Zebra Finches raised in captivity show a considerable amount of variation, which is down to generations of selective breeding giving rise to many different color morphs and plumage patterns. But they’re all still Zebra Finches, and you look after them in exactly the same way.
This Zebra Finch care sheet tells you how to care for a Zebra Finch, but there are two dedicated care guides that would be great additions to your library: Zebra Finches (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual) and Quick & Easy Zebra Finch Care.
Zebra Finch Size
These are small birds – adult Zebra Finches only ever reach around 4″ in length, so there’s room for a couple in almost any home.
Zebra Finch Lifespan
You can expect your pet Zebra Finch to live for around six years on average, but quite a few will go well past this, some of them living for a decade or so. There are even occasional reports of captive Zebra Finches living for as long as 14 years!
Zebra Finch Cage
When it comes to housing Zebra Finches, bigger is always better. The length of the cage is more important than the height, as finches need plenty of room to fly. The minimum cage size for a pair of Zebra Finches should be around 24″x18″x18″, but the more space you give them, the happier they’ll be.
When choosing a cage, things to bear in mind include how easy the cage will be to clean out and how much of a mess your birds might be able to make with their bedding. Also ensure the gaps between wires are no more than a maximum of 0.5″ wide, or else your birds could escape or get stuck. The cage should be in a fairly quiet part of the house and needs to be well ventilated, although it must also be protected from drafts and air conditioning units. Direct sunlight isn’t too much of a problem as long as at least part of the cage is always out of the sun so your birds can cool down.
Another option is a flight cage or an aviary, which is ideal if you have enough space, although most people won’t. This is basically a much larger cage or a whole small room of your house, which gives your Zebra Finches much more space and freedom to fly around. Flight cages can be bought commercially or made at home.
Prevue Pet Products Flight Cage is small and basic but cheap for a flight cage. Spending a little more money gets you something far better like this Vision flight cage. At this price point you have a lot more choice – if you’re willing to give up aesthetics in exchange for spoiling your finches with a larger cage, then you would struggle to beat this flight cage. It’s huge and your finches will love it.
Bedding, Toys and the Rest
Newspaper is commonly used to line the cage floor, as it is cheap and easy to maintain, but it should be replaced every day as Zebra Finches have high hygiene standards. Other possibilities include pine shavings and even crushed corn cob. Aromatic materials like aspen shavings should be avoided as they can cause respiratory problems in Zebra Finches. Bedding should be changed twice a week, and the whole cage should be thoroughly cleaned periodically.
Furnishing the cage is also important. You should provide a variety of different perches (including rope and/or a non-toxic branch if possible), as well as toys such as ladders, bells, plastic balls and so on. Strings or anything else that could easily be ingested should be avoided. Zebra Finches won’t play with toys as much as larger, more intelligent birds like parrots will, but they still require a fair amount of stimulation.
Finally, you could consider purchasing a specially designed finch nest. Your birds will love it and sleep in it at night, but bear in mind that if you have two birds of different sexes, they absolutely will breed, and can do so at any time of year in captivity.
Temperature and Lighting
Zebra Finches will thrive at normal room temperature, so you shouldn’t need to supply them with any additional heating unless your house is particularly chilly. Having said that, it is advisable to keep your birds away from cold drafts or air conditioning units.
There is some debate over whether UV lighting is necessary for Zebra Finches. Many owners never use it and experience no problems. If your finches never see sunlight, it’s generally recommended to install something like this that will provide both UVA and UVB light. Zebra Finches need these types of ultraviolet light for various reasons and it will help to keep them healthy and for them to metabolise various essential vitamins and minerals.
Zebra Finch Diet and Water
A varied diet is recommended, but should be based on a specially designed, high quality seed mix for finches. Millet seed tends to be good. Old seeds are not good, while seeds that are just beginning to sprout are perfect and provide extra nutrition. Small amounts of fruit and veg should be supplied, and you can experiment a bit to find out what your birds like most. Avocado must never be given, but some good choices include spinach, carrots, romaine lettuce, broccoli, sweet potatoes, banana, apple and mango. Be careful that your finches don’t eat any fruit seeds, as these can be harmful.
Fed this kind of diet, your finches will need some additional calcium, as well as vitamin A if the seed mix does not include it as an ingredient. The calcium can be provided by feeding them hard-boiled eggs (including the shell), which also gives them important proteins, or by hanging a cuttlebone at the side of the cage. Vitamin A supplements can be bought commercially and simply mixed in with the rest of the food.
Pellets are the other option for feeding your Zebra Finches. These should be designed with finches in mind, and can either form part of a balanced diet or replace seeds as the staple food, with a few seeds given for variety. Pellets should provide the right nutritional balance for your birds, but a variety of food is still recommended, including seeds and eggs.
Grit is another widely debated area, but it is normally accepted that finches need at least small amounts of grit to help with digestion. This should be provided separately to their food, as ingesting too much can cause serious problems. Commercially available gravel/grit mixtures work well, preferably a mix that includes added vitamins.
Water should be provided in a water dish either placed at the bottom of the cage or attached to the side. Your Zebra Finches will need fresh water every day, so thoroughly rinse and replenish the water dish daily. Do the same with the food dish.
An additional shallow dish of clean water should be added to the cage several times each week to allow your birds to bathe, which is important for keeping their feathers clean and healthy. Remove the water when the finches have finished bathing.
Keeping Other Birds with Zebra Finches
As already mentioned above, Zebra Finches should be kept in pairs, not alone, because of their highly social nature. No amount of human interaction is sufficient to replace a single additional Zebra Finch. If you want more than a single pair, the usual advice is to have six or more. This number should prevent excessive competition over females and space, although obviously a much larger enclosure such as this flight cage or an aviary will be necessary.
It is safest not to keep other species in the same cage as Zebra Finches, although some other finches, such as the Society Finch, will sometimes be okay in a large enough enclosure, but it’s not guaranteed. If there is regular aggression, feather-plucking etc., the different species should be separated immediately.
Hopefully this Zebra Finch care sheet gives you all the information you need to give your finches long and happy lives. If you think you might need to refer back to it at some stage, please bookmark it so you can find it again when you need it!