• 8 questions to Jan Van Looy, veteran breeder

    1. Jan, why are zebrafinch ?

    We have always had birds at home.
    My father Lucien then started with the raising of zebrafinch and I started with the Glosters. With these canaries, I always managed to sell the best ! With zebrafinch, I had an illumination.
    R. Jef has been my technical adviser, when it comes to exhibitions that have been Gust U .. Gradually the exhibition results have gone up.
    We did not need more stimulating. So I knew a bird, a little bird even, but that fascinated me.

    Money is not the least motivation. If you do for the money, you have to get rid of the good birds and the quality of your stump drops.

    "So I knew a bird, a little bird even, but that fascinated me"

    2. How is a day at home with your zebrafinch ?

    Zebrafinch are scattered all over the house. The breeding room is in the cellar with 100% neon lighting. There is lighting from 9am until 10.30pm, winter and summer. Breeding starts in mid-December until the end of June, then the nests are removed.
    If the morning at the time of the departure to the school, it is still the darkness, the integral care begin from 16h. It takes one hour a day for care. Every day fresh water acidified slightly, necessary to raise good browns! (in my opinion) The 50 show birds. are in the garage, where they are also "trained". The young go to 4 aviaries in the garden. During the exposure period, care is more intensive.

    3. What are the important characteristics to become a top breeder ?

    A breeder at the top is distinguished from others by "the eye of the master". Everyone can raise zebrafinch, everyone can achieve a good level of breeding. Why so few manage to reach the top?
    What does a breeder see and what does a top breeder see in the same bird ? On the internet forums, fans disapprove pictures of birds of other amateurs. And that you have to analyze it. And yet, if you see the birds of these lovers, they are even worse than the bird they commented on. They will exhibit well with their birds. A class farmer finds more positive points in a zebrafinch than a middle class breeder, even though he may be an exellent healer. To him, you can quietly sell the best, after 2 to 3 years he has nothing left.

    "You must have visibility : The overall image, you must be able to see the image and the details" This, you can learn a little but it must be in you at the beginning.
    Another characteristic of a class farmer is that he knows how to calculate the risk of entering into his strain a zebrafinch with a fault, a risk that another will not try.

    Many of these breeders at the top select as soon as weaning young. If these are not yet beautiful in colors and drawings, the defects of form are already present and are without forgiveness. So for years, I have practically already sold my surplus birds to traders.
    Now I enjoy this severe selection: Tails drooping (I'm sick) still barely reach my stam. As an experienced breeder can / is / is prepared to trade the best birds. A good one for a good one ! I think of several very good breeders with whom I could exchange.

    4. What are, in increasing order of importance, your selection criteria for mating ?

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  • Seeds and their nutritional value


    Dr. Gysels' explanation clearly showed that a standard mix is insufficient ( cf. Article : Bird food ) to cover the food needs of birds. This finding formed for me the beginning of the search for the characteristics of the current seeds. So here are my findings.

    canary seed


    Canary seed grass forms the main part of common mixtures. This seed is classified under the herbaceous. It is also called white alpiste.
    This seed is rich in trace elements and amino acids such as leucine and arginine. Cystine is missing.

    The average values :

    Humidity 12,8 %
    Crude protein 15,1 %
    Fat 6,1 %
    Trace element 56 %
    Crude cellulose 5,3 %
    limestone 0,05 %
    Phosphorus 0,55 %

    The millet


    Millet and panicum are distinguished. From a scientific point of view, the two grains form only one family. The shape is round.
    Yellow millet is the best known of the family. It contains a lot of trace elements. White millet is bigger than yellow, but it is not so hard.
    Red millet is very hard, but it contains a lot of trace elements.
    Japan's millet is the one that contains the highest proportion of protein.
    The millet of Senegal is another name for the yellow millet.
    Millet contains a lot of leucine-like proteins.

    The average values :

    Humidity 12,7 %
    Crude protein 11,1 %
    Fat 3,7 %
    Trace element 59,8 %
    Crude cellulose 8,9 %
    limestone 0,03 %
    Phosphorus 0,32 %

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  • Talk about the intermediate heritage

    Parler de l heritage intermediaire 1

    If you ask at a meeting of zebrafinch lovers questions about the genealogy of the masked, pastel, or black cheeks, we are certain to receive the correct answer.
    But if we ask the genealogy question about the format (size), the shape of the head or the length of the beak, the answers will be multiple and different.
    Some will say intermediate, others dominant, etc.

