Finches are colorful, active, and entertaining to watch. Their soft vocalizations and singing add pleasant sounds to the atmosphere, unlike some of the louder and more abrasive calls of other pet birds such as Amazon parrots and conures. According to Olive Branch Parke Veterinary Clinic, these little birds generally live five to ten years, and while they don't really like being handled by people, they do make nice companions for anyone who can appreciate the simple pleasures they offer.
There are many types of finches kept as pets, including zebra finches, society/Bengalese finches, Lady Gouldians, and Cordon Bleu finches, to name just a few. While there are finer points to each species' dietary needs, they do have a basic diet in common.
Pellets and Seed Mix
According to the Massachusetts SPCA, seed-only diets lack many essential nutrients. They recommend a diet that is about 70-percent finch pellets, and about 30-percent fresh foods.
Look for pellets formulated for finches, such as Lefeber Finch Granules, Roudybush Nibbles or Harrison's Super Fine. Keep one or two tablespoons in your finch's food bowl at all times. Limit finch seed mix to about one teaspoon, two to three times a week as more of a treat.
Offer about one tablespoon of a combination of supplemental foods per finch every morning. All fresh foods should ideally be organic to avoid pesticides. A list of safe choices includes:
- Leafy greens like kale and dandelion leaves
- Sweet potatoes
- Cooked egg and/or commercial egg food
All fruits and vegetables should be washed, and all foods other than pellets and seeds should be finely chopped. Use an extra dish for these foods to keep them separate from pellets and seeds, and discard any leftovers later in the afternoon before they spoil.
Some finches will accept live foods like small meal worms and fruit flies, which can usually be found at pet supply stores that cater to birds and reptiles. You can try feeding these extra sources of protein to your finch occasionally if he'll accept them.
Finches are relatively small, but their high activity level means they need large cages. The cage you select should be long instead of tall since these birds prefer to fly back and forth rather than up and down.
According to Olive Branch Parke Veterinary Clinic, the cage should be no less than 18" L x 18" W x 18" H for one or two finches, but you can select an even bigger cage if you have room for it. Bar spacing should be no wider that one-half inch.
The cage will come with dishes for food and water, but make sure it also has a removable bottom pan for easy cleaning. Plan to place the cage in a draft-free area that receives bright, indirect light but never full sun.
Perch size for finches ranges from three-eighths to three-quarter of an inch in diameter. Soft wood perches are fine since these birds aren't strong chewers like parrots. Plan on placing a perch at each end of the cage. You can also add a small cement conditioning perch to help keep your pet's nails trimmed.
Accessories can turn a bare cage into a stimulating environment. Consider adding items like:
- A small dish or tub for bathing
- Toys made from sisal for preening activity or palm leaves for shredding
- A swing
- A cuttle bone for extra calcium
- A nest for sleeping
- Silk vines to weave through the cage bars for a more natural and relaxing environment
- A cage cover to make sure your pet gets 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night
If you have room for a large aviary, you can combine a variety of finches together. Just be sure to choose among the more passive types to ensure compatibility. For example, you could keep society finches with owl finches, parrot finches, spice finches, and star finches. However, you wouldn't want to mix in green singers, zebras or whydahs because they may harass their more docile cage mates.
A thorough cleaning includes removing soiled papers on the bottom of the cage, washing the pan in the bottom, wiping down the bars, as well as wiping off toys, perches, and other cage accessories if they are soiled. Additionally, you should wash all food and water dishes daily.
How often you clean the cage depends a lot on how many finches you have.
- For a single finch, you can do a thorough cleaning about once a week and replace the paper in the bottom of the cage at that time.
- For two to three finches, change the paper two to three times a week, and do a thorough cleaning once a week
- For four or more finches, change the paper daily and clean the cage thoroughly once a week.
You can help ensure your finch lives a healthier life by providing him with routine veterinary care. Lefeber Vet recommends that new finches should be quarantined for 30 days if you have other birds in your home. Schedule an exam with an avian veterinarian as soon as you bring your new pet home, and plan on a yearly exam after that.
According to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, you should see a vet right away if your finch shows any signs of illness such as:
- Sitting still on the bottom of the cage
- Labored breathing/nasal discharge
- Keeping eyes partially closed
- Abnormal droppings
- A swollen vent
The More the Merrier
Once you get a finch, it's difficult to stop at just one. These social little birds enjoy the company of other finches, and you'll probably want to collect a variety of beauties for your aviary. Just make sure you can provide ample space, as well as a high-quality diet and routine veterinary care to ensure your finches have everything they need for a healthy, enriching lifestyle.