Is your finch sick? How can you tell? Why is your finch sick? What is the diagnosis? What is the treatment? So many questions and so many answers.
When someone says to me "My finch is sick, what can I do?" the only response I can give is to ask for more information, and I know this frustrates people. Believe it or not I don't know every finch's entire medical history. In fact, more often than not the finch is not actually sick, but rather is stressed or has a dietary imbalance. I hope that after reading this article you will be able to diagnose the problem yourself but if you can't you are always welcome to e-mail me.
Let's start with the assumption that your finch isn't sick with an illness but rather needs a better diet or life style. I have covered the topics of finch food and housing so I'll keep this brief. Wild born finches spend a great deal of time foraging for food. They also eat pretty much whatever they can find. They enjoy a varied diet and a full day of activity. To keep your finches well balanced we must get back to nature as much as possible.
Forget everything the pet shop told you about a small cage. It's just wrong. Get something big and add in a variety of perches, swings, toys, and maybe a little fake greenery. You don't want to clutter the cage but you want it to be an interesting and engaging place to live.
Next look at the seed mix or pellets you are feeding to your birds. Yes they are a great source of nutrition but would you want to eat the same thing every day for the rest of your life? I know I wouldn't. So give them a little variety here. Keep the seeds or pellets as the primary meal but add a "treat cup" to the cage. In it you can place fruits, veggies, greens, egg, or many other things. Just for the record, lettuce given as a treat very often will cause runny droppings. Try other green foods such as spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, radish tops, carrot tops and dandelion greens. Please make sure anything you pull in from outside is clean of bugs or chemicals.
Finally let there be light. Light is considerably more important than most people think. A finch which lives in a gloomy dark room will be miserable. Bright light, preferably real sunlight is necessary for your finch's physical and phychological well being.
Now on to some rather straight forward symptoms and treatments.
When a finch is sick you will probably notice the generic 'sick finch' look. It is a good place to start but it won't tell you everything you need to know. For those of you who may not know the sick finch look I will describe it.
The finch will usually sit still and appear to be moping. As a healthy finch would only sit still to sleep then resume normal activities. The sick finch will have a fluffy or puffed out appearance. The finch may still eat and drink but it will not be as active as the other finches in your flock. More often than not the finch will sleep a lot. The eyes won't be fully open even when it is awake and eating. Sometimes the vent area will appear dirty or wet. When you see a finch take on these characteristics you know something is wrong. Now you need to figure out what specifically is wrong with the finch so you can treat it.
When you see that a finch is sick, move it to a Hospital Cage first! Then you can take the time to figure out the cause and administer treatment. The hospital cage need only be a warm and secure location where the finch can rest and heal for the nest several days or weeks.
This is where the article is going to break off into sub pages. I'm doing this mostly to save space and to keep everything pretty easy to find. Plus I will be able to add on more illness related articles into this one to form a more complete "Illness/Treatment" article.
Lets start with something pretty common in finches. Lets say your finch has the basic sick finch look and just isn't very active. It seems to tire easily and prefers to sit still most of the time. When you listen closely you hear faint clicking noises as the finch is breathing. This is a pretty good sign your finch has Air Sac Mites. This is potentially life threatening even after treatment is given. Treat this ASAP and click here to find out how.
Now I'm going to add this segment about the clicking sound only because it has recently come up in a visitor's e-mail. It took several messages back and forth to figure out what had happened and why the finch was making these clicking sounds. If you are Hand Feeding a baby finch and you hear clicking sounds all of a sudden it means the baby has gotten fluid in its lungs. This chick has aspirated and will die. I've never seen a chick survive after aspirating. If you make this mistake, I am sorry and I do feel terrible for your loss but there is nothing you or I can do.
Another ailment, which uses the same treatment as Air Sac Mites, is something commonly referred to as Scaly Face. Scaly Face occurs when the mite burrows into the finch's skin and lays its eggs. As the eggs hatch and the mites grow they cause the Scaly Face look The results in such an infestation can be scaly/crusty lesions, localized swelling of tissues, and/or pitting of the tissues. In severe cases the finch may be permanently disfigured. For more information click here
Next lets say your finch is moving about and eating well but seems to spend a lot of time preening or fluffing its feathers. There may even been signs of feather damage which will look like ruffled or dirty feathers. The finch may even act as though it has an itchy skin irritation. Chances are the other finches in your flock will start showing this symptoms in time. This is a very good indication of Feather Mites or Feather Lice. These external parasites aren't going to kill your finch but they will make it rather uncomfortable. If the finch and the environment around the finch aren't treated the pests will spread to other finches and even to other household animals. For more information click here.
