An article writen by Steven Baker from his experience of breeding redpolls.
I love breeding redpolls as a hobby. I don’t class myself as an expert but I do have plenty of knowledge on how to care for and breed these lovely birds. In this article, I will share with you some of my tips about redpoll care, redpolls diet, how to breed redpolls, weaning redpolls chicks and moulting redpolls.
Redpoll pre-breeding preparation
In late February, all my birds get a course of doxy/tylan. This covers me for birds that might be a little under the weather but showing no signs of illness. This medication covers lots of things like respiratory tract infection, chronic respiratory problems, ornithosis, and mycoplasma. I then use a good probiotic and prebiotic afterwards like RopaB, but there are lots of good probiotics out there, this is my personal choice. Find here a bigger selection of probiotics.
My birds are better fed than me. There is a golden rule in birds, and that is “you only get out what you put in” and I’m a big believer in this too.
I try to mix things up the best I can but I have found over the years that; mixing a good European finch mix, with Beyers 93 and some European foreign finch mix, you can’t go wrong.
This is my 1st choice over the spring and summer period but will add extra niger as the breeding season draws nearer. Over winter; they will get just a standard European finch mix but I will add extra hemp and sunflower hearts and niger, just to pop some extra weight on them over the colder months.
As the breeding season draws nearer; I only use 2 products all year round and that is a quill boost tonic. If you haven’t heard of this, then I suggest you head over to the website and have a good read. The other is from the same company and its liquid calcium; which is a must whatever birds you keep will require calcium. This product is called IntraCalferol. Both these products come in 1litre bottles and last on average two seasons. Dosage is 1ml per litre on both products, and at just over £30 isn’t worth being without.
I very rarely use vitamin supplements as I’m of the opinion that if you are feeding your birds as there meant to be fed, you don’t need any supplements.
However, I do use trapping oil in their seed and cod liver oil. This starts on the 2nd week of April, nearing the hens laying eggs. I’ve found this reduces the chance of eggs being eggbound by adding oil into their seed mix. I use 10ml per 3 kilos of seed.
All my birds are medication free, redpolls don’t really seem to suffer from illness, and are quite hardy little birds. I’m not saying they don’t die, because all livestock has to die! You don’t need medication to help them through the moult either. I use good food and a good crushed oyster shell and grit. All my cages have a piece of cuttlefish so they can peck at these as and when, which is a great form of calcium too.
How to breed redpolls
Heading to the breeding season I take time to select what I think will breed me the best quality youngsters from my birds available.
All my pairs are in 2ftx2ftx2ft (60cmx60cmx60cm) cages and breed readily in these size cages. Once paired up, my birds will only get the quill boost and liquid calcium once a week.
I place my pairs together in these cages and watch them via my WiFi cameras in my bird room. Some males can be a little aggressive and drive their hens, so it’s something you need to watch for.
Feeding during breeding season
All my pairs will only be fed 1 egg pot of seed per day and nothing else. The last thing you need is plump birds at this time of year. All this will achieve is clear eggs, and rounds wasted. My pairs do not get the good stuff until their eggs are hatched; (ie. egg food, soak seed, broccoli, petit pois, spinach and kale, pinkies or mealworms). This is for a reason, fat birds do not breed and it’s a FACT!
Some pairs can be very challenging and sometimes the male will have to be removed. Solo hens will do just the same job as a pair will. So don’t ever think you doing wrong taking the males away.
There is no right way or wrong way in the breeding season, it’s what gets you chicks on sticks that really matters. Some males are brilliant and some just have no involvement in rearing their young. Some males are great at feeding hens while sitting but then become very aggressive once the hen leaves to feed. These are all little things you have to watch for, if you are not on the ball, you will lose clutches of youngs and most birds are like this, not just redpolls.
Most chicks will leave the nest at anything from 12-15 days old and look like they all should still be in their nest, but amazingly they always find their way back to the nest pan.
I personally do not remove them until their tail is 3/4 grown. By this time, there is a real good chance they’re feeding themselves. I always use a very shallow tray when the chicks have left the nest, as they find the food a lot easier to access and learn much quicker in my opinion.
