My daily life for the past three months and for the next month or so has been scheduled around a feeding schedule for baby birds. Three budgies, a turaco, button quail, six budgies, a surprise cockatiel, and five budgies. The most recent addition is a zebra finch. Life is rather crazy at the best of times. I am currently giving notice to friends and family that I could be cranky without cause.
The first three budgies, or parakeet chicks, were a delight. Easy to feed, fun to watch, and they matured quickly. Just like in the wild. I sold all three in the blink of an eye, and could hardly wait to have more. Luckily my fertile hen laid a huge clutch of eggs soon after I pulled the first three.
Then a friend asked me to hand feed his turaco chicks that were being tossed by the parents. Sadly the youngest one didn’t make the change but the older chick has thrived. We call him Mort for no real reason. He needed ground up pellets and baby food fruit, to begin with, but now is eating on his own with fresh fruit and unsoaked pellets.
Housing him has been interesting, He looks a lot like a road runner these days and likes to hop up to a middle of the cage branch to the floor and back again. Very agile and attentive. He started in a small brooder, went to a larger brooder, then to a utility cage, and now is in a taller cage. He should be in a big aviary, but I don’t have appropriate housing for him. He’ll have to wait till he goes home. We’ll all miss him.
The six budgie chicks after that were a little more work, a little harder to fit in with the turaco care, but still turned out beautiful and sweet. Five were rehomed, the last one kept to be put on the opportunity drawing table for the North County Aviculturists meeting. I can’t believe how attached I am to this last chick, called Blue for simplicity’s sake. He or she has great character and loves to be with people. I took him to the meeting with me on June 3rd and he won a lot of hearts. The decision was made to hold him back for the next meeting when we will be having an auction.
Somewhere in this time, I had five button quail hatch in the big aviary. I also sadly lost two hens, so I was going to see if I had a hen in this clutch. Button chicks are super easy, just push their little beaks into water, then food, and keep the supplies fresh and plentiful. Of course, the water has to be presented in a way that prevents the chicks from drowning, but I hopefully have mastered that and the splay leg situation. These five grew up to be beautiful. Three were classic Painted Quail males. One was black and white, so not sure about her, and one was clearly female. I decided to put one of my spare males in with the clutch and delivered them to someone looking for fresh stock. I needed the space in my living room so the deal worked for me.
In the blink of an eye, one of the males slipped out of my hand and flew for cover. Under all the other cages in the living room. I gave futile chase for a while but needed to go meet their new owner. I fully expected the quail to make a dash out the door when I left. Luckily he did not then or when I returned. I once more gave chase and herded him into the bird room. There I set out a bowl of water, a jar with food in it, and a block across the door so he was unlikely to get out.
Having a free range button quail in the bird room didn’t seem like a problem. I rather liked watching him dart about madly. And for a tiny bird, when he ran across the mats under the cages, he sounded like a very small elephant. That made it easy to track him. Mike named him Quaillek, after the alien Quellek in Galaxy Guest, and looked for him daily.
The day came when we had to cages around in the bird room. We were going to corral Quaillek in the closet, but a lucky swoop with the net caught him and ended his freedom. He’s now outside with my oldest male, Pixel. I worried about putting two males together, but Quaillek is young and defers to Pixel. Pixel, on the other hand, has lost two hens over the last few years, has been alone for a long time, and seems willing to tolerate the young male. Just as long as no girls answer his lonely calls.
Sometime before we achieved a free range quail, I found a baby cockatiel in the aviary. Under a plastic box planter that I had hoped the quail there would use for weather protection, a pair of cockatiels were laying eggs. I often checked them, noting how old they were, and tossed the ones that got too old to be viable. I guess I hadn’t checked for a few weeks, or the newly hatched chick went undiscovered. By the time I found him, he looked to be about two to three weeks old.
As soon as I had the brooder emptied of parakeets, I brought the cockatiel in for hand feeding. That’s when I realized he was closer to three to four weeks old. But he took to the feeding in a few days and has been a very sweet, pretty lutino. He’s named Rolo by the person who will be adopting him. This bird began to refuse feeding, so I put him in his own cage but let him have daily time with the adult cockatiels that are inside. Rolo was not amused.
He stopped eating on his own and insisted I feed him again. What can I do? He gets two or three feedings a day, hardly takes any of it, and then wants to be on a shoulder. He will be a velcro bird, no doubt.
Once more, I needed to clean out the brooder and set it up for four budgie chicks. Out of seven eggs, all seven hatched, but one of the older chicks was smothered under the others. I kicked myself for not pulling them sooner. I left two chicks in the nest, expecting to pull them in another week. But just to be sure, I checked on them a few days later. For some reason, the parents stopped feeding the chicks. One had not made it, but the very youngest was doing well. I pulled it and pulled the next boxes. Obviously the adults needed a break.
Out of this clutch, I have two blue, one blue and white who will be a beautiful bird, I think. There’s one yellow with a green body and tail and the youngest is a red-eyed albino. They are lots of fun and easy to feed now that I located a syringe of the right size for them. I made the mistake with the clutch ahead of them of using a spoon to feed them. What a mess!
No matter how often I pull the offspring out of my finch aviary, I lose a couple chicks every week. Most of the time, the males are plucking them and chasing them off so they can make soft nests and more eggs. The chicks have nowhere to go, besides often being too young to be on their own. Twice I pulled in chicks and tried to hand feed them. It never worked. I just didn’t have the right touch, I thought.
Last week I happened out toward the aviary and found the largest male zebra finch had a baby cornered and a mouth full of downy feathers. I chased the male away and grabbed the chick. Thinking I had nothing to lose, I put the chick in with the budgies. He snuggled down and slept with them. At feeding time, he didn’t seem very interested, but by the next morning, he had it down.
I purposely feed him with the smallest albino chick so they have kind of bonded and are often together in the brooder. The finch gets a few extra feedings than the budgies, but they don’t seem to hold that against him. The finch jumps up and comes toward me at feeding times. I am so thrilled to have saved this little life. Heaven knows what will happen to him when he matures, but we shall see what the future brings.
All the budgies, Mort, Quaillek, Rolo, and a special zebra finch have been incredible experiences that I am thrilled to have had. Still, I am glad breeding season is going to stop for the summer. I’m exhausted! Thanks for reading, I’ll be back next Sunday.