Pluses of fostering

Due to numbers now being bred, fostering versus parent rearing is no longer an easy decision.   Especially as all birds are now captive-bred.

For newcomers to waxbills though, fostering is a good way to start to build up a breeding stud with nice, young birds.   Then can learn successful parent rearing knowing there is a viable UK population.

In my first season, the only parent-rearing success was from a captive-reared hen.   In those days, wild-caught were still available.
In only 3 months of fostering, there were numerous chicks from different pairs of wild-caught Cordon-bleu parents.   This continued through 2009 using F1's).

Fostering normally means that 50% of eggs laid will result in independent chicks (but this includes all the infertile eggs from 2 'battery hens' - otherwise, fertility is ~ 90%).

Fostering delivers, even though it isn't natural and doesn't feel quite right, it is a great way to learn while building up a flock.

Fosters vary

With good fosters, all fledglings lack any tufts of head down.   From 'okay' fosters, some fledglings have tufts of head down.

From poor fosters (or old/ unfit parents), 1 or more chicks fledge incompletely feathered or can't even fly.

If initially results aren't good, try again with eggs from other another Blue-capped pair.   If it's another poor result,use such Bengalese to foster rear eggs from good foster Bengalese.
Why are some poor fosters of Blue-capped?   A common theory is rejection is due to dark skin colour (and down).   I'm not convinced.

Bengies' chicks are much, much noisier.   It could be down to sound.   It doesn't matter.

Get some good Bengalese fosters from Gouldian, Parrot finch or better still, other waxbill breeders.

Once you have a good strain, its very easy.   Good fostering seems to be inherited.

Cock trios are usually better fosters than true pairs?

Cock trios every time for me.
  • can induce cock trios to go clucky in 4 days
  •   (1 china egg added to the nest each morning
        for 4 consecutive days.
      (start making them go clucky as soon as you
       know you have a waxbill nest)
  • no egg-laying cycles
  • big positive is no distracting extra eggs laid
  •    (ie is that a Bengalese or a waxbill egg?)
(This example involves Pin-tailed parrot-finch chicks but hopefully the example is still sound).

The photo below shows two nests which hatched on the same day and had exactly the same food/ regimen/ cage.   The trio's chicks are bigger, better developed and better feathered than the pair's chicks.   The trio's chicks have already started moving around the nest.


Better if you can stop peeking at the chicks as they near full feather from days 13 or 14 onwards.   Otherwise you might induce a 'burst' and the weakest/ youngest could suffer.

If you see fewer waxbills to the perch than when you last inspected prior to fledging, try not to look in the nest.

The smallest/ weakest will 'burst' and an extra day in the nest can be the difference between surviving or not.

Fledging time varies

Blue-capped Waxbills don't all necessarily fledge on the same day.

One might be early or 1 might be late (usually all within 2 days though.   This fits with the egg hatching times.   1 nest was 4 days).

Fledge at about days 18 - 20.   It varies with different fosters, (average - 18.5 days).

The waxbill chicks return to the nest for the first few days during the day and especially at night.  

Weaning - minimise the stress

Waxbills may be weaned at 16 days.   The sooner they mix with other Blue-capped the better to learn to socialise.

When weaned, don't transfer from a small foster cage to an aviary in one giant leap.   Try an intermediate week or two in a small cage and work up to bigger things.
If going to a flight cage transfer one or two Bengalese as well just for 2 or 3 days.   The young waxbills will be more comfortable and the adventurous Bengalese will find the seed and water soonest.

Ensure seed and water dispensers are of the same type, colour and positioning as before.

Bengalese (Society Finches) or Zebra Finches as Cordon-bleu Fosters

Not tried myself but some people advocate using Zebras to foster.

Why bother when Bengalese are wonderfuly steady, predictable and controllable?

A 'trio' of Society finch cocks can be made clucky within 3 - 4 days but...

Some Bengalese wont feed Blue-capped waxbill chicks.

The skin colour and/ or the heavy down may contribute.
The big downside of Zebra Finches versus Society finches as fosters is they are harder to make 'clucky' when it suits you.

So, you must have a pair breeding 'in sync' which means keeping more Zebra finch pairs.

Upsides - the photo shows dark and light skin coloured Zebra chicks in the same nest plus quite a lot of down AND ...

Zebras don't settle down to roost as early as Bengalese.   In winter early roosting Bengalese limit feeding time and extends 'night'.

The next page has information on parent-rearing - parent-rearing
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