MY EXPERIENCES BREEDING GOULDIANS IN CANADA
By Mike Crawford
Recently when corresponding with Paul he suggested I write an article about my aviary located here in Western Canada. My aviary is called Candor Aviaries and I specialize in the gouldian finch and have raised them for about 12 years. I keep a variety of other birds however my first love is the gouldian. To me it is the “Cadillac” of finches.
I have written another article that is currently on my site under my feather tips page and it is called “Keeping Finches in Manitoba”. I do not want to repeat a lot of what I have already covered in that article however there are some key points to cover when talking about breeding the Gouldians here, in one of the coldest places in Canada in the winter and also one of the hottest places in Canada in the summer.
Occasionally I come across comments from people about the cold conditions faced by their Gouldians and then realize the area being referred to is somewhere that I would call tropical. We are fortunate in that we have a dry cold. I think it is dampness that gets to the Gouldians, not necessarily the cold.
My birds are outside, even after freeze-up. Any colder than the freezing mark I bring them inside and then they are kept indoors for the winter. They are outdoors during our spring, summer and fall-time, which usually is late April to October. From November until March they are inside breeding. I do not breed the birds during the rest of the year. It is just a personal preference as I could breed them anytime I want by manipulating the amount of daylight they receive using the full spectrum lighting. Once inside I use full-spectrum lighting, turn up the heat and presto, they start to breed!
In writing this article I thought I would focus on some of the difficulties faced by those of us in Western Canada. Winnipeg is located smack, dab in the middle of Canada. The longitudinal centre of Canada is a few miles east of the city. The next largest city is Regina and it is a 6-hour car ride away, across the prairies and that is on a good day.
There are not a great many hobbyists compared to larger centres in either eastern Canada or the west-coast of Canada. Our biggest problem I would say is the weather. As I said it is hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Most of the people I know have their aviaries located in their homes, usually in an attic, basement or spare room. My birds are in a separate building that is well insulated and heated. I'll tell you a bit about my aviary.
The aviary is approximately 12' x 8' (I always disliked metric) and is insulated with R20 insulation. The floor is made of 2’ x 6’ boards and has more insulation than the walls. If the floor is not properly insulated it results in continual dampness and heat loss. I have four triple pane windows with sliders. My door is a steel-insulated door. I do everything I can do to keep out the cold. Inside I have two large flights on one side of the room, an aisle and then my breeding cages against one wall. I have included a picture of the inside of the building showing my breeding cages. I use wood shavings on the floor of the flights. The walls are of plywood and painted. For perches I use a combination of natural branches and large pieces of bamboo. I find the bamboo very easy to clean. I have linoleum tiles on the aviary floor.
As I stated the cold weather is our main problem, especially those of us with outdoor aviaries. To further deal with the long cold winters I have a couple of electric baseboard heaters on a thermostat as well as an alarm system hooked up to a greenhouse temperature gauge. I can set the high and low points. If the temperature goes down too low in the winter or goes to hot during the summer an alarm goes off in the house. Yes, heat can be a problem in the summer especially if our days are in the 100 plus range.
I also have an intercom and a telephone from the house. Believe me, when it is minus 30 degrees you do not want to be running back and forth to the house to take telephone calls. I hang some plants, usually some cactus type plants to fool both the birds and myself into thinking we are living anywhere but the sub-arctic!
In dealing with the long winter lighting is very important. I use full spectrum bulbs all year round. Remember, my birds are stuck in doors for up to 6 months of the year. I almost forgot. I also have a fan in the ceiling of the aviary that extends outside. This fan is on a timer that comes on for about an hour a day and draws the stale air out and the fresh air in without creating a draft. My aviary is very dry inside all of the year. This is of great benefit when breeding Gouldians or any other birds.
Summer brings its own special problems. During the spring and summer and into autumn my birds are enjoying the outdoor flights. They have access to the inside of the building through small portals. It is amazing how many Gouldians will elect to stay outdoors overnight when the evenings are very cool. The flight is 4' wide and extends the length of the aviary. This summer I am extending the aviary around the building. Our summers are very hot and the heat here has proven to be a problem for Kakarikis when kept outdoors. They seem to suffer in the heat. The Gouldians love the heat. I have had Gouldians dig under the grass sod I have in the aviary and lay eggs and raise youngsters outdoors.
During the winter the flight is covered in plastic, during the summer it is covered with two layers of protection. I use window screening on the outside of the 2x4's and wire mesh on the inside. This serves two purposes. Firstly the wire keeps out cats, dogs and kids and other unwanted guests. The window screening keeps out the flies and, most importantly the mosquitoes.
The mosquitoes can play havoc with the birds. Canary pox is an example. Besides, I hate mosquitoes and flies in the aviary. The fly-pen roof is covered with plywood and then shingles. The cover keeps out wild bird droppings and provides the birds with shade. It also gives our two cats a place to sleep
Winnipeg does something that seems to be unique to Winnipeg. The City actually sprays chemicals over the entire city several times during the summer to combat the mosquitoes. Great stuff eh! I have an article about this on my Feather Tips pages.
Last summer the spraying resulted in the deaths of several of my birds, although this is difficult to prove. All I know is that after a spraying, our yard is devoid of any wildlife for weeks, including birds, dragon-flies, butterflies, and thousands of little critters. The kicker is that the mosquitoes are usually back the next day having been blown in by the winds. When the City sprays I have to cover my aviary flight with plastic.
Considering the heat and cold I still live in what I consider to be the best place in the world. We have a large active bird club here although we are not interested in showing birds competitively. We enjoy our birds and each other’s company.
On my site I have a weather indicator so if anyone wants to see what the weather in Winnipeg is like please check it out. If anyone wants to write to me to find out more about keeping birds in Manitoba please drop me a line.