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Ever since I can remember, I've owned a Zebra Finch. When I was about 3 years old, my parents bought a pair of finches and I named them Hoppity-Hop and Jane. Jane died after 2 years, but Hoppy (named him that because of what he was doing in the box on the way home from the pet shop) lived until he was approximately 10 years old!
Zebra finches are an ideal choice for a first pet. My review will introduce you to the zebra finch, and will hopefully shed some light on some questions that a lot of people have asked me.
The Zebra Finch
Native to Central Australia, these birds are one of the most popular birds in the area. Some people call them "flying mice" because they breed so easily, and can have four or five broods per year.
The zebra finch is roughly 3 and a half inches in length, from the tip of the beak to the very tip of the tail. Both male and female are the same size.
Colours can vary tremendously through imbreeding, and mutations, although I'll stick with the most common variety.
Both male and female have a dark grey back, top of the head and wings. There is, however, quite a lot of difference between sexes, so it is very easily to tell them apart.
The male has a white under-carriage and lower chest, has white-speckled brown feathers to the sides and under his wings, has a black bar running straight across his chest, black and white striped feathers on his upper chest, a black "tear-drop", and burnt orange coloured cheeks. His beak and legs should be a bright orange colour.
The female is dark grey with a paler grey belly and chest, but still has the distinctive "tear-drop". You may also notice that her beak and legs are a much more subtle orange, and is a lot paler than the male.
Both birds have a tail which measures approximately 1 inch in length. This is where the finch gets it's name from. The tail is black with white stripes all the way across.
The zebra finch's song is made up of a variety of "eeps" and "beeps". Both sexes of the birds make these noises, but the female can make a "rasping" noise when in breeding season, and she is defending her territory and eggs. The male's song is quite distinctive, with a variety of high and low pitches and different lengths of "eeps" and "beeps" put together in order to attract a mate.
With every living creature, food is the most important thing. Finches live mostly of small seeds. This is made available in forms of millet sprays, and "free". The zebra finches which I own now are partial to fresh bread, sliced cucumber, crushed lettuce and a slice of apple.
It is also very important that you supply fresh water on a daily basis, and change it at least twice a day. Drinking water can be supplied in a sealed tube with a little "saucer" opening, or in a metal container.
This breed of finch is also a very clean bird. It is important that you can supply water in which the bird can bathe in. Another couple of options are available here... A cage bath can be bought from any pet shop OR you can place a small saucer filled with no deeper than an inch of fresh water for the bird to splash around in. Trust me, your finch will love you for it.
Now this is the part where everything gets a little tricky... I'm not going too deep into the breeding part of my review, as I believe that unless you know what you are doing, you shouldn't breed your birds. It's unfair (if you don't have a plan of what you're going to do with the babies once their ready), and a breeding female can die prematurely.
You can always tell when a pair of zebra finches are ready to breed. You will notice that the male will be carrying round random feathers, and anything suitable to build a nest with. He will try to build a nest anywhere suitable, on a stable surface (even in the corner of the bottom of the cage).
If you are going to breed your birds, this is the time to buy a finch breeding box. There are plenty of options available for you to buy from the pet shop, but there are two which are most suited, and both of these boxes have a "roof" and a small hole for the bird to get in and out of easily. The first is a basic straw nest, which costs roughly £1 - £1.99. The second option, which is by far the best, is the natural material nest. It looks like a type of scraggy material, and these can cost anywhere from £2.99 - £5.99.
Offer plenty of items and materials that your birds can use to stuff the nest. Offer cut up toilet tissue, cut up kitchen roll, leaves and even (ONLY IF IT'S CLEAN) a cut up head off a hand-held washing up mop. All nesting material must be dry and clean.
PLEASE NOTE: When I first bred zebra finches, I bought some natural nesting material from a pet shop. This was soft, but stringy. My finches laid 6 eggs, 4 of which hatched. One of the babies died when the nesting material wrapped around it's neck, another baby lost its' leg with the same situation, and a third baby AND the father (Hoppy, who I mentioned earlier) both lost a toe.
Usually after the nest is finished being built, the female will then make a slightly different song. It may sound as though she is "crying". Be assured, she is not crying because she now knows what is happening, she is squeaking with happiness because she now knows that she has somewhere safe to lay her eggs and raise her young.
The female will lay anywhere between 4 - 12 eggs. Usually when there are 3 or more eggs, the incubation period begins. Both male and female will take it in turns to sit on the eggs. Incubation can take anywhere from 18 to 25 days, usually hatching in order in which the eggs were layed.
Unless you are intrusive, you will not know when the eggs have hatched, because the babies do not gain their voices until they are roughly 1 week old. Even then you may have to listen very carefully, because they "eep" so quietly, and only when they need feeding.
It is at this time when you need to supply as much fresh bread and salads as possible. A nice little trick I've learned is if you hard boil an egg (not one of your finches ones, a chicken one!) and then crush it all down (INCLUDING THE SHELL) and then offer it on a small saucer in the bottom of the cage. It may sound cannabalistic, but the female zebra finch needs this to keep calcium in her body, and to keep her strength up.
Usually after about 3 weeks, you will start to notice that the babies are eager to venture out of their nest. Your babies are no longer babies, and are called fledglings. Do not remove the nest once your fledglings have ventured out. They will still return to the nest of a night time, and whenever they feel threatened or afraid.
You will usually be able to tell the sexes at approximately 2 months old. The fledglings are no longer babies, and are starting to mature. "Teenagers" if you like. You should now remove the nest.
When the babies are 2 and a half months old, this is the time when you need to know what you are doing with them. If you are taking them to a pet shop, take them now. If you are giving them to a family member or friend, buy a cage and do it now. If you are keeping the babies yourself, buy another cage (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT) and transfer them now. You must separate the young from the parents as territorial fights now begin, and this can, and usually is, very brutal and can lead to death.
