Probably no other exotic finch has received more attention than the Gouldian Finch. Its shear beauty dictates that finch lovers around the world would praise it and write about it. While there are many books available and most if not all of those contain valuable information, there is no doubt disagreement among Gouldian breeders as to which methods are best for success with this species. Large numbers are bred in captivity, particularly in Australia, where the National Parks and Wildlife Department of the state of South Australia had permit returns in the late 1990s that showed more than 13,000 Gouldian Finches were being kept by aviculturists. It goes without saying that what works for some will not work for others. So in some respects it seems redundant for me to write about my methods of breeding Goulds, but again what works for me might work for you, then who know?

I have bred Goulds since 1972, and during that time I have had many experiences both good and bad. Still I try new methods, new nests, new cages, a variety of new ways to improve, hell, we all do! One truth is, not all Gould bred well, but those that do, can breed very well, almost out-producing any finch. My first year ever, I produced 24 young from a single pair in a small cage. In all these years, I am sorry to say I have never been able to repeat that amount of success. Just to indicate how peculiar these birds can be. My second year with nine pair of birds set up for breeding I produced only 18 young. A dismal year, to say the least.

My Method of Breeding Gouldians

I no longer breed Gouldians but when I did, I breed all of my Goulds in individual cages and make no serious attempt at fostering the eggs or young. Over the years have developed a preference for encouraging them to raise their own young and concurrently I have no interest in fostering. There is no doubt that my decision to do so results in fewer young being produced on an annual basis, but that's my choice. If you are into numbers and $ then there is little choice but to foster under society finches. This requires constant vigil and meticulous record keeping to insure optimum success.

My cages are 24 inches wide, 20 inches tall and 16 - 18 inches deep. Each cage has only two perches (my choice), one seed dish, one container for grit and egg shell, another container for nesting food. The nest box is always place on the outside of the cage front and the nest box entrance is just above the perch level. I make my own nest boxes. The size is 4" wide X 5" deep X 6-7 " tall. I use basically two types of wooden nest boxes. The design is nothing very special, but it is one that I like and have remained loyal to over the years. There are of course many other designs I have seen in use, all with excellent results, but these are two that I like. Both nest boxes are roughly the same size each with different entrance openings. The height is 8 inches, the with and depth is 6 inches. Both boxes have either a lid or a back that is removable for easy inspection and cleaning. There is no perch on either nest box. One box has a small entrance hole which is crescent moon shape. The other box has a very large opening. This box is often used to entice new birds to inspect the nest and begin nest building activities. This does not offer as much privacy as Gouldians generally prefer, but it is enticing to them to explore. Each nest boxes is place on the outside of the cage with two metal hooks. Each cage has a nest box entrance hole cut out, with a flap that can be lifted when the box is in place, and secured when the box is removed, to prevent birds from escaping. These wooden nest boxes can be inspected by lifting the hinged top or by sliding the back of the nest upwards and removing it. I usually begin the nest building by placing some Bermuda grass in the box and addition in the cage for the birds to use in completely their nest construction. Goulds love to play with nesting material and this can stimulate breeding and strengthen pair bonds. I would NOT provide additional nesting material once there are eggs or babies in the nest. Sometimes this can excite the parents to such as extent that they may abandon the young and try to nest again. I would minimize any changes or additions to the cage once they have built a nest and begun a clutch of eggs. While most Goulds are tolerant of nest inspection and complacent birds, there is no reason to disturb them an more than necessary during this period.


