Balanced diets are only achieved by offering a variety of foods. Remember that
a Gouldian's diet in the wild is whatever is
available. Including grubs the spring, berries in summer, buds of flowering
trees in Autumn and all manner of readily available mineral rich earths.
The staple seed for these birds is canary, white millet, and small yellow
millet or panicum all of which are available in
any good quality 'Foreign Finch Mix'. You can keep them and raise young on
this diet alone together with water. However under these conditions fewer
young will be raised and the mortality rate of both juveniles and adults
will be high.
Some fanciers like to provide each kind of seed in a separate container but it
is rarely possible to buy separate seed types in your local pet supplies
outlet and sending away for such small quantities as would be necessary for
a single pair is far from ideal. It is just as satisfactory to supply the
seeds ready mized in equal parts, as would be
found in most good foreign finch mixes, you can tell at a glance which types
are in too large or too small quantities by the kind that is left in the
seed tray or feeder. If, after the birds have been eating for a couple of
days, the combination in the tray appears the same as was originally mixed,
then you have correct proportions to your bird's satisfaction.
Gouldians are very fond of grass seeds that are in
the milk stage (this is the phrase that describes the stage when a seed has
just ripened or semi ripe). Almost any kind of grass seed is good for
example, rye, winter grass, water grass, millet, etc.
Charcoal is a very good digestion balancer, which Gouldians
will naturally find in their wild habitat from forest or brush fires, camp
fires, etc. Charcoal contains properties which can neutralise excess acids
and so help Gouldians to balance their digestive
system - an avian 'Rennie if you like! This should
always be available in a separate dish, the birds will use very small
quantities of this frequently, many people have
removed it altogether thinking that none is being used only to find the bird
gorging on it when a new supply is forthcoming.
Germinated seed is greatly relished by Gouldians.
This is another valuable food. In seed that has germinated the starches have
largely converted to sugar and the vitamin content has increased many times.
About one tablespoon of germinated seed a day is ample for half a dozen
The simplest way of sprouting seed is to soak some of your regular finch mix
in water for 12 to 24 hours. Then rinse it thoroughly, drain off the water,
and leave it moist in a glass or clear plastic container in a reasonably
warm locality for 3 or 4 days, making sure that plenty of oxygen is allowed
to circulate. Sunlight through the glass will help create ideal conditions
and speed the germination. It is ready to feed when the small rootlet begins
to emerge from the end of tile seed, it should of course be thoroughly
rinsed again with fresh water before being given to the birds. As a safe
guard against soak seed fouling many keepers use a small drop of bleach (unperfumed, additive free), or AviClens™
in the water to kill of any unwanted bacteria.
Although the majority of Gouldian Finch keepers do
not advocate the necessity of Live Food, it remains that though not
essential many birds do enjoy the occasional 'bite'. Usually in the form of
a few fresh skinned mealworms. Getting Gouldians
to take mealies is not always easily achieved but if housed with
other more gregarious birds such as canaries they will often follow suit and
tuck into the protein rich 'mealies' without
hesitation, which will certainly do no harm and will if anything add
essential variety. They do not need live food in captivity.
Gouldians are quite sensitive to sudden changes in
diet and it has been known for them to starve to death in a cage with a bowl
full of food just because they were not familiar with what was offered.
Always check when purchasing new birds what diet they have been used to, if
possible take some home with you and wean them onto your mix over the next
SALT / MINERALS
Salt and minerals should also be provided, usually in the form of a salt lick
or iodine block, available from most pet outlets.
Finely ground oyster shell, sterilized ground egg shell, or cuttlefish bone
and ground feed quality bone meal are always required. These can be mixed
and supplied in the same dish as the charcoal.
Grit or gravel has become a contentious issue amongst many keepers as to its
worthiness. It is a digestive aid, which serves to grind the food in the
gizzard but some believe that in captive species such as the Gouldian it can also cause an impaction or erosion of the
Gizzard, which can be potentially fatal. Soft Bird sand is a good
alternative as it is made up of many rounded minerals less likely to cause
abrasion and often comes with added beneficial oyster shell.
