Finch Bird Species Overview
Finches are a family of small songbirds that can be found in flocks across the world. This care sheet outlines basic care needs for a variety of finch species, including:
Orange weaver finch
Finches are social animals that thrive when kept in pairs or small groups (as long as the birds have been properly introduced). Generally, finches are “hands-off” birds that do not enjoy being handled the same way most other parrot species do. However, with daily socialization, some hand-raised finches (especially zebra finches) can be trained to perch on their pet parent’s fingers.
Pet parents can interact with their finches by watching them and listening to their pleasant sounds. Since finches can get stressed easily, pet parents should not place their finch’s habitat in a busy, loud area of the home or handle the bird forcefully.
Finch Bird Characteristics
Difficulty of Care
5–10 years with proper care, depending on species
Average Adult Size
3–6 inches long from head to end of tail, depending on species
Minimum Habitat Size
24” L x 14” W x 18” H for a pair of finches
Finch Bird Supply Checklist
To keep a finch happy and healthy, pet parents should have these basic supplies on hand:
Appropriately sized habitat (at least 24” L x 14” W x 18” H for a pair of finches)
High-quality finch food
Habitat paper or other paper-based litter
Food and water dishes
Variety of perches
Variety of toys
Nail clippers and styptic powder
Finch Bird Habitat
Choosing the Right Enclosure
A pair of finch birds should be housed in a rectangular flight cage that measures at least 24” L x 14” W x 18” H. Ideally, habitats should be long (i.e., with lots of horizontal floor space) rather than tall, so the birds have plenty of space to fly back and forth comfortably. The spaces between the cage’s bars should be ⅜-inch apart or smaller to prevent birds from escaping or getting their heads or legs stuck.
If more than two finches are housed in the same habitat, the enclosure’s size should be increased accordingly. Always provide the largest habitat possible.
Homemade habitats or any habitat made with wood or galvanized wire are not recommended. These materials can expose birds to potentially toxic chemicals that can cause serious medical problems if ingested.
Setting Up Your Habitat
Finches are comfortable in average household temperatures from 65 F to 80 F. Pet parents should be cautious of extreme temperature changes. Finch habitats should be in a quiet, low-traffic area of the home to avoid startling or stressing the birds out. Keep habitats off the floor and in a draft-free, well-lit area that’s not near an air conditioner or accessible to other pets, including cats and dogs.
Pet parents should make sure that no habitat parts or toys are made with lead, zinc, lead-based paints, galvanized metal, or other potentially toxic materials. All these materials can cause serious medical issues if ingested by finches.
As highly social birds, the finch thrives when housed with one or more finches. Depending on the species and time of year, some finches can be kept in same-sex pairs to avoid the possibility of breeding.
Certain finches can be aggressive toward other species, especially during mating season. If you want to house different types of finches in the same enclosure, consult an experienced finch breeder or avian veterinarian for help in determining which species can be housed together successfully.
In all cases, pet parents must take precautions before housing more than one finch in the same habitat. Introductions should be done slowly, in neutral territory, and under close supervision to ensure the finches are compatible. Pet parents should monitor their birds for aggressive behavior and separate them if they fight.
The bottom of a finch’s habitat should have a removable metal grate so droppings can fall below the bird’s feet. Pet parents should line the tray at the base of the habitat with habitat paper or other paper-based bedding. This will help keep the environment clean and minimize dust.
Birds need exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light to produce vitamin D in their skin so they can absorb dietary calcium. Glass windows filter out UV light, so placing a finch’s habitat next to an indoor window is not enough. Instead, birds can get natural UV exposure from the sun by spending time outside in an escape-proof outdoor cage when the weather permits. Birds should never be left unattended while outside and should not be placed in direct sunlight.
To supplement UV exposure, pet parents can shine a full-spectrum UV light designed for birds on their finches’ habitat for 10-12 hours each day. UV lights should be about 12-18 inches away from where the bird perches. Replace lights every six months, as their potency wanes over time.
