am new to finches. Where can I find some good general
general finch sites:
can I tell if my birds are male or female?
- some mutations are difficult, but in general, males
have orange cheek patches and barring on their breasts,
females do not. Males also tend to have a redder beak
and females a more orange beak.
- visually you cannot sex them. Generally, you can tell
a female if she lays an egg. A male will sing (both sexes
emit single-note chirps like crickets, however) and puff
his stomach down low while doing a little dance (although
some have reported rare cases of singing females).
- male colors are more vibrant, particularly the purple
of the breast and the yellow belly.
you hand tame a finch?
Most likely, no. People who keep finches
usually enjoy watching their birds interact with each
other and their environment rather than with people. They
are naturally very skittish around humans. There have
been cases of hand-tame finches, but that usually involves
handfeeding at a very early age. Handfeeding a finch is
a very demanding and difficult task and frequently ends
badly, particularly when performed at such an early age.
It should not be attempted for the purposes of obtaining
a hand-tame pet, but only as a last resort when the parents
will not or cannot care for the chick. If you really want
a hand-tame pet, another type of bird such as a parakeet
or a cockatiel will be more appropriate.
do all the finch abbreviations stand for?
- single factor (carrying one gene)
DF - double factor (carrying two genes)
/ - split (eg, for Gouldians, RH/BH means the bird
has one red head gene and one black head gene)
- red head
BH - black head
YH (also OH) - yellow/orange head
YTB - yellow tipped beak (BH bird carrying 2 YH genes)
SH - straw head
- purple breast
WB - white breast
LB - lilac breast
Color (also called Back Color)
- normal body (green) (same as GB)
GB - green body (same as NB)
BB - blue body
YB - yellow body
SB - silver body
Chestnut Flanked White
CCFW: Continental Chestnut Flanked White
FF: Florida Fancy
BF: Black Faced
BB: Black Breasted
OB: Orange Breasted
FC: Fawn Cheek
BC: Black Cheek
GC: Gray Cheek
DS: Dominant Silver
OC: Orange Cheek Waxbill
CB: Cordon Bleu
Bird Is Fluffed Up (Sick). What Should I Do?
Note: All birds become fluffed up at times.
If this is a rare, one time event, it is probably not
a problem. If, however, the bird is fluffed up more than
usual, is inactive, and/or is sleeping while other birds
are active, it probably signifies a problem.
separate the bird from any other birds to try to contain
the spread of illness. Place him in a hospital cage
or a spare cage with a heat source (ceramic heat lamp,
light bulb [60W], heating pad), and cover it with a
towel. If you don't have an extra cage, an empty box
will do. Provide the bird with easily digestible foods
(millet on a spray and eggfood, for example) and water.
Put the bird in a quiet location where he/she won't
be as stressed. Added humidity may also help.
electrolytes may help the bird to recover. There are
some commercial electrolyte supplements made just for
birds (Survive, Marvel-Aid, Guardian Angel), but Pedialyte
or Gatorade added to the water can be used for this
possible, contact an avian vet. Antibiotics should not
be administered unless the cause is shown to be bacterial
in nature. The antibiotic treatment should then be continued
for the full course of treatment, even if symptoms improve
or disappear sooner.
that trying to obtain assistance over the Internet beyond
the steps described herein can be very difficult as
it is difficult to diagnose a problem without proper
tests, much less without being able to observe the bird
think my hen is egg bound. What should I do?
Egg binding occurs when a hen has difficulty
passing an egg. This condition can be fatal if she is
unable to expel the egg. In general, supplying additional
heat and humidity will help. Provide extra sources of
calcium. Calcivet or Calciboost applied directly to the
mouth may help as well (although it cannot strengthen
the shell at this point, it can improve the muscle's ability
to contract and expel the egg). Some recommend a small
amount of mineral/olive oil on the vent, but others have
reported problems with the oil getting on the feathers
and causing more problems.
My bird cannot seem to hold its head up straight/is having
difficult balancing (dizziness)/is spinning around on
the floor! What is wrong and what can I do?