If you have an outdoor aviary or feed your finches any live foods such as mealworms this next symptom will be very important. If your finch appears sick, is growing weaker and starts to lose weight, you may have a worm. Parasitical Worms can thoroughly destroy a flock and ruin an entire breeding season if they are not caught quickly enough. For more information click here.
When one finch has worms I strongly suggest you treat them all with Worm Away. It is the most effect treatment for a variety of worms and won't harm your finches. This product is safe for all birds. However, if you treat dairy chickens with this product you will need to destroy all the eggs they lay for awhile. They will not be safe for human consumption. Please consult your vet.
Finally we have a rather common ailment to cover if you have a female finch and she's been breeding or laying eggs. This particular symptom is rather easy to spot. First off the finch must be a female. If it's a male, you'll need to come up with another diagnoses.
Your female is sitting on the floor of the cage, her wings are drooping down, and her tail may be fanned and bobbing. She is probably panting and looks to be having a hard time passing the fecal matter (pooping). She's probably not eating at all at this point. She's Egg Bound. The egg is stuck and will not exit her body or she's just too weak to push the egg out.
If this is truly egg binding and the egg isn't expelled within a day, she will die. If no egg is expelled and she recovers, she wasn't egg bound. Calcium Plus is the cure for egg binding. I stand behind it. A warm hospital cage is also a must. Once the egg is out and she is feeling better you will need to give her a few more doses of Calcium Plus over the next several weeks and it's still possible she will become egg bound again. For more information click here.
Poor nutrition, stress, and frequent egg laying all can contribute to egg binding. It is 100 times easier to prevent egg binding than it is to treat an egg bound finch. Please keep your little ladies healthy.
This next one is rather easy to spot. It is most commonly found in Gouldian finches but can effect other species as well. If your finch appears dizzy, or is rolling its head around as if trying to watch a bug as it darts around the room, your finch may be Twirling. Also known as Star Gazing. For more information about Twirling/Star Gazing please Click Here.
Now we'll move on to the more obscure symptoms and treatments.
Your finch has a dirty or Wattery Droppings area. The "vent" is another word for butt - just in case you didn't already know that. The finch may be exhibiting the classic sick finch signs and it may not. There are 2 common reasons for Wet Vent. The first is simply getting a lot of water in its diet. The other is illness related.
If the cause is dietary simply cutting back on the fruits and veggies will correct the problem in a few days. If the probably is caused by an infection you will need to treat with antibiotics. Then follow up with probotics to bring the digestive system back into alignment. If for some reason you don't think it is an illness because the classic sick finch signs aren't there, then treat with Vitalize. For more information click here.
When illness is the cause it can be a bacterial infection or a protozoal infection. Both have very similar symptoms and different treatments. I'll start with the symptoms. Both can result in the 'sick finch' look. They may also lead to discolored diarrhea and usually change the finch's eating habits. Here is where they can differ. Protozoa are just single celled organisms which can act like parasites. Not all do however. Of course the only species a bird keeper needs to worry about are the ones that do live off birds. They can cause weight and feather loss even as the finch continues to eat well. Bacterial infections can cause the same things but they tend to be a direct result of the finch not eating as much or as well. Masses or lumps in the crop or neck of your finch can also be a sign of protozoa, not bacteria.
However without taking your finch to a vet you may not know for sure which is the cause of your finches ailment. It doesn't help matters much that their treatments are quite different either. For bacterial infections you need a good antibiotic such as Amoxitex. A dose of Probotic should follow any Amoxitex treatment after the treatment is finished. The Protozoal infection on the other hand needs a treatment of Ronex or Ronivet-S. For more information on bacterial infections, click here. For more information on protozoal infections, click here.
Failure to Thrive is one of those health issues that aren't always easy to figure out. The trademark sign is weight loss and excessive eating. If the finch is young, a nestling or a fledging and it dies while in the nest or shortly after leaving the nest we call it Failure to Thrive. There are several possibilities for the cause in young chicks and they almost always lead you back to the parent birds. If the finch is an adult bird we call it Going Light. When adult birds are effected the cause is usually a parasite such as worms or protozoa, however it can also be a bacterial infection or genetics. Form more information Click Here.