How to feed a baby zebra finch

Lessons in Handfeeding Finches | AFA Watchbird

Vol. 26 No. 5 (1999), Articles

Vol. 26 No. 5 (1999)


  • Myra Markley

Myra Markley

For years I had been told that it was not possible to tame a finch. As wild birds, finches will always be flighty and afraid around humans. Finally, a few years ago I started hearing stories of people with tame, friendly finches, and I decided to try and tame one of my young Zebra Finches

I've never tried taming an adult bird.

I figured it would be best to start with a young finch. I preferred one that had not weaned yet so I could take over the role as "mother" and acclimate the bird to humans. I contacted a few people on the internet who had hand raised finches and learned how they accomplished raising these tiny birds.

I attempted to hand feed a couple of three-day-old Zebra chicks because they had been tossed from the nest. This failed miserably. Both babies died after a few days and I felt just terrible. I really am not sure why they died. It could have been a number of things; aspiration, bacterial infection, or the formula was not the right temperature.

My next attempt, which was nearly six months later, was with a 10-day-old Zebra chick. Her eyes had just opened when I started feeding her, and she ate very well for me right from the start.


I built my own brooder from stuff around the house. It would be nice to have a real brooder but they are very expensive, and I am only an enthusiastic hobbyist.

Material list:

• A bowl, small aquarium, or plastic carrying case. I have used a shoebox in the past with no problems.

• A heating pad (set on low).

• A small plastic bowl or Canary


• A washcloth.

• A small glass of water.

• Something to measure the temperature (keep the temp. around 98 degrees).

• Many Kleenex tissues and paper towels

Place the heating pad in the box, or around the shoe box so it covers the bottom and at least some of the sides. Add in the small bowl or Canary nest with a Kleenex tissues to help soak up the droppings. The small glass of water


is also kept inside in the makeshift incubator to add the much needed humidity. As the water evaporates add more. Place a thermometer in the incubator and place the lid gently on top but not closed tightly-it works best if there is a half inch opening on each side of the lid so air can circulate. Give it time to warm up and check the temperature. Keeping the temperature 96 to 99 degrees is best for young finches but should be slowly lowered as the chick grows feathers.

I used the wash cloth to adjust the height of the bowl/nest inside the brooder, this allowed me to more finely tune the temperature for the chick as it grew.

Hand Feeding Formula

Lafeber's Instant NutriStart hand feeding formula mixed with Gerber's Rice Cereal with Applesauce and water or Pedialyte worked the best for raising my finches. I used a small Oral Tipped Syringe for the feedings. Narrow or long tip made feeding the Zebra chick easier.

If you have a chick that is one to eight days of age, you may need to use the flat end of a flat tooth pick. The syringe will not work for a baby that small. It is best to just let the chick have one small drop at a time and swallow the food on its own.

Mix the ingredients into a thin yogurt like texture for younger chicks, thickening it slightly as the chick grows. Make fresh food for every feeding and clean the syringe thoroughly after every use. Also never force feed a chick, the risk of aspirating is too great.



How to Raise Baby Finches

By Ann Compton

Raising baby finches can be challenging if you don't have the parents. Successful rearing requires extensive time and attention. If you have to raise the baby birds on your own, seek the advice of a knowledgeable bird expert to help you.

Early Days

If your finches are newborn, you'll need to jump-start their digestive systems with sugar and hydration. Sterilize a half-cc syringe without the needle and administer a drop of children's electrolyte replacement formula every two hours for the first day. Use two small jars or glasses to sterilize feeding equipment. Label the jars, and fill both with hot tap water. Add 1 tablespoon of bleach to a labeled jar and stir. Immerse syringes into the jar and suction the solution to clean the syringe each time you use it. Rinse thoroughly in the other jar with plain, hot water.