    Nevertheless these characteristics follow the laws of Mendel. Many breeders do not believe this explanation, but it is true. It seems that laws no longer behave strictly as in other color mutations. A wider variation in format (size), shape of the head, etc ... seems normal.
    In nature, we find in zebrafinch the same variation in the format. And, in the process of domestication, this difference in variation has increased. Our cultivated zebrafinch are on average two centimeters wider than their ancestors in the wild.
    In articles, one always recommends a hard selection at the level of the format and the model taking into account the differences between the parts like the head, the body, etc.

    But the format and the model are directed by the genealogy. The body shapes are driven by factors.
    The question is: Is there a relationship between the different factors that governs the format, the model, the shape of the head and the beak ?

    In my opinion, these factors are independent of each other. Lesser quantities of zebrafinch are found in the correct size and type of beaks, and there are no good-sized zebrafinch; the right kind of beak alone, etc. This is not an advantage in breeding a good size and hard selection is the only way to improve these characteristics.

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  • Bird food

    La nourriture des oiseaux en


    During our visit to Versele-Laga, Dr. P. Ghysels gave us a talk on the food of birds and the requirements of this food. This presentation, based on scientific research and experiments, was clear and easy to follow, with plenty of examples.
    The result is that we are smarter on the point of food, but we are not yet specialists in bird food.
    This article is based on the presentation of Dr. Ghysels and presents some points to be aware of.

    Balanced food

    For our birds, this balanced food consists of the following ingredients :

    1. Protein, fat and carbohydrates.
    2. Minerals and trace elements such as zinc, iron, etc.
    3. Vitamins

    The amount of protein needed depends on the situation. During breeding and moulting, this amount is significantly higher than during the resting season. Seed mixtures can never be adequate enough to provide the normal situation.

    Carbohydrates are found in starch form in plants and seeds. Fats are concentrated sources of energy. Too much fat in the food causes a bad function of other materials in the digestion of food. The history of omega-3s is a good illustration of this case. Fats are found in oil-rich seeds. These seeds can constitute at most 1/5 of the mixture.

    Minerals and trace elements must be presented daily. These elements constitute the "fitness" of the bird.
    For the female, limestone is a primordial necessity. At each egg laid, the amount of limestone of the female decreases by 20%. During the breeding season, the female must be able to hold her limestone stock to the maximum. During this period, it is therefore necessary to provide extra limestone in the food.

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  • The orange breast mutation in classic colors

    Male gris poitrine orange type 1

    Since we are going to discuss the orange chest mutation in this article, it is certainly interesting to dwell first on the history of this mutation.

    The orange breast mutation is supposed to have emerged in Belgium. I write consciously "supposed" because the first orange breast was actually found at a bird dealer. In Dutch literature in particular, long before the discovery of the first orange breast in Belgium, zebrafinch were described with features that we can now attribute to orange breast carriers.
    What we are certain in any case is that the honor of the discovery of the orange chest comes to a certain Mr. De Coster who in 1978 noticed a gray male quite special in a trade. This male had an orange breast bar, whereas normally it should have been black. This gentleman bought this copy, but at the farm nothing came out of what he had hoped for. At the end of 1978, Paul Chabot, president of the BZC at that time, will acquire this male. There were good and bad surprises with this subject, because this male unfortunately did not live very long. Fortunately Paul Chabot had been able to get some young people before.
    The orange breast is autosomal recessive inheritance compared to the wild form. The orange factor must therefore be doubly present to become visible. He crossed young people with each other and quickly pulled out the first orange breast.

    Already the first orange chestnut farmer made the mistake of not combining and developing the orange breast with classic colors, but he rushed directly on the combination of the orange breast with the black breast and other mutations.
    From this moment already, the dream of any orange breast breeder was born to know to lead to a zebrafinch entirely orange. By burning the breeding stage in the classic colors, the following question remained : Are some of the specific features we observe in our classic orange breasts, only uncomfortable derivatives of the presence of the mutation ? black breast or is it specific effects of the orange breast mutation ? What do I hear about that ?

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  • The forms of dominance

    A little history

    As we know today, Gregor Mendel, best known for his pea experiments, has been at the root of genetics. He has shown by his experiments that if he crossed two peas (F1) with different characteristics such as the color of the flower, the size of the leaves ... Then the resulting (F2) kept the characteristics of only one parent. All the flowers of these young peas had the same color and size of leaves.
    It's as if they had "lost" one of the properties. When he crossed these F2 peas between them, the F1 characteristics reappeared among the F3 generation. Mendel called these features shown by the F2 : Dominant. And the hidden features in F2 have been called recessive.