Décor and Accessories
Pet parents should place perches of varying sizes, heights, textures, and materials in their finches’ habitat to prevent pressure sores from developing on the soles of the birds’ feet. Perches should be at least 3 inches long and have a ¼- to ½-inch diameter. If a perch’s diameter is too wide, birds will not be able to grip it properly. This can lead to falls and other serious injuries.
Concrete, wood, braided rope, and natural branches all make suitable materials for perches. Sandpaper perches, gravel perches, and sanded perch covers are not recommended because these materials can cause painful abrasions on the underside of a bird’s feet. Gravel-coated perches in particular should be avoided because birds can pick off the gravel and ingest it.
Do not place perches above the bird’s water or food bowl; waste droppings will land there.
Finches do not chew on toys the same way parrots do, but their enclosures should still have a variety of enrichment toys to encourage mental and physical stimulation.
Finches fly horizontally, so make sure their habitats are not overly cluttered with toys that could block their flight path.
Some finches will enjoy mirrors, while others may be afraid of them. Some finches may also become territorial if they think they’re sharing their habitat with another bird.
Leather and Fabric
Many finches enjoy playing with leather or fabric straps, but pet parents should be mindful that fabric can fray and form threads that finches can pull loose and entangle themselves in. Any frayed fabric should be immediately removed from the habitat.
Finches usually love to play with toys that have small bells to make sounds!
Swings and Ladders
Most finches will enjoy swinging on small swings and climbing small wooden or plastic ladders.
Water and Food Dishes
Dry food, fresh food, and water should all be offered in separate dishes. If more than one finch is kept in the same habitat, then each bird should have its own feeding station to discourage competition.
Water dishes should be large enough for a finch to bathe in.
Dishes should be washed and rinsed thoroughly each day to prevent bacterial growth.
Cuttlebones are an excellent way to supplement calcium and other trace minerals in a bird’s diet. Calcium is a vital nutrient that helps keep birds’ bones, beaks, nails, and feathers strong and healthy.
A cuttlebone holder can help keep a bird’s cuttlebone in place and prevent cuttlebone debris from falling outside the cage.
Finch Bird Cleaning and Maintenance
Pet parents should spot-clean their finch habitat daily, removing any soiled material and discarded food. Water and food bowls must be washed daily. Substrate, bedding, and habitat liners should be replaced at least once a week, or more often if needed.
Pet parents should only use cleaning agents formulated for pets when cleaning their finches' cage, as birds’ respiratory systems are sensitive to aerosolized fumes.
To clean a finch’s habitat, take these steps:
Move the finch to a secure environment (such as another habitat or travel cage) in a separate air space. Remove any old substrate, bedding, and accessories from the habitat.
Use a bird habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution to wash the habitat and any accessories.
Rinse the habitat and accessories thoroughly with water, making sure to remove any trace amounts or residual smells left by the cleaning agent or bleach solution.
Allow the habitat and its contents to dry completely before placing new substrate, bedding, and clean accessories back into the habitat.
Return the bird to the clean habitat.
Finch Bird Diet and Nutrition
Finches enjoy a range of foods, including pelleted food, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and the occasional treat. Finches should always have access to fresh, clean water.
Pet parents should never share food from their mouths or plates with their finch. Human mouths have microorganisms that can cause illness in birds.
A nutritious and well-balanced diet for a finch includes a high-quality pelleted food formulated for finches; a nutritionally complete pelleted food should make up at least 60–70% of a finch’s diet.
Use the manufacturer's instructions to determine how much food should be given daily. Discard any uneaten pellets before each feeding.
Fresh fruits and vegetables may be offered in limited quantities. Fruits and vegetables should be chopped into bite-sized pieces, since finches have very small beaks. Safe foods for finches include:
Be sure to discard any uneaten fruits and vegetables after 10 hours, as they may spoil and cause infection if eaten.
A variety of seeds may be offered in very limited quantities. Seeds contain fat that is important in the production of hormones that encourage mating behaviors, including singing.
Seeds should not be the mainstay in a finch’s diet. All-seed diets are deficient in vitamins, minerals, and protein.
