The bird room

Our garage was once used for collecting unwanted household items but now sees a much more interesting life as a converted bird room. Measuring 18ft in length and 7.5ft wide, the bird room acts as my current Gouldian finch breeding room. One wall length of the room is lined with 8 quad cages, each cage measuring 8ft in length, 20” deep and 20” high. Each quad has dividers so that they can be turned into 2, 3, or 4 separate cages. In the height of my breeding season a full quota of 32 cages measure a total of 2ft x 20”x 20”, which provides enough housing for one Gouldian family to be raised without perching space becoming an issue. Each cage has its very own arcadia full spectrum 18” bird light, which provided the necessary lighting for the birds to synthesise vitamin D3, and allow them to see across a fuller spectrum of colours. Gouldian’s really come alive under the correct UV lighting and their fantastic colours really do shimmer with a whole new vibrancy. Each cage has a pull out tray at the base that slides out easily for cleaning. I have a spare tray which can be prepared with fresh litter and then swapped for a dirty one in a matter of seconds. The dirty tray is then cleaned and prepared with fresh litter before being swapped with another dirty tray once again. Birds that are very light sitters may abandon nests if overly disturbed, but this cleaning process allows me to clean the cages whilst keeping unwelcome disturbances down to a minimal. All my cages were built by the talent Barry Staff at BJS of Worcester.

On the opposite side of the room from the cages is my sink and supply cupboards. A white board hangs on the wall to help me stay on top of which birds are paired with which. I also use the white board to assist me in recording the ring numbers of my bird’s offspring for future linage and bloodline purposes. It is important to keep records of your breeding to prevent any future inbreeding which can sometimes lead to weaker birds that suffer from health problems.

My birds are moved into the breeding room for pairing up at the beginning of October. They will remain here in the bird room for the duration of the breeding season which finishes at the end of March. The Gouldian finches that are quick to pair up and lay eggs will normally have the first round of their chicks hatching in as little as 5 weeks, though 6 to 7 weeks is more of an average time period for the birds. This allows them time to settle into their new environment and feel secure enough to begin the breeding phase of their life cycle. Once the first round of chicks are weaned, they remain in the same cage as the parent birds so they can observe the the next round of chicks being raised. It is not uncommon for the occasional chick from the parent’s first clutch to assist in feeding the second clutch of chicks, though this sort of behaviour will only happen once the second clutch are big enough to stick their necks out of the nest box and call for food. Chicks that behave in this sort of way are good birds to keep and will generally make good parents themselves when they are old enough to raise their own young. I will often make a note of the leg ring number on such chicks. Once the second round of chicks have been out of the nest for around a week to ten days I will move the first round of chicks into a different holding to create more space for the parents and new fledglings.

Once the breeding season is over, all the birds are moved into the aviary flights where they will have plenty of room to exercise. The adult birds will begin the moult and the youngsters will fully colour up. With the bird room now empty I have the chance for a full clean, as well as a chance to paint and repair anything that needs maintenance.

The room is only used between October and April, however, if I need to bring in new birds for the following breeding season then this bird room will double up as a quarantine room while main flock are safely well away and living in the aviary.

The aviary

When it comes to housing the Gouldian finch, or any other bird for that matter, I find nothing compares to an aviary with plenty of room. Watching a flock of Gouldian finches in a well-designed aviary as they go about their business can bring hours of marvel. However, space can be limited so as bird keepers we have to make the most of what we have available to us. By making your aviary look good for both your birds and yourself; you are creating a place you will enjoy and like to spend time in.

Hand built from the bottom up, my current Gouldian aviaries are under the same roof of a specially designed building. The building has an 18” thick plywood floor base with a 3”x2” wooden frame structure. 150mm wide cladding lines the outer walls of the building while 12mm thick ply lines the inner walls. Loft insulation sits packed between these two walls. The interior space of the building finishes at 12ft x15ft and there are three Gouldian flights within it. The two larger flights are “L” shaped and measure 3.5ft at the top end and are 5ft in width at the boot end of the “L”. These two flights run parallel to each other and are separated at their boot end by the main entrance into the building. There are 4 detachable windows, x2 inside each of the larger flights. The windows can be taken off in the warmer months to reveal wire mesh, this provides the birds with fresh spring/summer air and direct sunlight which they love to bask in. My third Gouldian flight sits between the top ends of the two larger flights. This flight is 8ft long by 4ft wide. At either end of this flight there is hatch that can be open or closed into the other flights, thus allowing the three flights to open up into one supersize flight. By being able to open up and close the aviary flights in this way I can separate the cock and hen birds from each other, and the youngsters during the maintenance and austerity periods of the Gouldian finch’s lifecycle.

There are x4 double breeding cages that are encased under the lower section of the 8ft x 4ft smaller aviary flight and run the length of it. These cages are used for holding purposes and are especially useful when I have Gouldian finches at different stages of their lifecycles, which require different diets. This can happen with birds who decide to moult early or when I bring in new birds who need to adjust to my Gouldian finch lifecycle and nutrition programme. The holding cages give me a chance to keeps birds separate until they are all synchronised with the main flock’s diet before they go on to join them.

All three aviary flights and the holding cages have full spectrum bird lighting installed, these all run off of timers. There is also a night light attached to the ceiling that comes on in the evenings and stays on throughout the night. The ceiling itself is built with 12mm ply sheets screwed into the joists. Insulation is packed between the joists while sitting on top of the joists are 18mm ply sheets that form the roof. The roof is waterproofed by felt and bitumen tar.

My bird aviary flights are kept warm by heating that will kick in should the room temperature drop below a pre-set level. A small 80 litre economy friendly freezer is kept inside the building which stores all my fresh green millet, and a supply of sprouted seeds for the breeding season. My bird seed is stored in a silo dispenser which helps to improve the hygiene by preventing bugs such as moths from gaining access to it and laying their eggs.

Inside the flights themselves I have arranged variety of perching that include 12mm wooden dowel rods crafted into fixed ladders or swing designs. I also have tree branches that I have spotted on country walks and thought “that will look superb in my aviary!” After it’s left to soak and cleaned properly of course. As well as it looking more aesthetically pleasing, natural perching from tree branches can help keep birds toenails trim and prevent any overgrowing that will otherwise need your attention with the nail clippers. Stress perches are included in my Gouldian finch flights and are welcomed by all the birds in the flock, these are placed in a high favoured position. They are designed so that birds may spend time alone perched between compartments where more dominant birds cannot bother them.

The largest deposits of bird droppings inside your cages and aviaries are always directly under the perching positions. It is always worth bearing this in mind when you are considering where to place/arrange your perching, especially if you are going to have food and water sources contained on the floor of your cage or aviary. Strategic perch arranging is a good hygiene practice.

Inside my flights I have also taken care when arranging my perching and food/water containers to allow for wide open spaces. This gives the birds the opportunity to stretch their wings and get plenty of exercise without to the need to dodge objects in their flight paths.