Finches 101: Everything You Need to Know
“Finch” is actually just a broad term for small passerine birds or songbirds. The most common denominations of the breed to be kept as pets are the Estrildidae family of finches. This family includes the owl finch, society finch, canaries, zebra finch, and Gouldian Finch.
This type of bird makes a great pet for someone new to bird ownership. They are best kept with a few other birds of the same species in a large flight cage or aviary. Although they are not known for being very huggable, some types, like the zebra finch, will perch on your finger after some time has been given to allow trust.
Their lifespan is significantly shorter than that of larger pet birds, like a parrot, at only 10 years. This makes them a good option for a child wanting some experience with bird ownership without a lifelong commitment. However, you should note that they are often appealing to those wanting a pet to observe rather than interact with. They are also popular due to their soft chattering noises.
Most finches are active birds that are fun to watch but they do not typically enjoy interacting with humans and prefer to stick with their own kind. This is why it is recommended that you own multiples to keep your finches happy. Pairs of females are ideal since they typically do not become aggressive with each other due to mating hormones as their male counterparts sometimes do. If you have the space to do so, a flock of larger than six is preferable for a very happy and healthy group.
They are also ideal for close quarter living situations such as apartments since their noises are much quieter than that of a parrot or other large bird. They are often kept in community living situations like nursing homes for their calming peeps. Some owners even play their finches music to inspire their own songs.
The most important part of owning a flock of finches is to have a cage that is conducive to flying. Finches should not have their flight feathers trimmed, and therefore, will be doing a lot of flying to keep active.
A proper cage for a pair of finches should be 30 inches long, 18 inches high, and 18 inches wide. Although, it is always acceptable to get the largest size available to you. For larger flocks of birds, as recommended above, you’ll want to invest in a flight cage or an aviary. Make sure the wire spacing is adequate for smaller birds at ¼ inch to ½ inch.
Known as a perching bird, finches unsurprisingly love a variety of perches. Although make sure to keep the cage unclutter to allow for a clear flight path. To create variety, considering using dowels of different sizes or even natural woods. Place the perches at different angles as well.
Unlike parrots and other larger birds, finches can become stressed with too much human interaction or stimuli. You’ll want to keep your finches in a quiet location of your home such as a bedroom or office. Avoid placing the cage in front of a window or near heating or air-conditioning ducts.
As for other cage accessories, swings and ladders are likely to be used as perches rather than their intended purpose. But small bells or hanging toys may be appreciated for some entertainment, especially with finches in smaller groups or pairs. A small dish of shallow water or a birth bath should be placed in the cage and refreshed with clean water several times per week.
A finch’s natural diet consists of seeds that are foraged from plants, weeds, pine cones, and berries. To best create an artificial foraging experience for your finches, place food dishes on the floor or attach a feeder to the side of their cage. Make sure to keep food bowls out from under perches to avoid waste contamination.
One to two teaspoons of finch seed mix per day is ideal for a group of finches. You can test the quality of your finches seed by putting them into a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. If the seeds do not sprout they are too old and will not provide the correct nutritional value.
Along with the seeds, you should also provide a variety of green like romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, kale, and spinach. Fresh vegetables and fruits can be given too, just be aware of their sugar content. A tablespoon of mixed greens, veggies, and fruit can be given a few times per week.
Pelleted food should be fed daily as well to supplement vitamins and minerals that are not being provided by their seed and mixed green salad. Cuttlebone can also be used as a calcium supplement as well as a nice beak sharpener and cleaner. Egg food supplement is another great way to supplement vitamins and can be offered a few times per week.
Freshwater should also be provided daily. Make sure that the water and food dishes are cleaned each day. Never combine bathing dishes with watering dishes.
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