Letter 2: Express mail

Problem Hello, Hans. My name is Lisa and I am writing to you in hopes that you might be able to provide me with some sound advice.

I recently purchased two zebra finches from a breeder via the internet. They arrived three days ago by express mail (sent overnight and I picked them up at 10:00am). They looked a little ruffled but I thought that might be due to their travels.

Currently, what I am worried about is the droppings of the male ..... it is clear and watery with an occassional stool in the center .... when it dries, the clear fluid shows up white on the paper and the stool hardens and the coloration varies from brown, yellow, green.

At times, they appear all puffed up and yesterday at 3:30 in the afternoon, the male was asleep on his perch with head tucked back under his wing. They seem active to me throughtout the daylight hours but also nap frequently.

They are eating canary/finch seed mix, lettuce and spray millet that I have provided for them (I have put out some grated carrot, but don't seem too interested in that). Right now they are tucked up next to each other, asleep, on the top of a nest I have provided (it is 12:30 pm.) Apparently, they are only six months old and if they are like babies of other animal species, maybe it is normal for them to nap frequently.

I have contacted the breeder each day and explained exactly what I have observed. His response on day one was that they were probably psychologically stressed .... ok, I can understand that. He also said that if they were "alert and active (not sleepy and fluffy) they are fine". He advised me to keep them illuminated for 24 hours so they could eat and drink at will. He also mentioned they were previously kept in a 12 foot long and 8 feet high flight and not people tolerant.....ok, I can understand this also.

After describing to him on Day 2 the same symptoms he responded with, "from your description they seem to be settling in".

Problem ..... I don't think the stool is reflective of a well bird and I am concerned about them appearing fluffy and taking frequent naps. However, they do appear active at times. I do not have the experience to accurately determine whether the birds are just "settling in" or whether they just aren't well. Considering how I purchased these birds (thinking it was safer to purchase from a breeder vs. a pet store .... and not being able to find a breeder in my area) I am not sure how I should handle this situation from this point forward.

I would really appreciate whatever advice you could provide me with. I am writing to you because I have visited your site a few times and have read through all your reader letters and it appears that you are knowledgeable and geniunely interested in helping these people with there concerns. I have tried to research as much information as I can via the internet on the symptoms that I am seeing ..... information is scant....maybe I am not using the correct search words (birds + health) and the finch sites are not this detailed in relation to a ill finch.

Can you help?

Sorry, Hans, forgot to mention that I have put a halogen lamp above them to provide them with a heat source and turned the heat up in our home. They perched up under this the first night but did not stay there the whole night. I thought maybe it was a bit too bright so I shielded it somewhat cut back on such penetration of light yet still heating the area. (cage is 3 x 2 x 2)

Again, thanks for any advice you might be able to provide.

Comment Lisa, Sending birds by mail always is a very scary experience for them. It seems that your birds need(ed) some time to "digest" this and become used to their new environment. The shock they had to suffer and the fact that they could not simply fly away from it all were likely to become apparent in their frequent naps and possibly some other symptoms - and this for more than just one or two days. I do not know

So I cannot say much more. I can only advise you to keep them in the best conditions possible, and these include (as you know from these readers' letters) a spacious aviary etc.

It is good to hear from someone who doesn't simply consider living birds in an aviary a possession or adornment to his/her home, but really cares.

Hans-Jürgen Martin

Problem Hello, Hans-Jurgen, thanks so much for your reply.

Fortunately, the birds are doing well ..... or seem to be doing well to an untrained eye. They have settled in nicely and their stool is looking a lot more like it should. The male still excretes a lot of urine but the vet said that some birds urinate in larger quantities than others. I have introduced a lot of new foods into their diet and they are slowy beginning to try and develop new tastes ..... they seem to really like collard greens and mustard greens ..... they tolerate the kale and spinach, but much rather have the greens. I have also tried honeydew melon, apple, cucumber, broccoli and sprouts. They will nibble on the cucumber once or twice and then that is it ..... they like the stalk of the broccoli more than the flower ..... they are so interesting to watch!

The female is still losing feathers ..... just in one area (very tiny fluffy feathers, but I think I can see new ones growing in). Something else has transpired ..... they ("she" in particular:) are laying eggs already ..... they have 5 in total......their parenting instinct is amazing and doing such a good job of sitting and taking turns sitting. I have started to feed them egg (no egg food to be found in my area .... tried so hard to find someone who sells it and most didn't even know what I was talking about ....) and mixing it with a little bit of hand-rearing food for extra nutrients ..... if you have a better suggestion for this, I would love to hear it. I would like to ask you a few questions, if that would be alright.

  1. How do you prevent inbreeding if you have a "colony" of finches .... I'm thinking ahead to when I possible have seven zebra's and not really wanting them to breed amongst themselves. Do I have to separate all of them into same sex cages?
    Even if I did ..... I let them have the entire room to play around in (bird-safe ..... I couldn't stand to see them in the cage we had made for them .... even though I thought it was spacious ..... so several times a day, I just open up the cage and they have the entire room to fly about in ..... they love hanging out in the big fig tree ..... there favorite spot and don't venture too far from it yet) ..... and even if I did, how can I let them fly about without having to worry about breeding?
  2. How do they cope with this in the wild ..... is there inbreeding in the colonies in the wild?
  3. Yes, I think the shipping process was very stressful for them and I think that if the birds were not in the best condition that they could be (physically and nutritionally), the journey is even that much harder for them to make. Yes, I think they were handled poorly because when I received the box .... there was seed stuck to the top of the box (on tape) so the box, at one point, had been completely turned over.
  4. Well, Hans .... it is really great that there is someone out there to answer questions from the beginners. I really appreciate it. We are pretty excited about our new additions and already thinking that a bigger flight is going to be necessary. Also, Hans .... if one tries to control over-breeding (more than four clutches in a year .... although, we are not interested in using these birds for breeding .... at least not at this time and certainly don't expect them to be little birdie factories) .... is taking out eggs that are layed harmful to the parents in any way (psychologically speaking) .... is it hard on them?

Thanks again, Hans, for your email.....hope we will exchange mail again.


Comment Hello Lisa, "greens" can only be an additive to a Febra Finch's diet! As for the rearing food, you may add some crushed biscuit – but without sugar! Here are my answers:

  1. Siblings are not eager to breed among themselves. To prevent inbreeding safely, you should swap ZFes or replace the eggs by artificial ones as soon as a clutch is complete.
  2. No, there isn't. Part of the reason why this doesn't happen is that male ZFes need two weeks longer than females to become sexually mature. (See the end of my book.)
  3. That's what I thought. I would love to hear that you have made one!
  4. As I said: leave the artificial eggs to the birds, so they don't "have to" keep producing new eggs, which is what exhausts the female most.

Hans-Jürgen Martin

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