To Breed or Not to Breed?

A LOT of people have asked the same question: Can/Should I breed my Finches? I have always had mixed emotions about answering this question from others myself. My first reaction is to shout an excited yes to everyone that asks and welcome them with open arms into the world of breeding. However, I have seen the damage one person can do when hoarding or neglecting Finches and I have learned to be more cautious of people trying to become breeders or supplement their inbred stock. I usually leave the question of whether or not to breed to be answered by the asker, letting people decide for themselves while trying to educate them on just how much responsibility breeding entails when I can.

aviary_photo8QUALITY Breeders Welcomed
There are far too few quality Finch breeders presently and there is always room to welcome another or for someone to become well-known for their superior care. This is especially true with every year that passes as long-time breeders retire from keeping Finches. Yet it is not a responsibility to be taken lightly as so many find out.

The difference between quality and craigslist is the difference between a healthy decade of companionship or having dead pets within a year (in some cases). Adopters easily recognize this which is why major pet store chains have phased out a lot of their Finch sections and hobbyist owners with decades of experience are still going strong. Often times even the chain pet stores will blindly buy from craigslist breeders and their inbred or sick stock because they are cheaper than quality stock from certified breeders. I hear all of the time how pet store Finches have died suddenly and this only emphasizes the need for more quality breeders.

CL_ss“Every Finch Must Go, To Good Home”
Often times people adopt Finches and become so excited with keeping them that they decide to venture into breeding. They always find out just how difficult it can be soon enough and sadly many will then sell or give away all of their Finches altogether. It’s not always fun and easy! Breeding takes years of commitment, knowledge and lots of space, not to mention money for cages and food that need to be bought in advance. All of which need to be gained well before the first egg hatches.

Any breeder must also be able to hand-raise any (and sometimes all!) of the clutches that your birds will lay around the clock for weeks on end until they are weaned. Babies are sometimes abandoned, pushed out of the nest, etc. all of the time (sometimes without any visible reason) and should never be left to die.

A breeder also needs to be able to accommodate anywhere from 4-6 babies (or more) from each clutch after they are weaned, which will mean more cage space and more food items need to be bought.

Breeding puts a lot of stress on Finches and can drastically shorten their life span if done improperly. To prevent this takes well-developed systems of housing, exercise, breeding, breeding seasons and diet.

aviary_photo16It’s About Bettering the Species..
Not weakening it. Finch keeping isn’t about finding out how many birds you can fit in your home or how much you can charge for them, it’s about challenging yourself to provide the best diet and living environment for one of the world’s most amazing creatures. Finches should be treated with respect and as caring, feeling animals and not a way to make money.

In the USA it is fairly impossible to make a profit off of breeding Zebra Finches anyway, and as any good breeder will tell you – if you’re in it for the money then turn back now! The best you can hope for is enough to cover your feed costs, if that. It’s a hobby – not a business. The big time breeders with dozen and dozens of breeding pairs are the only ones that can hope to make any real profit.

“But my Finches want to breed..”aviary_photo14
Finches do not “need” or “want” to breed, it’s in their DNA. All Finches will breed if they are presented with a member of the opposite sex and adequate resources to raise babies (i.e. food and water). If you do not wish to take on the responsibility of hand-feeding young at all hours for weeks, keeping almost constant vigilance to ensure your flock is both healthy and compatible, and daily maintenance of water and food sources then breeding is not for you. Just enjoy your pets!

50% Experience 50% Research
I will never tire of answering questions, but if you are serious about getting a start to breeding you need to do your own research. It is just plain inconsiderate to grill someone because you’re too lazy to do the work on your own. That’s not helping, that’s enabling. When you do the research yourself and gain the experience first-hand you get a far better grasp on what your Finches need from you. Having someone do the leg work for you will not only make it harder to learn, you will miss a lot of the facts that you find through extended hours of research.

It is very easy to tell the difference between someone who has spent the time doing their research and someone who is regurgitating information they heard from someone else or saw on someone else’s site.

MAPDo It Right: Get Certified
Among other upgrades this year I plan on getting all of my memberships/certifications in order, and I recommend that any aspiring breeder does the same ahead of time. This puts you ahead of the game in knowledge & respect in the bird community and also helps to maintain an an excellent standard for aviculture programs across the country.

Here are some on my list for this year (still researching state and national licensing): American Federation of Aviculture (level I and II courses), Cascade Canary Breeders Association, Model Aviculture Program, National Finch and Softbill Society and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (membership only for regular updates).

Breeder Compatibility Checklist
Still think you want to become a breeder? Here are a few things I’ve mentioned above summed up in a checklist to consider.

1. Can you afford all of the necessities that a pair [or more] and their offspring would need? Fresh seeds, herbs and greens, egg soft food, sprouted seeds, hand-feeding formula, brooder, natural and vitamin supplements, cages of at least 24x16x16 for each pair (ASPCA minimum standards but I would recommend 30x18x18), cage stands, additional cages to fit all offspring, first-aid items and cages, adequate lighting, etc. to name a few.

2. Are you in a place financially to expand your aviary if you need to? Most breeders do! If you plan to breed, naturally, you plan to expand – babies need more space, and more pairs mean more cages.

3. Do you have the time for stocking feeders, replacing and cleaning water sources, and monitoring all pairs and offspring daily? There’s also the tasks of keeping up breeding schedules and cycles, banding, record-keeping, finding adopters for offspring, etc. It can be a full time job at times and if you don’t have the time to allow for it then you don’t have the ability to properly commit to breeding.

4. Do you have homes for all of the offspring you plan to breed? I don’t mean someone has said they would like them, but someone has bought the cages, paid the adoption fee and is ready to take them home. THAT is a true buyer. Many times people will change their mind or things in their life will change before the young are ready and that will leave you with more birds who need to find homes. There are lots of birds today that are in actual need of homes without anyone adding more to the mix. So be sure to have the space to keep all of the offspring or your pairs may end up needing rescue themselves.

5. Can you provide round-the-clock and veterinary care to any babies that need hand-feeding or adults that become sick/injured? It is NOT EVER okay to just let adults or babies die. You make a commitment to each and every bird by owning them to do everything in your power to provide them with the best care possible. It is especially frowned upon by every Finch lover to just simply give up on young and yet continue to breed, allowing offspring to die out of laziness and neglect. Hand-feeding is just part of the responsibilities of breeding and if you cannot commit to it, you have no business breeding in the first place.

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