fetching finches

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PROCREATION AND HAND REARING

BREEDING STRONG AVIAN STOCK:
Make sure your finches are in good health 1 month prior to breeding by providing a nutritionally complete diet- which may not be what you assume, so please refer to the Advanced Nutrition Section of this site for more information. Secondly, they need an enclosure conducive to breeding with has ample UV rays to provide vitamin D (light through a window is not sufficient as it filters out more of the UVB rays).
Finches are prolific breeders, and if they are in breeding condition, will breed continually throughout the year. If you have placed a pair of finches in an enclosure, and they are not breeding within 2 weeks, there could be a few reasons: mismatched pair, undesirable nest (or nest location), stress, malnutrition or with some of my rare mutations- they need to be coursed. 

There are three breeding triggers in the wild, sunlight, food supply and rain. If a pair is reluctant to breed, I give them a medical exam to rule out any conditions, and then facilitate the process by providing additional sunlight (10-14 hours a day) which trigger the release of luteinizing hormone (LH).  Light stimulates photoreceptors in the brain, where there is a circadian rhythm of photosensitivity. Furthermore you must increase food allowances- often providing more fresh items and simulate the 'rainy season' by misting the cage with mineral water twice a day for a week in addition to their 'bath dish' which is available twice a week (should be increased to daily).

Only allow your birds to breed if you are prepared to provide them with proper care.
*I do not recommend hand feeding finches for the Hobby breeder but I encourage breeding of my bloodlines after adoption. Maternal inbreeding reduces parental care in the zebra finch and it is not recommended. Please be mindful of this when choosing to breed your birds. For more information Please see this article.

This is Saya (means born in the night) - a tragic storm left her abandoned as an egg. She hatched with many developmental issues- but with special care and patience, she is now an extremely affectionate little girl at 24 days old.
WHY ARE YOUR FINCHES SO LARGE?
My finches came specifically from Austria, Germany, UK or Holland, and immediately go on my regimen to ensure a healthy bird and guarantee my young grow up strong and breed out any health conditions and streamlining my bloodlines. I believe there is also a connection to nutrition and protein during breeding and development which naturally produces a larger bird. So please note that most of your equipment (nests, enclosure, etc) should also be of a increased in size.
NESTING:
Zebra finches prefer a woven nest, and seem to prefer bamboo or millet dome covered nests, my finches are very large- so you must purchase a 'budgie' size nests as the normal nests will not suffice. I also cut the entrance a bit larger so it is easier for me to manipulate. These bamboo are disposable, and easy to mount inside the cage. You must provide nesting material. Nesting material can be obtained from a pet store, or from your own backyard. I use Sisal fiber, coconut fiber, cotton pod fiber, jute, grasses, fresh flowers and torn tissue paper (organic if possible) and of course the birds will utilize anything they can carry.

Advanced nesting setup: I fill the base of the nest with coconut fiber that I sprinkle with Pau D'Arco, Bay leaf and Cinnamon- which prevents mites/insects and mold growth (candida). I then proceed to grow nesting material which has micronurients, antifungal and antibacterial properties. I sprout wheat grass, oat, barley, rye spelt and millet grasses. When they are approximately 8 inches tall, I cut and half dray (leaving a small amount of moisture to provide nutrients as they carry these things to the nest with their beaks). I also grow niger and hibiscus let that bloom. The blossoms have nutritious pollen that lines the inside of the nest.

I should point out the importance of providing more than one nest per pair. Single pairs I always give an option of 2 nests, and if housing more than one pair together I give numerous options- sometimes with different filling at the base of the nest.
The nests should be placed high in the cage, and preferably above your eye level so the birds have privacy- and if they breed you will be able to change food/water dishes without disturbing their incubation as they will not see over the top of the nest.

Interesting information regarding Zebra Finches build nests that do not resemble their natal nest
PROCESS AFTER COPULATION:
The male will sing a complex courtship song, and begin building a nest. Once the nest is completed to the liking of the female, they will mate. Copulation takes a matter of seconds and is not aggressive like some other species. This makes for an ideal learning experience for children.

Eggs will commence in 5-7 days after copulation. If you have witnessed insemination, begin providing fresh egg food, fresh produce and sprouted seed DAILY. If your breeder is not providing sprouted seed and egg food- find another breeder. My Egg Food recipe is located on the advanced nutrition page on the right hand side.

The egg food provides the protein, calcium and fat; the produce provides vitamin A and glucose; while the sprouted seeds provide the macrobiotics and trace minerals. These things are required for the hen to produce quality eggs/embryos and gives her the strength to make it through the laying process.
 
SINGLE FAMILY DWELLING: Building a ‘duplex’ is not uncommon as over zealous males may start to build another nest on top of the current nest…. Before the eggs have even hatched on top of the mom and kids!
 
