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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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.
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.
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?
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 Abigail A. 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.
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 Abigail A. 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.
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.
Should I give my finches some time outside in their cage to get fresh air?
By A S
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.
By heather inwood 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.
Can I use real grass on the bottom of my finch cage?
My zebra finch female is sleeping during the afternoon; is it normal?
My female finch is always fighting with the male bird, she take out his feathers; it this normal? Please help.
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.
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?
My mom finches just had babies should I feed the mom some kind of special food?
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 heather inwood 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?
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.
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?
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
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
By Myrna 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."
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
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!
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
By Cricket 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!