|It is important that the foster parents be in the same "mode" as the Goulds. You must make sure the foster parents have been fed the same
diet as the Goulds and are in top breeding condition. Nutrition is just as important for your foster parents as it is for your Goulds! Aside from
proper nutrition, you want them used to the foods you want fed to the Gouldian babies so that the young Goulds thrive - such as soaked seed,
sprouts, egg food, etc.
You'll want to have set them up in a breeding cage and allow them to begin to lay (some never lay but will foster anyway!). I'd like to point out
that due to the nature of both Societies and Zebras, you should only keep one pair of birds in the foster cage. Both these species will sleep in
the nest as groups. I have had 11 Society finches cram themselves into a small bamboo nest to sleep at night! You can imagine what could
happen to a clutch of babies! They could be squashed or the eggs could be broken. In addition, Societies and Zebras are very curious by
nature and will constantly peek into the nest, distracting the foster parents from their job.
You can either replace the foster parent eggs with the Gould eggs, or allow the chicks to hatch along side the Goulds. However, there is some
conflict concerning this topic. Some breeders say you should not allow the Societies to raise their own chicks with the Gould chicks, others say
they have not had any problems doing so. There will also be the occasional breeder who is totally against fostering altogether! Remember,
the choice is yours, not someone else's! If you'd prefer to have only parent raised Goulds, then don't foster. If you'd like to try to help the
eggs or chicks survive when tossed or abandoned, foster them out!
One reason for this debate is that young birds are directly influenced by the parent birds, meaning if the Societies act like Societies, the
Goulds could conceivably think they are Societies too! This is called "imprinting". Goulds who are left too long with their Society fosters tend
to think they are Societies and will not mate with other Gouldians. It is best to remove Gouldian chicks as soon as they are weaned. I have
also found that chicks fostered by birds other than Goulds do not seem as robust. If you remove the young Goulds once they are
independent and place them with other Goulds, they will be just fine and act like all your other Goulds.
It's also been said that a fostered Gould will not raise it's own babies. I have not found this to be true, though I have not used Societies or
Zebras except in rare instances. This brings us back to the point of choosing your pairs wisely. Only breed well suited, well conditioned,
mature birds to help avoid this problem.
NOTE: If you need to foster your eggs or chicks to another species, be aware that Society and Zebra young fledge and are independent of
their parents well before Gouldian finch babies. If you notice that the Gouldian chicks are still begging but not being fed by the foster parents,
remove one of the foster parents. One adult foster will then continue to feed the babies for as long as they beg, usually without issue.
At about 45-50 days, when the young are independent of the foster parents and eating and drinking on their own, move them to a large flight
cage so they can build their strength and get good exercise. They will also build their flight skills, go through their juvenile molt, and go on to
be lovely Gouldian adults!
Take a look at the "When the Chicks Hatch" and "Now What" pages for more on these topics!
|Your Gouldian pair has chosen a nesting site and have begun to lay their eggs.
What do you do now???
|An average clutch is usually 4 to 6 eggs, though I've had hens lay as many as 13. Unless you have an "exceptional" pair, the parent
birds will not usually be able to care for more than 6 chicks without detriment to the health of both themselves and the chicks. I will
usually remove eggs and foster them under another Gould or Society pair, though I prefer to place them in an incubator and hand-feed
the chicks once they hatch.
|are. Up close they almost look solid as compared to the infertile eggs that look nearly transparent with the yolks and air sacs seen through the
shells. I always remove infertile eggs from the nest. Eggs found on cage bottoms or in seed cups are discarded.
When you "candle" an egg, you hold a very bright light - such as a penlight - up to the egg and look for signs of life. If you've waited until
about day 5 after the egg was laid and your hen is brooding regularly, you should see a tiny speck of red. You may even be able to see the
fetus's heart beat! You won't usually see any blood vessels around the yolk until a little later, but if the hen has been brooding tight, you may
see more than you expect! The older the eggs, you may even see the chick moving - or opening and closing it's beak! If you wait to candle
beyond day 10, chances are you won't be able to see anything but darkness filling the egg. This means the chick is growing and filling up
most of the egg.