Prevent this by removing nesting material after the first egg is laid and provide distraction: tie burlap strands to a perch or the side of the cage allowing it to hang down. He will try to remove it to begin nest building- but will never succeed. It is a perfect distraction for the little guy until the chicks fledge.
 
The hen will lay one egg every 24 hours. After the 3rd egg is laid, the hen and cock will start to incubate the eggs, laying a clutch of between 2-9 (average is 5, but rare mutations seem to lay less). Once incubation begins the chicks should hatch in roughly 14 days. When the temperature outside increases the eggs become overly stimulated and develop extremely quickly (10 days instead of 14) and often are not as healthy because they did not have enough time to properly develop. I prefer in the heat of the summer to give them a ‘resting period’ in which they take time off of breeding to recuperate.
Silver split for lightback/Blackface young. Note the multi color beak, dark skin and all white plumage. Breeding light to dark, can be a challenge as mates will often be selected due to color/size. This baby has not fledged yet, and upon moulting will develop full color (combinations of white, black and orange if male.

CLUTCH SIZE:

For finches the biggest determinants of clutch size appear to be the genetics and diet.  I select larger hens that produce large eggs so that the hatchlings are larger; these larger finches sell at a premium price. Others have selected for the number of eggs that the hen produces regardless of the size, and the hatchlings are often smaller (like in America); while these may sell for less than the larger babies, more are available for sale per clutch. However currently my Jumbo breeder pairs lay between 5-7 eggs and have a flawless rate of hatching.


Birds that are fed a balanced diet tend to produce larger clutches than ones on suboptimal diets. It’s important to provide sufficient protein, fat, vitamin A, calcium, and trace minerals to support egg production, and these must be balanced with other nutrients in order to be most effectively utilized. For example, calcium cannot be absorbed without vitamin D- which comes from natural sunlight. For this reason my birds have outdoor enclosures which are guarded from predators.


All Calcium is not created equal:

Be aware of calcium that also has high levels of heavy metals. For example, oyster shell flour has 38% calcium and 0.07% phosphorus but has enough lead so it is not recommended in excess. It also has over 3000 ppm of iron. Iron has profound effects on the hematopoietic system and immunity. I choose to keep my calcium supplementation to mostly powdered egg shell and cuddlebone with very little sea shell.


EXCESSIVE EGG LAYERS: A very small number of birds become excessive egg layers. They lack the nutrients to produce healthy clutches and ultimately many have thin shells that break or embryos that do not develop, or die shortly after hatching. If excessive egg laying is suspected please see the Dedicated Breeders Page for more information.

LOW RATE OF HATCHING:

There is a strict science behind all of the eggs not hatching- and it can be narrowed down to a few things and should be correct immediately. Please see the Dedicated Breeder Page for more information.

Hatchling= hatched, Nestling= pin feathers, Fledgling= feathered and leaves nest, Juvenile= begins first moult, Adult= growth complete
For detailed information on breeding, please see the
Dedicated Breeder page.
PROCESS AFTER HATCHING:
As soon as the first chick is born, I remove shell grit from the cage. There is a small innocence of the grit entering the chicks crop and not emptying properly causing infection.
After 24 hours, hen feeding will commence and I provide ‘Nestling Food’ or ‘Soft Food’ (recipe to the right) to parents 3 times a day: mashed egg, with the addition of cereals, hand feeding formula, vitamin supplements and sprouted seeds. This mixture is consumed by the mother, and quickly regurgitated to the babies providing the vitamins and protein for advanced development.

NEST ABANDONMENT:

Unfortunately there can be unforeseen circumstances which cause the mother or father to completely abandon the nest. My first reaction is to find foster parents for the abandoned young as feeding zebra finches at such a young age is EXTREMELY difficult due to human exhaustion. However if you invest the time, money and emotion into breeding a high end stock, I recommend that you are prepared.


I recommend buying an incubator- there is really no other way to do it.... and also buy a brooder. I know professional breeders that still only have a 50% survival rate when hand feeding zebra finches as exhaustion leaves a large room for error (up every hour during the night- and day- mistakes happen that are often referred to as 'failure to thrive'). Failure to thrive is also used when there is no apparent sign of illness, however the chick does not make it. The formula additives I use are important to prevent this, as there are many signs- some not to the naked eye.


I use a few different items to hand feed- a piece of pasta, dental tools and syringes. 

I do not approve the use of the toothpick, commonly used- there are many chemicals in the processing, and when the hatching grabs to feed, there is possibility of splinters and air sac rupturing from the narrow device; alternately use a piece of spaghetti (dry) that can be sanded smooth . A better still device is a 'dentist tool' used for cleaning teeth, or a 'crab cracker' (small metal device used to remove crab meat). It is larger than a toothpick, and has a nice angle on it. Finally, I use syringes- many different sizes (generally prefer a 3cc) with catheters of varying sizes.