Make a Brooder

Your baby finches will need to live in a brood box. Use a good-size plastic container with a ventilated lid or a small glass aquarium to make one. Wrap a heating pad around the outside and bottom of the container, and hold it in place with packaging tape. Set the heat to the lowest setting. Place a folded towel on the bottom of the container. Be sure it reaches the sides so the baby birds can't get close to the heated part. Place a small plastic bowl lined with a paper towel inside the container. The baby birds will live in this bowl initially. Cover the brood box with the lid and a towel to provide darkness for the birds. Your baby birds will rest better and feel more secure in dim light for their first few days. Once they are stable, cover the cage for 10 to 12 hours at night to replicate night and day light cycles. Once you cover the container, the space should be dark.

Warmth Is Key

Keep the baby birds warm at all times. Initially they need a temperature of 86 to 89 degrees Fahrenheit. Monitor the temperature in your brood box frequently. Never let the birds get close to the sides of the box near the heat source. Keep the heating pad set on low at all times.

The First Week

After the first day, mix a commercial baby bird food formula with electrolyte replacement solution to make a thin liquid. Continue to feed the baby birds every two hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. using this mixture. The birds' digestive systems need to rest during the overnight hours to prepare for growth the next day. Pause every few seconds during feedings to allow the birds to breathe, and administer only as much formula in each dose as the bird can swallow. Thicken the formula slightly around the third day, but continue to make it thin enough to draw through the syringe. Replace the electrolyte replacement solution with warm, sterilized water on the fifth day, and add a bit of lactobacillus powder to inhibit bacteria. On the seventh day, decrease feedings to intervals of 3 1/2 hours.

Growing Up

After the first week, increase the thickness of the formula and feed your baby birds as much as they will take, but do not force-feed them. Use a cotton swab dipped in warm water to clean the area around the baby birds' beaks after each feeding, and never reuse formula. Make fresh formula for each feeding. Always wash your hands before handling the baby birds or feeding equipment. When the baby birds begin to grow feathers, move them to a small bird cage. They will start to flap their wings and learn to fly soon. Your finches can now eat adult birdseed and fresh vegetables, and can drink from a bowl of water.


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care, what is possible and impossible, reviews

Finch is a well-known small bird. She is very beautiful and sings melodic songs. Therefore, many people are thinking about the question of whether a finch can live at home. In this article, we will consider in detail the intricacies of the life of this bird in captivity, we will analyze what it should eat, what conditions must be created for it.


Description of the bird

Chaffinch is a songbird that belongs to the finches family. She is very bright and elegant, she does not tolerate cold at all, which is why she got such an interesting name.

Length From 14 to 18 centimeters.
Wingspan 24 to 29 centimeters.
Weight 16 to 30 grams.
Plumage color Plumage includes brown, white, grey, blue and green. In autumn and winter, the color becomes dull, and in spring and summer, with the onset of the mating season, the birds become bright again. Birds are distinguished by a strong beak, a tail of sufficient length and powerful wings. Females are different from males, they are not so bright and beautiful.
Lifespan In the wild, the bird lives from one to three years. When kept at home, a finch can live up to ten years.
Songbirds The chaffinch starts singing its songs approximately from spring to mid-summer, in the mating season. In autumn, the bird sings much quieter and less frequently. If the chaffinch lives at home, then its singing can be heard from January.
Table. Finch descriptionSinging finch

The usual type of finches flies quickly, moves on the ground by short jumps, he does not like to walk very much.

The songs of this bird are notable for their loud sound, ringing trills, a bit reminiscent of nightingale. The chant lasts up to three seconds, then there is a pause, after which the singing resumes. Young birds sing very simply, while adults give out virtuoso melodies. A finch's repertoire can include up to ten melodies, which he loves to perform the most.

Interesting fact! Finches are able to predict rainy weather - before the rain they sing a special trill.

Where does such an unusual name come from

To understand where this name of the bird came from, you need to remember the saying that larks begin to sing when it gets warm, and finches start singing when frost sets in. The finch's trills end before winter in a rather peculiar way, as if the bird's throat had frozen sharply from frost and it could no longer continue singing.

