European Goldfinch

Breeding Goldfinches

Breeding of goldfinches…

The goldfinches become fertile by the tenth month of their life. If you plan to deal with the reproduction of goldfinches, it’s best to pair them after the age of 12 months.

During the breeding, the pairs stay together and make up to three litters. It’s preferable not to let more than 2 litters as not to exhaust the female. A good solution is to use a male with two females, if the male is valuable or if we want to pass some mutation quickly in our herd.
The goldfinch in general has no problem with human presence. I refer of course to breeding goldfinches and not captive or young birds taken from nests in nature.

The first signs of the reproductive readiness of goldfinches

At the end of February or early March male goldfinches begin to train in birdsong and to their full extent of their vocal abilities. This process takes 3-4 weeks, until around the end of March. At that point the courtships between pairs also begin and essentially the beginning of the breeding season.

The male goldfinch sits on a tall branch singing to attract the female. The female goldfinch approaches slowly until they are on the same branch. She brings down her beak and shakes back and forth, lifting both wings so their yellow lines are not noticeable. The male does exactly the opposite. It sticks all the feathers on the body, opening its wings to clearly show the yellow lines. He lifts the body, opens its tail feathers and sings loudly shaking his body back and forth rhythmically.

If the pair matches, the female asks for feeding by quivering its wings and lowering the tail like the hatchlings do from their parents. The male responds and they proceed to the next phase of mating which includes the construction of the nest and several matings during the day, until the birth of 4-6 eggs is completed.

At the beginning of the matings the dominance in relationship is of the male, but from here on it passes over to the female.

The proper place for Breeding Goldfinches

Breeding of goldfinches is more easily achieved in cages more than a meter. Of course many successful examples are also reported in smaller breeding cages, but that is still not a rule. The surest and most efficient way is the large cages. Most systematic breeders I know, have cages starting from 1X1X2 meters.

It does not really matter if the cages are indoor or outdoor. Also in goldfinches the configuration of the cagee – breeding cage has less importance, from their diet during the breeding period. Nevertheless, it is useful to have a green foliage, plants etc., within the cage. Naturally there is always the risk of their denudation from the birds themselves. With a little searching we will find plants with hard leaves withstand the persistence of the birds. Fake plants are a solution.

In my breeding, I use cages with dimensions of 1,20X0,40X0,50 as breeding cages indoors. Also I have two cages with dimensions of 2X1X2 for weaning chicks, which have the ability to become a uniform one and be used during the male-female separation period.

Of course the number of birds per cage plays an important role. Personally I have only one pair per cage during the breeding season, so as to avoid quarrels and stress. Following the breeding season, i divide them into male – female teams until the next February.

As sanitary material on the floor, I use grit of the company Versele. This absorbs the moisture of the excrements thus reducing the risk of coccidial infections.

The breeding nest of the goldfinch

Goldfinches like high places, protected from leaves, but not completely closed so they can control the surrounding area. In nature it chooses high, stable, branches close to the trunk of the tree. In the cage, usually, it chooses the outer nest especially if it is protected by foliage.

In nature, we find nests of goldfinches even at a distance of 4.3 meters between them without any problem. In cages, however, following the breeders findings, there is a lot of tension and quarrels between males that has an impact on the number of their offspring.

I always place two nests per pair so that they have a choice, one internal and one external. From personal experience, 80% of the nests are made on the external position.

The male “proposes” some locations to the female for the creation of the nest and she selects and begins the construction. The construction of the nest is usually the task of the female. However I had in my breeding males that assisted in the construction and in one case, in fact, it was built entirely by the male!
Initially the construction of the outer part begins with dry twigs and threads.

Moving on to the construction of the inner part it selects softer materials such as cotton and feathers. The construction usually lasts 4-6 days, but it may be completed in lesser time. It’s very likely to be spoiled 2-3 times until she is satisfied with the result.

