By Robbie Harris
I recently purchased an egg-candling device that is advertised in many bird magazines. It states that it is for candling eggs without handling them. It contains two AA batteries and has a long flexible 10-inch shaft so one can candle eggs without touching them by getting the long shaft in the nest, whether a nest box or nest basket is being used. I raise canaries, and was worried that maybe the small light bulb at the end of the shaft may be too hot to use on such tiny delicate eggs. When the light is on for a few minutes, the bulb becomes very warm to the touch. Do you feel it is safe to use?
I know exactly what you are speaking of because both my husband and I use these egg candlers. My husband candles his finch and softbill eggs with this type of candler, and we also use it on all our tiny Brotogeris eggs, conure eggs and all other parrot eggs. The candler with two AA batteries gets warm to touch, but the three AA battery egg candler gets even hotter and is also much brighter. I would not recommend using the three AA candler for small, delicate canary eggs, because that extra brightness is not necessary for such small, thin-shelled eggs. The two AA candler, when used with care, can be a real life saver and great bird-breeding tool to use safely with your birds.
For candling eggs, I now use many different types of candling lights. I use pen lights that use two AAA batteries (which does not get warm at all), and I also use the two AA and, occasionally, the three AA candler for some eggs. The latter two can get warm, but, when used properly and quickly, should be safe. I have used them for years and have never had any problems. If you need to inspect an egg by removing it from the nest to check for cracks or if the chick is still alive, I would use a pen light for that type of lengthy inspection, because that can take longer then a few seconds. But, if checking a nest and you do not want to remove the eggs or can't, the long-shaft candler will work great — just use it quickly. Do not keep the bulb against the egg's shell for longer then a few seconds. When checking to see if eggs are fertile, inspection should only take a second or two.
Knowing When It's Time To Wean
This is my first time hand-feeding young chicks. I kept up with the many feedings per day, had good brooder set ups and kept everything clean. The babies are now about 7 weeks old and seem to have grown properly, gained weight and have beautiful feathers. I trimmed their flight feathers to prevent injury. What I am concerned about is that they seem so heavy, and they are starting to fight me when I hand-feed them. Sometimes after I feed them they even regurgitate. I still want them to get three feedings per day until they eat on their own. I worry that they will go hungry and, being the first chicks I have hand-fed, I want nothing to go wrong. What do you think is wrong? Why do they fight me when I feed them, even though they are not eating completely on their own?
From what I am hearing, you just sound like a normal worrying mother. It sounds like you did a wonderful job rearing your chicks. Going by what you are telling me, I do not feel that the chicks are sick or that anything is wrong at all. Almost all chicks go through what is known as a "slimming phase," and most cut back on their intake of food. Just before leaving the nest, food intake is slightly slowed down. This way the chicks lose some of their baby fat so it is easier for them to learn to fly. Also, by cutting back on food, the chicks will learn to pick and eat foods on their own. Be happy that they want you to slow down feeding them, because there are some chicks that just want to be babied for months on end. Take it from me, that is worse.
I have seen some chicks get very thin at the slimming stage, and I admit that I do not like that. But, once they start to eat on their own, the proper weight is almost always quickly gained back. Feedings three times a day may be too much for 7-week-old chicks that clearly want to wean. Birds are individuals, and different species wean at different ages. Yours sound like they are getting ready to wean. I would start by cutting back to two feedings per day: morning and night. Within about two weeks they should be on one feeding a day or, if they are not eating all that well yet, a small feeding in the morning and a normal feeding in the evening until they are eating enough on their own. Presently, nature is telling your chicks that the intake of food is too much for them. So some are regurgitating small amounts to eliminate some food.
Because you like to feed these babies, you might want to try this first: Cut back the amounts of food being fed per feeding. Be sure to offer all kinds of soft foods like fruits and vegetables, avian pellets, bread, cereals like Cheerios or Fruit Loops, and spray millet. As soon as they start to eat some of these foods, offer seeds. If you feel that there may truly be something wrong, it is wise to pay a visit to an avian vet to rule out viral or bacterial problems. A vet can quickly run tests to see if everything is all right.
Robbie Harris has a Web site so people can easily get in touch with her. She will post things she learns that may be of some importance to others, such as hoax e-mails. Questions for her Bird Breeder column can be sent through her Web site: www.robbieharris.com . She will answer questions that seem to be the most frequently asked and those that will help many.
Robbie Harris raises a wide variety of exotic birds at her home in Southern California. She has written two books, Breeding Conures and Grey-Cheeked Parakeets and Other Brotogeris, and owns and raises a large variety of African parrots, including greys, Jardine's, Capes, Senegals, red bellies, brown heads and Meyer's. Harris has received seven U.S. First Breeding Awards for various types of psittacines.