Caring for Zebra Finches

These beautiful little birds can be an excellent pet option for a small home or apartment, but they do require special care. This is a guide about caring for a zebra finch.
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December 14, 2016 Flag

This is a guide about introducing a new zebra finch into the cage. New birds like other pets need to be introduced to resident birds to ease stress and hopefully establish a lasting companionship.

Three zebra finches sitting on a branch in a cage.

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August 25, 2011 Flag

In my opinion, zebra finches are the most enjoyable birds there are! Now that I no longer have a cat, I hope to get some more! They are very easy to take care of. Best of all, the sounds they make are so soothing to listen to.
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The only thing is, like rabbits, if you're not careful you will be over-run with birds before you know it! I started out with a pair, and within just a few months I had 7. Their first clutch hatched 5 healthy babies. I learned to separate the males from the females, and never had that problem again.

As far as caring for them, they do need a large cage. I believe that all birds need a large cage. The larger the better. However, when shopping for one, you need to make sure the wires are close enough together that the birds can't squeeze out between them. A parakeet cage usually works well, as long as the wires are no more than 3/8 inch apart.

The cage needs to be large enough to allow the birds to fly. There should also be a wire grate at the bottom with a tray underneath to put the paper in. This paper should be changed at least weekly or more often as needed. I do not believe in clipping a bird's wings, any bird. If you aren't going to allow them to fly, why have a bird? That's what they were created to do.

Once or twice a week, I would release my birds into a bedroom, and allow them to really fly and stretch their wings. All the windows and any mirrors would be covered to prevent them from trying to fly through them and hurting themselves. I would put their cages in this room with the cage doors open, with food and treats inside. Eventually the birds would all go back into the cages on their own. This usually took several hours, but the birds really enjoyed their time out.

They need to have fresh clean water at all times. It should be in a bottle with a small cup at the bottom. It needs to be small enough so the birds can't sit it in, because they will try to take a bath in it. I bought a bird bath that attached to the front of the cage and let them take baths twice a day.

As for diet, specialized pelleted foods are the best, and should consist of 60-70% of their diet. Fortified seeds can be used but only in moderation as they are higher in fat. Daily, you should give them fresh dark greens, slices of raw apples and oranges, grated carrots and sweet potato. Remove any of these that have not been eaten after 24 hours. DO NOT FEED them avocados, fruit seeds, chocolate, alcohol, or caffeine, as they can create major medical problems for the birds. My birds' favorite treat was spray millet. They loved them! They also need a dish of grit to help with digestion. Also, do not place food or water dishes under the perches, as their droppings will land in them.

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Perches of various dimensions should be provided. I went outside to my trees, and cut different size branches off, and used those for perches. Using these natural branches also helped to keep their nails trimmed, too. The variety of branch sizes helps to exercise their feet.

Once a month, the entire cage should be thoroughly washed and dried. A good time to do this is while they are flying around the bedroom.

Do not place the cage directly in front of a window that gets a lot of hot sun, or anywhere that might have a draft. This includes from a fan. Birds are highly susceptible to cold and heat. The cage should not be placed on the floor, but in an area that is well lit. I have kept my cages across the room from north facing windows, so they got lots of light, but not too much. An east or north facing window would be fine, as long as the amount of sun is monitored. If it gets to be too much, pull a curtain closed. Or if it's just a bit too much, a sheer curtain would be enough.

Use a cage cover in winter, it will help to keep the warmth inside the cage. I never used it during the warm months though.

When I first got my birds I bought a book about the care of finches. But there is tons of information online that you can get for free, and print it out and create your own book.

Source: My own 7 zebra finches.

By Cricket from Parkton, NC

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March 29, 2012 Flag

This is a guide about breeding Zebra finches. Zebra finches make excellent parents, you just need to follow a few steps to make breeding a rewarding experience for all.

Pair of Zebra Finches on Perch

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May 19, 2016 Flag

I got 1 couple of Zebra finches (male and female) about 4 months ago. I had a small cage at first, but then after reading more about them, I bought them a big one and they were happy with it. That's when they started mating and the female would lay eggs about everyday into the food container and sit in it. I did not want them to nest and that's why I did not get them a nest, so I would throw the egg away, but as soon as the next day there would be another egg. This lasted for about 2 months with an average of 3 eggs per week. Now that has dropped to about 1 a week. The female stopped moving like before. She would sit in the food container all day with just a couple of minutes of exercise in the morning, but staying still in the food container all day. I try to scare her sometimes to come out, but she would go back in right after that. What seems to be the problem?

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May 22, 20160 found this helpful

I think she is depressed.

If you don't want birds to reproduce, do not get a male and female. It is natural for them to do this.

Your female bird should get along with other females. Will the pet store let you exchange your male for a female bird? The male would rather be with a female that is allowed to mate, and I'm sure the female would rather not prepare to care for babies that never appear.

