How The Hen House Turns: Raising Finches 2

How The Hen House Turns
By CAROLYN (CARY) NEEPER Ph.D.
 
Raising Finches 2

The Kragdahl’s instructions for raising wild baby birds were comprehensive. Our little Cassin’s finch were doing well the first week, so we knew we were in this for the long run. We had to prepare them to return to the wild. It would take weeks.

We were instructed to teach the birds to drink: dunk their beak in shallow water and tip the head back. (This also works with domestic birds.) They would have tail feathers at 2-3 weeks, start flying in about 3-4 weeks, and eat insects, seeds and crumbs at 4-6 weeks.

Okay. When the time came, we decided we could help them learn to fly. What better way to practice than to gently toss them onto the long drapes in the dining room? It worked very well. The drapery gave them something to grasp as they fluttered down.

Within a few days they were flying back and forth across the living room. Once they had learned to fly, they chose the hanging airplane plants as their resting place. Then they found the long hall.

Our group 13 government-built duplex had been opened into a five bedroom home 100-feet long. Needless to say, we had a difficult time trying to keep them in the living room. Eventually, a sheet over the hallway did the trick.

When they began pecking at things, we were supposed to skip the morning feeding to force self-feeding. Ha! I dutifully put out their food on the wood in the woodstove’s wood box, the most natural spot in the house for their wildlife training. They were supposed to feed themselves.

No way. The refused to submit to such independence. In their opinion, I was supposed to poke goodies into their throat pocket every morning. When we sat down to eat breakfast at the dining table opposite their hanging plants, they would fly over to the table again and again, demanding their breakfast.

My notes of July 23 report that they would play with seeds in the morning but fly to me for feeding. Their days were spent in the hanging plants, and they were quite active at night. When they tired of flying around me, they would sit and wait on a black pot handle every 1.5 hours and beg for feeding. When we were not looking, they would go to the woodpile to eat.

In their adult plumage, we were treated to their first attempts at singing to themselves. It was a “psst-bst-pst-bt” sound. By Aug. 2 they were taking some morning food from the wood pile on their own. The time for release was less than three weeks away. I wondered if I could do it. And would they do it? Would they survive in the wild? (To be continued)

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