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It is a hobby that few people would find appealing and yet both my mother and I have been drawn into it. The hobby of hand raising baby finches is one of the most demanding around the clock endeavors you could ever undertake.

My motherís first save was a newborn Cordon Bleu. I brought it over to her house in desperation. It had been abandoned by it parents and also the zebraís, who I had tried to foster it under. She had Societies sitting on eggs. We slipped 2 tiny hatchlings under her Societies. Immediately, they seemed to be taking to the babies. We thought, we had won. Two days later one was dead and the other was close to death. After one hand feeding, he seemed better and was placed under the societies again. After careful watching, we realized the societies were incubating, but not feeding the baby. Over the next ten days my mother continued removing the baby and feeding it several times a day. On several occasions, the baby was found near death. At day ten, it was permanently removed from the foster parents. The societies went to bed too early at night. The lack of feeding from 7 am to 7 pm left him dangerously weak each morning.

Removing the baby and using a heating pad under a box worked great and he thrived. "Sprout" as he grew to be called, developed such a personality and bond with its now Mommy (my mother).

Today, Sprout enjoys a tiny cage full of toys and mirrors. He has flight time out of the cage every day. Playing in my motherís hair, cleaning under her nails and sleeping in her hand or pocket are part of his everyday playtime. His cage is next to a canaryís cage. They sing a mix of canary/ cordon bleu songs to each other.

We have now saved 5 others. They were 2 Lavenders, 1 Gouldian, 1 Zebra 1 Society. For Christmas, I made my mother a hand painted, handmade glass aviary. I gave her the tame birds I had raised. Each day, she opens the glass doors and lets them out for bath time and play time with her. They are extremely tame and enjoy this playtime for about an hour before retreating back into the glass aviary for lunchtime. Sprout has never cared to join them, but rather prefers the one on one time he gets with his "Mommy".

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Now, for what all we learned
to get to the point of saving them

1. This is a very difficult, time-consuming challenge and should not be attempted unless all other options have failed.
2. Most babies were lost from making a critical mistake in the first hours. Some sources say to feed immediately and some say after 24 hours. Both would be deadly mistakes in most cases. The start of feeding time must be judged by the yolk sack, which is still visible on the abdomen (inside) after hatching. This must be largely absorbed before feeding is started. (If not, they die of yolk sac poisoning) Liquids such as water or pedilyte (for children with diarrhea) can be given in small amounts before the yolk is absorbed. When the baby passes clear liquid with no white or colored matter in the "poop", it is ready to be fed. At this time, we feed 1 part Exacta Hand Feeding formula with 6 parts water. It is very watery. Use only a flat toothpick for this. (Use toothpick only for water/pedilyte earlier, also.) After 24-30 hours start using the smallest syringes. We have found tips that go on the end of these to make an even smaller point. This is very helpful. (Teeth whitening tubes that are available through dentists have such tips on them.) Gouldians have a bigger mouth and this may not be as necessary as for the others. We didnít like pipettes as well, but they do come with very small points. Someone just told me that letting them suck liquid off a paintbrush also works for these early days.
3. Follow the Exacta directions for the next days making the mixture thicker.
4. We lost 2 babies tragically at a later date. They were several weeks old when they seemed to have phlegm in their throats. It was probably some kind of yeast infection. They were both being fed from the same syringe. (a lesson to be learned) It was apparently spread from one to the other through the syringe, because they were not sharing the same incubator. If something like this happens, take it seriously and seek treatment. Since they died, we arenít sure if they needed probiotic or antibiotic treatments.
5. The box, heating pad will work, but we have found more reliable temperature controls. The babies should start out at 98 degrees. Over the next few days, lower this to 95. As the bird feathers out, lower it to 85 degrees. I have used an incubator for this. This will not work if you have eggs in the incubator. The temperatures are different and the openings for feedings are too frequent. My favorite is the oven with just the light bulb turned on. My lower shelf is exactly 95 degrees. I move it closer to the door to slowly lower the temperature. I have actually used the upper racks to maintain 100 degrees and have hatched eggs this way. (I have an electric oven. This would probably not work with a gas stove.) Any brooder must also have moisture. A damp cloth is satisfactory. Test any system in advance of using it. I found the oven is insulated and therefore holds a constant temperature much better then the other sources. (It is amazing the lengths I will go to, to get out of cooking!)
6. We start feeding every hour when the babies are approximately 8 hours old. (Use the yolk sack test mentioned in #2 above to determine). Over the next few days, we extend this to every 1 Ĺ to 2 hours. Nighttime feedings every 2 hours, extending to every 4 hours and then to all night at 10 days old. The feedings depend on the amount of food you can get into the baby. Generally, after the first few days, feed when the crop is empty. During the first few days, very little food appears in the crop.
7. Hand raising is a very difficult and yet rewarding experience. The tame finch is an amazing pet. Their intelligence and character will amaze you.

Many people have said hand raised finches will not mate and adapt to raising their young. The zebra is the only one we put in an aviary and stopped human interaction. This female has gone on to raise babies. The Society finch, named Spot, has shown signs of wanting to foster. She actually fed "Cry Baby", the baby Gouldian. During the weaning process, "Cry Baby" definitely lived up to her name. The Society, Spot, who was only one week older than "Cry Baby", actually fed her. Spot is now sitting on fostered eggs. They were Cordon Bleu eggs and unfortunately turned out to be infertile. We see every sign that she will raise babies and allow my mother to help in the process.

© lady gouldian finch.com 2016

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