I have searched the web for information on zebra finches and raising the young, but alas, there is no information out there after the zebras lay the eggs...So, I thought that I would put a page on the web so that you may have some idea of what to expect when your zebra finch eggs hatch. I have had 4 successful clutches with my finches. I have done a fair amount of research before I bought the birds because I believe that you have to make informed choices because these little bitty birds are supposed to live from 12 to 15 years...
Since the humble beginnings of this webpage, there have been a lot of birds in and out of our lives including our 11 finches, a lovebird, a canary, java rice sparrows,two button quails, an Amazon parrot, two Lesser Sulphur Crested cockatoos, a Moluccan Cockatoo, 2 Timneh African Grey Parrots, an Umbrella Cockatoo, and a Severe Macaw. This all started with 2 finches. As you can see, having birds is a big addiction. I never thought that I would be a bird person in a million years! I was never raised with them, so everything was new and exciting. On the pages that follow, I have amased a great deal of information by picking other's brains, researching, learning by trial and error, and asking questions - LOTS AND LOTS OF QUESTIONS! I hope that in my pages, you will be entertained as well as educated. Until the next bird or two!
Where all this bird craziness began. My two finches Zack and Zoe
WHAT KIND OF NEST YOU SHOULD INVEST FOR YOUR FINCHES
There are many types of nests out on the market for finches..the original one that I made for my finches was actually a coconut with the top cut off and a hook bored through it...they quite liked that. the second one that I invested in was a hemp nest. they also liked that too...It doesn't really matter what kind of nest they have, they do not even have to have one...I just think that it is nice for them to have somewhere to lay down after hopping around like crazy all day! If you choose not to have a nest for your birds, put somewhere in their cage where they can hide...I bought some fake aquarium plants and hung them at the back of the cage for mine...I also found that when my zebras had babies that the hemp nest was the best for deterring smells...I believe that this was because it was absorbant and it could also breathe...
WHAT THE EGGS LOOK LIKE
The thing that amazes me is how do those little bitty birds lay such large eggs? They are about a centimeter and a half high and about a centimeter around. I have read that they are light blue in color but they looked white to me. My birds started to sit on the eggs after the third one was laid and both the male and the female worked at sitting on them. Sometimes the finches will push eggs out of the nest, if this happens, inspect the egg and see if it is cracked. If the egg is cracked it is no longer good and you have a "bad egg" on your hands. Just dispose of it if this happens. If not, just lay the egg back in the nest gently and the parents should have no problem with it...At first I was worried when the finches were roosting because it seemed like the female was sitting on the eggs the most and she wasn't eating...The male does take over for the female so that she can eat and get out for a while, but I observed in my pair of zebra finches, the female does about 3/4 of the work. The male builds the nest and the female does most of the work caring for the young. The male does his share of work also don't get me wrong...
HOW LONG IT TAKES THE EGGS TO HATCH
Through reading and observation I have found that it takes 2 and a half to 3 weeks for the eggs to hatch.. My birds were not very appreciative when I went in to check if the eggs were fertile after a week of them roosting on them. They flitted around and squeeked at me..They also seem to get a grumpy look on their face when I do something they don't like...That of course is a human-type observation, but it seems like they get a grumpy look on their faces....To tell if the eggs are good,you take one out and hold it up to a 60W bulb (this is called "candeling"). If the egg shows a dark area and maybe some viens the egg is good. If you are not sure, put it back in the nest for another couple of weeks and you will find out whether or not you will have baby birds...
WHEN YOUR BABY ZEBRA FINCHES HATCH
It came as a surprise to me when 3 weeks later I had little baby zebra finches...my husband would prefer to call them little aliens...They sure have quite a different look as babies...First off, their eyes are not open for another 7 to 10 days and they do not have feathers until about the same time. While they are busy growing, they also change their skin color from orange to black. Their beak color and the ability to sex them comes around the tenth week....They are always hungry and make mom and dad run around like crazy for the next 7 weeks of their lives... Be prepared for some not so pretty smells comming from the nest...The parents eat the egg shells when the babies are born so that preditors do not know that there are babies in the nest...The parents line the outside of the nest with the babies excretment and that just looks lovely...There is also the smell of the fluid that they come out of the egg with...not very pretty but it is worth it all to see the babies being born and raised.. Some bird parents out there will lay 7 or 8 eggs...most of these probably will not hatch, but keep an eye on them..My finches layed 4 eggs the first time and I lost one baby because they couldn't keep up to feeding them all. I would almost candle the eggs and see which ones are good...maybe even take some out of the nest so that the parents can keep the few remaining ones warm...I must say that it is interesting to observe the raising of baby birds in your own house than on television..The finches take care of their babies just as well as any wild bird on a television program that I have watched...
