Breeding Song Thrushes 

Breeding The Song Thrush

By Robb Brown

Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description

In the wild these birds are no longer so common, but in captivity they are generally easily obtained and a delightful aviary subject.

These birds are probably the easiest large softbill to start with and certainly the bird for anyone wishing to have their first dabble with softbills.
They can be bred in a simple 6x3 flight, although they will be fitter in a flight of 8 or 9ft long if you can & that is what I try & use.

The breeding quarters are easily set out, a nice sturdy perch at either end of the flight at about 5ft from ground, and then a lower down perch as well at one end.

I cover the floor with bark chippings it gives the birds something to turn over whilst looking for food.
The flights I use are completely roofed over with translucent mini profile PVC & fairly well enclosed around the sides.

Always give a large bowl of water. I place mine on a concrete block or similar, just to raise off the floor 6" & prevent it getting filled with bark all the time as they dig about. Also think about where the water will be when putting the perches in, so as to keep it clear of droppings!

I feed mine on a shelf about 3ft from the ground, fixing a small cat litter tray or similar to the side of flight to house all the feeds & this helps contain any spillage rather than scatter it all over the floor. The feed is placed in large D cups or stainless bowls
My birds get a basic diet of good fairly coarse universal softbill food with a few other bits mixed in such as layers pellets and tiny cat biscuits.

I also offer small grey hound pellets & the birds quite happily take them dry. In fact they now take the pellets before the universal mix, so a very economic feeding method.

I also occasionally add some grated cheese, broccoli, carrot & apple to the mix plus occasional scrambled egg is given

For nesting I offer a couple of choices for the nest sites:

First is a simple 8" wooden square base with 2"x1" fitted around all sides

I also offer a small (10”) wicker hanging basket & finally one hen I had was very partial to a green plastic plant bowl of about 8” diameter!

These I fix up at about 5ft, usually in a corner but sometimes along the side, depending on size & layout of the flight. I surround it with a few branches of fir to give some privacy from both the outside world & also give some shade. Some of my hens seem to be quite happy with very minimal cover, so not to much is necessarily needed. Make sure there is a good perch near to each nest site so the birds can easily get to them.

Nesting material is some meadow hay that can be wetted before putting in & maybe some coconut fibre.
Also a bowl of sloppy mud must be offered, as they like to coat the hay in mud & soak it themselves.

The text book way with your birds, if you have the space, is to put the cock bird in the breeding quarters for a week or two & hopefully he will start singing & show he is fit.
In the meantime the hen can be in another flight & she too will come into breeding condition & may even show signs of wanting to mate.

Once the cock is singing to attract a mate, then let the hen in with him & hopefully within a few days you will start seeing the hen building a nest.

You can put them together, before they are ready & you will find that they snap at each other as they come into condition, so in case one bullies the other put 2 feeding stations in during this time just to ensure they can both get to food.
They seldom actually fight, but I did have one pair that went at it hammer & tongs & I had to take the cock bird out as he was getting rather well plucked! So just make sure you keep an eye on things

To help bring them into condition, try feeding a few mealworms each day & dusting them with calcium (I use Nutrabol as it is a very fine powder & works well) just to help the hen get ready for egg laying.

The slightly longer & milder days also kick starts them.
When they start building, You will see the water bowl all of a sudden filled with the muddy water & wonder why, that is then you realise she is building her nest.

The building only takes a few days, sometimes I find they need a helping hand if they just seem to keep carrying & messing about, put a huge bundle of hay in the nest site & hollow it out to form a rough nest, then they will continue & finish it off.

There will then be a lull of a few days before the first of 4 or 5 eggs is laid.

Incubation will take 14 days & is undertaken by the hen.

When the chicks hatch you can use a range of livefood; I always keep a dish of mealworms in the flight that have been well dusted with a calcium powder so that the birds can feed these add lib.

I also feed maggots (you do need to be careful with these & make sure they are from a good source and you have cleaned them well in bran for a few days) but they are a good food. Again they need to be well dusted with a calcium powder.

Earth worms are of course a favourite food, but also expensive so I tend to feed a handful several times a day, placing in a shallow tub of peat so they keep fresh. I buy denrobeanas from fishing shops, they are safer than garden worms that may harbour nasty’s such as gape worm

Snails are a staple diet for wild thrushes, but I stay away from these, as tempting as the ones in your garden are. They could be contaminated with pesticides or again parasites

Other foods such as large crickets can also be used for rearing.

Calcium and multi vits are essential in the rearing diet, as chicks can suffer from rickets if they do not get enough calcium when growing.

The chicks should be rung at between 6 & 7 days with a size K BBC or IOA ring.

Once the chicks have fledged & are self-supporting, I tend to separate them off into indoor flight cages, just to help settle them down, especially if I intend to pick the best ones for showing.

For showing the standard is:

Size & Type: As large as possible, broad nicely rounded head, full bodied of strong appearance with gentle rise over back, neat wing and tail
Colour & Markings: Rich warm olive brown upper parts, bright sandy buff breast running well down flanks, lighter lower breast and toward vent.
Profuse, large, even, well defined very dark brown spots carried well down breast and flanks receding towards vent.
There are also colour Mutations  Cinnamon which is quite a common one and also Ino (white) and Satinette (a very pale cinnamon)

All in – a fairly easy & very hardy softbill that can give any bird keeper great pleasure with the cock birds very melodic song and their quite attractive feather!