Theo's Bird Keeping Addiction

STARTING OFF

At the beginning of 2013, when I was 11 years old, I convinced my parents to buy a pair of King Quail from a local pet shop. My father and I built an enclosure about 80cm high x 1.2m long to house them. At first the female didn’t sit on any of the eggs she laid but after a couple of months, they started to breed really well. I then realised how much fun keeping and breeding birds was.
My dad and I then built an aviary together as my Christmas present. This aviary was 3.5m long x 1.8m wide x 2.2m high. In it I had two pairs of Zebra Finches, a pair of Society Finches, a pair of Diamond Doves and some King Quail from the old enclosure. This set-up worked really well until we had to move house at the end of 2014.


MY SET-UP

We moved house about 18 months ago, so I had to leave my aviary behind. I transported the birds in three breeding boxes. We built a new aviary measuring 2.4m wide x 5m long x 2.4 metres high. It is split into two halves, which are 1.2m wide x 5m long. The aviary has 25mm wire painted black, so it is easier to see the birds. The back of the aviary and a quarter of the side are covered in brushwood fencing to shelter the birds from the elements while giving it a natural look. The roof is nearly fully covered with clear plastic roofing.

I went to the Fairfield Bird Show to get some new birds because I had sold most of my initial stock after we moved. I had never been to a bird show before, so it was very exciting because there were lots of different types of birds and so many people. I bought a pair of Black-headed Gouldians, a pair of Bush Zebra Finches, a female and a male Normal Cinnamon King Quail.

A few weeks later I went to Birdsville and bought a Zebra Finch male and a trio of wild King Quail. A few months ago I went to Enfield Produce to buy two male Diamond Doves and a female Chocolate Pied Bengalese Mannikin.  All these birds have been paired with existing ones in my aviary. The most recent addition is a pair of Star Finches which have settled in nicely.

At the time or writing I have two pairs of Normal Diamond Doves—one pair has had three clutches, with two babies in the nest. I also have a pair of Chocolate Pied Bengalese with three fledged babies, a pair of Bush Zebra Finches which have two babies, a pair of Normal domestic Zebras and their four fledged female babies, a pair of Normal Star Finches, a pair of Black-headed Gouldians, five Normal and one Cinnamon King Quail. The Cinnamon female has just hatched four babies—one Silver, one Cinnamon and two Normals.

FEEDING AND BREEDING

I feed my birds a finch seed mix which includes shell grit. This is given to them in a bowl on their feeding platform. It is also given to them in a metal dish on the other side of the aviary. I also give them green grass seeds and grass each day. In the warmer months, I supply them with finch and Budgie crumbles. On the weekends I feed them fruit, like apples and strawberries. My quail love to eat mealworms, so I always give them some.

My aviary has lots of plants in it but the birds eat all the grass and they sometimes kill it and I have to plant more.

I supply my birds with a variety of nest boxes, mostly made of wood. I have small and large wooden ones, a couple of canary nest pans and a wicker bottleneck nest box.

QUAIL

My specialty is quail. I keep King Quails in two mutations—Cinnamon and Silver—and the Normal colour type. I love quail because of their tameness and the ease with which they breed. They also clean up the bottom of the aviary by eating all the left-over seed on the ground.


I have purchased an incubator that can hold 129 quail eggs and I have already hatched 14 healthy quail babies.

Housing

I house my quail in finch aviaries that are 5m long x 1.2m wide. They either have a woodchip or sandy floor. When they breed, they scrape out a nest from the ground and also have dust baths, so I don’t provide a bare concrete floor. I run one male with two females, so while one female is nesting, the male is occupied with the other. A single male can run with up to seven females.

Breeding

My King Quail scrape out a depression in the sand in the corners of the aviary and line it with grass. They lay 5–8 eggs per nest—except for one female which constantly lays eggs even when she is sitting. Once the babies hatch, they are very small and can drown in water dishes, squeeze out holes, get stepped on and get stuck in cracks. Sometimes the male will attack the young but usually he looks after them as well. The eggs that my birds do not sit on, I put in my incubator.


Feeding

Although King Quail clean up the left-over seed on the ground, they still need their own food bowl. They eat a normal finch or Budgie mix. I supply shell grit and cuttlefish bone for them. There are lots of foods that you can supply daily for health, or supplements for the breeding season. These include spinach, seeding grasses, hardboiled egg and egg and biscuit mix. I feed my baby quail chick-starter and supplement their diet with finely chopped greens.

CONCLUSION

I regard bird keeping as an excellent hobby which is fun and rewarding and I think more kids should be taking the hobby up as it teaches you so much about looking after things, genetics, earning money and responsibility. As we come into an age where lots of animals and plants are threatened by human activity, we need to get younger people to start keeping birds so they learn about the natural world and get interested in saving the planet, so that the future of birds is secure.

Meet Theo
My name is Theo Kemp. I am 14 years old and live in Sydney. As well as the birds I keep, I love to collect things like fossils, coins, stamps and vintage collectables. I play football and cricket. I have four chickens, which are a variety of different breeds, called Moonlight, Blackie, Snax and Pilly.