Lethargic Zebra Finch

by Becky
(Oregon)

Hello, a few months ago my boyfriend and I rescued some zebra finches from a neighbor who was moving out and was simply going to release his birds outside because he couldn't find a home for them. Needless to say, he should never have owned animals, and the birds weren't in great condition.

We ended up with three males whom were treated to a much larger, brand new cage with new perches, food dishes, and etc. We did try and switch them gradually from a seed to a pellet diet, but they refuse to consume them unless they are mixed in with their egg food. We provide the birds daily with fresh seeds, water, a cuttlebone, egg shell, vegetables, and eggfood that consists of hard boiled eggs mixed with ground up finch pellets and some bread crumbs. The cage paper is changed every three days or so and the perches are cleaned individually as needed.

About three weeks into owning the birds, the smallest of them started showing signs of illness. We immediately quarantined him and kept him quite warm, and within three days he was as healthy as ever. It turns out he's the lowest on the pecking order, and the other two birds have decided they are mates and constantly pick on him.

At the suggestion of a bird specialist, we removed the most dominant one for a while, and although the little guy is still number 3 in the pecking order, he stands up for himself now. This was two months ago.

In the past week I noticed that the little guy (named Cookie) seemed to be a lot more active, even going so far as to throw his weight around. At first I was proud of him for defending himself, but now I've noticed that the dominant one isn't moving much. Every time I looked at him he was preening vigorously and wiping his beak on his perch. Now he simply sits puffed up on a stick and doesn't seem interested in the antics of his mate. His plumage seems to have some white flecs on it, but I've seen this on our cockatiels as they were molting.

The reason I list so much is that I'm not sure what went wrong, and I'm writing everything I can think of. The birds have a variety of perch sizes, including a swing, which the sick bird used to enjoy flying through like it was a hoop. I also keep a used up toilet paper tube in their cage because the birds seem to enjoy rolling it around and hopping through it quite a bit. Other than quarantining the bird (which will be difficult as we no longer have the quarantine cage) and taking him to a vet (which again is difficult as we are college students with no money to spare) is there anything we can do? Is the poor little bird doomed at this point?

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Feb 06, 2012
Lethargic Finch
by: The Avian Vet

This is a common problem with improper male:female ratios. It can also be that they do not have enough perch space and feeding stations.

I think that you need to correct your male:female ratio to have 2 males and three females. Odd numbers seem to work with zebra finches. Be sure your cage is large enough to handle that many. Be sure there are several perches with at least three that are the highest and the same height. Put in extra feeding bowls. Give them a full spectrum light. Take the sick ones to see an avian veterinarian. Find an Avian Vet

Dr B

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