Here in Melbourne my Gouldians begin to pair up during December after the adult moult that generally begins late September and continues through to October and November. The dates that I mention throughout the breeding routine are applicable for Melbourne. You can view the seasons for Melbourne by visiting the Weather Station page.
It soon becomes fairly obvious which pairs have bonded. The cock will stand tall singing, displaying his brilliant colours. He will puff his chest up to make him look bigger. He will wipe his beak across the perch and then quickly shake his head to and fro. Finally whilst standing rigidly he will rapidly bob up and down in the air whilst singing to the hen. If the hen is interested she will rapidly shake her tail from side to side and then twist her tail towards the cock. If she is not interested she will merely fly away.
Usually when I am satisfied all have paired and are looking in peak condition I introduce the nest boxes between Christmas Day and New Years Day. It is hard to contain ones eagerness to introduce the nest boxes but sometimes it is better to wait until the first week of January.
The nest boxes remain until July/August again depending on how things are going. This period of breeding covers summer, autumn and winter. If you go to the Nesting page you can see further tips on how to build and prepare the nest boxes for placement in the aviary.
It is amazing how quickly the colony will check out the nest boxes. The hen will begin laying her eggs within 10 to 14 days, once the pair establishes a nest site. This will generally depend on their breeding readiness. One white egg is laid each morning until the last egg is laid. This can vary between 4 to 8 eggs.
I prefer a nest size of 4 to 6 eggs but this is out of our control. Don’t panic if an egg does not appear each morning sometimes things do not go to the exact routine. Also do not worry too much if the cock starts sitting on the eggs during the day after the second or third egg is laid. Sometimes the cocks are just too eager to start the incubation period.
The incubation period starts when you see the hen missing at night. She will be sitting on the eggs. This is the starting date for incubation. So record this date. She should go missing every night and in the morning the cock will swap over incubation duties so the hen can stretch her wings, bathe and have something to eat and drink.
Throughout the day the pair will swap places sharing the incubation. At times, some pairs will both sit in the nest together. You will find the cock sitting just in front of the nest protecting and enjoying a quiet moment with his partner. Do not confuse this behaviour with a sick Gouldian which I will mention elsewhere. But it is also something to keep in mind.
Once the pair are incubating full time I try not to disturb them until 7 to 8 days later when I check to see if the eggs are actually fertile. This will avoid the pair wasting their time sitting on any infertile eggs. Please go to the Candling page to see how this is done.
If the eggs are fertile I try not to disturb the nest until I hear the faint chirping of the three-day-old hatchlings. Hatching will take place around 15 to 16 days after that date you recorded when the pair began full incubation duties. The hatching date can vary by being sooner or later depending on the climate and development of the embryo. At this time I like to keep my fingers crossed and hope at least 4 will hatch at the same time because on occasions those that hatch a day or two later can perish as they cannot compete with their larger siblings at feeding time.
Make sure you record the hatching date. I check them every day after hatching in case any die. These are then removed immediately with a pair of long tweezers. Otherwise the decaying body will jeopardize the health of the other nestlings. After 7 days the hatchlings will open their eyes and after 12 days the feathers will have started to appear. You may find that the hen will stop sitting with them at night when their feathers have broken through.
Again do not panic if the hen leaves the nest sooner or even later than planned. There is always a Gouldian that does things differently. At about 24 to 26 days after you recorded the hatching date the nestlings will leave the nest, which is called fledging. Again this can be sooner or later depending on the climate, condition and development of the hatchlings.
The fledglings rarely return to the nest to roost however I have seen this happen. I have found the best fledglings are those that are agile flyers on their first day of leaving the nest. However, some take one or several days to become agile flyers. If a fledgling cannot fly up to the perches to roost with the colony, on day one, I place them back into the nest before dusk, as it would be too cold for them on the floor during the night.
Just prior to or after the nestlings fledge make sure you leg band them so that you know which nest they came from. Please go to the Leg-Banding page to see how this is done.
Now begins the interesting stage of waiting for the juvenile moult as the sex and head colours of the juveniles are revealed. From the juveniles produced it is very easy to spot the best ones. I call them DIAMONDS. I look for the juvenile that is an agile flyer on the very first day of leaving the nest and has tight unruffled feathers. The head should be rounded, not flat, with smooth flowing lines in a tear drop shape. I have pictured an example of one of my diamonds below.
The journey from uncoloured to fully coloured is a slow process. There can be exceptions that colour up quick, but come December they all look as good as each other, regardless of how quick they got there! So be patient. It is important to keep the best of the best in order to develop and consolidate a robust strain of colony bred Gouldians! It is a slow process in a colony set up but it is a fascinating hobby!