Finches are one of the most common birds and have a long history of being kept for their beauty and lovely vocalizations. The society finch was being bred in China at least 500 years ago. Wealthy members of Victorian Britain once kept finches as status symbols in their homes to liven the decor. Although they do not bond to humans like parakeets and parrots do, finches are considered excellent pets. They learn to tolerate the presence of people but tend not to like being touched or handled. In fact, finches prefer the company of other finches rather than that of humans. Although finches require daily care and observation, they don't mind if you go to work and leave them with their pals all day.
The word finch has come to mean 'any variety of small seed-eating birds with a stout bill.' The name finch has been applied to at least 11 different families of birds around the world, although there is really only one group of 'true finches', the taxonomic family Fringillidate. Surprisingly, this family includes the popular canary, which few people would think of as a finch. My Dad often refers to them as canaries and we buy birdfood that is labeled for finches and canaries. Canaries are actually 'true finches'. Finches weigh from 7 to 30 grams and their length is between 3 and 8 inches. They have beaks that are designed for seed husking, although most of them eat insects as well.
Finches have relatively short lives and tend to live from 4 to 9 years. Finches are sensitive birds and although they can come to feel comfortable around humans, they do not enjoy being scratched or held. A healthy finch will be alert and active. They are busy birds, moving about their enclosure constantly. Most finches make peeps and beeps throughout the day and some may sing in the mornings and evenings. Males are more brightly colored than females. They are more aggressive and sing in courtship. Females don't sing and they do lay eggs. Finches will learn to recognize you and perhaps even interact with you, but they will always prefer other finches for company. You should always have at least two finches. You can teach your finch to trust you and maybe even fly to your fingers. You will have to spend a lot of time near the cage, sitting quietly to start with so that the finch learns not to worry about your presence. Then begin offering them treats. I have been reading my books right near them and they are already comfortable with me. They quiet down when Thumper comes by for they are still not sure of her, but it doesn't take long and they resume their activity, for she sits nearby as if protecting them.
In caring for finches, their cage should be longer than it is high, leaving open space for zipping back and forth. Finches need sunlight so keeping a cage near a sunny window that isn't drafty is excellent. In the warmer months, moving the cage onto a patio or other safe and sunny place is wonderful for finches. Sunlight is an important factor in the health and well-being of the little birds. Just make sure the cage is protected from direct sunlight and that some part of the cage remains in the shade. Perches should be no more than 3/8 to 1/2 inches wide. Plastic perches should be avoided for it will make them difficult for the birds to grasp. Take care not to place them over food and water bowls so that the birds do not defecate in them. Four or five perches in a cage are sufficient. Newspaper is best for the bottom of cages. Plastic is the least desirable choice for bowls; stainless steel is better. A ceramic or stainless steel bowl should also be left out for bathing. Cage covers should not have frayed edges or loose strings as finches searching for nesting material can get tangled in the thread and injure themselves. Lighting is important, especially if you are breeding finches. Length of day is a critical factor in giving finches time to eat enough to maintain energy required to raise a brood of chicks. Natural light is a means of generating esential vitamins and overall well-being. Some finches will not come into their full colors unless they have enough natural light. For nesting, many finches prefer a wicker-type nest. Unlike parrots, parakeets and cockatiels, finches don't really play with toys, but ours love the swing.
Keeping too many birds in your cage is an easy way to instantly have cleaning issues. Overcrowded cages are not only dirty but dangerous. Birds can easily get ill and may even get aggressive with one another. Grape seed extract makes a wonderful safe disinfectant. If you lose a finch outside, chances are you won't get it back. Getting lost outside is pretty much a death sentence for these little birds. If your lost finch is still around and has a mate, you can put the cage outside and see if the finch will come back to land on top of it.
Every day you should supply your finches with a variety of fresh seeds, dark green, leafy vegetables (we use spring greens) chopped orange vegetables, a variety of fresh fruit, fresh water, calcium and gritt. Finches love millet spray. Spinach greens may provide a bath in wet leaves. Carrots, yams, peas, pumpkin and cucumbers can be diced into small pieces as well as apples, melon and grapes. You can add almost any fruit or vegetable except avocados, which are toxic to birds. Stay away from sugar, salt, fatty human foods, chocolate, avocado and alcohol and caffeinated beverages. Eggs are another great supplement for finches. Not only are they high in protein, but if you leave the shell as part of the package, they also have the added benefit of calcium. Boil eggs for at least half an hour before serving in order to kill any bacteria that might be in the egg. The boiled egg can be crushed, shell and all, and served. Eggs should be only an occasional treat. Some 'people food' that can be beneficial can be found in bread soaked in milk, cheese, and whole wheat bread. As for live food, mealworms and fruit flies are one of the most common addition to finch diets, as are wax worms and crickets.