The symptoms described above are frequently
referred to as twirling. Twirling is a symptom that has
been linked with several causes. Ear infections are a
possible culprit. In this case, the prognosis is good.
An avian vet can prescribe an antibiotic to treat the
infection and over time, the bird will probably recover.
Nystatin is one antibiotic frequently mentioned for treating
the ear infection. In other cases, Twirling has been attributed
to some type of virus. Because little is known about the
virus/viruses causing Twirling, the prognosis is not good.
Paramyxovirus has been proposed as a possible cause that
may lead to this condition. Another cause of this symptom
could be some type of head injury.
bird is plucking feathers from his mate? Why? What can
I do about it?
He is most likely trying to encourage his
mate to nest or may be using the feathers to line a nest.
If you want them to breed and they don't have a nest,
provide a nest as well as nesting material and something
soft like molted feathers or goose down to line the nest
with. If the problem persists, you may need to separate
the pair. But before you do, make sure he's the one doing
the plucking. If you have not actually seen the male plucking
her, she may be plucking them herself for a nest lining.
Another possible reason for this behavior could be a nutritional
deficiency. Adding a good source of protein (eggfood)
and a vitamin/mineral supplement may help in this case.
of my finches chases one or more other finches around
the flight. What should I do?
If the chasing was instigated by introduction
of a new bird(s), give it a little time to see if things
settle down. Make sure, however, that no one's health
is in jeopardy and that all birds have access to food/water.
Adding extra feeding stations may help. Also, rearranging
perches and such may help as everyone will need to reestablish
their "territories" at the same time.
other cases, or if the fighting is too rough or does
not settle down with time, remove the aggressor. After
a few days, the aggressor can be reintroduced. If the
behavior persists, the birds may need to be separated
what age is it okay to start breeding my finches?
Generally, it is recommended that they
be close to 1 year old. At minimum, 9 months.
foods should I provide for my birds when they are breeding?
Offer a good eggfood (either commercial
or homemade from hard-boiled eggs), extra calcium sources
(egg shells, cuttlebone, oyster shells), in addition to
water and seed. Note that it is a good idea to get the
birds on this diet before they start breeding. Providing
millet spray for fledglings will help encourage them to
eat on their own, as millet on the spray is softer than
that found in seed mixes.
type of nesting material should I offer my birds?
The following have been recommended as
nesting material - goose down feathers, timothy grass,
hay, 2" burlap fibers (obtained by unraveling 2"
squares of burlap cloth), coconut fibers.
following should not be used: pet hair, string type
nesting material sold in pet stores (becomes tangled
on birds' feet).
long does it take for my finch eggs to hatch?
This varies somewhat depending on the type
of finch. Usually around 14 days of incubation, but a
general range can span 12-18 days. Note that incubation
does not begin until the parents start sitting, which
frequently will not happen until the 3rd or 4th egg is
laid, or sometimes the entire clutch.
can I tell if the eggs my finch laid are fertile?
At first, fertile and infertile eggs will
look the same. After about 4-7 days from the last egg
being laid, you can candle an egg (using an egg candler
or a small flashlight) to tell whether or not it is fertile.
A fertile egg will have a network of vessels running through
it. Infertile eggs are clear with a little yellow spot
where the yolk is. As time passes, fertile eggs will take
on a blue/grey color (as the embryo grows inside).
are infertile eggs among fertile eggs or hatchlings. Should
I remove the infertile eggs?
If you are afraid that the parents will
abandon the nest because of your interference, leave the
infertile eggs. If your birds handle human intervention
well, you can probably remove the eggs without a problem
(to avoid them breaking in the nest). Some species, such
as zebras and societies are more tolerant to human intervention
and nest checks than others. Many waxbill species can
be very intolerant, and with these birds it is probably
better to leave the infertile eggs where they are.
zebras have buried their eggs beneath more nesting material!
What should I do?
