Thursday, April 19, 2012

Raising Lady Gouldian Finches - Exploits

Five baby Lady Gouldian finches. Most hatched five days ago.

Five baby Gouldian finches left. Mother Nature may determine that only the fittest survive, but it's still sad to lose any.

The smallest Gouldian lived about
five days. His parents tossed the
dead chick out of the box.
Woke this morning to find a dead baby on the floor of the cage. As you can see from the photo of him in my hand, it appears his crop is empty. That caused me concern for the other babies. I hope his loss wasn't due to neglect by his parents.

For several days I've been looking into the nest box without incident. Whichever parent (or both) are in the box, they haven't left the nest even once, until today. This time, I wanted to check the other babies to see if their crops were full. I had the "bright" idea of putting a dish towel over the top of the box so that I might reach inside and "chase" the hen off the nest. I thought with a towel covering the top she'd exit through the nest box entrance and not try to fly upward and maybe escape. The box hangs outside the cage.

Well, the lid of the box was barely open when the white dish towel frightened her more than I do. The "white" thing hovering outside the edge of the box lid might have been an owl, or something even worse. Me she knows, but this was something new and scary. Before I knew it, she flew off her babies and toward me. I put my hand up to prevent her flying out, so she flew upward and out the crack next to the cage. She landed against the cage bars outside the cage as my hand flew after her. I grabbed her before she flew any farther, and quickly returned her to her cage.

Well, at least she was off the babies and not flying all over the house!

Upon inspection of the remaining five baby birds, only three appeared to have anything in their crops. The two largest had empty crops. It seemed wise to take those two out and raise them myself by hand feeding them. I retrieved my "baby bird" box where baby Bourkes are raised. Then gave these two a feeding with Exact Handfeeding Formula. They ate with enthusiasm. Next, I went down to the basement to retrieve an oil heater to place near the box to be certain they would be warm.

Male Gouldian finch in bottom cage. Nest box at right.
Hen is inside. She spends the night covering her young.

All of that done, I realized that the hen still had not returned to her nest and her other three babies. So, I took them out and handfed them too. Then decided to put all five back in the nest box and see what she did. She gradually began looking in the box, but it was probably 45 minutes to an hour before she and her mate finally returned to the nest. Since then, the babies have cheaped loudly several times and I assume they're being fed.

I am not eager to hand feed them at this small size, mostly because of how frequent the feedings would need to be. However, I must monitor them closely to be certain they are being fed enough. This is problematic for me since Bourkes stuff their offspring so very, very full that they look like they could pop. Do Gouldians do the same? I suspect they are very different, or else these parents are not feeding their offspring often or thoroughly enough.  

Any Lady Gouldian breeders want to weigh in on this subject? Thanks!

Peace and Blessing Everyone.


neversink7 said...

I would strongly advise chasing the gouldians off the nest to inspect the young unless you really need to especially until you know how well your pair will tolerate the inspection. Your good intention may permenantly scare them off the nest and abandon their chicks. Checking the babies' crops too early in the AM can be misleading. It can take a while for the parents to feed enough to stuff all of their babies really full. I wouldn't worry about it especially if the younger smaller babies are being fed first. I would recommend that if you do check the nest, do it in early afternoon so you can see the full extend of how well the babies are being fed but not too late as to frighten the hen off the nest all night. While checking the nest, if the hen refuses to come off her chicks, just juse a pen light to gently tip under her belly so you can see the chicks. I have pairs that I know won't get off their eggs or babies no matter what, so that's what I do to check. Usually with new pairs, I leave them alone unless I can catch both off the nest. Younger pairs will be more nervous than older pairs. Usually once they've had a clutch or two, even if you chase them off their nest, they'll return w/o problem, but please do keep doing it especially to first time parents.

G. A. Lewis said...

Good advice. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I have a young pair of Gouldians that insisted on babies inspite of my plans. When the 2 babies were 8days old the hen laid four more eggs. I am new to Gouldians and had never had lovebirds or cockatiels "double lay" like that. I was told by 2 breeders of Gouldians that the eggs proabably wouldn't hatch, and since the parents were so new to raising young to leave the eggs alone and not disturb the nest. Well, 14 days after the last egg was laid all 4 eggs hatched. I then had a situation with 2 non-fledged older babies in with 4 new hatchlings. When I saw the male toss a hatchling I decided to pull the others. Unfortunately the tossed baby was dead when I picked it up... I didn't know if it was the fall or if the father killed it in the nest. We then attempted to hand raise the three babies. Unfortunately we couldn't find a thin long enough tipped syringe to easily fit their microscopic throats and two of the three babies died from inhaling the formula when my husband was feeding them (at 8 and 13 days old). After talking we realized that he was still dispensing the formula when pulling the syringe out of the mouth. Once he was more careful about doing that the other grew fine.