    Currently we still call it dominant and recessive. However, we know that Mendel discovered "complete dominance". There are indeed other forms of dominance. We already know these forms so we will especially bring some provisions to remember.

    Some concepts

    We know that genes carry characteristics and that these genes are located on chromosomes. There are genes dealing with the color of the eyes, the color of the legs, the size of the bill ... The chromosomes are located in the cells of the body: They are stored in the nucleus of each cell. In each nucleus of each cell are the genes for the color of the eyes, the
    color of the paws, the size of the beak ... However, the functioning of the genes "eye color" is manifested only in the eyes. In the legs, the genes "eye color" do not appear. Each cell "knows" where it is in the body and what genes it needs to activate.
    The chromosomes go by pair, all the genes are found in pairs. For the eye color gene, we have two genes. This also applies to the color of the legs, the size of the bill ... These two genes for the color of the eyes can cause a color of the blue eyes. It is also possible for one gene to take care of the blue color and the other for a brown color. (This does not mean that the being will have one blue eye and the other brown, the brown eye is dominant on the blue, so both eyes will be brown).

    Les formes de la dominance 1 Les formes de la dominance 2

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  • The gray male, in qualities and defects

    Male gris eleveur loic leducq 1

    The first zebrafinch on display were far from the ones we now have on our farms. Birds filiform and small resembling in every point the majority of the birds that we currently find at the pet shop at the corner of the street.

    Evolution does not know made in a day but it has been relatively fast. Here we will talk about gray zebrafinch, all simply because it is my specialty and that I begin to know it well.
    We can observe that gray, which is a classic (called "classic" gray and basic mutations that are: brown, pale back and masked.), Presented in major exhibitions is not very far from the gray perfect. The type and size are for the most part excellent and the difference is mainly on the color.

    To identify each descriptive term used in the rest of the article, you can use this diagram : Descriptive terms in zebrafinch.

    1. Main defects of gray males

    In recent years many defects have appeared in the gray that we have the leisure to see in our exhibitions. I will introduce you to some of them that are for me the most commonly encountered on display or in our farms.

    a) The zebra behind the cheeks

    1 traces de zebrures autour des joues

    For about two years, at least from what I personally noticed, we see traces of welts around the cheek. This defect is rather noticeable in gray cheeks, but fairly recent in gray males. There is still time to eradicate strains of gray before it is fully generalized to gray zebrafinch.
    By the similarity to the present defect in the black cheeks, I do not think that we can assimilate it to a factor cheeks black. Indeed this defect appears even in the strains having no affiliation with a strain of black cheeks.

    On the other hand we can think that this phenomenon is due to a high concentration of eumelanin (black), which is sought in gray for a very dark back and in the black cheeks for a very deep black color.

    b) Tear spreading in the cheeks

    Another defect, the tear that gives an impression of diffusion in the cheek by the presence of some black feathers in them, and a line under the eye. Generally in my breeding they are birds that have cheeks of a deep chestnut. I think that still has it, we can equate it with an excess of eumelanin in this area.

    2 eumelanine dans les joues

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  • Back pale, masked and masked old type, three allelic versions

    Male dos pale gris

    Explanations and couplings

    Why, these three mutations combined are so difficult to predict ?

    Simply because we can not speak at the genetic level of different mutations but rather allelic versions of a single gene. The pale back, the masked and the old type mask (OT) are due to the same gene but which has three allelic versions. You can find the phenotype of each one in photo in this article : Illustrated glossary of mutations in zebrafinch.

    In order to understand well, let us make the parallel with the man, the color of the eyes for example, whatever the color of our eyes, our color of the iris and coded by the same gene, but this discomfort has many different versions (alleles) that allow us to have the color panel that we know.

    Now that we know a little more, let's see how each allele behaves in relation to each other.

    A small table to illustrate all this :

    Allèle \ allèle Back pâle Masked Masked OT*
    Back pâle X Dos pâle Back pâle
    Masked Back pâle X Masked
    Masked OT* Back pâle Masked X

    * OT = old type

    In this double-entry chart you can see that it allele dominates the other, so the bird will have the phenotype of the allele that dominates. Be careful, it's not because the allele is dominated that it does not influence. See also the pale back / OT mask : The back is more diluted because of the masked OT allele.

    From this result we can draw the first conclusions :

    - The pale back may be masked or mask OT.
    - The masked can be masked OT but can not be bearer of pale back (pale back dominates the masked).
    - The masked OT can not be bearer of pale back, nor masked because these last two dominate it.