This is not uncommon behavior for zebra
finches. First wash your hands (bacteria can be spread
when you touch the eggs). Then gently remove the excess
nesting material to uncover the eggs. Chances are pretty
good that the birds will resume incubation duties, particularly
if they are used to you messing with their nest. Remove
additional nesting material so they are not tempted to
bury the eggs again. To prevent this behavior in the future,
remove extra nesting material once the nest has reached
the height of the nestbox entryway.
finch died suddenly, leaving his/her mate sitting on eggs.
Will the surviving parent be able to raise the chicks
alone or should I provide him/her with a new mate?
Single finches are capable of successfully
raising a clutch of chicks on their own, although it is
a much more demanding ordeal. Introducing a new bird at
this stage will most likely only disrupt things and may
cause the remaining parent to abandon the nest. Best advice
is to leave the situation alone and see what happens.
There is a better chance of success if the surviving bird
is an experienced parent. After the clutch is weaned,
a new mate can be introduced.
Zebra chicks just hatched but I haven't seen the parents
feeding them yet? Is there a problem?
Zebras usually do not start feeding until
the yolk sac is absorbed by the chick (12-24 hours later).
When they do start feeding them, at first, you may not
notice because such a small amount is fed. So, most likely,
there is not a problem at this stage.
can I separate fledglings from the parents?
When you see that the youngsters are eating
on their own, they can be separated. Some recommend 1
week after you stop hearing them beg, but if they are
eating on their own, they can be separated earlier (this
may be called for if one or both parents start to harass
the babies - probably in anticipation of starting a new
family). If one parent is a problem (chasing or pecking
at a youngster) and the babies are not yet eating on their
own, you can try removing the offending parent and leaving
the other to feed the youngsters.
many clutches should I allow my birds to raise each year?
Around 3 clutches a year is generally thought
to be safe.
pair of finches are not breeding? Why not?
Possible reasons include they are not old
enough, they are too old, they are not a true pair (different
sexes), they are not receiving a proper diet, their cage
is too small, they don't have enough privacy, or they
just do not like each other.
want to get finches but I don't want them to breed. What
can I do?
Two males or two females of most species
will generally get along okay (although there can be exceptions).
Alternatively, you can remove nestboxes and nesting material
from their cage, but determined individuals can still
lay in seed dishes. You can remove the eggs as they are
laid, but this may stimulate more laying, which may deplete
calcium from the hen. Replacing real eggs with fake eggs
may encourage mom to sit and thus inhibit excessive egg-laying.
have a zebra finch and a society finch housed together
(opposite sex). They are building a nest. Is it possible
that they will try to breed?
Yes, they may try to breed, resulting in
a hybrid. Hybrids are frequently infertile, although this
is not always the case. Hybrids are undesirable because
they have no market value and they contaminate the bloodlines
of birds in captivity. This phenomenon is not limited
to zebras and societies. Many types of finch can and will
hybridize if no other suitable mates are available.
have two finches and they are sitting on eggs. Does that
mean I have a true pair?
No. Females will lay eggs without the presence
of a male. The eggs, of course, will be infertile.
have two female finches with no mates who lay infertile
eggs all the time. Should I remove the eggs?
You can remove them, but that may just
stimulate more egg-laying. Excessive egg-laying can deplete
calcium from the hen and lead to health problems. Allowing
them to sit on the infertile eggs will give them a break
from laying. After a couple of weeks, you can remove the
eggs, clean the nestbox, and allow the cycle to repeat.
Sometimes, the females will toss the eggs on their own
when they realize they are infertile. At this point, you
can remove any untossed eggs and clean out the nest box.
Removing the nestbox altogether may put a stop to egg-laying.
However, some birds (such as zebras and societies) may
just find another, less desirable, place to lay, such
as the seed dish.
need to remove a closed band - how can I do it?
There are special band-cutters that you
can buy to remove close bands from a bird's foot. If the
bird is still a nestling, you may be able to slip the
band off by applying a small amount of Vaseline to the
is the proper diet for my finch?