PLEASE NOTE: Please take the nest out now if you have not done it already... You must give your "parent" birds time to recover, or if they continue to breed now, the female will die prematurely of exhaustion.
Overall, Zebra Finches can be fantastic company. They are not, however, as sociable as a budgie, but they can look after themselves! Just make sure that you supply fresh food and water daily, and allow the birds to have plenty of light (not direct sunlight). They can be sociable, and love to chatter to you, so give them an hour to speak to you...
For the best interest of your birds, if the weather is calm, sunny and warm (NOT HOT), put the cage in the garden so the birds can get some fresh air. If the day is stuffy, but has a breeze, keep the birds indoors, but open the window SLIGHTLY. I don't need to explain to you that in extreme cases like thunder and lightening, the birds should be kept inside, and preferably, cover the cage up with a large towel so the birds cannot see the flashing.
Watching the behavioural habits of these birds is just amazing. You can get "friendly" birds who want you to hold them, and they want to "preen" your hair, and you can get the "grumpy" ones, who do want to talk to you, but they don't want your hands anywhere near them. Don't force the bird to do anything he / she doesn't want to. If he / she wants to come to you, he / she will in his / her own time.
I now have two zebra finches... Male called Cherry, and female called Pearl. They've just layed 4 eggs... Only another 10 days or so to go before the hatchings! Wish me luck!
The Lavender Finch is less coulourful i find than most waxbills but is still very attractive with a bluish grey body with a hint of red on the hump and tail feathers. hens can sometimes be more difficult to distinguesh but i find may be paler.
Lavender Finches generally agree well in groups but i have found that in keeping these birds in groups that they sometimes pluck at each others feathers if housed to many in small encloser.
when i transfered these birds to a flight there feathers regrew quickly. these birds pair up easy and nest well if provided with a bush box or Buxus.
These birds grow to be about 10cm in lenght and can lay 3-5 in a clutch at any one time with an incubation period of 12 days and fledging of 19 days.
Easy birds to breed although carful not to overbreed or you will end up with sick birds and un healthy chicks
I was first introduced to these lovely little Australian birds about ten years ago by my eldest daughter.She was living in a rented room at the time and asked me to look after her two while she had her son. As the weeks went by I realised that she was not going to ask them to come home again and,I was not too bothered as by then I had become attached to them much to my husbands despair,as I already had a cat and six bantams. The first two were of the grey variety and I named them bird and buster.As I kept them longer I realised they had totally different songs to each other and very different personalities to each other.I had been told that they would only live for about eighteen months but I had these first two for three years. When I lost my first buster I obtained another straight away as I had been told that the one left would pine and probably die.To my surprise the new buster had yet another different song but this one would greet me when I came home and would tell me(loudly) when someone walked past outside. I acquired my second cage when my other daughter gave me her birds,these were of the white variety.These were also called bird and buster too.I have found the whites to be much more timid than the grey and not so noisy but bird will imitate any mobile phone,even on an advert,which makes for some confusion. Sadly the white bird died about a year ago and I have not been able to get him a friend due to breeders problems where I live,but touch wood,so far so good,he is very happy,and chats quite happily to the grey ones in the next cage,and too anyone who speaks to him. When I first started going on to the internet they would try to out do the sound of the modem,they also take great pleasure in spitting seed and water at anyone who sits near their cage.Don't let anyone tell you they cannot be treated by a vet as I was,when one of my grey ones fell from his perch and broke his leg,I took him to the vet
and although it was fiddly the vet plastered his leg (not with plaster of paris)and four weeks later I had my bird back good as new,and my purse £15 lighter,but worth every pound. These are brilliant little birds,although they can be noisy and messy,they are very friendly and I think much more entertaining than budgies,and not as overpowering as their larger parrot beaked cousins.I would'nt be without mine now,they are one of the family.And my cat seems to ignore them,until they wake her up.
Zebra finches are small,attractive and very lively little birds that come in a variety of lovely colours and markings and are inexpensive to buy. Colours include orange cheeked, black cheeked, all white, grey, light brown etc I personally have a selection of each both male and female. These are sociable birds whom enjoy being part of a group and are best in pairs or a larger group depending on the cage size, or if like me you have an aviary. The males pair off with the females and once breeding has commneced share the duty of egg-sitting and baby feeding. The cage/aviary should be place away from direct sun-light and draughts, if outside it should be covered at night to protect the birds from the cold and once the cold weather sets in a low voltage bulb should be kept on inside a protective casing to keep the birds from freezing. When purchasing finches always look for lively singing birds that are active, males have red beaks and the female orange the colouring of the male is the most distinctive, with decorative wings. The cage/aviary itself needs to be adequatley sized with sandpaper at the bottom, a number of perches, bird food and fresh drinking water, the birds should also have a receptacle for bathing and carp to bite on. If wishing to breed your finches a nest box/wicker bowl should be placed for them as well as hay for them to build this and a piece of conifer tree can also be placed within one of the cage corners' They are delightful birds to keep as pets and take very little in caring for them, my eight finches are a really chirpy group whom love to sing along when music is played and are loved by all - hopefully even my 14year old cat in time! Three of the lady finches have been nesting and sitting on their eggs resulting in the arrival of 15 baby finches they are delightful, at first all sitting together in the bottom corner of the aviary but have become confident and are now all mingling with the adult bird
s and flying about - unfortunatley one did escape but i managed to cup it in my hands and deliver it back to its family. I find it relly cheering to hear them all singing in the garden and recommend them to anyone as a rewarding and inexpensive pet .