Breeding records bullfinches (2005)

For breeding records bullfinches 2006 click here

For breeding records bullfinches 2007 click here



Breeding bullfinches is not an easy job. My experience is though that when you have succeeded to keep the birds healthy during the first two years, they can live long without a problem and also will be reproductive for a long time. The success is very much dependent on the condition and health of the birds you start with. Also hygiene and feeding play a large role. Most young bullfinches we lose between the breeding period and the moult. As mentioned elsewhere on the site, I have not succeeded before to breed bullfinches without preventative medication against parasites. Particularly atoxoplasmosis and coccidiosis are the cause of the death of a lot of (young) birds. I provide Baycox 2 ml/litre water a couple of times a year during 2 days. Especially wet periods are favourable to proliferate the parasites Iospora canaria (coccidiosis) en Iospora serini (atoxoplasmosis). Atoxoplasmosis cannot be cured. Birds that become contaminated will die. Baycox is used during the critical period to protect the birds. Coccidiosis can also be fatal for young birds if not treated quickly. Also here Baycox can be used to cure the birds. For more detail, refer to illness prevention elsewhere on this site. I have coupled the birds on the 11th of April. The next day I have provided the nesting materials. This year I breed with three couples wild type x brown, split pastel x pastel and a couple of which both are wild type.

The first combination (theoretically) will give 50% wldtype/brown males and 50% wild type females
The second one 25% wildtype/pastel males, 25% pastel males, 25% pastel females, 25% wildtype females
Two couples are kept in a breeding box of 2x2x1 m. The couple with the brown hen have company of a couple twites. The others have no sustenance. The wild type couple is kept in a cage of 1x0.70x1 m. Although the hen was a little bit jumpy and did not look at easy, this has improved over the last weeks. If this will not lead to success, I will put this couple in a large aviary with more space and more natural environment.

All bullfinches seem to accept each other frequently I see the cock feeding.

On the 20th of April the pastel couple has a nest complete. In the morning of the 21 I saw the female sitting on the nest apparently laying an egg. I also noticed that a broken egg is lying on the bottom of the aviary. Bad news! I may have a male bullfinch that has the habit to destroy eggs. On the 22nd again the hen is on the nest laying an egg. When I returned after 15 minutes, the egg is not in the nest but in a tray below the feeding container. It looks like the male again has taken the egg out of the nest. The egg seems to be intact. I stored it and have put an artificial egg in the nest. Tonight I will put the male in a cage inside the breeding box, where he still can see the hen.

The next day I got confirmation that the male bird is not responsible for removing the eggs. Again an egg is found on the bottom of the aviary, but now the male bird is locked away. The hen is from 2004 and apparently not experienced enough. This happens quite often with young birds. Normally the second round will be ok. The male bird is released again and new nesting material is provided.

Also I am facing some problems with the brown couple. In retrospect it was not a good idea to have this couple together with the twites in a box. When one bird flies up all four get airborne and all together this gives quite a nervous situation and will not encourage the breeding process. I decided to give it a try for a couple of days, but since the situation was not improved, I moved the twites to another 1x1x 0.70 breeding cage.

Almost at the same time the brown and the pastel couple start the breeding process. The first two eggs of the brown couple are destroyed by the male, hence he was put into a show cage inside the breeding box. Both hens produce 6 eggs and the incubation is without any problem. Unfortunately when checking the eggs it appeared that all 6 eggs of the pastel couple are infertile. Now I have made a crucial mistake. After I found out that the 6 eggs were infertile, I have thrown them away. The 6 eggs of the brown couple are all fertile and I decide to put two eggs under the pastel hen. I thought this was better because since the male of the brown couple is temporarily locked away, I am not sure whether he starts to help feeding the chicks when he is released again. Two eggs are put into the (empty) nest of the pastel hen. The hen accepts the new situation and gets back to the nest. After a quarter of an hour the hen still sits on the nest and I am confident that everything will be fine and leave the house to go to work. When I return in the evening, the hen is no longer on the nest and the eggs feel cold. I have no idea when the hen decided not to incubate the eggs any longer, but move the back to the other nest quickly. If I would have left four of the original eggs in the nest or replaced them by artificial eggs no harm was done. Putting them back under the other hen appeared to be too late, as both eggs do not hatch.