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June 16, 20160 found this helpful

First you have to realize, when you get an animal. You have to get the pet concept out of your head. because you will never have adequate compassion for the bird.

Animals have the same feelings as humans. Can you take a cub from a lioness or a puppy from a dog. By you throwing the eggs away, showed no compassion at all for your bird. And never forget, animals can sense your feelings as we can sense someone who is angry around us. as I stated. We have to get out of the mind frame of calling animals pets. Your will bond much better without that mind frame.

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August 17, 2015 Flag

I am new to finch ownership. I bought a large cage which has a deep base with pull out trays and two feeders in the bars and one water feeder in the bars (the ones with a clear cap). I have one female Zebra finch and one male and one female Bengalese finch.

The pet shop told me they love to bathe, but I have tried a clip on large bird bath (with clear lid), small terracotta, small stainless steel, and plastic round trays all on the floor to no effect. I even tried putting it onto an upturned small plant pot to raise the height to no avail. All have been filled (2 cm) with warm fresh tap water.

They don't mind being sprayed with warm water from a spray bottle, but as the pet shop said they loved to bathe I was wondering where I am going wrong. Other than that they have settled in really well, and are happy and healthy.

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August 17, 20150 found this helpful

I don't know. Generally they do love to bathe.

All I can think of is that they prefer a shallow, not deep, bath. Try a shallow dish or plate with no more than 1" of water.

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August 17, 20150 found this helpful

Now I see you said 2cm which is about right. As long as they are happy, I wouldn't worry.

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September 17, 2015 Flag

My finches are officially parents and have 2 little hatchlings, it's my first time having bred birds and I'm not aware of the necessary precautions I would need to make sure of. I read around online that people do "nest checks" from the moment the eggs are laid til they are fledglings. Also I want to train the babies to be human prone, not to skittish and timid like the parents.

I greatly welcome any concrete information I can get.

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September 19, 20151 found this helpful

Unfortunately, Finches are one of the wildest bird breeds that people keep as pets. They are considered extremely difficult to adapt to humans and are almost always skittish.

You can't hand raise these birds as the babies are smaller than peanut M&Ms and can easily be injured.

You can provide fresh food and water, a cuttlebone or crushed eggshell, and grit.

You can keep an eye on the eggs, but honestly, I think the people you describe may not be doing the right thing. A bird is extremely protective over her nest and babies and gets stressed out when people interfere too much. If she gets too stressed she may just decide to abandon the nest. Once a day with a flashlight when she goes to eat should be fine.

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October 17, 2014 Flag

My finch was left for seven days while we were on vacation. We provided enough food and water for her. Now she just sits in her food and poops and doesn't like to sit at the top of her cage anymore. What's wrong with her?

By Marilyn K.

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May 5, 20150 found this helpful

Don't worry about the poop on the food. Birds kinda poop where they want so it's okay. But the "Doesn't want to sit on top of the cage" part - think she/he might be sick or something. This is my theory.

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May 5, 20150 found this helpful

Sounds like she may be sick.

You don't mean you left her alone for seven days, I hope? It's best to put her in a small cage and let someone take care of her, even if they just give her fresh water every day, fresh food about every other day, and change the paper at least once.

You also need the temperature to be relatively high for finches, as they are natives of places like New Zealand. Did you turn the heat down when you left? Did any of the nights get cold?

Bacteria from poop in the water can grow over a matter of days, causing illness. Wipe the slimy stuff out of the water container every time you change it. When the food is about half shells, not whole seeds, change it.

In case you don't already know, finches need grit to eat as well as food. On warm sunny days give them a bowl of water to bathe in.

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May 16, 2015 Flag

My zebra finches have laid one egg. I need to move to another location. Could moving affect the egg? Will it hatch? Will they lay any other eggs?

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May 20, 20150 found this helpful

They will probably get stressed during the move and ignore any eggs they lay. If they don't sit on the eggs for several days, remove them. They'll be rotten. I'm sure once they're settled in their new place they'll start over.

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December 1, 2014 Flag

I'm very new at breeding finches. I have a pair that have had eggs and they are doing very well at keeping them warm, but I looked at them in the morning and I think the mother died. Will the father take care of them or will I have to as I have no way to keep them warm. Is there a way to keep them warm without having to buy stuff? Thank you.

By Kerry

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December 1, 20140 found this helpful

The father should take care of them. If he doesn't, it's probably better they don't hatch anyway, unfortunately, since the dad won't feed them if he didn't even bother to sit on them. Sorry about your bird.

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January 23, 2015 Flag

I have read online that Zebra finches need 10-12 uninterrupted hours sleep a night. We keep ours in an uncovered cage in a room where there are large windows and glass doors, so they wake up at the first sight of daylight, and start singing. In the winter they get close to 10-12 hours sleep, but I am wondering what they need in the summer months, as then they will be waking up between 4 and 5 am, and will get less hours of sleep. Is this a problem? Should they be getting less hours of sleep in the summer or should it be 10-12 hours all the year round?