General recommendations include a good
finch mix (Herman
Brothers Seed and Abbaseed
are frequently recommended as good choices), a good source
of protein (eggfood and/or live food such as mealworms),
a few good sources of calcium (cuttlebone, egg shells,
oyster shell, calcium supplement such as Caliboost or
Calcivet), and greens/vegetables. Some recommend skipping
the greens because they are lacking in protein, in favor
of using a vitamin/mineral supplement. Water should be
available at all times. If you like, you can add vitamins
to the water or to the eggfood. Vitamins should not be
used in place of a balanced diet, but instead as a supplement
to a balanced diet. Millet on the spray is a favorite
treat of finches, but should not be fed to excess. Some
people like to add soaked or sprouted seed; others refrain
from it because soaked seed is susceptible to bacteria
medium should I keep mealworms in?
Bran is commonly used but not recommended
because it depletes calcium and is not high in protein.
Game bird starter is a commonly recommended choice. Dry
eggfood/nestling food has also been recommended. Be sure
to add slices of fruit/vegetables for moisture such as
potatoes, carrots, apples, broccoli, squash, cabbage,
kiwi, banana, papaya ...
do I serve mealworms to my finches?
Serve them in a deep ceramic bowl so that
the mealworms cannot crawl out. Mini is the preferred
mealworm size among finches. Two recommended sources are
Mealworms. It is the general opinion of the members
of the forum that it is not necessary to cut the heads
off the mealworms or to scald them in boiling water before
serving. Although it has been said that the mealworms
could eat through a birds inside if swallowed whole, no
one on the forum has verified this ever happening to them
or anyone they know.
Eggfood is food that consists mainly of
egg. It adds protein to the birds diet, a nutritient that
many caged birds lack in their diet. Eggfood can be purchased
in a commercially formulated diet, but more often it is
homemade. The simplest form is hard-boiled eggs, mashed
with a fork or in a food processor. Crushed eggshell is
often added, or served separately. Sometimes bread crumbs,
baby cereal, or handfeeding formula are added to make
the eggfood drier and more appealing to the finches. Baby
cereal and handfeeding formula are more nutritious additions
than bread crumbs. Other creative ingredients can be added,
including chopped or diced vegetables, soy powder, crushed
dry dog or cat food, and vitamins.
how long should I hard-boil eggs that will be served to
Typical answer: about 10 minutes. Alternative
answer is about 20 minutes. Those favoring the 10 minute
cook time say that boiling longer causes loss of nutrients.
Those who favor 20 minutes say they want to ensure that
salmonella has been eliminated.
is wrong with feeding Iceberg Lettuce and Spinach to my
Iceberg lettuce is mostly just water and
adds very little nutrition to their diet. Romaine lettuce
is a better choice. However, Iceberg lettuce is not "harmful"
in and of itself. Spinach contains a high amount of oxalic
acid, which depletes calcium in a birds system. However,
it also contains many nutrients. Some people recommend
avoiding spinach altogether. Others feed it, but only
in moderation. It is only when it is eaten to excess that
it causes problems. Some other healthy greens: dandelions,
chickweed, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip
it okay to let my birds free fly in the house?
Some people would answer no because there
are too many potential hazards when an untamed bird like
a finch is allowed to fly free. Others answer yes because
it gives them the benefit of flight in a large space.
If you do let your birds free fly, the following precautions
should be taken: Make sure all windows and doors are closed
or screened in, turn off ceiling fans, make sure sinks
and tubs do not contain water, close the lid on toilets
(better yet, shut bathroom doors altogether), and keep
other pets out of the vicinity.
size cage is suitable for my finches?
Although species vary, it is generally
recommended that you allow 3 square feet of floor space
per pair of breeding birds. Height does not matter as
much as length, since finches fly primarily across, and
not up and down. For this reason cages that are long are
better than cages that are tall.
can I find good cages that are suitable for keeping finches?