All four remaining eggs hatch without a problem and after 5-6 days I can put the rings. The cock has been in a separate cage all the time in the breeding box. When the chicks are 6 days, I release the male to see if he will start to help feeding the chicks. Immediately he starts to chase the hen again and tries to mate. The hen is distracted considerably by this and I am afraid that the will be at the expense of feeding the chicks. I decided to lock the cock away again and give it another try when the hen does not sit on the nest anymore. Also this time it was no success. In the beginning it seems that the cock shows no interest, but after a while the story repeats with chasing and distracting the hen. Also at the moment the cock was released, the hen starts to get interested in an empty nesting place and flies around with material. Now I decide to lock the male away until the chicks are self supporting and ready for a next round. “Breeding bullfinches is solving problems”, a saying by Jos Dircks is very true. Another problem needs to be solved. When the bullfinches were still together with the twites, I had provided four nesting places, two big ones and two small one for the twites. The bullfinch, however, has made the nest in one of the smaller nests, which becomes rapidly too small to accommodate four young birds. When I return from work one day, I found one bird lying on the feeding tray below the nest. It was cold and had an empty crop but was still alive. It apparently fell over the edge. Shortly after I put it back it recovers quickly and starts to beg for food. To prevent repetition I decide to move the nest to a larger housing. An identical nesting house but bigger is put on the same spot as the original nest and the chicks are moved. The hen becomes quite nervous and does not dare to fly onto the nest. She looks at the new situation from the side of the nest hanging on the mesh. A couple of times she flies into the direction but turns back just before the nest. In the mean time the chicks are lying there for almost one hour without being fed and they start to beg. This becomes irresistible for the hen and finally she flies onto the nest and after a while starts to feed the birds. I realise that this also could have gone wrong, but also that I most certainly would have lost a couple of birds because of this too crowded nest.

Also in the large aviary, where the third couple has been put things look good. On the 28th of May there are three chicks in the nest and a fourth egg is about to hatch. Th hen is a special one. One of the tail feathers is completely white. There can be a lot of causes for that, but I am curious if the will be inherited by the off spring. To breed birds in a large aviary with a mixed population is always more difficult. All birds eat from the provided insects and egg feed. It is also quite costly when you raise your birds with frozen insects bought by the pack. In this aviary there are green finches, gold finches and siskins. All birds are very busy to build nests, but so far only the bullfinches have started to breed. Apart from frozen insects and egg feed, I have started to provide living meal worms. The gold finches and siskins do not touch them and I hope that when the frozen insects are gone, the bullfinches will feed them to the chicks. So farI think they are not very font of them.After another three days, the disaster begins. The bullfinches can no longer cope with competition and the chicks are not being fed properly. I try to have as much as insects available for them, but the next day one chick lies dead on the ground and the other follow soon.


Chicks 14 days old in their new housing


One week later

The pastel bullfinches grow extremely well and mid une they are transferred to another box. It now again time to release the male bird again. Because he did not accept the chicks, he was temporarily moved to a small cage inside the aviary. When it appeared that he had to remain separated from the hen until the chicks were independent, I moved him to a large box.

Pastel chick (hen) self supporting in the box

As a precaution and to get used to the matrimonial state again, I kept the male bird for two days in a small cage inside the aviary. Then he was released and the ehn was very pleased with that and after a 10 minute’s courtship, they mate. When I observed the cock, he is much more at ease than during the first round. He does not chase the hen so much and is also not messing around with the nest that the hen is busy building. I decide to take the chance and leave the couple together at least until the first egg was laid. At the first round the egg was directly destroyed. I closely watch what is happening early in the morning. When the hen leaves the enst after laying the egg, the cock hops on the nest looks inside and leaves again. Also the second egg is not touched by the male. In total there are five eggs and the hen is steady on the nest. No problems with the cock anymore. As a precaution I do not give any egg feed during the incubation. I am afraid that this will work up the male bird to much and I do not want to take that risk.

I have taken drastic measures with the other couple (wild type/pastel x double pastel). Two times already the eggs were infertile. I decided to change the cock. I however do not have a pastel passing cock, so unfortunately I have to replace the bird by a “ordinary” wild type cock. From the combination you get wild type/pastel males and wild type females. The late change however appeared to be successful and on the 2nd of Juli three eggs hatch.

Three well fed chicks deep in the nest.

Despite the fact that the birds were coupled late in the season, it is a perfect combination. It is really a pleasure to see both parents feeding the chicks in the nest.


Breeding bullfinches 2006


This year I have relatively many bullfinches I would like to breed with. In the breeding cages there are two couples and in the breeding boxes, there are another three couples. Finally I also have one couple in the large aviary where there are also goldfinches, siskins and twites, one couple of each. Of the six couples there is only one in the natural coulour. The remaining couples will give pastel and brown colours.

Mid April I hang out the nests. Im previous years, I have dressed these nests with conifer twigs to make it look a bit naturally for the birds. This year I have decided that they should do without. I will not give a chronological description of the breeding process this year. This would probably only be a repetition of last years. I would like to try to share with you some observations, problems and possible solutions.

I breed this year with a relatively large number of you couples. The males are own bred from last year, the females I have made unrelated by exchange with another bullfinch breeder. It is my experience that young birds have difficulty to get started. They normally do not make a reasonable nest and sometimes eggs are dropped on the floor or in te feeding tray. It takes a bit of patience before this solves itself. When eggs were put on the floor and they were still ok, I have put them in a nest. Of course the best nest is the one the birds already have shown some interest. One hen of which the eggs were laying on the floor broken, I have put some artificial eggs in a nest. The next two eggs were again put on the floor, but finally she could “find” the nest and three more were added two the artificial eggs and the hen started to incubate.
If the hen cannot decide for a nest, it maybe useful to reposition them or put an additional nest in. It is also good to keep the hen stimulated by keeping on providing nesting material.

