Many people breed their Gouldian finches without having a clue what baby birds are like, or how to care for them. So then they have these naked, squirmy things– with strange dots on their mouths, no less — and they’re clueless. 🙂 Here I’ll try to give a nice overview to help answer some of the questions I get asked all the time. Hope it is helpful!
Gouldian Finch Nest
The finches have mated and built a nest. You may think that nest building will never end – they are constantly adding and rearranging. One day I watched as a male Gouldian finch spent the entire day constructing the nest with fresh hay. Every time he wrangled a piece in and got it just right, as he flew off to get more hay the hen went into the nest and undid what he’d done. All. Day. Long. I didn’t know who to feel sorry for – the male who was building, or the hen who clearly wasn’t happy to sit in that nest!
Parent birds start laying one egg per day when they’re satisfied with the nest, but you won’t see them “sitting tight” until about egg #3 or so. From there on out, they become very serious about the nest. One parent is almost always on the eggs. It’s okay if they leave it, maybe even as long as half an hour. They take turns sitting, and the male often stands guard like a brightly colored little sentry outside the nest if you’re colony breeding.
While they’re sitting on eggs, there’s not a lot to see. Sit on your hands and avoid bothering them too much. You don’t want to cause stress – they might abandon the nest.
Gouldian Finch Babies Hatch
So around the 15th or 16th day, the eggs will hatch. You can tell by the parents’ behavior most of the time. They will fly in and out of the nest, or if it’s their first clutch they may look quite bewildered. “Who put that alien in our nest?” they seem to say.
Peeking in the nest (You did, didn’t you?) you might see a baby or two and some eggs still unhatched. This is normal; remember that they laid one per day, so they’re going to hatch in about the same order. Don’t worry about it. Birds have been hatching eggs for thousands of years without our help.
After 5 to 7 days, it will be clear that some eggs aren’t going to hatch. You can candle them to be sure there’s no living being in there. Some people toss them out at this point, figuring they’ll spoil. Others believe leaving the eggs in the Gouldian nest is the right thing to do, and that the eggs help keep the babies up off the nest floor. Either way is right. You can leave them or toss them. I personally do not take them out; mama hen knows what to do with them.
Feed the Baby
If you look at the baby’s belly you can see a bright yellow splotch. That’s called the yolk sac; it’s part of the egg it was in, which is its nourishment for the next couple of days. The parents know not to feed Baby yet because it’s being fed by the yolk sac.
After a day or two or even three, you’ll see the parents feeding the baby birds. Stay out of the way and let them do their thing. Note that the babies need to be fed about every two hours around the clock. That’s a lot of feeding!
Gouldian Finches Fledging
If all goes well, they will take care of the babies and you won’t really be needed for the three weeks after hatching. More waiting! At somewhere between 23 to 26 days, the babies will fledge (fly from the nest). Finally! You get to see them in action.
Baby Gouldian finches rarely go back to the nest once they’re out (other finches might), so this is the perfect time to pull the nest box and clean it. Don’t put it back; if you do, the parents are likely to start a new nest. You want them to take good care of these babies first. The new nest can be constructed a little later.
You might be surprised at the color of the babies. They are an olive green color, if you have green backs. That’s because Gouldian finches don’t develop their color until sometime between 3 and 8 months of age. Strong, healthy babies should molt early in that time frame. Some take a lot longer. This is not something that’s very predictable.
Gouldian Finch Weaning
The babies are still being fed by the parents for the first 3 to 4 weeks after fledging. Provide plenty of nutritious food during this time. The parents need it, and they need it to feed the little ones. The babies will start nibbling on food about a week after fledging. They’re probably not getting much from it, but they are learning to eat on their own.
I give my Gouldians plenty of fresh vegetables and a mix of seeds, legumes, supplements, and grains. When there are babies in the nest, I double all that, plus give them all they can eat dry egg food. Below are links to some good dry egg food brands.
Affiliate link – if you click and end up purchasing, I will earn a few pennies at no cost to you. It will be donated to a 501(C)3 parrot rescue.
I prefer Higgins, but with only a few birds Volkman is a good choice too.
Normally by 6 weeks they’re completely weaned and can be moved from the parents. If you don’t’ have to move them out, keep them together so the youngsters can learn from their parents. If not, try putting another adult bird as a ‘teacher bird’ with the babies.