Zebra Finches will only breed when they are fit and in ''breeding condition'' (Refer to section on Breeding). It is important that you bring them into breeding condition and build up their stamina to enable them to carry out the strenuous task of raising one, or two, nests of youngsters.
BASIC SEED REQUIREMENT:
Throughout the breeding season, a good Foreign Finch Mixture is quite acceptable to feed your birds on. However, it is a good idea to provide one, or two, containers to hold a particular seed. It is a fact that cage birds change their seed diet from time to time and by adopting this method, you will get a clear indication of what your stock prefers. For example one container of Panicum Millet and one container of Foreign Finch seed would be a good choice.
Most breeders like to provide a supplement to their stocks basic diet. Conditioning seed is top of the list and is widely used as a pre - season conditioner. It may be offered twice weekly, starting at least six weeks prior to the birds being paired up for breeding.
It is generally accepted that all Zebra Finch Breeders use a rearing food. Trade products are the most popular but those who have the time to spare, prefer to make up their own recipe. A general Condition and Rearing egg food is widely used but other brand names such as Ce De, EMP, Biovit, Quiko, to name a few, are also popular. The majority of these products are a dried egg and biscuit mixture to which you just add a little water to mix it into a moist, crumbly consistency, do not make it too sloppy as your birds will not eat it.
Proprietary softfoods of the rearing food you may prepare yourself, the easiest to make is bread and milk. Brown Wholemeal bread is best, but white bread will also be accepted. Mix with a little warm milk, a sprinkling of sugar may be added and i always add a little Blue Maw Seed mixed with a little Niger Seed sprinkled over the top. Caution must be taken when feeding this food in the summer months as the milk may turn sour due to the hotter days, i would recommend changing this food at least twice daily.
Soaked Seed is occasionally used as a Rearing Food. Mixed Millet may be soaked in water for up to 48 hours, but the water must be changed every 12 hours to keep the seed clean and fresh. This will stop the water from becoming stagnant. Before feeding thoroughly rinse with clean water, it can be fed on its own or mixed with your egg food, or left for the seed to sprout. Millet Sprays may also be prepared and given in the same way.
Zebra Finch enthusiasts like to give their birds some form of green food. However, not necessarily as a rearing food. Chickweed is a popular choice with Water Cress and Lettuce both coming a close second. It must be remembered that whatever green food you use, it must come from a contaminated free source.
The majority of Zebra Finch breeders do not give their birds tit bits. You may give your birds the occasional treat, apple is top of the list but orange is also accepted. Tonic seed or a little ground digestive biscuit may also be given.
Mineral grit is an essential part of a Zebra Finches diet. Other alternatives or additions are; Cuttlefish Bone (whole or crushed), Baked Hens Egg Shells, Fine Oyster Shell Grit, Charcoal and Pink Minerals. A good supply of calcium is necessary for good egg production. A lack of Calcium may result in soft shelled eggs.
Vitamin supplements are used extensively in Aviculture. There are many commercial products on the market, and are available in solid, powder and liquid forms. Why do we use them and do they benefit our birds? A recent survey indicated that 45% of breeders used a 'Vitamin Supplement'. The name of the product or how it was administered was not asked. It is generally accepted they are used as a pre - breeding fitness and stamina builder, or as a means of maintaining a healthy bird. A few of the items taken from the list of products used were, Vydexolite CLO ( cod liver oil ) SA37 and Calci - Lux.
Of course, it is always difficult to determine what dosage to administer and if the supplement benefits the birds. The end result is of a personal conclusion, - if you believe your method and results are successful when using a vitamin supplement - then by all means stick with it. If not, then perhaps a change may be necessary, it's your decision.
More natural additives may be used. A hard boiled hens egg may be mixed into your rearing food to give extra nourishment. Wheat Germ is another natural way of providing extra protein, minerals and vitamins. A table spoon full mixed in with your egg food is a good measure. You may also use a teaspoon of honey, melted in warm water and mixed in with your egg food, this is another excellent natural source of goodness.
Drinking water is the way you administer liquid supplements such as Vydexolite, but some properties are lost by adding water. It is essential that you follow the manufacturer's directions when measuring the dosage. If you use Vydexolite, for example, administer twice weekly as a pre - breeding season supplement, but water must be changed 24 hours after use.
As far as Zebra Finches are concerned, fresh water should be given daily. Bathing water too, should be replenished every day. The use of tap water is a very debateable point, in most cases it is a matter of convenience. Some people prefer to boil tap water and leave it to cool before giving it to their birds. Boiling eliminates impurities contained in the tap water.
Whatever feeding methods you employ during the breeding season, it is very important you stick to the system throughout the season. A change of seed, or routine may have an adverse effect on your birds and their breeding results. At the end of the day it becomes a matter of experience in what feeding method you use, and of course the time you have available. Proper care and attention of your birds feeding requirements will undoubtedly bring its rewards.