Article On Fostering

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Post  FinchG on Tue Oct 19, 2010 11:50 am

A Bit on Fostering
By Scott Golden

Many finch breeders feel that fostering is wrong or that birds that have been
reared by foster parents will not rear their own young.
This has no scientific basis! None. Zilch.

Our failure to use the strongest tool in our finch-breeding arsenal in the 1990’s
(FOSTERING) led to the almost complete disappearance of African finches
in the US until the recent imports of 2007-2008

Fostering fertile eggs enables us to get the first generations of domestically bred
finches (F1 and F2) established. These birds only know life in captivity and
are MUCH more likely to rear their own young on the foods you provide.
I use exclusively the old-fashioned, American brown and white society finches
for fostering. I have found that the Euro societies, though very pretty, are
vastly inferior when it comes to fostering.

Younger societies that have never raised their own young are ideal for new
species. They eventually see the new species as ‘what their own chicks look
like’ and do a fantastic job of raising them.

How to Set Up Societies as Fosters

Note: Societies are really worth their weight in gold. They are extremely
dependable as foster parents for most species of estrildid finches. However,
societies may harbor some bacteria or protozoa to which they are completely
immune and the fostered species chicks are susceptible. It may be wise to put your
societies on a thorough antibiotic-antifungal-probiotic regimen before setting them
up as fosters. To be very careful against possible chick-killing pathogens, put your
societies on a 10-day cycle of Amphotericin-B. Amphotericin-B is a powerful antiprotazoal/
ameobal/fungal agent. Some Societies harbor something called 'megabacteria,'
which, as I understand it, is a misnomer as megabacteria isn't even a
bacteria. The organism is actually a powerful and difficult to eradicate yeast.
Megabacteria causes few problems with Societies, but many other species of finch,
and especially their chicks, have a difficult time with it and often die upon
exposure through feeding by foster parents. As far as I know, the only effective
way to eradicate it is through the use of
Amphotericin-B.

Small, divided breeding cages work well for society finches
Whicker baskets or externally mounted nest boxes (my new favorite) work
well.
It doesn’t matter what sexes your societies are: 2 males, 2 females, trios of
males or females, or any combination of the 2 sexes are just fine! Really!
Personally, I prefer 2-3 males as fosters, as it is easier to regulate their
incubation.)

Synchronize your societies’ incubation to match that of the eggs to be fostered
by the use of the blue plastic canary eggs. Societies do not care about the
color. Put one a day in the societies’ nest until you have a clutch of 5 or so
canary eggs. 99% of the time, the societies will begin brooding these fake
eggs. If they bury them in nesting material, dig them out and do it again! It
works. Trust me. By the way….interested in some swampland in Florida?

When it is obvious the societies are brooding, remove the nest box and fake
eggs. Make a small mark on the eggs to be fostered using a Sharpie marker
(just in case the societies start to lay their own clutch, you can remove
unmarked eggs).

Use a plastic spoon to put the fostered eggs in the nest …carefully!
Put nest back in the society cage.

Societies should begin brooding new eggs promptly.
Often, I place a small utility towel on the bottom of the societies’ cage as
sometimes societies accidentally take an egg with them if they quickly exit
the nest. If a towel is on the bottom of the cage, most eggs land, unbroken,
and can be placed back in the nest.

On an index card, write the information about the parents of the eggs being
fostered (i.e.: species, which cage if you have more than one pair of that
species, and hatch date-generally 14 days from the start of incubation)
“The eggs have hatched! Now what?”

First, get excited! After you have done that, it is time for you to supplemental
hand-feed the chicks (MOST SOCIETIES WILL START FEEDING
UNFAMILIAR CHICKS AFTER A COUPLE OF DAYS. YOUR JOB
IS TO GET THEM TO LIVE THAT LONG!! THIS IS NOT HARD.
IT JUST TAKES A BIT OF EXTRA TIME AND TLC)

I use the small banding tool that comes with split plastic bands as my hand
feeding implement. It is perfect for the job.
In preparing your hand feeding formula, float a smaller bowl in a larger bowl of
relatively warm water. Mix a very small batch of formula (I use Exact Hand
Feeding Formula) in the floating bowl. The warm water in the larger bowl
will keep this hand feeding formula warm.

Remove the nest from the society cage. Remove chicks with a plastic spoon.
Dip the end of the hand-feeding tool in a very ‘liquidy’ part of the formula
(i.e. not too thick). Gently insert tool into the mouth of the begging chick,
with the groove (food-containing portion) facing the chick’s tongue. The
chick will lick the food out of the groove and will see the food in the crop
along the chick’s neck.

Do not over-feed, as you can aspirate the chick by forcing food into its lungs.
I feed new chicks before work (6:30 AM) and 2-3 times after the work day
(4:30; 7:30; 10:30PM)
Within a couple of days, your societies should be feeding the new chicks
relatively well.

In subsequent clutches, try to give the societies the same type of fostered eggs.
Often, they will start feeding these chicks from day 1, recognizing them as
their own.
I will continue to supplemental hand feed chicks to assure their proper growth
and fledging.
“I did it! My chicks Fledged!”

With a little hard work and some time, you will be saying these words. A very
important caveat is to make sure to remove your fledglings once they are
independent and place them in flights with adult members of their own species.
This will assure that the chicks will adopt the songs and behavior of their own
species. Song assumption and even sexual attraction or bonding can occur towards
the foster parent species if young, independent fledglings are not placed with their
own kind.

Now, my biggest bit of advice:
DO NOT SELL OR GET RID OF THESE CHICKS. IF YOU DO, YOUR
BREEDING PROGRAM WILL BE DOOMED TO FAIL WITHIN 2 YEARS.

Yikes! I know it sounds kind of harsh, but that is the most honest, heart-felt advice
I can give you. This F1, or first generation of chicks removed from wild-caught
stock are going to be used to your schedule, your food, your avicultural techniques
AND WILL BE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BREED WITHOUT THE NEED OF
FOSTERS. That is the true goal: to establish these birds in captivity, where they
will breed on their own under domestic conditions.
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