HOW LONG ARE THEY IN THE NEST FOR?
The babies stay in the nest for 3 weeks until they can fly out on their own...They are not very graceful at first but it is neat to see them when they have all their feathers and to watch the parents teach their young how to do things..It is very interesting to be able to watch these tiny birds care and raise their young...but be careful because the zebra finches are prolofic breeders...You don't want to breed them more than 3 times before giving the female a break... My first set of babies were brought to the pet store when they were 7 weeks old and the parents were busy doing the wild thing within 12 hours. They had a new set of eggs in the nest within a week...much to my surprise! When you want to keep them from breeding make sure that you take out all of the nests and nesting material which will help to prohibit them from breeding somewhat (remember they live to breed)Maybe do this before you take the babies away...The parents will continue to produce eggs, but just take them out of the cage and they will eventually start to figure out that their eggs are not staying around to be layed on...they do slow down laying, but it takes about a month and a half...
WHAT TO FEED THEM...
I've had a few questions on what to feed baby zebra finches so I thought that I would put a short note in...Go to your favourite bird shop and they should have food that is called nesting and rearing food, or there is also something called eggfood. Hagen also makes something called a softbill bird food that would also work. It is in a yellow bag with a picture of a mynah bird on the front. These foods are softer than regular finch seed,and it is easier for the babies and parents to digest. I recommend that you start to feed this to the parents as soon as you see eggs in the nest so that they have some time to get adjusted to it. Just mix it in with the regular bird seed for about a week so that it is not a sudden change in their diet...It is fairly inexpensive to pick up a bag. Just make sure that you have enough to feed them for 7 weeks. By the sixth week when the babies have started to eat on their own you can start mixing it with seed so that they can get used to feeding just off of seed...I have found that my finches love cucumber, broccoli, bean sprouts, lettuce, grapes, apple, pear, and egg shells(which are a good source of calcium for the laying mom)and smushed up eggs. Just make sure that when you feed it to the birds, that it is something that they can peck at... When my finches eat the cucumber they always eat the seeds out of the middle first. Make sure to take the fresh food out after a few hours so that it doesn't spoil. I have tried to feed my finches grated carrot, but they do not like it. Try it with yours and see what they like and don't like. The more fresh food that you feed them the better,that way they get variety in their diet and they are also getting important nutrients.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THEY LAY MORE THAN THREE EGGS...
I have had so many questions about what to do when finches start building egg high-rises, that I thought that I should broach the subject. When your finches lay 2 or 3 eggs, cover them up and lay more eggs on top of the two, I call it a high rise. Some finches have been known to build 5 or 6 layers. This is detrimental to the female. She can start to loose calcium from laying so many eggs and she could have some really bad problems with egg binding. This is where the female cannot lay the egg, it gets stuck(I would tend to think that this is extremly uncomfortable if you know what I mean...). If your birds do this, remove the nest and nesting materials for a while. your finches will do just fine sleeping on a perch. The eggs on the bottom will never hatch. they are not fertile. If the female has laid more eggs on top, see if she sits on them. You can always remove the bottom ones later. It is always better not to disturb the nest. Hopefully after the second batch, they will sit on them and have a few babies a few weeks later. Some finches will lay up to five or six eggs, do not panic. Just make sure to have a cuttlebone in the cage so that the female has calcium
WHAT IS THAT FUNNY LOOKING THING UNDER THEIR BEAK?...
I have had a lot of questions involving bumps in the babies necks. This is not a disease nor is it life threatning. This is nothing to be concerned about, it is only their crop. The crop is the place where they store their food. Kind of like our stomachs. If it is a bump, then you know that your baby is eating well! This will get covered up in time by their feathers. Breathe easy and enjoy watching them grow up to be big healthy babies
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE PARENTS THROW THE BABIES OUT OF THE NEST?