For more detailed hand raising or development details, please see the Dedicated Breeder section.


Day 1: I provide re-hydration liquid. This keeps them hydrated (pink color- not red and shiny) and allows them to digest their yolk sacs.

Day 2: Thin formula (like water) is prepared with regular water instead of pedialyte. Fed every hour (4 times through the night) of 1 or 2 drops.

Day 3-5: Formula is the consistency of creamy soup. Feeding moves to every 1.5 hours, and 3 night feedings.

Day 5 to 7: Feed whenever the crop is empty- every 1.5 hours, and 3 night feedings. Add Jumpstart Mix in excess of 1% to the morning feedings. Recipe for this can be found in the Dedicated Breeders section.

Day 8 to weaning: (eyes should be opening)

Formula is thicker, like pudding. Feed when the crop is empty every 1.5- 3 hours, (gradually stop night feedings).

By 18-21 days, the birds will fledge. They are transferred to a separate enclosure for conditioning. They will have juvenile colors (muted) until they get their adult plumage around 5 weeks and full color at 10.

MY METHOD FOR PRODUCING TAME FINCHES :
Beginning at 1-1.5 weeks I will hand feed the babies inside the enclosure nest on occasion (usually 3 times a day) to relieve the burden off of the mother. At this age they do not have feathers, and are very fragile. They must remain in their mothers care until they have pin feathers.
 
I remove chicks between 1.5-2 weeks and are then transferred to a separate enclosure with controlled temperature and humidity and hand fed (every 2 hours or as needed- some still require night feedings as the parents would preform).

Baby lightback (full color comes in a couple weeks)

Socialization is critical from 1.5 weeks forward (after eyes have opened) for imprinting- learning to recognize and bond to individuals. I spend hours with the babies interacting and exposing them to new and interesting things.

Each bird is raised as an individual, and with that comes different personalities, and different progression rates. The birds do not all wean at the same time, and I practice abundance weaning, therefore I will hand feed until the bird refuses.
Once fledged (able to walk/flutter and have feathers) they are transferred to a larger enclosure to condition their bodies and await their adoption by their new families.  Adult color begins appearing 5-6 weeks and should be completed by 10 weeks. I will let the finches go to their new homes once I am satisfied on their ability to eat on their own and they are showing a good amount of adult coloration (around 10 weeks usually). I do take pre-orders, but I cannot guarantee color combinations or sex. I do offer a health guarantee, and you must fill out an application before adoption. Available babies are HERE.
For detailed information on advanced breeding techniques, chick illness and processes, please visit the Dedicated Breeders page.
FOCUS OF STUDY:
One of my major focuses was the neurological and behavioral adaptations:  males learn to sing a complex courtship song during puberty from parents and environmental factors- while the females do not. This is similar to how humans learn speech with lineages of finches having similar unique songs. This demonstration of learning ability opens the door to training, and hand taming of finches.

To tame a finch allows it to move up in the pet store ladder. Seen less as ‘wild animals’ and more as a pet. This coincides with better nutrition and housing practices from breeders and pet stores.

Babies trained to come on command. Here they are coming from cage to hand. They respond to a subtle click noise that I have made when I fed them as nestlings.
Hand taming aids in the neurological pathways preventing depression/stress and indirectly corresponds to a healthier bird. Hand taming reduces the incidence of disease as it reduces stress of cage involvement (such as cleaning of the cage and changing food dishes) and allows you to easily spot illness. In the event of sickness, it makes administering medication less traumatic as they are used to being handled on a regular basis.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?
Overall hand taming gives you an opportunity to be more involved with your new feathered friend- preventing mental and physical illness. Giving you a rewarding experience and a sound investment in entertainment and education for every generation.

FAQ: Commonly asked questions

Q: How often do finches relieve themselves?
A: About every 9 minutes (this number can vary depending on bird, diet and environment)

Q: How often to I need to clean the enclosure?
A: We clean the enclosures here 'as needed' but generally every 3-5 days. We have grates at the base, so they are not in direct contact with their feces. General rule: if it is soiled, clean it. I recommend F10SC which is a non toxic veterinary grade cleaner.

Q: Do you finches stay tame? I handfed a finch, and when it became an adult it lost interest in me....?
A: Our finches are raised differently. What started as an exploration for the nutritional requirements, and turned into a process of raising finches (similar to parrots) where the 'imprinting and bonds' are created. This makes the bird very tame, and will remain as such. Think of a outdoor cat who always returns home and desires attention, that is what we are raising. But if all communication is cut off for an extended portion of time (months), nature will play out, as with any animal.