By P.S.

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January 10, 20160 found this helpful

What I do to keep my Zebra finches asleep is put a blanket over their cage. Then, when they start singing take off the blanket.

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November 26, 2014 Flag

I have two female zebra finches and they are building a nest together and dancing together like they would if it was a male and female. Is that normal?

By Jane

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December 3, 20140 found this helpful

Where did you get them? Do you know if they were raised by single mothers? Finches imprint on their parents to use as models for a mate later on. If the males were introduced to the females just for mating, then removed, that would cause this. Zebra finches should be raised by both parents.

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April 25, 2016 Flag

My zebra finches Rosie and Harry won't let me go near their cage and I can't even go past the cage without them trying to peck me. I'm only young so I don't know what to do?

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March 1, 2016 Flag

I saw some zebra finches at our local pet store and fell in love. I have had birds before but not this breed. I have been researching them online and found that they like to breed. I do not want to breed them so is it OK to get a couple females or males instead of one of each. Thanks.

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May 6, 2014 Flag

I got some zebra finches last week and they love millet sprays, but I know that budgies and cockatiels shouldn't have millet sprays all the time because they are high in fat. I usually give my budgie/cockatiels one or two sprays a week so they don't get overweight and I was wondering if I should do the same with my finches or if they can have the millet sprays whenever they want. I'm really enjoying my finches, they are so cute and tiny! Thanks! :)

By Aly P.

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May 8, 20140 found this helpful

No doubt the same feeding routine for the cockatiels and budgies with the millet sprays would be fine for the finches. Enjoy the wee birds but be warned they are very quick so protect the cage door entries as they could escape very easily. I put a length of shade cloth over the door so as to put my hand through on opening to lesson the chances of them escaping. Just cut the cloth to size then wire the top of the shade cloth across the top of the entrance & let the cloth hang loose over the door. Good luck - keeping birds is a pleasure.

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January 2, 2016 Flag

I have two finches, a male and a female. After a lot of eggs they finally got one baby going on, but he was injured because of our neighbor's cat. Then they kept attacking him, so I took him to the vet. He's doing good, but his paw is black which means it's dead. I am waiting for the vet to reopen to take him back. Even if the baby finch is doing good, every time I put him back in the cage with his parents they keep attacking him hard. So I put him again in a smaller cage. My question is, when can I put him back again with his parents? Will he be OK by himself? He's, I think one month or two months old, but still wants his mother,

My second question, I have a very large cage with the finch parents and two canary birds, female and male, but they don't breed. Is it OK to keep the two canaries with the finches? I see they are doing good so I'm not really worried, but I don't see the canaries breeding they don't get close at all.

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August 20, 2013 Flag

My zebra finch female is sleeping during the afternoon; is it normal?

By Zoukaa

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May 3, 20150 found this helpful

Your bird might be sick. Contact a vet ASAP.

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April 2, 2011 Flag

I have 4 zebra finches, 2 males and 2 females. One of the females laid four eggs in one nest and is sitting on a different nest with all the others. After 1 week or something she laid 4 more in another nest and all of the birds sit on them, but during the day they don't. If anybody could explain please? Thank you.

By Fayed from Giza, EG

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April 3, 20110 found this helpful

I called my sister-in-law who once owned Zebra finches as I know nothing about them and she said, "The female will sit on the nest much longer and hardly get off it the closer the time comes for the eggs to hatch. When the female first lays her eggs, she will leave her nest a few days for food and water and will get back on the nest. It's more the bird's nature."

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June 7, 2014 Flag

Should I give my finches some time outside in their cage to get fresh air?

By A S

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April 9, 2014 Flag

Can I use real grass on the bottom of my finch cage?

By Geordie

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February 17, 2013 Flag

My mom finches just had babies should I feed the mom some kind of special food?

By Lisa

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April 28, 2012 Flag

Our finches had eggs which hatched. The father was feeding them until he died. He's been dead for about a day, and though we haven't been watching very diligently, we haven't seen the mother feeding them yet. I was just wondering if we should do something, or let the mother take care of them on her own?

By Dale C.

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March 29, 2012 Flag

I have 2 finches, a male and a female, who had 10 eggs. They laid them in a small open nest. We are afraid that when they do hatch they will fall out and die. We have a larger closed nest that we want to put in, but they might leave the other nest with the eggs. Can we transfer the eggs from one nest to another without interfering with the hatching of the egg?

By Sweetie Sugercane

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April 2, 2011 Flag

I just got 4 Zebra finches, 2 girls and 2 boys. I have both pairs in the same cage. One pair already laid 4 eggs.

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