Goldfinch Eggs

The eggs of the goldfinches are light green with brown – red spots and blotches on their back (wide) side. Every morning it gives birth to one egg. Many times the construction of the nest is completed even after the birth of the first egg. The usual number of eggs is 5, while not excluding the cases of 4 or 6 eggs in a nest.

Their hutching is the sole responsibility of the female. The male gets close only to feed the female or to protect the nest the only time that it gets up, every morning. The hutching essentially begins from the birth of the third egg onwards. The nature created this system in order for the first 3 to hatch on the same day and for them to have uniform growth possibilities. The fate of the next 2 depends on the abundance of food at the particular time of their birth.

The chicks of goldfinches

Because the growth of the chicks will be clearly slower, the choice is given to the parents to easily choose which one they will throw away from the nest in order for the others to have more chances of survival. Of course in our cage there is no such shortage problem so I remove the first 4 eggs, replacing them with plastic ones and placing them again with the emergence of the fifth egg, so that they are hatched all together and the chicks will have uniform growth.

During the first 3 days the chicks lie alongside one another with their heads up, creating a pyramid in the centre of which the one that feels colder sits in. In the first days the female does not get up at all from the nest and it is the responsibility of the male to feed the female so that in turn it will be able to distribute it to the chicks.

On the first day the chicks do not make droppings. From the second to the sixth day the female keeps the nest clean by eating them. From the seventh to the twelfth day it removes them from the nest by throwing them. After the twelfth day the chicks become larger and by placing the rear part of the body outside of the nest droppings they make their droppings on its edge or around it.

The chicks open their eyes somewhere between the fifth and the sixth day. From now on, their voices will be noticed and their persistence for food will be continuous and imperative to the parents. The sixth day is the day I choose to place the rings on their feet because they have now become stronger and can keep them under their body. In this way the risk that the parents consider the ring as droppings and injure the chick in their attempt to throw it away is reduced.

From the eighth day onwards, I avoid contact with the nest due to the fear of scaring away the chicks and jumping out of it and injure themselves.

From the 12th to 14th day the chicks leave the nest and by shouting they show their position so that the male continues their upbringing. The female now starts to build a new nest, as the old is worthless because of the dirt accumulated on it.

The chicks become fully independent on the 28th to 30th day. At the beginning of their effort to feed themselves I provide them with germinated seeds that can be peeled easily and are richer in nutrients. Now we have to remove them from their parents who already have began the construction of the next nest and the male will already chasing them, assuming them to be opponents.

All the chicks that I wean, I keep them in a big cage where they can fly, strengthening their muscles and creating a new, nice feathering. The mask is created in August – September, the period of the annual molt for all goldfinches.

13 thoughts on “Breeding Goldfinches”

  1. Nice text, Ou covered lots of aspects in goldfinch breeding.. it would be nice to say some worda about food in preparation time, and after

      1. Nice and interesting text.
        This year , it s my second expérience .
        last year i have 3 chicks in march.
        But this year untel july thé same pairs have 5 chlcks.

  2. I have one question, i have a couple and now 10 days sitted on the nest, the man use not to give food to the mother instead ignoring if she is calling him for food, so the mother goes herself and feed herself regularly. yesterday the man has an accident and broke her legs, so i took him out from the big garden cage and he snap from my hand and flew away… did the mother can handle the eggs until it will be hatch and feed the babies? i have bought 3 of the nursingmother that is mix of goldefinch and canaries…

  3. This is interesting as hand rearing 2 of the guys at present do needed to know timespans for leaving nest etc.
    I had them 6 days ago as nearly nude eyes shut. Eyes are now open and shouting for food. There were 5 found on pavement – 2 were dead, one was really tiny and never grew even though he ate okay he unfortunately died after 4 days of trying…

  4. Thank you for your post! Just curious if you have any tips on keeping the chicks alive? My husband has been breeding for decades, but he says over 70% loss of chicks is normal. Is it really? Is there anything I can do to help them live to adulthood? I’d deeply appreciate any help!

    1. Goldfinch is a difficult species to breed. Although, 70% is way to much.

      Please, read the article carefully, follow the information and the loss rate would be significantly decreased.

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