The nesting cycle of Goulds is much the same for any Australian finch. The average clutch is 4-5 eggs but larger clutches are not uncommon. The eggs are laid every day and often incubation begins when the first egg is laid. After about 5-7 days of incubation the color of the eggs will change, particularly if they are fertile. Freshly laid eggs are white, 5-6 day old fertile eggs are rosy pink, infertile eggs are yellow-white. By inspecting the nest at the end of the first week you can determine the fertility of the clutch and even remove any eggs that are infertile at that time. A small pen-light flash light is useful in doing this. Don't be alarmed at inspecting the nest. Don't do it too often but it should be done at at least once on or about the 7th day. Using a small spoon remove I remove infertile eggs, although it is not necessary to do so. However there are a few unspoken rules to consider. For example if the clutch contains 5 eggs are only one is fertile, I personally would not remove all 4 infertile ones. Why? The absence of so many eggs could give the parents some concern and result in abandoning the nest. The eggs hatch in 15-16 days, one at a time, but it seems before you know it all have hatched. You'll know right away if they are going to be fed, as they parent feed him almost immediately and the food is visible along the neck of the babies. I make certain at this time they have unlimited amounts of spray millet, nesting food and fresh greens once a day. The young grow quickly and before you know it they are already getting quill on their wings. Often times this is a critical period for new parent Goulds. I cannot explain why, but frequently new parent seem to tire of their young and abandoning the young or worse, throwing them out of the nest is not uncommon. What do you do? Frankly there is not much you can do, except return them to the nest if that is an option, or search for a pair of suitable foster parents. Fortunately, most will raise the young successfully, but the former does happen and you need to be aware of it and prepared. It seems that young inexperience birds are more likely to behave this way, however I have even had good breeding birds to occasionally tire and do this. Its unpredictable and a frustrating lesson in Gould behavior. I rarely let the parent raise more than 4 young at a time. Many pairs will hatch 5 or 6 young per clutch and many would succeed in raising all of them but I have come to the conclusion over the years that 4 young per nest is just fine and I will often try and find a suitable foster parent for the 5th and 6th chicks. Often times if these are allowed to remain in a large nest of young, they will lag behind in development and not thrive anyway, so fostering them early is my choice. My first choice is to foster them to another pair of Goulds with smaller clutches and young of the same age. If this is not available, then I search for either a pair of Societies with only one or two young of the same age, or even a pair of Zebras. Zebras can and do raise Goulds very well, but are often less suitable for fostering than Societies because of their general nervous habits. Regardless, I have used some of my cage bred Zebras and Societies many times for this and had success.

Young Goulds definitely take a slightly longer time to develop and fledge compared to many other birds. But this is not a problem. They also require a longer weaning period before they are self sufficient from the adults. Again, this should not be a problem but one must be aware of it and not make any attempt to remove them prematurely from the parents or foster parents. I am never in a hurry to remove the young. Often times the parents begin a second clutch and the first clutch is still in the breeding cage. It is at this time that I remove them.


What potential touchy subject. Everyone has their own tried and proven ideas about raising young Goulds to maturity. Sometimes indeed that is easier said than done. It seems that some people invariably experience a notable lost of young birds during this period. I'm not certain I can shed any sure-fire method to curtail losses, but I do have a couple of idea that seem to work for me.

Young Goulds need plenty of space and you can easily accumulate lots of youngster during a breeding season. I always try to give them adequate living space in holding cages, never placing to many birds per cage. The size of the cage is less important to me than the number of birds per cage and the more space you can offer them the better your chances of minimizing losses that occur during times of stress from juvenile to adult. Many people report that the first molt from juvenile plumage to adult plumage is a stressful period and I agree. Providing lots of flight room will reduce the stress on birds during this period. Most of my holding cages are about 2 feet square and I usually house only 6 or 7 birds in such a cage. I would even recommend smaller number if you have the cage space. But that number seems comfortable for most Goulds. I also provide an iodine supplement in the water during this period and adequate water soluble vitamins regularly but not necessarily every day to these young birds. Naturally they receive the best diet I can offer which does not differ from the diet I offer the adults. Sometimes I provide extra heat to young birds if they appear to need it. There is not doubt that Goulds like to be warm and thrive in hot climates, even though they can adapt to many temperature, since Louisiana has naturally a warm climate, I do my best to maintain as even a temperature as possible. However I have also learned that overheating has its problems too. So a good temperature range from the 60°s and up to 80°s is about the norm. Our summers are very hot and many times during these months the temperature will climb daily into the 90°s and perhaps higher. During these times I ventilate the rooms continuously to minimize the extreme heat. The birds seem to thrive. Prolonged and sudden high temperatures can bring about a sudden molt in all Goulds and this should be avoided if possible.


This is my own seed mixture and to each his own. I'm not saying that its the best or better than what many others feed. But they birds like it, there is little or no waste of uneaten seeds. Occasionally I will offer them some Niger seeds as a treat mixed in with the regular seeds above but I am not certain all of them partake of it. I still offer it every now and then. The eggshell and grit are fed in separate container from the seed and replaced as needed.

The breeding cages are serviced every day for food. The water is routinely changed every other day, or as needed. It is carefully monitored each day but only changed if soiled or if nearly empty. Water soluble bird vitamins are never added to the water. Rarely, is vitamin enriched water is given.