Caring for Zebra Finches

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.


Solutions: Caring for Zebra Finches

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Tip: Zebra Finch Care

pair of finchesIn 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.

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.

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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Here are questions related to Caring for Zebra Finches.

Question: Caring for Zebra Finches

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.

    By Rebecca Anastasia R. [1]

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    Most Recent Answer

    By Abigail A. 13 917 09/19/2015

    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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    Question: Finches Won't Bathe

    Finches in cage

    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.

      By Paula W. [1]

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      Most Recent Answer

      By Abigail A. 13 917 08/17/2015

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

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      Question: Finch Poops in Her Food

      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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      Most Recent Answer

      By Abigail A. 13 917 05/05/2015

      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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      Question: Caring for Finch Eggs

      I have a Galapagos finch as a pet and she laid 5 eggs. I wasn't prepared for this to happen and the eggs are without a nest. My question is, are they OK being without a nest?

      By Tori from San Antonio, TX

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      Most Recent Answer

      By blakez 1 09/27/2011

      I bought some zebra finches about a month ago. Their cage has a man-made wicker nest up in the top corner and they were using that regularly for a while. Then I had the bright idea of giving them some grass. They began putting it in the nest but then ended up building it in the feed bowl so I removed the nest.

      Then I read that they won't build the nest anywhere that I put the materials in. So, next time I gave them grass, I put in the food bowl thinking that they would insist on moving it somewhere else. Instead, they didn't make a nest at all and they sometimes sleep in the food bowl and sometimes in the nest.

      A few days ago, she laid 2 and then 3 eggs in the nest. Oddly enough, they don't give them much attention at all and are now both sleeping in the food bowl instead of the nest with the eggs. I gave them a bit of grass today and they both got busy right away bringing it up to the nest. They didn't make a very good nest but they jammed it all in there.

      This afternoon, I gave them a bit more grass and they were no longer interested in it. I am hoping they sleep in the nest with the eggs tonight. Not sure if the eggs will be dead already though. I am sure I will see some signs if they are dead soon. Its pretty hot here in Thailand!

      Any tips on the bird psychology behind this, about helping them make a nest in the man-made nest, or just about taking care of these eggs would be great. I really don't know much about them although google is helping!

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      Question: Zebra Finch Laid an Egg

      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?

        By Carmen T. [1]

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        Most Recent Answer

        By Abigail A. 13 917 05/20/2015

        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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        Question: Keeping Finch Eggs Warm

        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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        Most Recent Answer

        By Abigail A. 13 917 12/01/2014

        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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        Question: Raising Zebra Finches

        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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        Most Recent Answer

        By Abigail A. 13 917 12/03/2014

        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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        Question: Feeding Millet Sprays to Finches

        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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        Most Recent Answer

        By heather inwood 13 214 05/08/2014

        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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        Question: Finch Sleeping During the Day

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

        By Zoukaa

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        Most Recent Answer

        By Nilka 2 05/03/2015

        Your bird might be sick. Contact a vet ASAP.

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        Question: Female Finch Aggressive Towards Male

        Finch in cage.My female finch is always fighting with the male bird, she take out his feathers; it this normal? Please help.

        By Mireya

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        Most Recent Answer

        By keiichi18 02/10/2014

        Ok from what my dad told me... yeah, he kept zebra finches (among other birds, a personal favorite would be a parrot called Showoff). He said not to worry unless it is habit. They can use their own feathers to make a nest if need be.

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        Question: Finches Not Sitting on Eggs

        I have two pair of finches. One pair laid two eggs four days ago and are not sitting on the eggs. What should I do?

        By Sekar.k

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        Most Recent Answer

        By heather inwood 13 214 01/03/2013

        I'm not sure about finches but I breed cockatiels and they usually don't start to sit on the eggs until they get up to 3. Are you sure they are a true pair as some females still lay eggs?

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        Question: Information on Zebra Finches

        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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        Most Recent Answer

        By Myrna 15 1,062 04/03/2011

        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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        Question: Cleaning a Finch Cage While She is Sitting on Eggs

        Is it OK to pull the bottom of the finch cage out to clean it, when there are eggs in the nest and the female is sitting on them? I'm afraid she might abandon the eggs.

        By Joyce from Marietta, GA

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        Most Recent Answer

        By Cricket 205 896 03/17/2010

        I'm assuming you have the type nest that hangs on the side of the cage, and that your birds are as used to you reaching in to clean as finches can get. As long as both these are true, then there's no problem with removing the bottom for cleaning. I had finches for a while and it didn't bother them at all when I did that.
        If they normally get really upset (not just some because all finches will get some upset, but I mean actually panicky) when you reach in, then I wouldn't. Just go slow when you're handling the cage and you should be fine.
        Good luck! Finches can be so much fun!

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        Question: Adequate Sleep for Zebra Finches

        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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        Question: Raising Finches

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

        By A S

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        Question: Caring for Zebra Finches

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

        By Geordie

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        Question: Finch Not Sitting on Eggs All of the Time

        I have a female and male zebra finch. They mate all the time and this past Monday (5 days ago) she laid her first egg. Then two days later another (Wednesday); now nothing else. They sit, off and on, on their two eggs, but not consistently. I am wondering if more eggs will be laid because I generally hear of females laying eggs every day not every other day like mine? Also should I candle them to see if they're good since its been 3-5 days (since she laid them)? What should I do? How long should I wait to remove them if they don't sit on them consistently?

        By Joey

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        Question: Feeding Finch After She Laid Eggs

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

        By Lisa

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        Question: Zebra Finch Father Died

        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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        Question: Finch Not Sitting on Eggs

        We've had a pair of zebra finches for a few weeks. I just discovered 3 eggs in their nest. They had to have been laid in the last 12 hours, as I noticed she was very plump yesterday and now she is not. I am guessing they are still young finches. They are not sitting on the eggs. Is this normal for them?

        Thank you!

        By fostermomma

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        Question: Moving Finch Eggs to a Larger Nest

        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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