Finches remove the hulls of seeds before eating them, so pet parents do not need to give them an indigestible grit supplement to help them break down whole seeds.
Fresh, clean water should be lukewarm and changed daily.
Finch Bird Feeding Guidelines
Finches need more protein in their diet while breeding and egg-laying, especially if they are not consuming a nutritionally complete and balanced pelleted food as their base diet. Pet parents may offer their finches a very small amount of commercially available “egg food” formulated for finches, small amounts of cooked egg, or live or freeze-dried insects (including crickets, mealworms, and waxworms) two to three times weekly.
Only adult finches should be offered live foods.
Millet spray can be fed as an occasional treat, no more than a few times a week. Treats should not make up more than 10% of a bird’s diet.
Do not allow finches to ingest chocolate, caffeine, or alcohol, as they are all toxic and can cause death or serious illness. Avoid treats that are high in fat, sugar, or salt.
Finch Bird Grooming and Care
Avoid using nonstick cookware and other appliances with a nonstick coating (such as Teflon™). Nonstick coatings have a polymer called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). When heated, PTFE releases colorless, odorless fumes that can kill pet birds that inhale them.
Finches need to stay fully flighted and should not have their wings’ flight feathers clipped.
Finches enjoy taking baths whenever water is present, so water dishes should be large enough for them to bathe in. Pet parents can groom finches that do not regularly bathe themselves by gently misting them with lukewarm water from a clean spray bottle a few times a week.
Nails must be trimmed on an as-needed basis, which can range from every few weeks to months. Nails should be trimmed by a trained professional, avian veterinarian, or someone otherwise trained to trim birds’ nails to prevent injury.
Nail clippers must be sterilized before use. If bleeding occurs, a styptic powder can be used to stop the bleeding quickly.
Most finches won’t need to have their beaks trimmed, and they should stay in good condition with daily use. Underlying conditions, such as liver disease or deformity from trauma, can cause abnormal beak growth and must be addressed by an avian veterinarian.
Finch Bird Veterinary Care
Finches should be seen by a veterinarian once a year. A transport carrier or cage should be used and pictures of their cage, diet, and supplies at home can be shown to the veterinarian as part of the exam. Be sure to obtain pictures of all labels, not just the products themselves. Covering the travel carrier can help with protection from the elements and fostering a safe environment for your finch.
Signs of a Healthy Finch
Bright and alert
Clean, clear, bright eyes
Symmetrical, intact beak that closes appropriately
Intact, clean feathers
Clean, smooth feet that can grasp completely closed with equal strength
Full and equal range of motion of wings
Clean and dry vent/cloaca
When to Call a Vet
Nasal discharge, one or both sides
Wheezing or sneezing
Overgrown beak or fractures to beak
Feather plucking, bleeding feathers, uneven feather growth
Constantly fluffed feathers
Foot sores or favoring a foot
Limping, unwillingness to use a limb or wing, or holding a wing abnormally
Moist feathers around cloaca or any discharge from cloaca
Runny, liquid, or abnormally colored droppings
Abnormal egg shells or laying pattern
Loss of appetite
Vomiting or regurgitating
Common Illnesses in Finches
Feather picking or other anxiety- or boredom-related behaviors
Parasites—mites and lice
Heavy metal toxicities
Do finch birds like to be held?
No. Finches are independent and do not enjoy being held. Even an overly social finch will only want to perch on you, rather than being held within your hands.
Are finches good to have around?
Finches can be fun to keep. They’re highly social (amongst themselves) with very curious attitudes. Finch owners usually love keeping small groups of finches together.
What is so special about finches?
Finches are small, like to sing, are social with each other, and live in groups. Finches have cone-shaped beaks perfect for cracking open nuts and seeds, and they are some of the smallest pet bird species available.
What birds are classified as finches?
Small, seed-eating songbirds with cone-shaped beaks (made for eating seeds and nuts) are classified as finches. There are even more specific details, such as wing shape and forked tails that make a finch a finch, and different species of finches have different-shaped beaks made for their individual diets.
Featured Image: tunart/iStock via Getty Images Plus
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