    Femelle masque gris ancien type anglaise 2016
    Female masked gray old type

    To know :

    - Each bird has two chromosomes so it has twice the same gene (but not necessarily the same allele).
    - The pale back, the masked and the masked OT are mutations linked to the sex, they are thus carried by the sex chromosomes. In birds, the male has twice the same sex chromosome (ZZ) and the female has two different sex chromosomes, one of which bears the genes linked to the phenotype (ZW, the W carries the genes related to the phenotype).
    Now let's detail each possible coupling. Let's start with the pale back and the masked below.

    Male pale back X masked female

    Female\Male ZBp* ZBp
    W ZBpW ZBpW

    *Bp = Back pâle; *M = masked



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  • Importance and management of light

    In countries with mild climatic conditions and ideal for our birds it allows to raise them outside or with sufficient lightening of a room thanks to the present sun.
    It is different in other countries and depending on when the breeder decides to mate his birds. Sometimes to coincide this period with holidays or others.

    In this article, I describe solutions that I know to overcome the lack of light and give the right conditions to our birds following the different periods of their lives in our breeding rooms.

    1. What brings the lighting

    Appropriate artificial lighting can ensure the activation of vitamin D3 essential for the growth of young zebrafinch.
    Vitamin D3 deficiency can result in a beak, malformed or soft paw. Conversely, do not go into excess vitamin supplement administration which will produce even more harmful effects.

    2. What we are looking for by managing the light

    This allows to be able to raise to the unsuitable seasons to recreate the ideal conditions. Simulate in some ways at best what will stimulate the birds to reproduction or rest.
    In winter, prolonging the luminosity may also allow more time for the birds to feed in order to withstand low temperatures (I think of the case of an outdoor breeding).
    Conversely decreasing the length of the day can help calm a bird. For example a male too excited that destroys the nest to start a new egg. Give him a break in a dark place, may temper him before another attempt.
    Changes in brightness duration between 2 periods must be progressive. A sudden change can cause false moult or unusual behavior. A change of 5 minutes a day is appropriate. You will notice as and when changes in behavior, excitations during the increase of this duration.

    3. Solutions for managing light

    a) Cycle with 2 programmers and 1 night light

    The most economical will be to use 2 programmers (mechanical or electronic) and a night light.

    Programmateur mecanique Programmateur electronique

    The mechanical programmers get out of control in time, so I recommend the more precise electronic model.

    So let's start on a cycle set up with this material. 1 managing the neon (s) (programmer n ° 1), 1 managing the light bulb (s) (programmer n ° 2) :

    - The programmer n ° 1 will manage the lighting of the neon or neons during the day either for complement of light or simulation of the day if you raise in a room not benefiting from opening on the outside.
    - The programmer n ° 2 connected to (ux) bulb (s) will have for role to warn of the extinction of the neon in the evening and their lighting in the morning. It will choose low power bulbs adapted to the size of your breeding room and still allowing the birds to see enough to set up for the night.
    - Finally, you can add a night light for night light to reduce bird stress.

    Cycle avec 2 programmateurs et 1 veilleuse a

    So maintaining a regular cycle will provide important benchmarks that will help ensure the serenity of your birds.

    On the other hand, good management of quality lighting is not enough on its own. For example, for an optimum preparation for mating the extension of the day should be accompanied by a suitable diet (richer in vitamin etc.) and baths.

    b) Cycle with a dimmer

    2nd solution more expensive but probably more reliable and comfortable to install a dimmer.

    I advise you to choose a model retaining the settings (with an internal battery) and restart automatically by resuming the settings that you have carefully set up after a possible power failure.
    The principles of light management remain the same as in the first solution described below.

    Taking for example the dimmer that I own Besser Elektronik brand Gold Star model, you will have several interesting options :

    - All times are independently adjustable
    - Intensity of the lamps of the dawn and the bedtime is adjustable
    - Possibility of extension or decrease of the day in automatic
    - Lighting lighting for night inspection
    - Light sensor (do not use, for my part, to avoid the neon blinking)

    Here is an example of editing :

    Principe de montage eclairage piece d elevage

    Installing your dimmer near the entrance / exit of your room will also be convenient.

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  • Tip : How to keep the eggs gathered in the nest

    Nid plastique

    If you also use this type of nest this tip can serve you.

    Last year, a male regularly messed up the materials of his nest or the abductees. In order to certainly start another brood.
    The bottom of these nests being flat, the eggs were scattered and therefore a risk of not being brooded was very possible.

    So I looked for a solution to avoid this inconvenience. By trying several type of concave nest bottom, among others those in rope and coir, incorporating them into the plastic nest. This male continued despite all to want to remove these funds !

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