Finch is a general term for hundreds of species of small birds, all of which eat seed and many of which are brightly coloured with pleasant songs. Even familiar birds such as canaries as actually a type of finch and common aviculture birds such as Zebra finches belong to another finch family.
Finches make excellent pets with the understanding that they are not like parrots – they don’t become tame and will rarely come to your hand for food when living in a cage. However, given the right environment they make an amazing sight to sit and watch, filled with activity and amusement. The first step is picking the right cage for you finch and here are some tips.
Finches range in size from the tiny Gold breast Waxbill that is around 9cm long to bigger birds such as the canary and goldfinch at around 12-13cm and to even bigger birds such as the Hawfinch, normally around 16.5-18cm in length. As a rule, however, finches are always smaller than parrot family birds such as the Budgie and the Cockatiel.
The other main differences are their beak and their feet. Parrot family birds are often referred to as hook beaks because of the shape of their beaks, which form a hook from their face and overlap with the lower mandible. Finches have a beak that is designed for eating seed and insects and is two halves that both protrude from the face. The difference in feet is that parrots have two toes facing forwards and two facing back whereas finches have three facing forward and one backwards.
All of these elements mean that a cage suitable for a parrot is not always suitable for a finch. The first reason is usually bar spacings – those made for larger parrots allow finches to fly straight through them! Therefore, cages that have bar spacings of around 1cm or half an inch is the best option to stop little escapees. The strength of the bars isn’t so much of an issue with finches – whereas parrots can chew through weak bars, finches won’t.
Whatever type of cage you are going to get for your finch, the best recommendation is to get the very biggest cage you can. Some clubs recommend, for example, a pair of zebra finches be housed in nothing smaller than 16x12x16 inch cage with at least two perches. This gives them room to fly around as well as somewhere to land and preen. Many smaller finches sleep in a nest box even when they aren’t breeding, so room to add one in the cage or externally if there is a spare door is also necessary.
There are some very elaborate cages available for finches but remember, these features mean little to the birds. A pretty shape, ‘windows’ and such will have no effect on the quality of life for the little residents. A square or rectangular cage will be ideal for them and they won’t mind a rounded one either.
What is important is the content of the cage. Finches don’t play with toys that much so there isn’t much point in adding lots of them – they will just accumulate mess. Ladders, rope perches suitable for small birds and feeding toys are a good idea but be careful that they are designed for the size bird you have as ones made for parrots can often lead to accidents.
Finches love to bathe so will need access to a bath as well as a fresh drinking water supply. Some cages can have an external bath mounted on a door that can be taken away at night, otherwise a bath bowl may need to be placed on the bottom of the cage.
For the bottom of the cage, there are plenty of different ideas about what to use. I personally use a horse bedding called Easibed in my cages but this might not work for everyone, particularly when the birds are in the house. The old fallback is always newspaper and this still works – collects up mess, is easy to get your hands on and to change.
Have at least two of all items such as water and food bowls and baths so that you can have one in use and another in cleaning. Finches are indiscriminate about where they deposit their waste so mess is normal.