Books on finch breeding describe seed mixes that we need for various species of finches. This is the basic diet and is usually fed in open dishes or hoppers. Then there is softfood or eggfood, sprouted seeds, greens and live food. The choice of when to feed these foods, other than the basic seed mix which is fed ad lib, is up to the bird keeper. Because softfood preparation and live food require preparation these are usually fed at times that are governed by the individual birdkeepers work schedule.
But what about the birds? Have you ever wondered why so many retired guys do so well with their birds? Most birdkeepers feed the softfood before they go to work in the morning and some feed when they get home in the afternoon. But the guys that are at home can feed at any time of the day. I used to put enough softfood into the dishes in the morning to last the day, and every evening I threw away about half the softfood which was dry and hard by then.
My softfood consisted of Avi-Plus Finch or Avi-Plus Eggfood Breeder when the birds were breeding and Avi-Plus eggfood when none of the birds were breeding. I moistened the Avi-Plus to a crumbly texture and added sprouted seeds and finely grated carrots, chopped fresh carrot tops, grated beetroot (this my birds enjoyed, be warned it makes their dropping red!), chopped spinach and grated apple. All this is a lot of work so I wanted to be sure that the birds were getting maximum value from the softfood.
Testing the birds
I noticed, as I am sure everyone has, that when the softfood is first put in the aviaries the birds come to the dish and eat with relish, as the day went on they ate less and less and the softfood was becoming more and more dry, and had to be thrown out in the late afternoon. Then I made half the softfood in the morning and fed as usual and as usual the birds ate with relish the first two hours with some left over as it became dry, the dish was then changed at lunchtime. After lunch the other half of the softfood was fed again the birds ate with relish for the first hour and a half to two hours, again as the softfood dried the birds ate less and less. At the end of the day the birds had eaten more softfood than they normally had with a once a day feeding. I then split the softfood into four feeds a day. Again there was a positive feeding response. It seems that unlike poultry that will eat dry meal, finches need their softfood to be fresh and moist. This is not so surprising when we remember that the softfood is there to replace live food!
All of this is a lot of work so what are the benefits? Newly hatched babies up to one week of age seemed to benefit and even large clutches survived and grew well. Once the babies were a week to ten days old I could not measure an advantage to warrant more than two feeds of softfood a day. Those of you who are cage breeding with individual pairs should bear this in mind as you can treat cages individually. In communal aviary breeding it might not be practical to feed softfood more than twice a day.