Finches were kept as pets for centuries entertaining their owners with their gently trilling sounds and songs, quickly darting about in endless choreographed movements. While some vocalize with a “peep-peep” (perfect for apartment dwellers) others have soft, beautiful songs! These small, lively and sociable birds are easy to care for and many are easy to breed! Finches are native to areas, such as Africa, Asia, Australia, India and the Indonesian Islands. While many species inhabit grasslands, some make their homes in forests. The optimum room temperature for most finch species is 65°F – 70°F (18°C – 21°C). Finches will fit the lifestyle of just about anyone!
One Finch, Two or More?
Finches must never be kept alone. They are extremely sociable birds and need partners of their own species. If deprived of companions (whether their own species or not) they will suffer loneliness and possibly sickness. Finches will be healthier and happier with a “flock” to belong to.
This will vary from species to species. Usually a male and a female of the same species is the best match to make. Neither males nor females should predominate in your cage/aviary. Unattached birds will cause problems, since they will always be looking for an opportunity to find a mate.
Perch or Nest sleepers?
Finches are divided into two groups according to their sleeping habits. Perch sleepers will sleep huddled together or by themselves on a perch. Nest sleepers will build nests for sleeping; even outside of their mating season. The nest builders need to have access to nesting material and also to ready-made nests, otherwise they may catch cold or become panicked at night.
To provide a happy, healthy atmosphere for your finches, Petland recommends the following necessary and fun accessories. We have listed them as your new finch’s four basic needs: Environmental, Nutritional, Maintenance and Behavioural. When these needs are met, along with a loving environment provided by you, your finches can live a long and happy life. Typically, a healthy finch may live between six and eight years.
Your Finches New Home – When purchasing a cage for your finches, keep the following in mind. Unlike hookbills that can climb around their cages, finches get their exercise by flying from perch-to-perch. Therefore, they will require a home that is wider than it is tall. Get the largest cage that you can! A roomy home with lots of area for flying, perching and sleeping is ideal. Your finch cage will need bars that are set at 1 cm (0.4 inches) intervals. You may want to hang their cage or place it on a cage stand, but either way, make sure the room is draft free, away from heat or air-conditioning vents and is not in direct sunlight. A cage cover will allow your finches to get the rest they need. Remember, that birds wake at sunrise and sleep at sunset.
Perches – Your finches must have a variety of perch sizes to allow their feet proper exercise. They will need not only the perching that comes with your cage, but also branches which will provide them with an uneven surface. These may be purchased in plastic, manzanita wood or you may collect the following branches from outdoors, provided they have not been sprayed: fruit trees, willow, poplar, elderberry and maple. If you do use natural branches, they will need to be replaced frequently. Situate two of the perches at the same height as the seed and water dishes, not directly over them, where fecal matter could spoil the food.
Lighting – Your finches require exposure to ultraviolet light on a daily basis. Since it is not possible in our climate to have them outside on a daily basis, and placing them in front of a window only allows filtered light inside, which is ineffective; the use of a full-spectrum light is vital. UVA and UVB is necessary to prevent calcium and vitamin D3 deficiencies which can cause a tremendous amount of health problems. As well, depriving your finches of UV light will make them colour blind. It has also been suggested that UVA light is beneficial in reducing or eliminating abnormal behaviour, such as feather damaging disorders, phobias and aggression among just a few. An avian floor lamp and UVA/UVB bulb will be a necessary part of your finches basic environmental needs.
Food – It is unreasonable to expect any living thing to remain healthy when fed only one or two types of food. You must give your finches a balanced diet if they are to live long and happy lives! Fresh finch seed mix should always be available. Check their seed twice daily, and don’t be fooled by the empty husks they will leave in the dish! Blow them off into the garbage, stir and top up as needed. All finches need some animal protein to supplement their diet. Peeled, cooled, boiled egg that is rubbed through a sieve (must be neither mushy nor chunky) may be offered in a small egg cup daily. Mealworms may also be offered a few times a week. The worms should be chopped (not whole) and offered in a small dish. Also, a healthy mix of fruits and vegetables, shredded into pick-up-and-fly pieces should be offered daily. Feed all perishable foods in a separate dish, and remove it after one or two hours.
