Finches as pets are colorful, active, and entertaining to watch. Their soft vocalizations and singing add pleasant sounds to the atmosphere, unlike the louder and more abrasive calls of other pet birds, such as Amazon parrots and conures. While pet finches do not enjoy being handled by people, they do make nice companions for anyone who can appreciate the simple pleasures they offer. Providing them with the correct care will ensure your pet finch lives a long and healthy life.
About the Pet Finch
There are several families of finches, although the members of the Estrildidae family are the ones most commonly kept as pets. These include Zebra finches, Society finches, Lady Gouldians, Java finch, and Cordon Bleu finches, to name just a few. While each finch species has a unique appearance and personality, they have much the same basic care and stats.
- Pet finches live 5 to 10 years with proper care.
- They are small birds at only 3 to 10 inches tall, depending on the species.
- Finches are herbivores and need fresh food every day.
- These pets are not cuddly and do not like being handled.
Finch Personality and Sounds
Finches, in general, are not pet birds that will sit on your shoulder and learn tricks, though some hand-raised babies might be willing to perch on you. They are easily stressed and tend to be more social within their own species than with humans.
While they may not be affectionate with their owners, finches are prized for the beautiful sounds that they make. It's generally the males who are the singers, although female finches can make sounds, which have been described as "peeping" and "beeping." Zebra and Society finches are known for singing more than other types of finches. Unlike parrots, you cannot teach a finch "to talk."
Nutrition is an important part of caring for a pet finch. Many problems that bird owners encounter are related to feeding inappropriate or unhealthy foods. Set yourself and your finch up for success with a balanced diet.
Pellets and Seed Mixes
According to experts, seed-only diets lack many essential nutrients. Instead, they recommend feeding a pelleted finch diet as well as offering fresh foods every day.
- Look for pellets formulated for finches, such as Lafeber Finch Granules, Roudybush Nibbles, or Harrison's Super Fine. This should make up at least 70 perfect of your finch's diet.
- Keep 1 or 2 tablespoons in your finch's food bowl at all times.
- Limit finch seed mix to about 1 teaspoon two to three times a week; it should be considered a treat rather than a staple part of their diet.
Safe Fruits for Finches
Up to 25 percent of a finch's diet should be made up of fresh fruits and vegetables. A list of safe choices includes:
- Leafy greens like kale and dandelion leaves
- Cooked peas
- Sweet potatoes
- Cooked egg and/or commercial "egg food"
Avoid avocados because they can be toxic to birds, and it's also best to skip pale-colored greens, such as iceberg lettuce, as these are quite low in nutrients. 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, such as small mealworms and fruit flies, which can usually be found at pet supply stores that cater to birds and reptiles. Offer these to adult finches only, as babies and younger birds may have difficulty digesting them. You can try feeding these extra sources of protein to your finch occasionally if they will 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.
The cage should be no less than 36 inches long by 18 inches wide by 18 inches tall 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 than one-half inch. You should estimate about 3 to 4 square feet of cage space for each finch pair that you have.
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. Avoid placing the cage in an area in the house that experiences significant temperature fluctuations. Never keep your finch cage in the kitchen if you cook with non-stick pans, as the fumes from this cookware can kill your pet bird instantly.
Getting the correct perch diameter for your finch is essential to the health of their feet and their overall wellness. Perch size for finches ranges from 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Soft wood perches are fine since these birds aren't strong chewers like parrots. Avoid sandpaper perches that can damage their feet. Plan on placing a perch at each end of the cage.
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
- A swing
- A cuttlebone 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
Pet Finch Exercise
One of the reasons finches need a large, horizontal cage is that they are not climbing birds like many types of parrots. Therefore, they get their physical exercise needs met by flying and need a cage big enough to allow them ample flying room. You should make sure that any perches or swings are not blocking a direct flight path across the cage to allow them a chance to fly from one end to the other.
Cleaning Your Pet Finch's Cage
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.
Unlike other types of pet birds, finches do not enjoy being handled and find it very stressful. If you raise them from the time they are babies, you may have an easier time getting them used to your hands in the cage and even sitting on your hands. Handling finches should be kept to a minimum and you should only try when necessary, such as to provide them with health care, as these birds are delicate and the stress of being handled can lead to additional medical problems.
Getting Accustomed to Hands in the Cage
Even though you won't be handling your finch much, it is important to get them used to your hands being in the cage. This way, you can perform regular tasks such as feeding, changing their accessories, and cleaning the cage, without your pinch becoming stressed.
- Slowly acclimate them to your hands by talking to them gently or making bird-like noises.
- As long as they seem calm, move your hands slowly against the outside of the cage and stop if they become upset.
- Once they're calm, you can work on moving your hands inside, but always work at the pace your birds are comfortable with and allow for a timeframe of several days to weeks to get to a point where they are calm.
Finch Pet Health Care
You can help ensure your finch lives a healthier life by providing them with routine veterinary care. Avian experts recommend new finches 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 yearly well exams after that.
Common Finch Health Conditions
Finches suffer from several common illnesses. You should learn about the signs and symptoms of these in order to work with your avian veterinary right away if you recognize a health problem:
- Air sac mites are a parasite that affects the finch respiratory tract.
- Coccidiosis is an intestinal parasite that is contagious to other birds.
- Respiratory infections can be brought on by low temperatures in the bird's environment.
- Egg binding occurs when an egg becomes stuck in a female bird's reproductive tract, which can be fatal if not treated.
- Feather loss and bald patches can be seen most often on the head and neck and are typically caused by stress.
- Fractures to wings and legs are common due to the fragile skeleton of a finch.
- Overgrown nails can be a problem for the finch if you do not regularly clip and care for them.
- Scaly face is a condition caused by mites that usually appears around the beak and eyes.
- Worms and protozoan parasites can be a problem for finches, including gapeworms, gizzard worms, roundworms, tapeworms, and giardia.
Signs of Illness in Pet Finches
You should see a vet right away if your finch shows any signs of illness, such as:
- Change in demeanor
- Excessive sleeping
- Discharge from the nares on their beak
- Discharge or bubbles coming from their beak
- Clicking sound when your bird breathes
- Tail bobbing
- Unable to maintain balance
- Not eating
- Lack of upkeep
- Fluffed feathers
- Being picked on by cage mates
Finch Cage Mates
Finches are social creatures, so you will need to have more than one finch to ensure they're happy. However, you'll need to be selective when pairing your finch with another type of finch bird. Some finch species can live well with each other, while others may become aggressive when paired with the wrong cage mate.
For example, the Java sparrow, Cut-throat, Diamond Firetail, Gray singing, Saffron, and Melba finches can be very aggressive, particularly with other birds and in cages that are too small. More mellow finches include the Lady Gouldian, Owl, Quail, Red-headed, and Star finches. Zebra finches, one of the most popular pet finches, can do well with most other species but may bully other birds under certain cage conditions.
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.
How Much is a Pet Finch?
Finches range in price from about $20 to $100 at major pet stores, depending on the species. Harder to find breeds and color patterns, such as Lady Gouldians and Parrot finches, can be found from breeders for $100 to $300. When pricing out finches, remember that you will need to have at least two to keep them happy.
You can buy finches at most major pet supply stores that sell birds, such as PetSmart and Petco, as well as from breeders or bird hobbyists. You can also use the Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet websites to see if any shelters or rescues groups near you have finches available for adoption.
The More Pet Finches, the Merrier
Once you get a finch, it's difficult to stop at just one. These little social 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.