If you do have to feed them, because they are so tiny, they have to eat every two hours for the first three days. Night feedings can be cut back by small increments and by the 9th day you can stop night feedings.

WARNING: We used Kaytee Exact formula and when we went in last week to get a new can there was a notice that it has been recalled for too much Vitamin D that has been causing kidney damage in the babies raised on it. QUIT using it!!!
We switched to Lefebre's formula.

Our hand raised baby is 50 days old now. He's developed slower than the older siblings did, but according to everything I read that is to be expected with hand raised Gouldians.

It was hard to know how big to fill his crop - we usually tried to see that both "sides" of it were about the size of his head each. My husband was terrified about overfilling them. We had a very hard time trying to find out how much to feed them as we read that they might ask for more even when their crop was full.

It was an experience to raise a bird that started out the size of a wasp. Much more intimidating than handraising lovebirds which we used to do on purpose. We have two pairs of Gouldians on eggs now, and while we have a good incubator if the need arouse again, the sheer time demand and emotional tension when feeding them makes us think that we'd rather not have to do so again.

Our little handraised guy is sweet, and doesn't mind being held, but prefers to be in the adolescent flight cage with his two siblings... which is good I guess. I had read that sometimes handraised Gould's have to be kept seperatly because they are not always accepted by parent raised Goulds.

Best of luck... it was much easier raising lovebirds, and someday I hope that I can get my dream pair of Rubino Bourkes and raise them, but I do love the beauty and songs of the Gouldians.

G. A. Lewis said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

I've decided to leave them with their parents for now. The five remaining babies seem to be doing well so far. I'm checking in the afternoon as Neversink7 suggested. Sure enough, their crops are very full then, so the empty crops I saw before were probably because it was still early morning.

Bourkes are very different, they rise early and fill their offspring before I'm out of bed.

Your experience with two clutches of different ages is amazing. I've never had that happen with any of my birds in my entire lifetime of raising many varieties of small exotic birds. I might question whether she waited to lay the last four eggs because she was low on calcium...? Just a thought, assuming there weren't any other hens present.

If you send photos or videos of your birds, I'd love to see them and might share them with our readers.

Thanks for your insights.

G. A. Lewis said...

Blogger won't let me edit neversink7's comment. In checking with her, she meant to say, "I would strongly advise AGAINST chasing the Gouldians off the nest..."

She has been a wonderful resource on Gouldians, and also provided the information on Genetics in the "Page" tab at the top of this blog. If you haven't yet, check it out.

Anonymous said...

Dear G.A.,

I posted about our young gouldian pair double laying... well they've done it again. Three 22 day old babies, and this morning 3 new babies and three more eggs that may hatch, with an additional 2 eggs that are quite yellow and I'm sure they're not fertile. This time we've decided to see how nature handles things.... I'm in my last two weeks of Grad School research writing and just can't do the every 2 hours around the clock week required to hand raised them.

I found a lady in Australia that has raised Gouldians for almost 30 years. She said she's had 2 pair "double clutch" this way....both sets of parents were able to juggle both sets of babies. After the first toss of the last double clutch I immediately pulled the babies to raise - this time we're going to see how the parents handle it. It's hard because it's little lives at risk, but I'm 51 years old and just wrapping up grad school... that has to be my focus.

The birds get hard boiled eggs daily and have a constant supply of egg shells as well as oyster shell and cuttle bone, so I would find a calcium shortage odd. Also once a week we give them drops of Calcium plus in their water. I'm afraid to give them anymore calcium than that.

I'll keep you posted on this double clutch. My hope is that the older babies will fledge very soon.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm quite in gouldians, and i have to say my couple is inexperienced in raising chicks. The first clutch - only one baby hatched - well, they have starved him to death :O Right now i have another clutch. At least one baby have hatched and.... it just started making begging noises today. I have no posibillity to check the nest to make sure baby is fed, so can anyone tell me how often hatchlings beg for food? The one who died clutch ago was crying at first very often then constantly! I wasn't sure if it was normal or not, but when the next day morning parents abandoned nest and late afternoon the child was dead we already knew it must have been something connected with it's constant cry. This one started today around 3p.m. then 7.20-till 7.45pm, then around 8.30 p.m.(central European time) as far as i can hear for now. Is it normal?