Vitamin/Mineral/Amino Acid Supplement – In the wild, birds are free to fill all of their nutritional requirements, but in a cage/aviary environment, they are not. To make sure your finches are getting the vitamins their bodies require, we recommend the addition of a high-quality powdered vitamin. This may be administered on top of their daily salad or sprinkled on their millet. A liquid vitamin may be used instead of the powdered if your finches snub the vitaminized foods you are offering. The liquid vitamin is added to fresh water daily. Watch your finches to make sure they are accepting the vitaminized water since you do not want your birds to go without drinking for any length of time.
Treats – Packaged seed treats, egg biscuits and spray millet. Treats will keep your finches busy picking and gnawing, while giving them a tasty alternative to staple foods and salads. Spray millet is something finches would eat in the wild, and is accepted with gusto! All finches should be fed millet sprays, as part of their weekly diet. A millet holder is handy to use and will keep the millet from becoming soiled at the bottom of the cage.
Cuttlebone – Cuttlebone is a convenient way to supply your finches with calcium, phosphorus and other minerals necessary to keep them in optimum health. Hang it in their cage, out of the way from droppings, which could soil it. Change it every two months.
Plumage Conditioner and Bird Bath – In the wild certain finches have different needs for bathing. While Zebra finches and Munias may take two or three baths a day, some Grass finches bathe only in the morning and evening. Find out your finches’ preferences by providing both a bath and a light mist. Which do they prefer? Most will enjoy an early morning splash in a bird bath that attaches to the door of the cage.
Additional Food Cups – Plenty of food and water should always be available for your finches. Hooded cups may seem threatening to a bird accustomed to open cups. If your finches are not readily eating and drinking, remove the hoods from the cups. Replace the hoods for a few hours a day until they are used to it. Your finches will need one additional cup for salad, another for seed treats, and one more for egg.
Cage paper is easy to clean and it’s not difficult to shred. To a certain extent, gravel paper can also aid in trimming your bird’s nails.
Nail Clipper and Coagulant – Your finch’s nails will grow continuously. If your finches’ perches are too thin and smooth then their nails will have no chance to wear down (see Perches; Environmental). Should this happen, nail clippers made especially for birds must be used. Take care not to over trim or cut into blood vessels running through each nail. Should this happen, have a blood coagulant waiting and ready to use. Ask your pet counsellor how to trim your finch’s nails or phone for an appointment to have them clipped.
Toys – In the wild, finches spend much of their time foraging for food, building a nest, rearing a family, defending their nest site and so on. Domesticated finches, if left to their own devices within a barren cage, will grow bored. To alleviate this boredom, fighting and picking at themselves and each other will be a natural activity to fill the void. Your finches need activities available to them that encourage their natural habits. A pacifier toy is fashioned to encourage preening. Small rope toys with bells, beaded toys and mirrors also may be appreciated. Hanging plastic plants serve as hiding places, which help make your finches feel more secure.
Nests/Nesting Boxes and Nesting Material – As mentioned at the beginning of this pamphlet, some finches are perch sleepers and others are nest sleepers; however, nests and nesting materials should be provided for all of them. Not only do they give the finches an activity (collecting and lining the nest), but a nest will provide a sense of security. One or two nests per pair is ideal. A nesting box may be used if you have decided to try and breed your finches, although some finches will breed even without the nesting box!
A Book About Finches – Petland has many excellent bird books available. If your goal is breeding or just keeping your pets happy and healthy, your pet counsellor can help you select a book that will best suit your needs.
Please ask your pet counsellor what other items pertain to your finches’ needs.
*Ask about the volunteer program at your nearest Petland location.
Attention: Certain cookware, aerosols, incense, aromatic candles and household cleaners may be harmful or worse to your bird’s health. Ask a pet counsellor for a copy of the “Safety Tips & Household Hazards” tip sheet.
Cleanliness and Safety
All pets must be kept in a clean environment to avoid the spread of dirt and contaminants to yourself and others. Always keep your pet’s home clean, and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home.
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit diseases to humans. Young children, infants, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems and the elderly are at great risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with pets or their homes.