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The Society (Bengalese) Finches

by Orlando Bonnici

Bengalese are another common bird which we can find in our local aviculture. Its sweet nature and good temperament makes it an ideal addition to any aviary or bird room. Bengalese are not expensive to buy with pairs costing around Lm3 and are very hardy birds, which makes them ideal for any beginner.

Bengalese are mainly kept in cages although were possible an outside flight is beneficial if you can provide one. Make sure to allow enough space for flight in cages so as to avoid unnecessary fighting amongst the colony. Diet can turn a bird into a fit and healthy specimen that lives up to our hopes in the breeding cage and on the show bench. The Bengalese Finch is a seedeater that shows a marked preference for certain seeds, White Millet, Plain Canary and Panicum Millet along with Paddy Rice are the preferred seeds for the majority of birds. A diet comprising of a good Budgie mix with a low percentage of Plain Canary supplemented with additional White Millet in the mix and Paddy Rice, (this is best supplied in a separate dish) will provide a good maintenance diet. Heading towards and during the breeding season your birds will need a soft food to condition them for breeding and assist in rearing their young. Another useful aid in this process used by many fanciers is soaked or sprouted seed.

There are many types of soft food available from plain bread and milk to complicated formulas from bird food company’s. It is perhaps best to choose a ready formulated soft food that contains the vitamins and minerals that are needed by growing chicks. Always provide a supply of mineralised and oyster shell grit to your birds. Water is the most important component in yours bird's environment both for drinking and bathing, and a clean fresh supply for both purposes should be provided daily, more often were possible. Most birds will eagerly consume Green food that is fresh and clean and gathered were you are 100% certain there is no contamination, Chickweed appearing to find the most favour. Supplements in the form of, Vitamins, Minerals, Liquid Calcium, etc, are appearing more and more and the best of them can assist in a properly formulated diet plan, but care should be taken and advice sought on their proper use.

On introduction to the cage a really fit pair usually mate almost immediately, but do not worry if this is not the case as it will not be long before they are bouncing around displaying to each other and mating takes place. I have found that pieces of nest material are important in this courtship display so ensure some is available when you introduce your birds. Soon they will discover the nest box, and commence to carry materials inside as a start to nest building, it is advisable to start the nest building process by placing a good handful of materials into the box. I use soft meadow hay, as sold for rabbits, placed into the box and then provide coconut fibres for the birds to line and complete the nest with. Some pair can frustrate you by ignoring the box for a while but I have never had a pair that didn't get the idea in the end.

Depending on the age and experience of your birds, the first egg should appear any time after 5 days, although the average time for this is 8 days. You can predict the hatching date by counting 18 days from that first precious egg, incubation is only 14 days but your birds wont start incubating until they have 3 or 4 eggs. Holding eggs up to the light has never made any fertile, so never handle your eggs unless it is essential. I am certain this practise can lead to problems that kill the developing embryo.

After about a week the semi transparent look of the eggs will change and they become dull and slightly chalky looking, this is generally a good sign of fertility, but with experience you will soon recognise a fertile egg.A clutch of eggs will not all hatch together, you should find 2 or 3 youngsters the first day followed by one a day until hatching is complete. Don't be in to much of a hurry to remove unhatched eggs, I have had the odd one hatch 2 or 3 days after the rest, and they make a good hot water bottle if young chicks are not brooded for a while.By the time your babies are 12 days old you will be able to determine what colour they are, as pin feathers begin to open out. This is around the time you should be looking to fit your NBFA closed rings, although this is only a rough guide as some colours need ringing before others, if in doubt fit the ring, it wont be far away if it comes off and you can try again later. Just a word of caution here baby bengies don't bounce! So make sure when fitting your rings if you do drop one it hasn't far to fall. At around 25 days they will be found out of the cage playing around with the seed and water, beginning the process of feeding themselves. When they are between 35 and 40 days old they will usually be independent and feeding themselves.

The Society Finch can claim something no other finch can thus far, it exist only in captivity. It has never existed in a wild state anywhere on the planet. It is a completely man made finch, domesticated many centuries. The first Society Finches were bred in the Orient, probably Japan. Their captivity date back so long ago, that their true ancestry or beginnings have always been controversial.

Society Finches are also very popular amongst breeders because they are excellent foster parents. Especially with delicate finches such as the Gouldian these finches are usually used to incubate the eggs of these more delicate birds. I have seen some Bengalese finches in foster action and I must say that they make ideal parents for the chicks. I hope that with this article you have learnt more about the keeping of the Bengalese finches and I wish you all good luck with these birds and suggest every breeder to keep at least a true pair of Bengalese in his aviary.

Donated by Orlando Bonnici

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