Fostering is an accepted practice which has saved countless lives that would otherwise have been lost. And that applies to canaries as well as children! When fostering, 'time is of the essence.' Observation is vital. Attention from hens varies, with some feeding immediately whilst others are less attentive. Canaries will usually feed whilst you are still in the bird room, although nervous hens can be shy. Busy yourself away from the cages, so you can be watchful without disturbing them. Check whenever the hen is off the nest, that her chicks have food in their crops. Initially, chicks are nourished from the remains of the egg but if on the second day, you have not seen any signs of feeding, tempt the hen with fresh titbits until you are confident she is behaving. If you see only empty crops and a weak, pale coloured gape, then fostering is required.
Sometimes you need to 'juggle chicks' throughout the room, as the movement of chicks between nests can have a cascading effect. It is safe to move a chick up to perhaps eight or nine days of age, but after that time it becomes more difficult because of nest jumping.
Never delay the decision – delays will cause chicks to weaken. I find that placing foster chicks into a nest to warm for say half an hour, then providing a fresh pot of food, usually tempts the hen off the nest to feed, by which time the 'new arrivals' are calling for food along with their new nest mates.
Young canaries are ready to leave their nests for the first time after between seventeen and twenty two days, returning to roost in the nest during the night. This continues for several days. When you see chicks feeding themselves from the soft food pots, rather than crying to be fed by their parents, it is safe to move them away from their parents. This process is called weaning.
Never rush this time especially during the first round, because these chicks will form the nucleus of your show team and your future breeding team. Be sure they are feeding, and if they need a little longer ‘at home’ assuming their parents are not plucking or bullying them, then so be it.
Place several perches at a height of two inches off the cage floor and about four inches apart, at one end of the weaning cage. At the other end, place the soft food, and do not introduce any hard seeds at this stage. Water should be provided, although few young canaries will drink for the first few days. Paper sheets are used on the cage floor, one sheet removed at every feed, to eliminate any leftover foods which may cause digestive disorders.
When the young birds are split into smaller groups, they can be provided with dry seeds including rape, millet and perilla, in addition to their soft food diet. A regular hard seed mixture can be provided from age six weeks.