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Foreign - Tips for Keeping

Ten Tips for Keeping and Showing Foreign Birds

Although these tips have been provided for and are geared towards foreign birds, a lot of them are very good and sound advice to use for all varieties.

1. Before buying any new birds, learn as much as you can about the varieties you intend to keep. Diet, heating requirements, breeding and compatibility with other species should all be considered when making your choice. The internet is a good starting point but local bird keepers will be a wealth of information that shouldn’t be passed on. There are also a number of clubs in Northern Ireland that you can look to join to increase your knowledge sources. Further details can be found on

2. When buying new birds only buy those that look healthy and active. If a bird is sitting fluffed up or has a dirty back end and doesn’t look alert then don’t buy it no matter who the seller is. When you do purchase birds and bring them home it is advisable to treat them for mite. Ideally you should quarantine the new stock from you current birds for a few weeks. This will allow the new birds to get used to your birdroom and your routines. It will also allow you to monitor the birds for any signs of illness that they did not show when you were viewing them in a controlled manner. This will also reduce the likelihood of transferring any illness into your current stock.

3. If you intend showing birds you should only buy from a reputable breeder. Birds that are sold in pet shops and by most dealers are usually birds that breeders do not think are good enough to show. These types are birds more suited for garden aviaries and for those who just want birds for an interest.

4. Cages should be cleaned out weekly. Anti-mite powder or spray should be used in corners, under cage drawers and on perch ends. Easibed wood chippings, newspaper or similar can be used to cover the bottom of cages – the main thing to remember is whatever you use, it should not contain any harmful chemicals. Wooden cages should be repainted at least once a year with an acrylic satin or gloss paint. Inside the cages you can tie a piece of hemp string around a perch about 2 – 4 inches in length to allow the birds to entertain themselves by pulling at it.

5. Always feed a good quality bird seed to your birds and ensure that they always have access to fresh drinking water, grit and cuttlefish bone. If you intend to keep parrot type birds you can also provide a mineral block that they can eat at, however they are very rarely taken by finches. A proprietary egg food can be provided 2-3 times each week outside of and every day during the breeding season and when birds are moulting. You can also find homemade eggfood recipes online and use this as a basis for your own if you wish to do that. Grated carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, defrosted peas and sweetcorn are all popular vegetables people use in their own egg food. Herbs such as thyme, oregano, marjoram, parsley and garlic can also be added. Green leafy foods such as lettuce should only be given once or twice a week as too much can cause loose droppings.

6. During the spring and summer you should take advantage wild food. Chickweed and dandelion leafs are an excellent source of vitamins and chickweed also contains calcium. Always wash the plants before feeding and never pick them from along road sides or anywhere that may have been treated with weed killer or pesticides. Hang bunches of seeding grasses in aviaries and cages as the birds will love to pick through them for seeds and hiding insects.

7. In relation to numbers, only keep as many birds as you can easily manage. Remember to keep in mind the daily routine of feeding and general cleaning required by the birds. Also 10 birds that you start off with could easily become 60 within 1 breeding season. This will add to your daily and weekly routines not to mention space within the birdroom.

8. When breeding your birds, make sure your birds are in full breeding condition. Approximately 5 – 6 weeks before you intend to breed your birds, gradually increase the amount of protein in their diet. This can be achieved by increasing the regularity of the eggfood being fed, providing hard boiled egg, sprouted seeds or mealworms. When providing eggfood add a few drops of wheatgerm oil or powder as this is a great source of vitamin E that can help boost fertility. Always ensure that the birds have enough calcium to help with egg formation and help guard against egg binding. Grit, crushed baked egg shells, cuttlefish bone or liquid calcium in their water are all acceptable sources to use.

9. Use an appropriate sized breeding box or basket for the species you intend to breed. To help reduce the likelihood of mite in the box, spray some diatomaceous earth in and place a camomile tea bag before adding the nesting material. Also place some additional nesting material in the cage or aviary for the birds to finish off the nest. Once eggs are being laid do not add any additional material in as some species will build on top of eggs.

10. If you intend to exhibit your birds it is essential to do some training and preparation to give them the best possible chance. Screw 2 strong curtain hooks into the top of an old show cage (above the door) and remove the cage door altogether. Place a piece of millet spray in the show cage and hang it onto an opened cage door (make sure there is no gap for the birds to get out….). This will get the birds used to the show cage layout and dimensions as they will be able to hop in and out whenever suits them. As an additional training measure with the show cage you should walk around the garden with the birds in it before placing them back into their stock cage. This helps get them used to being moved about and they will be steadier when being carried to and from the judging bench on the day of the show.

We hope the tips above can help you on your journey within bird keeping and they can be used as a reference point regardless of how long you have been in the hobby. A big thank you to NI member Stephen Kelly for providing the information that went to making this document.