Ask Lafeber


June 11, 2022

Dead finch babies

Hi Brenda

You have been so helpful. I have one last question (for now😂) So the last 4 eggs don’t look like they hatched on their own. 2 we’re still stuck in the shell but dead and the other 2 were dead and cold out of the shell. It appears to me that they were all dead and the parents may have just pecked at the eggs till they cracked? The babies were still in a ball half in the shell but stone cold. It’s so strange. It almost seems like they were literally glued inside the shells. Have you heard of this before? I was told this pair always lays eggs but the previous owner just tossed them in the trash so the birds never had a chance to hatch.

Also, you mentioned taking the nest away to give them a rest for a few months. Do I need to put anything in there for them to sleep on or next to? What should I give them?


Hi Barbara,

OK, knowing more about their history sheds some light on this. You have a pair that has never been allowed to incubate their eggs. There is a common misconception that birds need a nest to sleep in. But in the wild, nests are only used during nesting season, once a year. The nesting territory is different from where the flock spends the rest of the year. The pairs head there when breeding season begins, and leave the rest of the flock, which would consist of young or non-breeding birds. Some go to the same tree each year, but with finches, they build a new nest each year. I only mention this because some species of birds use the same nest year after year, such as some parrot species. So when breeding season ends, the finches move on and for the rest of the year they roost in trees to sleep. A nest should only be given to a pair if you intend to let them breed and raise chicks. Unfortunately, the previous owners just let them lay eggs. People do not realize that pet birds aren’t intended to lay eggs year round like a domesticated chicken. The female loses a lot of protein and calcium when she forms each egg, and it is physically exhausting for her to lay each egg. This is why forcing them to rest in between is so important – in the wild the season changing makes them stop breeding & laying eggs. In captivity, a pet bird can literally keep laying eggs until she dies from the loss of protein & calcium and the stress on her body.

Do you know how old the pair is, or how many years they laid eggs? Since they do not have a long life span, they only have a few breeding years in them. With so many fertile eggs, the pair may still be fairly young. I honestly think they were shocked when something came out of the eggs. It’s not uncommon for the first time. And since they never had the chance to incubate eggs before, all of this is new. I think they probably opened the rest of the eggs. And the chicks may have already been dead in the shells. Once the eggs are opened, the protective fluid runs out and they dry up quickly, which is why they seemed stuck in the eggs.

If possible, find out how many years this pair has been laying, so you have an idea of whether they are getting too old to breed. And as I mentioned above, they do not need a nest for sleeping. They will most likely choose the highest perch to sleep on. There is no way to know if they will do things right next time – it depends on their age and how many times they laid eggs that were taken from them. This is, of course, the best thing to do if you aren’t interested in chicks, but if they had a nest in their old home, that’s where the first owner was wrong because it just encouraged egg laying. I suspect this pair got used to spending all their time building nests and when these eggs weren’t taken away, they weren’t entirely sure what to do. I would buy them some toys – they love the colorful plastic toys with bells, swings, & ladders. You can actually hang a ladder where it swings and they use it that way. They need something to distract them from nesting for now.

Thanks for the updates!


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