dishes cleaned, etc.

Specialist aviaries
Specialist aviaries

2. Small Specialist Aviaries
You may remember Marcus Pollards excellent article in the previous "Just Finches", helped us see why, smaller flights for specialist breeding of some species, makes good sense and is a worthwhile option. I think an 'ideal setup' should have at least some of these aviaries. They need not be large. A suggested size could be 1m to 1.2m wide and 3 to 3.6m long. How many we build will depend on the space we have available. At least 3 or 4 will give us some breeding possibilities. We can either house just the one pair of Finches we are concentrating on in each, or may add another 1 or 2 pair, if compatible, but remember the idea of these aviaries is for us to give special care, as regards nesting sites and feeding requirements, livefood, etc., so that optimum breeding results can be achieved.

Another set  of specialist aviaries
Another set of specialist aviaries

3. Larger Mixed Collection Aviaries
Probably the most common type of aviaries we will find in all finch breeders setup. What size need these be ?? Is bigger always better ?? In Australia there are some very large finch aviaries around the country and there is no doubt that for us, the pleasure of viewing finches flitting around a beautiful, very large, planted aviary, is great, however large aviaries cost lots of money to build and who of us has that sort of room ?? Some may have, but the majority , even if you live in a smaller country town, are still restricted to no more than perhaps a 1/4 acre. However, equally good breeding results can come from more moderately sized aviaries and in most instances, better management of a collection is also achieved. Dare I mention a size !!

This will, in the end, come down to your preference, and there will be many different opinions about this, but I would suggest 1.8 or 2m wide by 3.6 to 5m in length and 2m high is a good medium sized aviary. Larger aviaries may be fine if you have the budget and room, but there are other considerations. Its harder to catch birds and can we really be sure of how our birds are doing when its difficult to see individual birds in such a large planted aviary environment? However in the end, its our decision and we may well have contingency plans in mind so that managing our birds in larger aviaries will not be a problem.

Large aviaries are great, but we need room.
Large aviaries are great, but we need room.

As mentioned from the outset, the space we have available and our budget will dictate our boundaries here.

4. Holding Flights
This is where young and spare birds can be held for longer terms. One aviary would suffice if you have a smaller setup, but in the "Ideal Setup" we want two. Two small flights, means we can hold cocks and hens separately if we wish or they can be used to hold two different lines of the same species separately. If there is sufficient room, they can be the same size as our specialist breeding flights and built the same. Alternative to this they could be built in another small aviary block or added to other aviaries. I would suggest that aviaries 1.2m wide x 3m or 4m long would be ideal. Its important we keep these aviaries for their designated purpose. We all have a tendency to identify any spare aviaries as opportunity to add more breeding pairs, but this will only mean we have nowhere to keep young and spare birds. Before being tempted in this way, make sure you have either built alternative holding flights or have some arrangement to fill this need elsewhere in your setup.

5. Cabinets or holding cages
We have already touched on these, but there are a number of different sizes and combinations that will serve this purpose well. Some use such cages as extra room for breeding, as seen on this page, Hooded Siskin can even be bred like canaries or perhaps bengalese can be kept as occasional foster parents in this situation. Larger flight cages with a length of 6ft or 1.8m means birds can be kept for some time with room for exercise opposed to smaller cages. Whatever combination we decide on, we will find that they are invaluable for a number of purposes and should be part of the ideal setup. They are of course, as already suggested, setup in the birdroom.

6. Quarantine Aviary
This needs to be away from your main bird collection. Its purpose is to hold newly acquired stock for up to 6 weeks, allowing you to observe, treat and make sure your new birds are disease and problem free, before introducing them to your aviaries. We can also use this to separate and isolate birds that might need specific treatment for certain health problems for a time period, while not being used for quarantine. Again this does not need to be large and something 3m x 1m would suffice.

Of course the trick will be to accommodate this ideal setup in the room we have available and modifications to this plan may be needed to accomplish this. This can be a challenge in many locations, as often our back yards are anything but ideal, but provided we get the basics right to start with, fine tuning the whole setup can be made along the way. Next of course comes the fitting out of the aviaries, but that's another story !!! To conclude this article however we can tell you, that with good planning and vision on our part, although not all the same, taking our circumstances into consideration, it is possible to have an ideal setup.

Feature articles:

A Finch Breeders Ideal Setup - Is it Possible ?

Keeping Finches, Part 3

Keeping Softbills

New Zealand's First Finch Convention. - From NZ...

Parrots of the World

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