Chaffinch before the onset of frost

In general, it is believed that the name of the bird came from the Russian word "chill", which means - to freeze.

Differences between males and females

As mentioned above, females are not as bright as males. The females of the chaffinch have brownish-gray feathers, occasionally white wedges can be found. The abdomen of the female is light, and the back, on the contrary, is dark. The beak of the female has a brownish-yellow tint.

As for the males, their plumage has many shades of green and blue. These birds have dark wings with white stripes, their back is brown, and their abdomen is beige. With the beginning of the mating season, in spring, the bird's beak becomes bluish, only its tip remains dark. By winter, the beak of the male finch looks slightly frozen - it acquires a shade of pinkish-brown.

A pair of finches

The most common types of finches

In total, eighteen species of finches are known in nature. On the territory of the Russian Federation and the CIS you can meet:

  • European chaffinch - the traditional variety described above;
  • Caucasian chaffinch - lives in the Crimea and the Caucasus, sings very beautifully;
  • Hyrcanian chaffinch - lives mainly in Northern Iran, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, has a reddish belly and a dark brown back;
  • Kopetdag chaffinch - distributed near the Turkmen reserve of the same name, has extensive white areas of feathers on the wings and tail.

On the territory of our country, you will most likely meet only the European variety of the chaffinch.

European chaffinch

Way of life

The chaffinch resembles a sparrow in many ways, it easily finds a common language with people, often neighbors them. The diet of this bird is unpretentious, for the winter (subject to a warm climate), the bird builds a strong nest for itself, which it diligently disguises.

Chaffinches can often be found at the stadium or in the city park. If the bird is worried, feels the approaching danger, it makes loud, sharp sounds that are repeated over a wide range of frequencies. The loud sound of such a chirp should make the enemy stop chasing the bird.

Sometimes finches do not want to show their excitement to everyone, then they squeak loudly, betraying anxiety. Such sounds resemble a thin, drawn-out whistle, it starts almost silently and ends with the gradual disappearance of the volume to zero. A bird can give similar signals to its fellow tribesmen in order to warn them of impending danger, but not to appear in front of a predator, not to give out its location.

Weasels are one of the main enemies of finches

The chaffinch is an unpretentious and hardy bird. Its main enemies are small predatory animals that love to destroy bird nests. Finches can be hunted by owls, woodpeckers, magpies, crows and jays.

In addition, the main enemies of finches are cats, ermines, squirrels and martens.

Where found in nature

Finches prefer to live in deciduous, coniferous or mixed forests. They do not like only the taiga, because it is quite difficult to get food on the ground there. It is not uncommon for a finch living in a summer cottage or garden plot.

What it eats

The basis of the diet of this bird is insects, in addition, the bird does not refuse weeds, fruits, berries.

Diet of finches

Chaffinches actively harvest insects in spring, they feed on them throughout the summer, until the end of August. They really like small bugs, weevils. Finches rid tree plantations of these pests, which bring great benefits to the environment.

Migratory or not

Finches prefer to fly to warmer climes for the winter. Some varieties of these birds that live in an acceptable climate may stay over the winter. Most of the birds, with the onset of the first frosts, approximately at the beginning of October, set off on a long journey. They can fly to the central part of Europe, to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Some birds winter in the Caucasus, birds from Siberia prefer to winter in Central Asia, Kazakhstan.

The flight to wintering takes place with the participation of the whole flock, which can include up to a thousand individuals. Birds move south at a speed of more than fifty kilometers per hour. From wintering, finches return from February to April. First, males return to their place of residence, females catch up with them after about a week.

Flock of finches

Peculiarities of keeping finches at home

Finches at home – is it possible? These birds coexist well with humans, take root well in apartments and houses. But, it is impossible to say with certainty that the bird will definitely become tame. To achieve this, you will have to create a lot of conditions for the finch, have experience in keeping birds and be patient.

If the bird was caught as an adult, certain difficulties may arise with it. You will have to keep the finch in a cage covered with a cloth so as not to frighten him. Such birds, when a person appears, begin to express strong anxiety, beat against the bars of the cage.