All the cages pet stores carry are too small or have too
wide of bar spacing.
following sites have been recommended by persons on
the Finch Forum:
following sites have been recommended for aviaries:
want to provide my birds with an acrylic cage or aviary.
Do I have to worry about the birds flying into the walls?
At first, they might fly into the walls
occasionally until they learn their boundaries. They usually
adapt very quickly. To prevent collisions with acrylic
walls, you can drape semi-transparent cloth (eg, lace
or sheer fabric) over the windows until they become familiar
with their environment. You can also place strips of masking
tape across the windows to mark them and remove them gradually
as the birds adjust.
can I use on the bottom of my cage/aviary?
Bedding choices: Although corncob is
popular, it is conducive to mold growth and not recommended.
Sand can be used safely (but it's messy for an indoor
setup). Timothy hay has been recommended, which can also
be used as nesting material. Aspen shavings are a popular
choice because aspen does not produce an aroma when wet
like pine or cedar do (these aromas may cause respiratory
problems in finches).
choices: Newspaper, unprinted newsprint, and Kraft paper
have all been recommended. Paper has the advantage of
allowing easy inspection of droppings.
birds are subject to night frights - startling in the
middle of the night and not being able to find their way
back to their sleeping perch. What should I do?
Night frights are a fairly common phenomenon.
Provide the birds with a nightlight so that they are less
likely to become startled and so that they can find their
way back to the perches if it should happen. Some options
for nightlights are a low-watt red light bulb (which provides
light by which the birds can see but not so bright as
to keep them awake, standard night lights or low-watt
bulbs, or GE Limelight night light.
do I offer my birds a bath?
Baths can be offered as a commercial bird
bath that attaches to an opening in the cage or as a dish
(such as a terra cotta plant saucer) placed on the bottom
of the cage. Some people add Saniclens to keep the water
from becoming too polluted since the birds will drink
from their bath water. Some people only make the bath
available for a limited period of time to limit the amount
of pollution it will collect and to limit the amount of
bath water they drink.
do I keep my bird's nails trim?
Long nails can endanger a finch's life.
They can become caught on nestboxes, nesting material,
rope fibers, etc, and if the bird cannot extricate itself,
it could die. The nails of a finch can be cut with a regular
nail clipper. If the bird has light colored nails, hold
the nails up to a light source so you can see the quick
(vessel supplying blood to the nail). Cut the nail close
to the quick without cutting the quick itself. If the
bird has dark colored nails, you might not be able to
see the quick, so you will have to guess. Usually, anything
beyond 4mm can be cut off without damaging the quick.
If you are unsure, err on the side of caution. You can
always trim a little more away later.
you do cut the quick, have a styptic pencil or blood
stop powder on hand to help form a clot before too much
blood is lost. The nail can also be cauterized with
a match (light the match, then snuff it out and hold
the warm tip of the match to the wound).
natural branch perches with rough surfaces may help
keep a finch's nails short without the need for trimming.
following link has proven helpful: http://www.javafinch.co.uk/nail/nailndx.html
bird appears to have an overgrown beak. What can I do?
Adding a cuttlebone may help your birds
keep their beaks trim. If this doesn't do the trick, the
beak can be trimmed with a nail clipper, cuticle scissors,
or bird claw scissors. If you trim, trim a little off
at a time - better to take too little off than too much.
is the best finch for a beginner to start with?
Zebra finches and Society finches are highly
recommended for beginners. They both tend to be easy to
care for and easy to breed (although individuals will
vary). Zebras and societies come in many interesting mutations
that can introduce one to finch genetics. Zebras tend
to be more aggressive than Societies. Both are inexpensive
and readily available. Zebras are easier to sex than societies,
so it may be easier to get a true pair if you wish to
would like to get a finch that sings? What are your recommendations?
Frequent recommendations include Strawberry
Finches, Cordon Bleus, Canaries, Star Finch, Melba Finch.
long should I quarantine new birds for before introducing
them to my flock?
The answer to this question varies greatly,
but the general response seems to be about 1 month.