Captive Gouldian finches have a reputation for being lethargic. This has not been my experience! I have found that lethargic Gouldians are usually sick or bored. Healthy stock in large flights with plenty of natural foraging materials will spend most of their days in dizzying motion. In order to provide as much room as possible for my Gouldians, I have filled my house with built-in aviaries made from knotty pine and black powder-coated 16 gauge half by one inch wire.
The pine is treated with a washable, non-toxic natural finish called “AFM Naturals Oil Wax Finish” by Safecoat. Wire panels were custom cut and powder coated by KW Cages. The largest aviary measures 18 feet long, 5 feet wide and 8 feet high. The smallest aviary is 4 feet wide, 2.5 feet wide and 5 feet high. I use these aviaries to house all of my non-breeding Gouldians.
For single breeding pairs, as well as for birds in quarantine, I use custom-designed KW cages measuring 3 feet long, 2 feet wide and 20 inches high. In my experience, this cage size is the minimum that will prevent breeding pairs from losing condition during the breeding season, and which will also allow babies to develop strong flight skills before they are transferred to aviaries.
To minimize clean-up, I place inexpensive bath towels across the floor of each aviary and run each towel through the washing machine as needed. In the breeding cages, I use clean, grassy hay as bedding. For perches, I gather maple, willow, apple and white pine boughs, and attach them to the aviary ceilings or side walls. To add variety and soft footing, I also use rope coils and swings throughout the aviaries. Swings are always crowded! Gouldian finches are prone to pressure sores on the bottoms of their feet, so to prevent this, perches need to be diverse in texture as well as size, ranging from 1/4 inch up to 1.5 inch diameter. If Gouldians favor smooth wooden dowels for long periods, pressure sores are inevitable.
I have found that the addition of small-bird toys makes an enormous difference in the daily enjoyment and activity level of my Gouldian flock: they prefer toys which can be ripped or shredded (well, at least they try). Swings are also extremely popular.
I always place dry seed bowls on the floor, and offer water, greens, softfood and supplements higher up. This encourages the birds to eat more of the highly nutritious foods and forces them to expend energy to reach the more popular dry seed. When new birds are introduced to one of the aviaries for the first time, I provide bundles of spray millet tied at a high level in case the new birds are timid about landing on the floor. After a few days I will place the spray millet on the floor near the dry seed bowls and the new birds usually follow the millet and begin to eat from the bowls.
For each aviary and breeding cage, I clip one or more LED “daylight” bulbs to the ceiling inside a brooder lamp. All my lights connect to timers: resting birds receive 12 hours of light while breeders are increased to 15 hours of light. If my house is cold, if any of the birds are puffy, or if juveniles have recently been introduced to the aviary, I use a 40 watt incandescent bulb in a cone placed above a high perch so that birds can huddle underneath the heat if needed. And most importantly, I make sure that all my bird rooms contain LED nightlights to prevent night frights, which can prove fatal to some birds who hit the wire too forcefully in the dark.