If the bird was caught in the wild on its own, because of which it was injured, then it will not work to wait for melodic singing from the pet.

Cage, covered with cloth

Preparing the cage, drinkers and feeders

Keeping a finch at home involves preparing a suitable place for him to live. A cage for a finch will need not be too voluminous, with a height of about sixty centimeters, a width of fifty centimeters and a width of forty centimeters. The upper part of the cage should be made of cloth, and it is better to cover the cage itself with a cloth so that the bird is more comfortable inside. So, you will create for her an island of safety in which she will feel comfortable.

Place a bowl of water and a feeder in the bird cage. It does not hurt to fix perches inside the cage on which the bird can sit and a house where it can hide.

At the bottom of the cage, sand can be poured, which must first be sieved and calcined to get rid of parasites in it.

Dry sand for bedding

Puts the cage with the bird in a place that is well lit, regularly ventilated. But, the presence of drafts is not acceptable. You need to clean the inside of the cage on a regular basis. General cleaning should be carried out weekly with mandatory disinfection of all surfaces and subsequent airing of the cage in the fresh air.

Nest materials or bedding

As we noted above, sifted sand should be poured inside the cage, it will act as bedding.

In order for the birds to make their own nest, it is necessary to prepare materials at hand for them. It can be tree branches, lichen, moss, pieces of tree bark, cobwebs, wool, hair.

Diet and feeding regimen

How to feed a finch at home? This bird is not particularly picky either in living conditions or in the diet.

Poppy seeds

What can be fed to a chaffinch:

  • millet - you can combine several species, check what the bird will like and choose the optimal composition;
  • some oil to reduce the pet's susceptibility to cold;
  • sunflower seeds, rapeseed, oat and poppy seeds - will increase the energy of birds, which is especially important during the mating season;
  • germinated seeds - just do not mix them with dry ones, this will quickly spoil both types;
  • grated carrots, boiled potatoes;
  • white bread soaked in milk or water;
  • ant eggs;
  • woodweed greens.

Chaffinch food should not remain in the feeder for a long time, it must be changed to a new one in a timely manner.

In order for the birds to sing more actively, it is necessary to increase the number of insects in the diet. It can be flour worms, special mixtures. Insects are required when the birds have hatched and begin to accustom the chicks to adult food.

Boiled potatoes for feeding finches

Do not constantly feed the bird with sunflower and hemp seeds. These products should be given in minimal quantities, only as part of a mixture with other grains. Otherwise, the bird may get sick, blind and die. If you notice signs of anxiety in a pet, you see that he constantly scratches his head on the bars of the cage, and his eyes begin to water, you need to drastically remove these foods from the diet. After that, it is important to wipe the finch's eyes with a weak solution of potassium permanganate, increase the amount of greens in the daily diet, add a little currant jam to the drinker.

Basic hygiene procedures

In order for the bird to bathe whenever it wants, to keep its plumage clean, it is necessary to put a container of water in the cage. Its contents should be changed regularly to avoid the multiplication of pathogens inside.

Do finches breed in captivity?

Finches can breed if kept at home, in a cage, under the right conditions for them.

Chaffinch nest

What you need:

  • a small box with a nest;
  • improvised nest materials - moss, lichen, twigs, tree bark, wool;
  • bring the male and female into one cage.

How will birds breed? First, the birds will begin to build a nest, it will take them about a week. After mating, the female will lay eggs in the nest, there can be from four to seven. Finch eggs are multi-colored, the female will incubate them for 11-13 days.

It should be noted that all the time while the female is incubating the eggs, the male sings songs melodiously. Newborn chicks squeak amusingly, whistle, their skin is covered with a rare fluff, it is wrinkled and red.

The chicks begin to fly out of the nest on their own about 14 days after hatching from the egg. To feed them, you need to offer the birds small larvae and other insects. Food rich in protein will speed up the growth of finch chicks.

