There are a few mutations that two parent gouldians should never both carry as double factor and bred together. These are:
* white chest bred to white chest,
*blue back to blue back, and
*double factor yellow to yellow.
The reason for this, is that these are considered fairly new mutations. When these mutations first appeared, the birds were inbred to parents and siblings to produce more. Therefore, the gene pool of the birds is very small, and very related. It is still like closely inbreeding your birds. This produces very weak, fragile birds, that often never thrive.
So when pairing these mutations, it is best to incorporate some other genes into the gene pool. Ideally, you should breed a normal gouldian to the new mutations, producing "split "offspring. The split offspring can then be bred to the mutation birds to produce healthier mutation birds, with more variation in their gene pool. You may only produce 50% of offspring to be mutation, but in the long run, that 50% you produced will be hardier, more adjustalbe birds, much more likely to survive into adulthood.
Hand pairing works best if you want to control what mutations you produce, quality of show birds, and keep birds from breeding to siblings. But there can be some problems with hand pairing. A pair of birds may never get along, and refuse to breed with each other. Even when housed together for over a month. These are incompatible birds. Some times birds will decide that they are not the best genetic match for each other, and lay small clutches with few being fertile, more males to a clutch, and may even be bad parents if they cannot work well together. You will know when you have an incompatible pair when they chase each other around, they will not sleep or sit close to one another, and you will see them fencing with their beaks.
Sleeping next or close to each other on the same perch, sitting in the nesting box together, and sharing the food dish are all great signs that the pair get along.
If you let your birds naturally select their own mates, you will not have to worry about a pair that does not get along. Birds that have selected their own partner, often know who is the best genetic match for themselves and tend to produce bigger clutches, more females, and hardier offspring.
This also goes for pairing birds of the same head color. Since females are capable of consciously determining the sex of their own young, they will produce more females with a male that has the same head color as herself. An experiment was done, where the males heads were painted a different color (eg. red headed male, painted black head) and then paired to a female with the same color that the males head was painted. Females that were paired to males of the same head color, produced bigger clutches, with more females, even if the males head color was not real. Females that were paired to males with a different head color, produced smaller clutches, with more males, whether the male had a fake different color from the hen, or really had a different color from the hen. Showing females are able to make a conscious decision about the sex of their young, based what bird they would consider the best genetic match. Pairing two of the same head colored birds, will produce hardier offspring with a better chance of survival, and therefore, the hens will produce female offspring. Males thrive better than females. If you choose to breed finches in a colony, it would be most rewarding to house finches of the same head color together. eg. red headed goulds in one aviary, black headed in another, and yellow heads in another.
I believe it is necessary, and very important to have full spectrum lighting for any bird. Especially any bird housed indoors away from natural light, and during the winter months.
When not breeding, they should have at least 12 hours a day of light. When breeding, I extend the light period to 15 hours a day.
Light is needed for the birds to make vitamin D, which helps break down very valuable and much needed calcium. Especially when breeding hens are producing eggs.
Without proper lighting, your birds can develop calcium and vitamin D deficiencies.
There are a few different brands that offer full spectrum lights, but the best lights are the ones made especially for avian use.
Gouldians are very sensitive to temperature changes and do not do well in the cooler temperature range. They do best at temperatures kept between 72 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, or 22 to 25 degrees Celsius. I find the best breeding results at 77 degrees F. I don't agree with fully maintaining a constant temperature. I believe that letting the temperature change slightly from night to day, and from cooler days to warmer days, helps produce stronger more adjusted birds. However, I do not let the change happen to dramatically, or let the temperature ever go below 70 degrees F.
When breeding, gouldians are best kept at a humidity of 65%, which should be slightly increased during the breeding months. Low humidity can cause eggs to dry out. High humidity should not be maintained for too long, as damp conditions are ideal for growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungus.
individual breeding cages - best for selective breeding by hand-pairing
Breeding cages are best used to hand-pair your gouldians for certain color mutations. But you can also end up pairing incompatible birds, and have to start again.