Q: Are your Finches, or Budgies better for my child (they are about the same size)?
A: They are very different species, but from this aviary- they have similar traits and care. Please research each, and email if you have specific questions. We can employ special techniques to ensure your finch is extremely comfortable around children. I enjoy finches due to the social nature, and the educational/teaching that can be accomplished (cycle of life during breeding, sharing and nutrition). But of course- I am biased.

Q: Do you sell other kinds of birds?
A: We specialize in Zebra Finches, however we also have Society finches (Bengalese) and expect to have Gouldians in the near future. Please message if you are interested, as we will start to reserve babies soon.
With proper care, your Zebra finch can be a beautiful addition to your family. The color combinations are just stunning. Just look at the amazing colors and lush sizes of these finches at a show: * Video by Roy Beckham



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Choosing your pair:

  • Compatibility
  • Age
  • Condition
  • Colors/Mutation


Compatibility: Birds must be of the same type (Timor and Jumbo is not a good combination) and they should be a proven pair (not related). If there is animosity towards each other, then it will take considerably longer and injury can occur.


Age: You should never breed a zebra finch unless it is 6 moths of age, preferably over a year of age. How old is your zebra finch?
Often times you can tell by feet and nails.



Note the difference in skin and claws with age (9 weeks vs 2 years). Older birds will have longer nails and rouch skin (not flaking, just older looking). Note* Nails should be trimmed before mating to prevent shell or nestling injuries.

Condition: Beaks should be smooth, with no cracks or discoloration, and feet should be smooth with no flaking. Eyes should be bright and clear, and feathers should be neatly stacked (not puffed up or moulting).

Color: Color is of preference- different mutations work well with others, do some mutation research to determine what suits you. Here is a chart with basic mutations (not splits) of European finches:
(click for larger view)
If you are interested in learning more about finch mutations our site is currently under construction, please visit this informational website:

eFinch
Remember to quarantine any new birds, but note that even during quarantine, finches need the same nutrition. Egg food, sprouted seed and produce is provided everyday along with special supplements to ensure they have enough vitamin A, Calcium and trace minerals.. 

Breeding any bird without the proper conditioning is asking for tragedy. If your last clutch was dead in shell, soft shells, you hen was egg bound, or anything of the sort- it is a nutritional issue. Correct it for your sake, and the sake of your birds.

The average clutch for zebra finches is 5 eggs. Rare mutations or malnourished birds may lay less eggs. There is also incidence of excessive egg layers which must be addressed early.





This is a video of a chicken, but it elegantly details the development (this is a 21 day lapse for a chicken egg- which emerges in a formed state). However zebra finches hatch in 13 days, and complete development outside the egg. This is one of the difficulties of raising them as they are extremely fragile.













NESTLING FOOD:
1 slice Whole grain bread with seeds21 tsp Quinoa Powder
2 hard boiled eggs (shells microwaved and crushed into powder)
1/2 tablespoon crushed pine nuts
1/2 tsp honey
1/8 teaspoon Jumstart mix
1/2 tablespoon finely grated carrot
1/8 teaspoon Sunshine factor
Vitamin Powder (Thrive or Laberfers)

To Serve:
Sprouted seeds
Bee Pollen
Hand Feeding Formula (if hand feeding chicks)

Tear bread into pieces and place on a baking pan. Preheat oven to 80C and dry in the oven. Do not toast the bread, just allow it to harden until it crumbles. Remove from oven place in plastic bag leaving a 2cm opening and crush into breadcrumbs.

Place hard boiled eggs on plate and mash with a fork. Add in the Sunshine Factor and breadcrumbs and continue to mash until its well blended. You want very small pieces. Add remainder of ingredients and create a dry crumbly mixture and sprinkle in the multivitamins (if using). Continue crushing until mixed- do not over-mash. If the mixture is too wet they will not eat it.

Place in air tight container, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
 
When feeding 1 pair of birds:
Place 2 teaspoons in serving dish.

Mix in a dash of hand feeding formula and add a teaspoon of sprouted seeds and a sprinkle of bee pollen.
 
This should be left in the cage for no more than 2 hours. .
 
* Animal protein (such as eggs and meat) is highly digestible while vegetable sources (such as soy and quinoa) are less digestible. In my calculations breeding birds and growing chicks require 25% protein. This mixture increased the digestible protein amounts and should be available 3 times a day in addition to fresh produce/sprouted seed and seed mixture.
Charlie, an Indian Silverbill getting a bath with a sprayer and enjoying the warm sunlight outside.


Each baby adopted has its own birth certificate, and lineage description with leg bands for identification.