Greens are a valuable and rewarding addition to your bird's diet. Greens have
the reputation of causing diarrhoea, which is a misunderstanding, but they
will affect the character of your birds poop. Greens are bulky foods that
pass through the digestive tract rapidly, causing a soft green stool. Greens
are high in water, adding fluid to the body. More urine is produced which
adds to the fluidity of the droppings. Birds at first may over eat greens,
but if fed consistently, whilst making up no more than 20% of their overall
diet, they will have. When feeding any type of fresh food, make sure to
thoroughly wash the food before giving it to the bird. This removes any soil
bacteria or contaminants which could be harmful to your bird.
Leaf lettuce (grated), Dandelion (young leaves, flower heads), Endive
Chickweed, Celery (grated), Spinach(cooked and
chopped), Kale (grated or left in leaf to pick at), Mustard greens.
There are many bird supplements now available in through most pet suppliers,
including multivitamins, iodine mixes, calcium tonics, moulting tonics and
yeast derivatives. Gouldians certainly do require
their fair share of vitamins and although many of these are sufficiently
catered for in a good balanced diet many experienced keepers do like to
support their birds diets with these top ups, some
even swear by them. Always read the bottle and never exceed the recommended
Gouldian Finches require clean fresh water supplied
at ALL times, changed daily. Tap water contains many additives to make sure
it is perfectly safe for us humans but this is not so beneficial to Gouldians and it would be advised for those keepers living
in hard water areas to filter their tap water, or at very least pour into a
glass container and leave to stand in a cool dark area for 24 - 48 hours.
This allows many heavy particles and chlorine to sink or neutralise.
One of the most
worrying aspects breeders have when assessing the health of their birds is
that we can only visually see the main signs that our birds are unwell
towards the end of their illness therefore it is essential that we should
have a regular routine whereby ALL birds are inspected and any that are
showing signs of not being in their normal condition are attended to without
Some species of birds can be seen to be very tolerant when it comes to any
minor ailments or illness and generally make a full recovery within a few
days however Gouldian Finches are a somewhat more
delicate species when it comes to health matters and despite all the care
and attention given ALL breeders will at some time or another experience
deaths within their Gouldian Finch
I have been keeping and breeding birds for well over 35 years now and in all
those years I still find very few species of birds that can match the Gouldian Finch in terms of susceptibility towards
illnesses and ailments.
So what are the "most common” health problems relating to Gouldian Finches and how do we treat them in our birds?.
Firstly I will begin with what many breeders consider to be the "number one
enemy” that is Air Sac Mites.
I have been very fortunate in that all the years I have been keeping Gouldian Finches I have only ever had a few instances of
birds suffer from this complaint – however I personally know of several
breeders who have not been so lucky as myself and
they have lost many Gouldian Finches that had this
The symptoms of Air Sac Mites varies greatly according to the severity
of the infection – some birds will only show mild symptoms such as coughing,
or open mouth breathing ( often this can be heard with a characteristic
clicking sound ).
Other birds may show a nasal discharge and may also be very fluffed up having
very little energy and often a high loss of appetite.
Whilst there are many treatments and remedies available for combating this
menace in Gouldian Finches ( and
most if not all perform very well if one adheres to the full manufacturers
instructions ) the product I use as a treatment and preventative is called
BLAST – OFF SPOT ON, this product is manufactured by the BIRD CARE COMPANY,
to treat the birds you apply one to two drops per 30g body weight of bird to
the bare skin between the shoulders. It is recommended by the manufacturers
to repeat this treatment three to four times per year for
Another common problem which is however not unique to
is red mites, these can play havoc with ones birds especially during
the breeding season. Red mites can often be very difficult to spot as they
tend to be more active during the hours of darkness and are extremely small
to the naked eye. Some signs of infection are: fraying around the edges of
the birds feathers, birds appear to be suffering
from irritation and are constantly preening and often birds are listless and
A relatively new product to hit the market and one which I use with
outstanding results is called CHECK-MITE by All Creatures Health Check, full
details of their products can be found in Cage & Aviary Birds or the
companies web site: www.allcreatureshealthcheck.com This product proved to
be very successful for a fellow bird-keeping friend who was plagued with red
mites and was having great difficulty trying to eradicate them in his bird
room. He has only been using Check-Mite for a few weeks but when I visited
him last weekend, he was pleased to report that he was having great success
since he started using this product.