Gouldians are social birds and do well in an aviary with other types of birds and other gouldians. Colony breeding can be a very successful way to breed you gouldians. As a nesting pair can trigger other birds to go into breeding season, and also start nesting. The down side to colony breeding is that there is no control over the pairs that are breeding. You cannot maximize the outcome of different color mutations. You will get the best outcome from housing same head colored birds together. *See "Natuarl Selectio/Hand Pairing?" above*
Gouldians do not tend to be picky about the quarters in which they will make their nest. I have had success with everything from hanging basket nests, canary nests, and budgie boxes. I prefer to use our own hand-made boxes with hinges on the top cover, to open for nest checks. They are 5x5x5 inches, with a whole in the front.
Gouldians unfortunately are not the best nest builders. It is best to add some nesting material into the box, or basket, in which you wish them to lay their eggs, before adding it to the cage. Make a small dip in the center, for the eggs to sit. The pair will not add much to this, but they will do a little of their own rearranging of the nesting material. You must add material to a flat bottom box. If there is no "cup shape" for the chicks to sit in, they will end up with splay legs. This is a condition where the legs do not form normally.
More experienced gouldian parents are more accepting of nest checks. It is best to do nest checks as little as possible to a new pair. However, I do think nest checks can be beneficial. The more the birds see you, the more they can become use to you, you can better estimate the day the eggs will hatch, know how many eggs are in the nest, take out dead or un-hatched eggs, and check to make sure the young are being fed. The best time to check the nest is early in the morning, when the mother bird is ready to switch with the male, to feed and stretch her wings. I only recommend 3 nest checks through the whole breeding period. Once when you expect the first egg to be laid, and 5 to 7 days after they start sitting, to candle the eggs and check for fertility. You will save your gouldians a lot of time if you find the eggs to be clear (not fertilized). You can then remove any infertile eggs. All infertile eggs should be removed, as they can break easily and infect the nest and the fertile eggs. The last check should be a day after the eggs were expected to hatch, to make sure the young are being fed.
To tell the difference between fertile and infertile eggs, it is best to use a candling tool. But you can distinguish fertile eggs from non fertile eggs while holding the eggs up to a light source. With either method, in a fertile egg, after the first 5-7 days, you will see a small red dot, with a few veins branching out from this tiny red dot. If you have a proper candling tool or look close enough, you will see the heart beating. The shell of a fertile egg will also be a bright white compared to infertile eggs. The shell of an egg that is not fertile will be almost clear and sort of dark. You will not see anything but the yellow yolk inside when candled. The last week of a fertile egg, will appear dark on one side, you can often see the moving embryo inside.
When an egg that was once checked to be fertile does not hatch, you should suspect the chick is "dead in shell". This can happen if the egg was chilled, humidity is wrong, or temperature was off (such as when using an incubator). You can check the egg after it did not hatch on the date it was expected to. You can also candle young eggs to find that they are dead in shell. In an egg that has died early, you will notice a red ring around the yolk. In an older egg, you can break it open to find it dark, smelly and find an undeveloped embryo.
It has long been known that gouldians can make terrible parents. For years breeders have went around this problem by using foster parent birds, such as society finches, to raise and incubate any abandoned chicks or eggs. Gouldians will often toss new hatchlings, refuse to feed them, or abandoned their eggs. I find that in some cases, the parent gouldians will do this the first few times, until they "get the hang of" raising their own clutch. Once they get it, they make great parents. If they still don't get it after a few tries, sometimes you can correct the problem just by switching the partner. These problems usually arise in a pair that is too young, or the male is at a different breeding stage than the female.
It is my own personal experience that tells me fostered gouldians will display the same actions as their parents when they are bred. I believe this problem is genetically linked and the fostered gouldians pass down the problem to the next generation.
I do not think it is a bad idea to foster some abandoned babies. Why let them just die? I just don't think parent birds that have proven to be problem breeders over and over again, should be allowed to continue producing more problem birds. Though of course, every breeder has their own opinion.
We no longer keep foster parent birds (society or zebra finches). Any abandoned chicks will be raised under other gouldians, or hand-raised and we will be sure to inform you whether or not the hand-raised or gouldian fostered baby came from reliable or unreliable parents.
Gouldians are notorious for throwing babies from the nest. It is most often the male who does the pitching. The reason is not completely understood as to why they do this. A lot of factors, such as age, breeding condition, and diet seem to play a big factor in this. What most don't tell you about pitching, is the damage done to many of the babies, who will often be missing limbs, have torn skin, or damaged eyes. Most sites do not inform you of the pure brutality of a baby bird being thrown from the nest, by its own parents!