Another issue I had was that the young males did not inseminate well. In one nest there were six eggs but only two were fertile. Also this I ascribe to the fact that the birds are young.

I am very happy that this year (so far) I do not have to separate any cock. All males are behaving well and help feeding the chicks and do not pester the hens. Of one couple the chicks have left the nest and the hen already started a new round. When the cock feeds well it is not a problem. Sometimes the hen feeds as well but most of the task is now taken over by the cock.

I have two couples I am not yet really satisfied with (29th May) . Also here there is a problem of not deciding which nest to take and eggs are laid on the floor. One of the two probably will improve, the other maybe more of a problem as the hen also show moulting. Although she is still active and let the cock feed her, I think this would not be successful.

Young bullfinches are not shy and can be approached without a problem to take a picture

The same a week later

A painter's palette. In this nest there is a brown, a pastel and a normal coloured chick. The pastel can be male or female. The brown chick can only be a hen. The wild type colour will be transferring pastel and brown.
Pastel an brown chick together with the hen
Brown chick
This is a kind of a puzzle. As I did not collected the eggs, the chicks are of different size and age
The chicks are fed by the cock, while the hen is incubating 5 eggs on a new nest

Whether 2007 will be a successful season is still unclear. When I called around in the beginning of May there was not a lot of positive news. The general problem was that many breeders got infertile eggs. Also in quite a lot of cases, chicks died inside the egg. April was an extraordinary month. After a winter that was extremely mild, the early spring was exceptionally hot and dry. Mid April I had couple the birds. I had to go abroad a couple of times, so I had “planned” it in such a way that I was at home when I expected the birds to have nests and chicks. This was of course quite a stupid assumption as nature cannot be forced. I reckoned that they were going to have nest early, but this turned out differently. The birds responded well to each other and the hen were fed by the males, but there were no nests. This year I breed with four couples bullfinches. Three are in a large breeding aviary of 2 x 2x 1 m. One couple is in a breeding cage of 1 x 1x 0.7 m. The birds in the aviaries started to nest first. Bullfinches breed well in a cage, but it is my experience that in a larger breeding aviary it is easier. Almost at the same time the hens started to incubate. That was on April 27th. I have two normal colored couples, one pastel and one brown mutation. Of the pastel couple both male an female are pastel. This was done to get a better more intensified pastel. You run the risk that the size of the birds decrease, but chicks will be crossed with the wild type again to preserve size and shape. The brown is a carrier brown cock and a brown hen. Both had four eggs in the nest. The other wild type couple had 6 eggs. In the cage the hen dropped two times an egg on the floor and did not make any attempts to build a nest. The other couple had six eggs. Unfortunately the nests of the mutants appeared to be infertile when I checked them after one week. I always let them finish one cycle of 14 days before removing the eggs. This to avoid a subsequent nest of infertile eggs. The six eggs of the wild type, however, were all ok. This resulted indeed in six chicks when they hatched on the May 11th.
The 6 chicks grew well and in the first two weeks they were fed only by the hen. The cock did feed the hen when they were on the nest. When the chicks were 14 days old, the cock also started to feed them. Six chicks in a nest is a bit crowdie, One chick I found on the ground after 14 days. In that week it had been extremely warm and the chicks hung their heads over the edge of the nest to get cool. Probably one reached out too far and fell over. This chick was fed well by the parents. On May 25th five were still in the nest.

In the mean time the other couples in the box started a second round. After 5 days I checked the eggs and again the pastel couple had infertile eggs. The brown couple had 5 eggs and I saw that 3 of them contained an embryo. The successfully hatched on June 1 st and were raised perfectly by the parents.

In the mean time we are in round three. The brown chicks have left the nest. There are two browns and one standard colour. The browns can be male or female. The standard can be a carrier male or a standard hen. The couple in thebox was no success. They were too nervous for a box and I have moved them to the large aviary where there are also siskins, goldfinches and twites.

The standard couple that had the six chicks in the first round, had 6 eggs in the second round, but only one hatched. This couple however, apart from this hen they raised a bearded tit chick that was thrown out of the nest by the parents. It is a very special achievement that a seed eater is able to raise a perfectly healthy insect eater.
State of affairs July 3rd 2007.

couple First round Second round Third round
Standard couple 1 6 chicks independent 1 chick and a bearded tit chick Incubating 6 eggs
Standard/brown-brown 3 chicks independent, 1 standard colour two browns 5 chicks all brown  
pastel-pastel 5 infertile 5 infertile Incubating 3 infertile, 2 with embryo
Standard couple 2 Eggs on the ground. No real breeding attempts Second chance in the aviary is building a nest and lays eggs.  

Male feeding the chicks

Brown hen incubating