Letter 5: Rescue the new born?

Problem I am a frustrated father with two new born zebra finches. I brought my daughters a pair of zebra finch back to four months ago. They just became mature enough to breed last month. The female lay 14 eggs in a period of time that I can't not remember how long it was. I read some article and decide to let them have five eggs to hatch. Everything seems fine, they took good care of the eggs. This morning we found a new chick in the nest and the female was busy taking care the new born. We all were very exciting, especially my two daughters. I warned them not to disturb the new monther. They sure spent more time before the cage than normal. we went out for lunch, when we came back after three to four hours of absence, we found one new born on the floor of the cage. I used a small piece of paper pick it up and put it back into the nest. At that time I am very sure that was the only chick in the nest. No one was allowed to get close to the cage. We went back to check after another two hours or so. This time we found two chicks on the floor, one is still moving. Apparently, they were taken out of the cage by their parents. Why and is there a way that I can try to save these new borns. There are three more eggs in the nest. What should I do. I'll be appreciated if you can give me som

"Inglin Lu" <inglinl@hotmail.com>

Comment I have experienced such behaviour as you described, too: It happened years ago when I also had a young and therefore unexperienced pair of Zebra Finches. I also managed to roll the tiny, almost completely naked chick onto a piece of paper and drop it back into the nest, and I also remember repeating this action. I do not remember, however, whether the brood perished or whether in this very case the clutch only produced one single chick.

Anyway, there are several possible reasons for this abnormal behaviour:

  1. The pair is simply too young, i. e. their inborn natural behaviour has not yet matured fully – they simply do not know what to do with what suddenly crawls out of the eggs. In this case the second attempt at producing offspring only a few weeks later will usually prove successful.
    Remedy: Avoid everything that may encourage the birds to breed too early, i. e. do not offer sprouts and special protein-based rearing food etc., and keep them, if possible, in a little flock in a large aviary. Some aviculturists recommend taking away the nests and nesting material, but I would not do this or only for a very short time, because this bird species is used to sleeping in a nest, it is part of their natural behaviour to build and use sleeping nests.
  2. The pair, especially the male, hasn't found enough nesting material. If the inborn urge to build a nest has not been satisfied, the male may seek his satisfaction as soon as new nesting material becomes available. In this case he will either simply ignore the clutch and go on building on top of them, or the birds will "clean" the nest by getting rid of all "alien elements" before continuing the construction.
    Remedy: Make sure there is always plenty (!) of nesting material available.
  3. The new borns do not behave naturally, i. e. they do not beg for food because they are sick.
    Other birds, especially insectivorous species, may disown their young in captivity if finding food is too easy for them: Being overfed, the chicks will stop begging and therefore be ignored or thrown out. However, I do not believe that this can happen with Zebra Finches as they mostly feed seeds to their young.
  4. Massive disturbances, especially by overly curious humans. Parasites in the nests may be another reason.
  5. A combination of some of these points, e. g. 1. and 2.

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