The most exciting period when breeding finches or canaries starts when the eggs are getting laid and then when the finch hatchlings are breaking out of the eggs. Incubation takes around 12 to 15 days for most of the cage birds. From day 12 onwards, the nest should be watched and checked for hatchlings. As mentioned before, notes should be taken with the hatching date.
From this date we can find out:
- when the chicks can be rung (this is between day 6 and day 8)
- the date we can allow the male to rejoin the female (this if we used a wire divider to keep the nest/eggs safe during incubation period and hatchlings until day 13)
- the date the chicks will be able to maintain their body temperature (chicks will maintain their own body temperature around day 13, sometimes even earlier depending on the outside temperature)
- when the hen will start building the nest again (at least a 7-day rest period should be allowed between chicks leaving the nest and hen laying new eggs)
- the date the chicks can be separated from parents (when the chicks start eating on their own)
Few days before hatching, provide extra soft food to get the parents used to this kind of food they’ll also offer it to their chicks. Don’t forget about the bathing bowl to ensure the moisture of the egg.
If the eggs are not hatching after 12 days of incubation, do not remove them and wait until day 18 – 20. This is because maybe you miscounted the days from the very start.
When we can’t determine exactly whether the 12 days have passed or whether the chicks are still alive inside the eggs but not hatched yet, there is a different method to check this.
Water Test for incubated eggs
Take a glass and fill it with warm water (not too cold or too hot). To check the water, just put your hand in and if it feels pleasant then all should be good. The recipient must be deep enough to allow the eggs you are testing to float freely or sink. Allow the water to settle.
Once settled, take the eggs to be tested and gently lower them in the water. Wait a couple of minutes for the water to settle again and then just watch.
Eggs are judged by observation as following:
- If it sinks then the egg is dud or not developed.
- The egg floats too high (45% or more of the egg above the water level) then the egg is infertile, dead in the shell
- The egg floats low (most of the egg underwater but still floating) then the egg is still viable and could hatch
- If the egg floats low and at the same time moves slightly or rolling, this means that the embryo is moving inside the egg. This is definitely a viable egg.
Once the test is complete, gently dry the viable eggs and put them back in the nest. Duds should be discarded at this time.
Note that all eggs must be closely inspected prior to the water test. If the shell is broken, pipped, or cracked in any way the water could enter the egg and drown the chick inside.
The process of hatching can take even several hours. All depending on the strength and vigor of the chick, but also the moisture and thickness of the shell. After this tiring “work” the chicks usually “rest” sitting in an embryonic position, with their bellies up, not strong enough to stand on their feet. Don’t be alarmed, this position is perfectly normal.
Newly hatched chicks are very fragile. Their eyes are closed, they are almost naked and they can’t support their own heads. They will not be fed by their parents until 12 hours have passed and after they are completely dry.
Don’t worry, they have nutritional reserves coming from the yellow bag that they absorbed before hatching. Do not try to feed the chicks during this time. Under normal conditions, if not fed, a hatchling will survive about 24 hours after hatching.
The chick looks ugly, blind and deformed – hard to believe that is going to be a nice bird one day.
Eggs should be removed from the nest as they were laid and reintroduced when the 5th / last egg was laid. Otherwise, the eggs will hatch on different days and so the first chicks can seriously disturb those who come out in the coming days. They will double their weight on daily basis for the first few days.
If after 20 hours you notice that the chicks have not been fed, you will need to entrust them to another family of birds. Also, you can feed them yourself with a syringe until the parents have properly taken up their duties.
Use hand rearing formula that is getting mixed with warm water (39°). Every hand rearing formula will have instructions on how to use it and the thickness of the mix based on how old the chicks are.
Tap the nest, gently blow air, or gently touch the chicks and they will raise their heads and open their beaks. Feed-in very small amounts and as often as possible (best practice is to feed every 1hour to 2 hours).
The hand-feeding process requires a lot of patience and free time. For the first 14 days should be fed once every 2hours until they are fledglings. After this, the hand-feeding must continue but it can be done not as often.
Always ensure that the crop is empty before feeding again. If this is not empty then, give them a bit of warm water only. Return in 15 minutes and check the crop again and feed them.
The dietary supplement is found in a few online stores, so buy ahead of time. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it! I’ve been through a lot; I’ve seen the chicks starve! It’s enough to feed them in the first few days and you’ll save a lot of chicks.
Parents feeding hatchlings
To determine if the chicks are fed examine the inside of the beak when the chick “screams” for food. If the chick is well fed the inside of the beak is reddish and moist. If not fed then its mouth has a pale and dry appearance.
The first three days are crucial for the newly hatched chicks.
On the first day, they are fed with bird milk, however, the bird must have at its discretion soft food because from the second day it begins to feed the chicks with what the breeder makes available to it.
Chicks practically double their weight in the first few days every 24 hours, which by default means a lot of work for the parents.
Normally a good female bird can take care of a nest of 3-4 chicks alone.
Starting on the second – the third day after hatching the chicks should be lively and try to maintain their heads, piing after food.
It is very important that the chicks benefit from 12 hours of light per day.
Normally, both parents will be in charge of feeding the chicks and for this, they need plenty of food, as well as freshwater.
Give them soft food, fresh vegetables and fruits (carrot, boiled potato, broccoli, peas, corn, apple, banana, etc.), hard-boiled egg yolk, seeds soaked in water, or sprouted seeds, a mix of quality seeds, calcium blocks and minerals.
Ideally, do not interfere too much in the rearing of chicks if the parents are good feeders.
At first, only the male will feed the chicks, the female taking care of the cleanliness of the nest, eating the excrement of the chicks.
Usually, there is a larger chick (the one that hatched first), which will get the most part of attention and the largest amount of food.
Check the condition of the chicks from time to time (but not very often), if you notice that any of them look weak, remove them from the nest and feed them from the hand. A healthy chick must be lively and able to hold his head up to be fed.
Handle the chicks very carefully! Hygiene is extremely important! Wash your hands before touching the chicks and handle them carefully, they are very fragile!
Keep in mind that chicks cannot adjust their own body temperature and should be warmed!
At the age of 6-7 days, the eyes of the chicks begin to open (a process that lasts about a day) and the feathers begin to pierce the skin of the chicks.
It is very helpful if the male also feeds because by feeding both parents, the chicks will grow much faster.
Attention! If the male disturbs the chicks or the female, it must be separated immediately!
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