Keeping Siskins. How to breed siskins.

Of all the native birds I have kept I have to say that the siskin is my favourite. This because of its mischievous demeanour it’s always the first whether it be to the newly refilled seed dish, wild seed heads, chickweed or bath if housed in a mixed aviary. When kept in a cage the siskin can become very tame. Another advantage of keeping Siskins is that they are not that difficult to breed. Although having said that breeding any native bird (bullfinches, linnets, goldfinches, etc.) is an achievement in itself. In this article, I will briefly write about feeding siskins, breeding siskins, exhibiting siskins and siskins show standards.

Feeding siskins

Feeding siskins
Keeping siskins

Siskins by nature are greedy little birds and will gorge on their favourite seed if allowed. A well-balanced diet is important to keep them in good health.

I feed mine a premium British finch mixture and as much from nature’s bounty that I can collect. Usually starting early in the year with groundsel which can appear as early as February/March. Dandelions in as big a quantity as I can supply because I believe that this common weed is the biggest factor in getting Siskins into breeding condition.

deli nature 58 goldfinches and siskins
groundsel plant
dandelion seed head plant

Also, I give my siskin’s multivitamins in their water a couple of times a week. When for whatever reason wild food is not available I feed them Broccoli which they relish. A small amount of lettuce maybe twice a week because I feel that too much can cause diarrhoea.

I am also in the lucky position that I can source grain screenings every harvest which consists mainly of redshank, dock and a little thistle but unfortunately, this does not last too long. Siskin’s will take all wild food offered including Sheppard’s purse, Plantain, Chickweed etc…

Breeding Siskins

Breeding siskins
How to breed siskins
Breeding siskins

As I have said above when the show season is over I start giving my Siskins multivitamins in their water twice a week. Also, until the wild food comes into season, I give them greens a couple of times a week as well.

At this stage, I introduce soak seed once a week and increase it weekly as the breeding season approaches. It is important that the birds are in top shape as the breeding season gets closer. A bird that is not in condition will most likely not breed successfully for you.

Generally speaking, Siskins will breed from about mid-may until sometimes as late as mid-august and if they hatch chicks they are usually good parents.

When to separate the male?

Male Siskins have a bad reputation for breaking eggs and interfering with sitting hens. I find this is more prevalent with siskins you are breeding in cages as opposed to those breeding in flights where they have more space.

When breeding siskins in cages it is best to separate the male from the hen with a wire divider as soon as the hen starts sitting on the eggs. This will prevent the male from interfering with the eggs or nest. He can be placed back with the hen when the chicks are a few days old.

Generally, he will be a good parent and with those being bred in flights, it’s just a matter of keeping a close eye on the male. If he is aggressive towards the sitting hen it’s best to remove him. Put him back when the chicks are a few days old. In my experience, this has never been the case.

When the young chicks leave the nest, keep a close watch on them to ensure they are self-supporting. Take them away from their parents. Feed them on soak seed and introduce a premium British finch mixture gradually until they are hardened off.

Exhibiting siskins

Siskins are a very popular exhibit at shows and generally speaking it’s the hen that excels on the bench. I have seen hen siskins take the best bird in show award on a few occasions.

Whether siskins have been bred in flights or cages I only start training them for the show when they have completed the moult. The moult is a stressful time for them and putting them in training cages too soon, in my opinion, increases the stress and prolongs the moult.

Offering fresh bath water every day is essential as it helps the new feathers to open much quicker and aids good feather quality.

I normally train them by placing the birds in flights for three or four days then put them in training cages for a couple of days and repeating this exercise until the show season begins.

If a bird is not offered bath water every day the feather quality is decreased and the feather tends to dry out which ends up with a rough-looking bird who will try its utmost to wash in the drinker when entered in a show.

If you don’t keep your birds in flights and they are cautious about bathing in a bath hung on their cage, put some pebbles on the floor of the bath. This will encourage them to bathe as they tend to look through the water in the bath and cannot define the depth.

Siskins show standard

Siskin size

As large as possible.

Siskin type

Nicely rounded full head, cobby body.

Siskin Colour & Markings

Male: To be rich even coloured throughout, yellow-green upperparts, yellow breast, well defined faintly laced black cap and reasonably defined black bib. Distinct lacing (striations) in the back and down flanks, well defined yellow in wings and tail.

Hen: Greyish and yellow, lack of black cap and bib, must have profuse lacings on head back and flanks carried well into the chest.

Siskin faults

Smokiness, poor or impure colour, erratic lacings in males, lack of lacings in hens, eye defects, deformities, poor presentation, insufficiently trained.

Notes. Yellows and buffs are very evident, buffs though of less intensive colour must excel in type and lacing.

Points. Size 10

Type 25

Colour & markings 35

Feather quality & condition 15

Steadiness & presentation 15

Total 100

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