PROCREATION AND HAND REARING
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).
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.
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.
Interesting information regarding Zebra Finches build nests that do not resemble their natal nest
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.
For finches the biggest determinants of
clutch size appear to be the genetics and diet. I selected larger hens that produce lower clutches; these larger finches sell at a
premium price because of superior health. 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) and very unhealthy.
Birds that are fed a balanced diet tend to produce larger clutches
than ones on sub-optimal 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:
a strict science behind all of the eggs not hatching- and it can be narrowed
down to a few things and should be corrected immediately. Please see the Dedicated Breeder Page for more information.
For detailed information on breeding, please see the Dedicated Breeder page.
As soon as the first chick is born, I remove shell grit from the cage. There is a small incidence of the grit entering the chicks crop and not emptying properly causing infection.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am happy t0 answer questions, please contact me with the form below:
I am happy t0 answer questions, please contact me with the form below:
Choosing your pair:
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:
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.
1/2 tablespoon crushed pine nuts
1/2 tsp honey
1/8 teaspoon Jumpstart mix
1/2 tablespoon finely grated carrot
1/8 teaspoon Sunshine factor
Vitamin Powder (Thrive or Laberfers)
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.
with 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.