Of all the native birds I have kept I have to say that the siskin is my favourite because of its mischievous demeanour its always the first whether it be to the newly refilled seed dish, wild seed heads, chickweed or bath if housed in a mixed aviary. When kept in a cage the siskin can become very tame and I have often got them to take dandelion heads and other treats from my hand. Another advantage of keeping Siskin's is that they are not that difficult to breed although having said that breeding any native bird is an achievement in itself.
Siskin's by nature are greedy little birds and will gorge on their favourite seed if allowed so a well balanced diet is important to keep them in good health. I feed mine a premium British finch mixture and as much from nature's bounty that I can collect usually starting early in the year with groundsel which can appear as early as February/March and then Dandelions in as big a quantity as I can supply because I believe that this common weed is the biggest factor in getting Siskin's into breeding condition also I give my siskin's multi vit's in their water a couple of times a week. When for whatever reason wild food is not available I feed them Broccoli which they relish and a small amount of lettuce maybe twice a week because I feel that too much can cause diahhorea . I am also in the lucky position that I can source grain screening's every harvest which consists of mainly of redshank, dock and a little thistle but unfortunately this does not last too long. Siskin's will take all wild food offered including Sheppard's purse, Plantain, Chickweed etc....
As I have said above when the show season is over I start giving my Siskin's multivits in their water twice a week and until the wild food comes into season greens a couple of times a week as well. At this stage I introduce soak seed once a week and increase it weekly as the breeding season approaches. It is important that the birds are in tip top shape comes the breeding season because a bird that is not in condition will most likely not breed successfully for you.
Generally speaking Siskin's will breed from about mid may until sometimes as late as mid august and if they hatch chicks they are usually good parents. Now Cock Siskin's have a bad name for breaking eggs and interfering with sitting hens but I find this is more prevalent with siskin's you are breeding in cages as opposed to those breeding in flights where they have more space. When breeding siskin's in cages it is best to separate the cock from the hen with a wire divider as soon as the hen starts sitting tight and this will prevent the cock from interfering with the eggs or nest, he can be placed back with the hen when the chicks are a few days old and generally he will be a good parent and with those being bred in flights its just a matter of keeping a close eye on the cock. If he is aggressive towards the sitting hen its best to remove him and then put him back when the chicks are a few days old but in my experience this has never been the case. When the young leave the nest keep a close watch on them to ensure they are self supporting and take them away from their parents feeding them on soak seed and introducing a premium British finch mixture gradually until they are hardened off.
Siskins are a very popular exhibit at shows and generally speaking it's the hen that excels on the bench, I have seen hen siskin's take the best bird in show award on a few occasions.
Whether siskins have been bred in flights or cages I only start show training them when they have completed the moult because this is a stressful time for them and putting them in training cages too soon, in my opinion increases the stress and prolongs the moult.
Offering fresh bath water every day is essential as it helps the new feathers to open much quicker and aids good feather quality, I normally do this by placing the birds in flights for three or four days then put them in training cages for a couple of days repeating this exercise until the show season begins. If a bird is not offered bath water every day the feather quality is decreased and the feather tends to dry out which ends up with a rough looking bird who will try its utmost to wash itself in the drinker when entered in a show.
If you don't keep your birds in flights and they are cautious about bathing in a bath hung on their cage put some pebbles in the floor of the bath and this will encourage them to bathe as they tend to look through the water in the bath and cannot define the depth.
Size. As large as possible.
Type. Nicely rounded full head, cobby body.
Colour & Markings. Cock: to be rich even coloured throughout, yellow green upperparts, yellow breast, well defined faintly laced black cap and reasonably defined black bib. Distinct lacing (striations) in the back and down flanks, well defined yellow in wings and tail.
Hen. Greyish and yellow, lack of black cap and bib, must have profuse lacings on head back and flanks carried well into chest.
Faults. Smokiness, poor or impure colour, erratic lacings in cocks, lack of lacings in hens, eye defects, deformities, poor presentation, insufficiently trained.
Notes. Yellows and buffs are very evident, buffs though of less intensive colour must excel in type and lacing.
Points. Size 10
Colour & markings 35
Feather quality & condition 15
Steadiness & presentation 15