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How To Hand-Rear Finches

Hand-rearing baby finches is a delicate process and not for the inexperienced bird owner.

By Karl Lieberman

Note: Hand-rearing birds is not for the novice bird owner. If you don’t do it correctly, you can injure or even kill the baby bird. Only professional bird breeders and hand-feeders should hand-rear. These professionals continually educate themselves, work with avian vets and mentor under other experienced bird breeders to breed the happiest, healthiest birds possible.

How to hand-rear finches
Hand-rearing finches is a delicate and time consuming job. Get assistance from someone familiar with the process. 

Sometimes finch parents fail at raising babies; so on occasion human intervention is the only option. Hand-raising finches is a delicate and time consuming job. Get direct assistance from someone familiar with the process. Be sure you can totally commit and train yourself well to this task if you decide to take it on. Also know that the older the baby finch, the greater the odds of successful hand-rearing.

Day One baby finches should be given a tiny droplet of warm electrolyte formula, such as Pedialyte, for the first feeding. This is easiest to do by using a ½-cc Tuberculin syringe with the needle removed. This hydrates the baby bird, gives a boost of electrolytes and simple sugars while starting up the digestive system. Repeat this process for the first three feedings every two hours.

Start subsequent baby bird feedings at two-hour intervals using commercial hand-rearing baby bird food mixed with Pedialyte. This mixture should be extremely thin and served warm. Continue this process from approximately 6 am to 11 pm for the first two days. Do not feed the baby birds between the hours of 11 pm and 6 am because the digestive system needs to completely empty in order to restart properly the next morning. Night feedings usually result in sour crop and bacterial infection.

Between feedings, the baby finch needs to be kept very warm (approximately 86 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit) in a small bird brooder. Use soft bedding. Check the brooder frequently and adjust the temperature as needed.  Proper warmth is vital for baby bird digestion.

Change bedding between every feeding and clean all formula from the baby’s beak and face using a slightly damp Q-tip. Bacteria can quickly grow on baby bird formula.

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By the third day, the formula can be thicker, but not so much so that it does not readily draw into the syringe. Pay close attention to the baby bird’s crop to evaluate fullness.  The crop is located at the base of the neck and will appear as a yellowish nodule when filled because the formula can be seen through its ultra-thin skin. Be extremely careful not to overfill the crop and do not feed the baby finch again until the crop appears close to empty.

The thickness and quantity of the baby bird formula can be considerably increased by the fifth day. From that point on, the baby food can be made with sterilized warm water rather than Pedialyte. Add a tiny amount of lactobacillus powder to the formula at each feeding to encourage the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria.

Space baby bird feedings out to 3 ½-hour intervals from the seventh day on. The odds of success rapidly increase every day from this point.

Never reuse baby bird formula, and carefully wash your hands before and after feedings.


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Reader Comments
I have reared zebra finches and Bengalese finches after they have had their initial 7 yo 10 days with parents. They are time consuming but not difficult to feed. As long as they scream for food and open those beaks they are fine. The quiet ones that remain quiet and need to be forced normally die.
Mariane, International
Posted: 6/4/2014 11:56:12 PM
Amanda, totally disagree with your time frame of age of finch and difficulty of handfeeding. I am hand feeding a baby almost 4 weeks old right now. I have been raising birds for 30 years and sounds like you need more experience or training.
Lyn, EB, NJ
Posted: 1/31/2013 11:40:41 AM
good article.
Mary, portland, ME
Posted: 8/29/2009 2:24:34 AM
I have hand-fed many Zebra Finches. Hand-fed finches, when socialized and taken out of the nest early enough, can be very tame, and are nice little pets. However, after they are 2 1/2 weeks old, I have learned that it is nearly impossible to hand-feed them. And yes, it is a lot of work!
Amanda, Goshen, IN
Posted: 8/20/2009 7:15:46 PM
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