The first thing I want to point out - This is what I believe - I would say only attempt hand rearing if the chick's life is in danger i.e if the parent birds die or if they stop feeding the chicks for some reason - please don't do it to get a tame zebra finch - the parent birds will make a far better job of rearing their young themselves.
I thought I would begin by telling you about my most recent hand rearing event:
This is Shadow's Story (Shadow's name was suggested by Clare (a member on the forum) when I first shared with her the photo of the chick's image in the shell- Thank You Clare that name was Ideal for the chick)
Back in March this year when I was cleaning out some of my cages in the bird shed I found a few eggs had been laid on the bottom of the cages. So instead of binning them I gathered them up and decided I'd pop them into the incubator to find out if any were fertile (I had no idea which birds had laid them.)- the reason I put the eggs into the incubator was the eggs wouldn't have yet started to develop because they hadn't started to be incubated so it would be at least 3/4 days before any signs of fertility would show by candling the eggs.
It turned out two of the eggs were fertile and at a later date, when I was checking them with the ovascope, in one of the eggs I could see the image of the actual chick inside the shell
The chick (Shadow) almost fully developed inside the shell on 30th March 2016.
This is Shadow- it hatched out on the 3rd April 2016
Shadow at one hour old.
The other fertile egg hatched out before Shadow. So I had two chicks to care for.
I left them in the incubator for the first 12 hours - they don't need food during this time they survive on their egg sac.
I began by giving them a few drops of water to which I had added 'electrolyte' (prevents dehydration)
The hand rearing formula I used this time was 'Neocare by Vetafarm' I mixed a very thin mixture of the formula (1 part formula to 6 parts water) using the electrolyte solution, but still just gave the chicks a few drops at a time. To begin with I used a cocktail stick with the sharp end removed.
My next decision was would I now foster the chicks into a Bengalese nest that already had 3 very young chicks or would I hand rear the chicks myself.?
I thought perhaps the new chicks would probably have a better chance of surviving with the Bengalese ( I had fostered chicks with them before)
I put the oldest chick into their nest first and when I saw it was being fed I put Shadow into their nest too.
7th April 2016
It's difficult to see the two chicks that are being fostered but they are at the top of the nest. Only 3 of the Bengalese eggs hatched out so they had only 5 chicks to feed and there were 3 Bengalese adult birds in the cage all helping with the feeding
All was going well then 'disaster'
What happened was actually a mistake made by ME!
Cleaning their cages
After I clean their cages, as usual I remove the cages to clean the shelves the cages sit on - this only takes about three to four minutes , then the cages are returned to exactly the same position they were in before.
The next morning I got a shock the Bengalese adults were not on the nest as usual and then I realised I had mixed up two cages and their cage hadn't been returned to the exact position it had been in the night before.
I feared the worst because I had learned from previous mistakes that if I moved the position of the cage for any longer than 5/10 minutes if the birds had eggs/young in the nest the parent birds came off the nest and didn't go back.
I checked the nest and found that one of the foster chicks was dead, (I was surprised because it was the larger of the two foster chicks that had died) The three Bengalese chicks and Shadow were still alive but not moving they were cold and their crops were empty. If I hadn't checked when I did they would have died too.
The incubator, switched on in the house because it had two rescued canary eggs in it as well as a few others (another story) so I quickly removed the 4 chicks and put them into the incubator to warm them up..
As I was also hand rearing 3 cockatiel chicks that had been neglected by their parents (yet another story!!) I had all the things ready for hand rearing the 4 chicks but the intervals for feeding them and the strength of the formula was different to that of the cockatiels (a lot of time would be taken up for this but if I wanted them to survive it would be necessary -that is why I first said DON'T choose to hand feed just to make a bird tame because you will be shocked at the time you have to devote to this and it would not be right to give up half way and let the chicks die.
Shadow was now 4 days old. Once the chicks were warm and I had fed them I transferred the to a small brooder I had just bought (it was really for heating baby wipes - (Lionheart Baby Wipe Warmer a US product but can be bought in UK)
7th April 2016
The 3 Bengalese chicks and Shadow in the small brooder
That first day I fed them every 2 hours. until midnight but I didn't feed them during the night. Their crop has to completely empty at least once in every 24 hours to prevent health problems occurring.
This will be continued: