It is important that you provide your new finches with the proper
enclosure. The ideal environment for most finches are large aviaries, but is unrealistic for most of us who will use a cage. Finch cages are very different than the antique canary cages, which were small and didn’t allow for flying. An ideal finch cage should be long rather than high, with the very minimum length of 30″. If using a wire cage, make sure the wire is spaced 1/2 ” or less, depending on your finch species (NOTE: some smaller species, such as Gold-breasted waxbills need less than 1/2″ spacing). Cages can be decorated with fake greenery (found at craft or sewing stores), such as strands of ivy or grape vines. Attach the greenery with floral wire, making sure the sharp ends of the wire are not a danger to your birds.
Toys For Your Finches
Yes, some finches enjoy toys in their cage, such as swings, soft hay to tug, and even some parakeet toys with bells. finches do not like toys with mirrors. (NOTE: It may take your finches a few days to get used to their new toys). You can also make it challenging and fun for your finches to hang millet in hard-to-reach areas, such as from the top of the cage!
Most finches love to bathe (those that don’t haven’t learned how to yet). Fill a wide container with no higher than 1″ of water (finches can’t swim if offered a bucket of water and they fall in!). Offer a bath 3-7 days a week when the temperatures are warmer during the summer months, less if temperatures are lower during the cooler seasons. You find great joy watching your finches bathe!
Temperatures Finches are comfortable in temperatures that you are comfortable in, such as room temperature. Finches should also be kept away from cool open windows on cold days.
Keeping Your Finches Healthy
Finches, like other birds, hide their ailments until they are seriously ill. Most sick birds appear fluffy, sleep with their heads tucked during the day, droop their wings, pump their tails, sit on the bottom of the cage floor, shake, or have a fouled vent area from diarrhea. When a finch becomes sick, it is critical to act quickly. The first thing to check, is that the finches have adequate food and water. Seed dishes that appear full, may only be empty seed shells! You should always have an extra small cage available to use as an emergency “hospital” cage. Place the bird in the hospital cage (with food and fresh water) and attach a 40 watt bulb to the top. Sick birds need added warmth so they can use their energy to fight off their illnesses, rather than using their energy to heat themselves. With the sick bird isolated, call an Avian Veterinarian’s office immediately for advice!
Since finches often hide their illnesses until they are very sick, it is crucial that you focus on prevention. Here are a few basic guidelines to follow:
- Keep food and water containers as clean as possible to prevent bacterial infections.
- Quarantine new birds in a separate room from your existing finches (if you have any) for 30 days to protect any finches you my already own. NEVER put new birds in the same cage as finches you may already have.
- When a bird is sick or not eating, provide a dish of soaked seed (seed soaked for 24 hours and rinsed well) and a millet spray to encourage eating.
- Do not leave egg food in the cage for more than 4 hours (you wouldn’t eat it after that long!)
- Only give your finches fresh seed (no older than 6 months)
- Clean cages and perches as they become soiled.
Giving your finches just seed and water is not an adequate diet, and lacking in many vitamins and minerals. As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to provide a healthy diet and clean living conditions for your finches. With the proper care, most finches can live between 7-15 years!
SEED – First you must start with the proper seed. NEVER buy a wild-bird mixture. Buy only fresh, vitamin fortified caged finch seed. When purchasing seed, inspect clear packages for old or contaminated seed. Avoid seed packages that have expired or that contain seed moths, worms, or spider-like webs (if moths are seen flying around the seed isle where you buy seed, shop somewhere else!) When switching seed brands, it’s best to mix a little bit of the current seed with the new seed for the first few days. If you notice a lot of seeds beside millet not being eaten, you may want to try another brand, or wait an extra day before giving more seed to encourage the finches to eat other seeds. Also, if you have a millet spray in the cage in addition to a dish of seed, the finches will most likely eat the millet before the seed mixture. Only occasionally add millet sprays, unless a bird is sick or not eating. (NOTE: Pelleted food may be used instead of seed, but birds have to be gradually converted, using the directions on the food’s label)
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES – All finches benefit from fruits and vegetables 3-5 times a week. Here are a few finch favorites: Broccoli, chopped spinach, chopped kale, peas, corn, sliced and skinned cucumbers, shredded carrots, sliced apples and shopped dandelion leaves (pesticide free!). Avoid lettuce, because of it’s high water content and low nutrients (as compared to the other choices). Thawed, frozen packaged vegetables may be used, but buy vegetables that are low in salt.
PROTEIN – Your finches also need a complete (animal-based) protein (3-5 times a week when there are no nestlings, daily when there are!) The easiest way to provide protein, especially if you only have a few finches, is from a chicken egg. Hard boil an egg, let cool, and smash, shell and all, with fork until it is fine crumbles! Spread thinly in a shallow dish and place inside the cage. Remove any uneaten egg food after 4 hours. NOTE: Extra eggs can be boiled and kept in the refrigerator for up to three days.
CALCIUM – Calcium is another mineral that is required, especially hens that deplete their calcium source by laying eggs. Dried chicken egg shells should be provided every day, along with cuttlebone. A cuttlebone can be attached to the inside of the cage and replaced when the soft part has been eaten completely (soiled areas should be scraped away with a knife, or bone replaced). Besides providing your finches with calcium, cuttlebones also keeps finches beaks trimmed and conditioned. For the small percentages of finches that do not eat cuttlebones or egg shell, cuttlebone can be scraped off with a knife and added to egg food mixtures or seed.
VITAMIN SUPPLEMENT – You should also purchase a good avian vitamin powder, such as Prime, following the dosage directions for finches. You can lightly sprinkle the vitamins over vegetables or moist egg food rather than adding to the bird’s drinking water. It is a known fact that some vitamins break down in water within hours, and can cause accelerated bacteria growth if the water container is not cleaned thoroughly each day.
Occasionally, a bird’s nails may need trimmed to prevent injury or death. This can be down with regular human-type finger nail clippers or bird nail clippers. Have a bottle of Quick-stop or a small dish of flour next to you, in case the bird’s toe begins to bleed if cut down too far. Hold the bird in your hand with it’s head facing down toward your wrist to reach the nails easier and to prevent escaping.