Moulting can be very stressful for young and old birds and draws a lot on their calcium reserves to do this. Crushed oyster shells, crushed cuttlefish and a good quality grit like Versele-Laga prestige grit with minerals is very important. Baths and oily seeds like niger chia and wild food help them a lot at this stage.
Ragwort, rats tails or weld, and evening primrose are readily taken, this keeps the birds entertained for many hours of the day.
There are lots of other wild plants you can feed them, so if you see wild birds eating this you know it’s perfectly safe for your birds.
Please do your research and try and identify what you’re picking. If you are unsure, put a post/picture up on Facebook for advice, this way you will know for sure if it’s safe.
Breeding can be a very challenging time, you will have highs, but with the highs come the lows, and head-scratching and a lot of WHY??. This comes hand in hand with any birds that you keep and breed, but the most important thing is keeping your cages and perches clean.
This isn’t easy when you have birds nesting and young birds in the nests, but keep your birds the way you would like to live. Give them the best you can provide and freshwater changed daily.
What works for me might not work for everyone, as we are all different and do things differently. As I have said before, there is no right way or wrong way, it’s what works best for you.
I currently have a good selection of different mutation redpolls and I really enjoy keeping these beautiful little birds. Here are some of them: normals, cobalt, pied, silver, silver pastel, silver cobalt, Isabel, cinnamon pastel. My new additions are brown pastel, which I have really fell in love with.
I’ve really enjoyed writing this little article on redpolls, and hope to keep them for many more years to come. Not every breeding season will be good, that I can assure you, but stick to the basics and you won’t go far wrong.
All the best to you with whatever birds you keep, and I wish you all the luck in the world.
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12 thoughts on “The redpoll. How to breed redpolls in captivity.”
Hi I am new to the redpolls what a brilliant write up but can you tell me do you keep the cocks and hens separated when it’s not the breeding season thanking you Paul
Different breeders use different methods over the winter.
It is all up to you if the birds are kept together.
Keeping a male and a female together will create a better bond for the breeding season. If you separate them, then it will be easier to introduce a new hen/male in the pair.
Keep asking questions if you have more.
I keep all my birds together but will separate around March time
Thanks Steven when is the best time to the pairs together
Hiya Paul I’ve currently 3 pairs all with eggs and due to hatch any day,I went for the 2nd week in April this year as the birds were carrying bedding and empty there seed dish.hope you have a great season 👍
Hi Steven I have just seen your article on Red polls. Do you still breed them in the 2x2x2 cages. As I would like to make a few new cages to keep a few more pairs.
Yes mate I made 8ft long cages that turn into moulting cages after the breeding season is over.i will upload a video of the cages when I get chance John or send them to you via private message.
Would love to see photos of your 8’ cage!
Thanks very much Steven. I will look forward to it. Hopefully it will help me out when I make my own cages
I’m so excited to find you redpoll fans! I live in Nome, Alaska, and three summers ago rescued a wild redpoll as it flopped across the road in front me after an encounter with my neighbor’s cat. It’s wing has always looked to me as though it had been dislocated at the shoulder. For two summers we tried different methods of giving it the opportunity to fly off, but it always chose to return to its cage, even with other redpolls about. At this point almost three years in I don’t know if it’s able to fly or not.
I feel badly knowing that redpolls are social birds and mine lives alone. It lacks the red poll on top of its head and so I have assumed it’s a female, but I’m not positive.
The redpolls in the wild here that I feed every summer show no interest in nyjer seeds, doing exclusively for fine chipped sunflower seeds. I give Bertie these, but make a genetic finch mix available to here, and leafy greens which she seems to love.
Come spring she sings up a storm! She has a large cage, and in summer I give her alder branches, and small spruce branches with cones.
But I am so eager to learn what else I can and should do to keep her (?) healthy and happy! I welcome any comments, and am happy to correspond by email as well.
Sue in Nome, AK email@example.com
What a lovely read that was sue,I wasn’t alway a fan of the redpoll,but I certainly am now.im pretty sure my pieds have hatched today,but I won’t go looking but I’m sure I will hear them at some point,And thank you for caring for the injured redpoll.id like a pound for how many I’ve hand reared over the years.
No there all kept in 8ft x2ft x2ft flight cages,as when they have finished breeding,there not to bothered about fighting.welcome to the world of redpolls paul and sorry for the long delay in my reply.