Finch chick

Males guard the nest with the female and chicks very seriously. When danger appears, they immediately stand up to protect their family.

Interesting fact! The male chaffinch may participate in feeding foreign chicks.

After the first spring/summer egg laying, finches may lay another clutch. This does not happen before the end of summer. This time the female lays no more than three or four eggs. It should be noted that in order to incubate new offspring, the male builds a new nest for the female.

How to tame a bird?

It is not easy to tame a finch, if a pet was born in a cage, then it can get used to a person. If he was caught already as an adult, then it will be very difficult to tame him. Most likely, when a person appears, the bird will beat against the bars of the cage, trying to hide.

Tamed Chaffinch

In order for the bird to quickly get used to the owner, it must be kept in a cage upholstered with cloth for a long time, where the pet will feel relatively safe.

Finches can live in a cage with other birds, but they do not always do it with great pleasure. If the bird has a cocky character, then the meeting of two male finch can end in a fight.

Owner reviews of keeping finches at home

The chaffinch at home is a bird that needs attention. She is not often seen in the apartment.

Owner reviews of finches :

  • the bird sings beautifully, in different ways;
  • difficult to tame an adult;
  • does not require special care;
  • young chick easily adapts to life in captivity.

Keeping a finch at home is not just entertainment, it is a great responsibility for the bird and its life. If you want to have a songbird in the apartment, think about whether you can provide it with the necessary living conditions, properly organize the living space and diet.

Video: Finches.

How to feed the found chick, how many times a day

If you find a chick, the first thing you need to do is determine its species. Feeding granivorous, insectivorous and predatory chicks have their own differences. But in the early stages of feeding, you can use the same feeding methods, and then, after finding out what kind of bird you found, transfer the chick to the appropriate feeding.

Here is one of the most common feeding options for granivorous and insectivorous chicks. This nutrient mixture is well used for feeding for chicks and fledglings from the passerine family. To prepare our mixture, we need the following products: Boiled egg, low-fat cottage cheese, raw carrots, meat (beef, chicken, turkey), greens (lettuce, dandelion leaves, wood lice), hamarus and daphnia, Calcium gluconate (shell from boiled eggs) glycerophosphate , children's dry dairy-free porridge or boiled millet (without salt and fat on the water).

Action one. Boil the egg, free from the shell. We free the shell from the shell film. Grind the egg as much as possible, you can use a grater with small holes.

Second step. Boiled meat, it is better to take the pulp from the breast of a turkey or chicken and also chop or divide into fibers. The mixture will require meat 40 (for granivorous) and 60 grams (for insectivorous).

Third step. Take washed carrots of a small size, grate them on a fine grater, then squeeze the juice and we will use the remaining pulp.

Fourth step. We take not sour and not fatty cottage cheese. Cottage cheese should have 0% fat content, anything above is considered fat for poultry. We need 90-110 grams of cottage cheese. Sour cottage cheese must be boiled twice changing the water and then it will be suitable.

Step five. You can use greens to add the mixture, but you can do without it for the chicks. And so you can take the greens listed above, chop and add 1.5 teaspoons to the mixture.

Action six. To the above ingredients, add 1.5 -2 tsp. dairy-free porridge or boiled millet (well boiled, without salt and fat in the water).

Step seven. To the mixture we add the shell from the boiled egg, which must first be ground in a coffee grinder, plus one fourth of the crushed tablet of glycerophosphate. If it is not possible to find glycerophosphate, then you can purchase bone meal and add one fourth tsp. in powder form. At the very least, the shells are enough for now.

Step eight. We take chopped hamarus and daphnia and add about 1 tsp to the resulting mixture. Then we mix everything, it turns out a very thick, crumbly porridge, it should not stick to the fingers. If the mixture is sticky, you can add dairy-free porridge or powdered cereals.

From the resulting mixture we roll small balls no larger than a small pea, focus on the size of the chick's beak. You can feed 2-5 balls at a time and after each feeding drink plain water from an insulin syringe with a removable needle (without a needle) 4-6 drops.

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