I began my career with birds, as a lot of aviculturists do, with Zebra Finches. My first pair proved to be rather bad parents, however, throwing all of their young from the nest before they could fledge, but I convinced myself that breeding birds could not possibly be this hard, and so made my bird breeding career a kind of challenge to myself.
Of the 200 or so birds that I had at the height of my craze, perhaps 50 were one species or another of Lonchura (various mannikins, munias, silverbills, and related finches) the first genus group of birds that I challenged myself with. I used the money that I was able to make off of my Cockatiels, Diamond Doves, Zebra Finches, and Society Finches (all of which existed in large colonies in my aviaries) to fund the rather unprofitable business of breeding challenging and cheap birds (which Loncburas continue to be, unfortunately).
I succeeded in breeding the African Silverhill in great numbers (my first true success in bird breeding) and a few subspecies of Spice Finch, but the Tri-colored and Five-colored Nuns were stubborn to the last, giving me only infertile eggs during the five years that they spent living it up in my planted, outdoor flights.
Another challenge that I had was that of cold weather; my home is an alternative energy home that runs on hydro-power and solar-power, which works for my family's meager electrical needs, but is not enough to provide heat for three large aviaries. To solve this problem I worked only with hardy birds, such as Loncburas, or hardy strains of birds, which I procured from local breeders. I covered my aviaries with corrugated plastic during the winter to keep out all rain and drafts, which are the major killers of outdoor finches in temperate zones. The temperature rarely dips below freezing at my home, so the birds generally fared ve1y well
Under these conditions I was able to branch out into a group of Estrildtds that are generally thought to be strictly for a heated aviary, the Australian finches. I kept Star Finches, Diamond Sparrows, Owl Finches, and Blueheaded Parrot Finches outdoors, but only had breeding success with the former two species. I do not recommend outdoor over-wintering of Owl Finches and Star Finches, as they are not nest-roosters, and tend to get chilled too easily.
In addition to these Australian finches, I also worked extensively with Redheaded Parrot Finches and Olive Finches. Of all the birds that I raised these two species turned out to be the most profitable as well as the most hardy. Among all the wonderful and rewarding things that I experienced while breeding finches, the sight of these dutiful parents doting over a clutch of plump and healthy young remains the most memorable.
Success with these birds, as well as the Loncburas, inspired me to write three articles about the specifics of their breeding. I published two articles on Loncburas in the WPFS Bulletin, and one about Olive Finches on the NFSS web site.