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How to Keep and Breed Finches

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By Edited Apr 17, 2014 0 0

Choosing your Aviary

Before spending your hard-earned money, buying an aviary it is very important to think about how many birds you would like to keep. Small birds like finches still need a good area for flight and exercise.  Do you want to keep a couple of birds for show, or would you like to breed with them in time.

Your aviary needs the back, top and both side ends enclosed for draught free roosting.  It is a good idea to close in the bottom right around the aviary about a foot high to prevent mice from entering and protect them from other predators. Snakes can and do flatten themselves so they can enter through the smaller mesh in aviaries.

Leave the other end as a flight area covered with mesh so they can enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

Long tail finch

You can buy an aviary already built or if you are the handy person, you could build an adequate aviary for most birds yourself.  All cages should have double doors.  They save you a lot of money in the end as many birds escape when you enter or exit your aviary, especially finches, as they are so small.  Most of these will die, as they are not used to living in the wild and will be prime targets for cats or other prey.

If you use strong mesh to start with, you can keep finches, Canaries or Budgerigars now, then next year you may decide to keep small parrots, which would need a stronger mesh, therefore not needing to go out and buy another aviary or having to rewire it with the stronger mesh. Some of the larger Parrots need a steel mesh as they can chew through the normal wire and escape.

Place all perches, water containers and nests into the aviary before buying your birds.

Perches, Food and Water Containers

Select different size dowelling to suit the size of the finches feet.  Another good idea is to get branches from trees, which vary in size.  Cleanliness is the key to breeding healthy birds.  Therefore, take perches out from time to time for cleaning.  Scrub in a diluted solution of house bleach.  Never place perches above water or feed, as they will be contaminated with their droppings.

Feed and Water Containers

If possible, keep all containers off the ground.  Prevention is always better than the cure.  Mice urine is definitely something to avoid in the feed or water.  An ample depth for water containers for small birds like finches is 13mm (1/2") or up to 50mm (1-2") for the larger birds.

 Aviary Pool - If you decide to have a small pool in the aviary, make sure the sides have a gradual slope, taking care to roughen the surface so they are not too slippery for them to stand on the edges. You can cover this with a wire netting. You could add a few goldfish to this to make the aviary more interesting, only if the aviary is large enough though.

Beware of automatic feeders as they may block up from the husks preventing birds from getting any food.  This can mislead you into thinking that they have enough food, when in fact they have no food, thereby causing premature death.


Planting an Aviary – If you have a large aviary then it will look great with a few plants. The finches love to interact with these flying back and forth between them.  You could make it with pot plants that way you can interchange them if the birds have damaged them or plants have died.

Placing nests into your aviary before putting birds in saves them a lot of unnecessary stress.  Stress can also cause premature death.

The males are usually the ones to spend hours selecting their nest, then the female has the last say and together they will fly back and forth building it.

I have spent many hours of enjoyment watching my finches as they prance about carrying pieces of grass, small sticks, feathers etc to build their nest. 

Some prefer the cane nest, while others will settle for a wooden hand-made nest.  Still others will build their own nest out of twigs etc in a branch of a tree, or in a pile of straw fitted into a container fabricated from wire netting.

The most important thing is to give the birds a variety of nests and different building materials, more than required to avoid the birds fighting over the one nest.


Baby Zebra Finches

Selecting your Birds

I prefer to buy my birds separately, from different breeders, thereby avoiding any chance of interbreeding.  If you visit breeders with birds already paired up and there is only one pair in the breeder’s aviary then you can safely assume the birds will be related. They will be brother and sister.  So to avoid this I buy the male from one breeder and the female from another.

Choose birds that are lively with clear eyes and have no signs of discharge on its vent. You need a strong healthy bird not one that is sitting sullen on the perch with his feathers fluffed up.

The stress of being caught in a net and moved to a strange house isn’t for a sick, weak finch. It is a good idea to buy your birds in the morning and have it housed as soon as possible. 

Never place a bird into a new home in the afternoon, as all birds need hours to familiarise themselves in their new surroundings.  If they do not have time to do this they could fly into the wire and either kill themselves or damage their wings. Remember finches are very small and more fragile than larger birds.

Toxic Plants to avoid in Aviary

  • Azalea
  • Beans
  • Bird of paradise  
  • Boxwood
  • Daffodils
  • Elephant’s ear
  • Iris             
  • Ivy
  • Larkspur    
  • Oleander
  • Poinsettia   
  • Snow drop
  • Sweet pea
  • Wisteria 

Feeding Tips

Avoid malnutrition in your finches by giving them a variety of seeds.  Most seed diets contain levels of fat and are deficient in vitamins and minerals.

You can prolong or shorten your bird’s life with the type of food you feed them.  Do not allow their diets to become boring. 

Finches like all birds need more than just seeds, offer them green food, half-ripened grass seed heads, Dandelion and Chickweed, or vegetables such as silverbeet, lettuce, thistles, and flower heads are very nutritious.

Make sure the green food you give them is free from any chemicals. Good clean food is essential to a healthy bird. 

During the breeding season, add live food their diet.  I prefer to feed mine mealworms, bought from your local distributor or you may choose to breed them yourself, which is what I do.  You could also give them maggots and breed these from the larvae of the blowfly, personally this idea has never appealed to me at all.

It is important to give birds with plenty of fine grit or Cuttlefish where possible; collect from your local beach.

Never leave food and water under perches because of contamination.

Cane Finch Nest

Breeding Finches 

Males usually court females until mating takes place. They are fun to watch as they do a bobbing dance on the perch to attract the female. She will often crouch on a perch moving her tail if she accepts his advances. Although you will notice, different types of finches will have many ways to attract their mates.

Some finches reach maturity by 9 months, although I prefer to wait until they are a year old before breeding with them.

Most lay between 4-6 white eggs (10m x 15mm). Incubation period is about 13 days. The young usually leave their nest after 21 days. Do not remove young from their parents until about 4 weeks after leaving their nest or until you are sure, they are feeding themselves properly. 

Cordon Bleu Finches


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