Gouldian Finches are particularly prone to suffering
from Bacteria and Fungal infections.
There are many things that can generate these problems amongst Gouldian Finches however I believe that most can be
attributed to poor hygiene standards – therefore I pay very close attention
to ensure ALL cages / feed and water containers/ nest boxes and above all
food supplied to the birds are spotlessly clean and free from any forms of
Any soft food and green food given to the birds MUST NOT be allowed to go
stale even if it means replacing several times a day particularly in warm
weather when it tends to "go off” quicker.
From my own experience of keeping Gouldian Finches I
have noticed problems with Bacteria when my birds have access to an outside
flight, I have come to the conclusion that this is mainly due to rain water
finding it’s way into their aviary and settling in areas where the birds can
drink it – therefore I feel it is essential if you do keep Gouldian Finches that have access to an outdoor flight,
make sure that their flight it well protected from any penetration of rain
Fungal infections are many and varied but in the main I have found that most
are caused by poor hygiene or overcrowding of your birds.
There are many commercial products on the market to help bird keepers maintain
a clean and healthy environment for your birds and one that i have used with great success is called Saniclens from The Birdcare
Egg Binding is also a common problem amongst
Finches particularly with young hens during their first breeding cycle. Early
symptoms are: birds generally spend all of their time on the cage floor with
their feathers fluffed, often with their head tucked under their wing and/or
wings are carried low and often spread out. Birds have little to no energy
and make no attempt to move if approached.
There are many theories as to the cause of egg binding and many believe it is
caused by lack of exercise, birds getting too fat from being fed incorrect
diets, lack of protein in the diet and also on occasions, hens that are too
old for breeding purposes. I believe that diet deficiencies can play an
important role in the cause of egg binding, lack of vitamin A & D3 (vitamin
D3 is provide by natural sunlight and green foods are very high in vitamin A
– Cod Liver Oil contains a high level of both of these vitamins and I
regularly add a few drops of this to soft foods) are known to be one of the
major causes of egg binding. I have found through experience that if the
bird is treated early enough, the survival rate is generally good. If egg
binding is suspected in any of my hens, the way I
treat them is by removing the afflicted bird, and "steam" her whilst at the
same time VERY gently massaging the vent area using baby oil. Often this
treatment has to be repeated several times but normally, within a few hours
of the bird being "steamed" and placed into a warm hospital cage she will
pass the egg successfully HOWEVER, in order to save any hen suffering death
from egg binding, time is off the essence and it is essential to treat the
bird as soon as possible.
Steaming: This term refers to an old established method used by many
breeders for all species of cage birds and involves filling a non breakable
container with boiling water; cover the container with a thin cloth allowing
steam to filter through the fabric. The vent area of the bird is then held
within the steam – taking care not to burn the bird or damage the egg. The
heat vapour can be judged by the hand holding the bird and therefore gives a
guide as to the temperature of the steam being emitted.
Although this is a practice that many experienced breeders feel confident in
performing, if you have any doubts as to your own ability to perform this
task, I would strongly recommend you seek veterinary help – this of course
applies to all bird health issues, Gouldian
Finches being no exception.
If you spend time attending to hygiene and housing matters there is every
reason to expect all the success and enjoyment that this delightful species
has to offer, in my opinion there is no bird that can match the beauty of