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Bird Basics: Finches


If you love birds but don’t have much time for a pet, or prefer to watch birds over handling them, then finches are the perfect bird for you.  They’re not too affectionate and don’t like being handled very much, so they’re the perfect pet for an observer.

First a note: as with all birds, it’s best to purchase your bird from a reputable breeder.  Before bringing one home, make sure you’ve located a vet in your area that can treat your bird.

It’s important that you get more than one finch, as they are social birds and will need the interaction.  Unlike some other species of birds, finches of the same sex don’t often fight.  So if you’re not interested in breeding, you can bring home two finches of the same sex.  Finches are most likely to fight if there’s not enough space in their cage, so make sure they all have plenty of room.

Finches get their exercise from flying, so their cages need to be big.  They need to be at least 30 inches wide, though they don’t have to be too tall.  The cage should be placed somewhere that gets partial direct sunlight, but there should be shady spots in the cage as well.  If this is difficult, purchase a UV lamp on a timer that follows sun patterns.  Finches can also be kept in aviaries outside, as long as the weather doesn’t get too extreme in either hot or cold, though check for specifics in temperature with your breeder.

Finches do like swings, but they need to be placed out of the way of their flight route and their food.  It’s good to purchase a perch for your finch, but they’re very particular about what kind.  It can only be a wooden perch, and even then, it should only be a soft wood; avoid redwood, cedar, or pressed wood chips, as they’re poisonous to finches.

Finches are messy so you might have to replace the wood perch often, because it’s difficult to clean.  You’ll also have to clean the cage with water once a week (and consider the messiness when determining where to place your cage).  Clean the food and water dishes (and there should be separate dishes for food, water, and treats) every day.

Although finches are primarily seed eaters in the wild, you’ll need to expand their diet somewhat in order to provide sound nutrition.  You can purchase finch pellets (make sure the pellets are specifically for finches) that will give them all the nutrients they need.  You can also feed finches sparing amounts of real food, mixing bright produce (bananas, broccoli, mangoes, carrots, etc.) with an entire boiled egg, shell and all (that will give your finch its calcium).  Yet again, it’s good to check with your vet and/or the breeder for details on your finches’ diet.

Finches can live up to 15 years, but they’re most commonly in the 5-10 range, so it’s important to get them when they’re young.  When they get sick it’s difficult to treat, but luckily it’s easy to keep them healthy by feeding them a good diet and keeping their cage clean.


*(The above image by chefranden is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.)