I have had a lot of questions about this and I have no hard and fast answers. The first thing I would do would be to put the baby back in the nest. Sometimes
it is just and accident and other times, you may have a bad set of parents.
Watch which one is doing the pushing and seperate it from the other parent and the babies. If that does not work you can try to put the babies in with some society finches. The society's are known for taking care of other finch babies.
WHEN WILL MY BABIES BE READY TO BREED? SHOULD I LET THE BABIES BREED TOGETHER?
I would not recommend that your babies are allowed to breed until they are at least six months old. I do not recommend that you let your babies breed together because it can cause genetic defects in their babies. It is better if you trade one or two off as breeding stock to keep your gene pool healthy.
HOW DO I TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE ZEBRA FINCHES?...
With zebra finches you can tell the difference by looking at their beaks. The male will have a red beak and the female will have an orange beak. The male grey zebra finches will have orange cheek patches while the female grey zebras do not. These are not completly hard and fast rules, but they are close. It takes at least 6 weeks before the babies change their beak colour. Until then they remain black. Just be patient, you will find out soon enough whether they are boys or girls.
WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN THE BIRDS KEEP PICKING ON EACH OTHER?
I have had a lot of questions on this. Zebra finches can be quite mean and try to pick each others feathers out. My best advice would be to seperate the one doing the "picking" from the others. I probably would replace it with another finch or get it another finch to play with. The parents will do this often to the babies when the babies have fledged to try and get them out on their own. This would be the time to sell your babies to a pet store or put them in another cage.
SHOULD I MIX SPECIES TOGETHER?
This is not a recommended practice as your birds can seriously injure one another. Society finches may tolerate others but there is no guarentee. You will have to watch your birds closely. Even some zebra finches won't get along. Be prepared to return one bird or put it into another cage.
A BIT ABOUT ME...
Just so that you know a bit about me and my likes and interests...I live in Victoria, British Columbia,Canada with my husband. We got married June 2000 on the high level streetcar in Edmonton, Alberta. Our twins Emily and David were born on January 21, 2003 and things have been hectic around here. Please forgive me if I haven't answered your questions! We are now living aboard a 1945 converted fish seiner that is 60 feet long and 14 1/2 feet wide. Living aboard has its challenges, but the birds are taking it well. I think that our neighbours put up an eyebrow or two when our moulccan gets going! We are not the quietest boat on the dock for sure!
I graduated from Lethbridge Community College in April of 1998 with a major in Community Television Production. I have lived all over Alberta from High Level (an hour from the Northwest Territories Border) to Lethbridge (an hour and a half away from the border crossing at Coutts Montana). Now I am living in British Columbia because it is very difficult to have a sailboat in the middle of Alberta.
Peter and I have had quite a few birds in the mix in the past. I started my bird family with 2 finches and expanded it to include a canary, and a lovebird. I decided that it was time to get bigger birds.So our adventure into parrots started with our yellow fronted amazon named Simon. We were very lucky to have Simon. When Simon passed away in September 2001 we were lost. He had become such a character and such a large part of our everyday activities. We took him everywhere with us. Then Sophie, our lesser sulfur crested cockatoo chose me as her owner. Sophie gives us as much joy as Simon did, but there will always be a place in our hearts that is reserved for Simon.
We rescued a Moluccan Cockatoo named Jazz in January 2002 and with a little love and a few trips to our avian vet, we hope to have her back in wonderful condition. She improves more every day and we hope that she will regain all of her feathers. We adopted a Timneh African Grey May 2002 and he is Our grumpy old man. Don't put your hands near his cage! LOL...Willy is 14 years old and is in his 4th and final home.
Remember that all this bird crazyness started with 2 finches. Birds are a wonderful addiction to have. Our cat Bonz doesn't think so, but he has gotten used to having birds in his life. .
Our part time obsession, sailing Our Wedding Photos Willy's Page Simon's Page Sophie's Page Jazz's Page Ducorps Cockatoo Page See Snoopy and Mitzvah our new additions!
Enough About Me
...I would love to hear from you sometime. Make sure to sign my guestbook because any information that you may want added to this page comes from you...plus, I love to see what people have to say! Your input is valuable! I'd love to answer every post, but I honestly don't have the time between the twins and renovating the boat. Pretty much everything you want to know is within these pages. Thanks for your interest and I hope that your finches live long happy lives.