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Dr.  Hanson
Dr. Hanson, Veterinarian
Category: Pet
Satisfied Customers: 935
Experience:  D.V.M. for more than 30 years. I have experience treating all varieties of animals.
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why is the zebra finch laying at the bottom of the cage

Customer Question

zebra finch will not sit on perch just lays at the bottom of cage
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Dr. Hanson replied 10 years ago.

Check his legs and his feet. He might have injured a leg or a foot. In which case, depending upon the severity of the injury, it will probably heal on its own in a couple of days but he should be separated from other birds who might hurt him due to his injury.

Sometimes Zebras have bumblefoot which is a callus on a foot caused by hard and too rough perches. Birds have very delicate foot pads. If you notice an enlarged callus on his foot, then rub some mineral oil on the callus but don't get the oil on his feathers.

If his feet are fine, then check his keelbone in the front of his chest to be sure he has been eating enough food. The keelbone is very prominent and will feel like a knife blade if the bird hasn't been eating enough. In this case, you might have to handfeed him using a tuberculin syringe (without the needle) that you can probably get at a pharmacy. Or, Petco may have an appropriate handfeeding syringe. I use KAYTEE EXACT Hand-Feeding Formula to handfeed a sick finch. For a 4 year old finch, mix the formula so it is not too watery but so it is thick (like mashed potatoes). Follow the handfeeding directions on the following website:

Separate the finch from the other birds and keep him warm in a small cage with a millet spray, a low wide perch covered in a soft material, a small bottle cap filled with fresh water and/or a hanging-type water dispenser, and sprinkle some of his favorite seeds and grit on the bottom of the cage on a wash cloth. Put the wash cloth over a heating pad set to medium or you can buy a reptile heating lamp which you can keep on all day and night to keep the finch warm. This way the finch can feel the heat and this can help him to recover.

If you can find a local avian vet, then you should have your finch examined and treated in person.

If you have any questions please ask me.

Dr. Hanson, DVM, PhD, Ornithologist and Aviculturist



Dr. Hanson and 2 other Pet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Relist: I still need help.
I have done most of what has been suggested. Own cage, water, feed, gravel, etc. Feet seem to be okay. Eating a little. Not sleeping in low nest but on cage floor. Sat on low perch this a.m., however, continues to sit in a unusual position. Head down but "twisted upwards". He continues to "cower-down" like and bending/twisting head upwards. Each night for the past 2-3 I think this is "it" for him as he lays under his feeding dish but the next morning he continues to be alert, chirping, but twisting his head upwards in a very strange position?????
Expert:  Dr. Hanson replied 10 years ago.

It sounds like your Finch has what is called "Twirling/Star Gazing". This happens to finches occasionally. Nobody knows what causes it. I have my opinions. My opinion is that the star-gazing bird's metabolism is faster than the other finches' metabolisms so the star-gazing bird requires more minerals. The star-gazing bird requires much more calcium and other minerals; so much that they eventually become depleted of these minerals if they can't ingest them frequently daily. In the wild these birds would have access to many varieties of plants, soils, and gravels to ingest which provides them with very high levels of minerals to ward-off neurological pathology. When they are confined inside a cage they are limited to the foods and minerals that we provide for them. This is why it is important to always supply these birds with sufficient mineral blocks especially calcium blocks and cuttlebones, a good high-quality charcoal and mineral grit, a variety of fresh seeds, and greens e.g. romaine lettuce leaf, fresh spinach leaf, carrot tops, mustard greens, etc.

For some reason, occasionally a finch will require extra amounts of various minerals and after awhile, when the bird hasn't ingested the appropriate amounts and varieties of minerals for his specific metabolism, then he will start to display neurological symptoms such as difficulty holding his neck up, or some finches will have difficulty with their equilibriums and they will turn around in a circle trying to get their bearings so they can fly toward a perch.

I've had 1 beautiful silver Mannikin that had twirling disease. He lived with it for several years because I hand-fed him extra calcium and kept him and his mate in a warm cage (90 degrees). He had a pretty good life for 8 years. Occasionally his neck would contort and he would gaze upwards uncontrollably. Otherwise, he was fine. He ate good and he had a mate.

Give your Finch additional Calcium.

When you hand-feed him the Exact, add some calcium to it. This is how: take a calcium block (purchase at Petco) then take a butter knife and scrape-off about 1/2 teaspoonful of the calcium block into the Exact that you're going to hand-feed the Finch. Mix it up. Then, withdraw the mixture into your bird-feeding syringe and slowly inject it into his beak with the tip of the syringe (without needle) down into the right side of his beak. If you don't have calcium block then scrape-off some cuttlebone into his food. Only feed him when he is awake and looking at you so he will swallow the food.

Keep him warm at all times.

Feed him warmed (105 degree F) Exact with calcium.

You've followed all of the steps that I've told you previously. This should help him.

I forgot to tell you to check his vent (where the poop is eliminated) to be sure that he doesn't have a poop stuck.

Take a very warm (but not hot) wet Q-tip and very gently swipe the cotton end of the Q-tip on his vent to remove any impacted birdy-poop.

Please keep me posted regarding how he's doing. No additional charge. Just reply to this message whenever you have an update or any additional questions about your finch.

Dr. Hanson, DVM, PhD, Ornithologist and Aviculturist