The Zebra finch community here at Bad Dog Ranch currently consists of four birds. Roman and Mary and two of their children, Harlequin and Dwight. Mom and dad live in the big cage. Their children live in another smaller cage. Why separate cages, you ask? Because Roman and Mary kicked the babies out once they were able to eat on their own. So Harlequin and Dwight moved into a nice flight cage on the other side of the room.
Because I didn't want to rig up a third cage, I asked Sue of Royal Tropical Fish and Bird Haven to take the remaining three members of Roman and Mary's brood. Sue very kindly took pity on this long time customer and gave me a few bucks for these lovely birds. By the way, one of the siblings looked like Dwight- tan with typical Zebra Finch markings. The other two were grey with typical Zebra Finch markings. Harlequin is sort of white and dark grey blotched, resembling the coat of a Harlequin Great Dane.
The other day Dwight looked bad. When a bird looks bad, that is- all puffed up, eyes half closed, not moving much, having trouble balancing on a perch- it is often curtains. Happily, it was not curtains for Dwight. After she laid an egg, she perked right up. This got me to thinking about baby birds. Though, I'm pretty sure Harlequin is a female too, even if he/she isn't -the whole incest thing forbids a mating between Harlequin and Dwight.
Now back to the beginning of the finch saga, as far as I know, Roman and Mary are not siblings. It was a few years ago in October when Roman and Mary joined our gang. They were already paired up at the pet shop. In fact, they came with a nest. This nest was a small wicker basket resembling a Tiki torch with an awning over it. Inside was one egg nestled in a paper towel.
The temperature outside that day was in the forties, I remember because I felt the need to hurry the birds from the vehicle into the house. And there was that egg to keep warm too, though Roman and Mary were on top of it, in every sense of the word.
Once we got them settled in the big cage, I went ahead and started worrying about the temperature inside our house. You see, THO (The Handsome One) and I possess Polar Bear constitutions. Therefore, we set the thermostat at 61 in the winter because we find it comfortable, not because we are crazed Greenies out to save the world from mythical Global Warming. In fact, I'm still waiting for the immanent Ice Age the "experts" promised back in the 1970's. (No, we don't set the thermostat at 61 in the summer, as glorious as that would feel. We rough it.)
Should we crank up the furnace? My bird reference book says 65 is the lowest of the optimal temperature range for Zebra Finches. Naturally, I asked the expert about proper bird keeping temperatures. Sue summed it up this way: if a toddler can handle the weather, so can a bird.
Roman and Mary handled the egg warming. Eventually, six eggs were accumulated and a few short weeks later, one by one, five little birds emerged. (That sixth egg is believed to have been crushed under everything and everybody else in the nest.)
To be continued...
The Finch Handbook by Christa Koepff and April Romagnano, Ph.D., DVM