The eggs in the center are being candled at 3 days. Where the arrow is pointing, you can see the red speck in the egg. Upon closer
inspection, very small blood vessels are also seen. At this stage, you can see the very tiny heart beat of the fetus. It is very exciting! The
eggs on the right are being candled at 8 days. The clutch on the left shows one tiny egg compared to the others. It is also empty indicating
that this young hen wasn't really prepared to breed.
|WHEN TO CHECK THE NEST
|If you know your pair has been courting and are now spending time in the nest, chances are the hen is laying eggs or preparing to. In my
aviary, five days after the first copulation she will begin to lay. She will usually start brooding after the third egg is laid, though some of my
hens will brood immediately and others will wait until the entire clutch is laid. Don't be surprised if you see the cock sitting in the nest box with
the hen! And don't be surprised if they don't brood until all eggs are laid!
If you think your hen is brooding (sitting for long periods and not leaving the nest except to eat, drink and relieve herself), check the nest for
eggs. The best time to do this is usually first thing in the morning when the hen leaves the nest to take care of her business! But don't peek
too often! You don't want to upset the birds and have them abandon their nest!
|AVERAGE CLUTCH & EGG SIZE
|CANDLING & REMOVING INFERTILE EGGS
|ABANDONED EGGS OR CHICKS & FOSTERING
|Young parents, or those who have continually abandoned eggs, or tossed eggs and chicks, may require you to foster out the eggs or
young if you wish to raise additional birds. If you've chosen your pairs wisely this should not happen. However, even parents who
have never tossed or abandoned their nests may do so because of stress, too much commotion in the bird room, too many fingers in
the nest box (peeking in too often), improper nutrition, etc. Follow these tips to fostering your eggs or young.
|WHEN THEY HATCH
|When the eggs are ready to hatch - somewhere between 15 and 18 days from the time the parents begin to brood consistently - the parents
may begin to act a little funny. They may be bopping about or jumping in and out of the nest. They may make enough noise to get your
attention with their beeping and calling. Or, they may do nothing more than sit tight in the nest.
My birds all act the same - they get weird! You see, they can hear the tiny chicks peeping from inside the egg and know it's time for them to
hatch. The parents may assist the chicks out of the eggs by pecking carefully at the shell. They will then toss the shell out of the nest or eat
it. This is not unusual. You need not intervene unless you suspect there is real trouble! Real trouble could be a chick in distress while trying
to emerge from the egg, or the parents pecking at the chick or even tossing it out of the nest! Unless you see signs of trouble, it is best to
leave the parents alone to take care of their chicks in peace. Personally, I never leave the house for more than a few hours if I think chicks
are going to hatch. I want to be available to assist if necessary (another reason to keep good records and pay close attention!).
|ASSISTING THE CHICK OUT OF THE EGG
|Occasionally, especially during the dry season for us humans (winter, when the furnace is running or summer, when the air is on), chicks may
have a difficult time getting out of their shells. This is usually caused by a lack of humidity. When the humidity levels are too low, the egg
membranes dry out too soon and do not allow the chick to "slide" out of the shell as it gets it cracked open. In most cases, the parents will
assist the chick, but on rare occasions you'll need to help. If this is the case, wash your hands thoroughly, get your handy dandy plastic
tweezers out, remove the egg from the nest and place it on a paper towel. Gently remove the egg shell from around the chick with the
tweezers. Once the chick is out of the egg, use warm, clean water and a cotton swab to remove any excess or dried membrane, then return
the chick to the nest. If you have an experienced pair of parent birds, returning the chick should not be an issue. If the parents toss the chick
or abandon it, follow the directions for fostering or hand feeding the chick.
|A Note of Caution: It has been said that candling too often can injure the chick. Using a high intensity light can damage their eyes, or
overheat them and kill them in the shell. Therefore, once you have candled the eggs and know they are fertile it is best not to candle them
again unless you suspect they are not going to hatch.
|CHOOSING FOSTER PARENTS
|Before you breed your Goulds, you may want to have a "safety net". This means keeping a pair of foster parents ready in case of trouble.
In the case of eggs, you can foster them out to another pair of more experienced Goulds who are already brooding (my first choice), or you
can use foster parent birds of another species such as Society or Zebra finches. A Society or Zebra pair could be your only hope of saving
eggs or chicks if your Goulds continually toss chicks or abandon their nest. However, it is important that your fosters have been fed and
conditioned the same way you've conditioned your Goulds for breeding. You want them to be used to the nestling diet you want fed to the
Gouldian chicks. It is also a good idea to treat Zebra or Society foster parents with an antiprotozoal medication prior to the breeding season.
Both Zebra and Society finches tend to carry protozoa that do not bother them but can potentially kill your Gouldian chicks.
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