Zebra Finch FAQs

12 05/08 | 19:12Zebra Finch Husbandry

WHERE DOES THE ZEBRA FINCH ORIGINALLY COME FROM?

The Zebra Finch originates in Australia, however there have been no importations from Australia for several decades, and all stock in Europe are the result of many generations of captive breeding. Therefore Zebra Finches can be considered as domesticated.

DOES THE ZEBRA FINCH ONLY EXIST IN ONE COLOUR FORM?

No! In common with many other birds of Australian origin, it now comes in a wide range of colour forms (mutations). New mutations and combinations still from time to time occur. A number of colour forms are illustrated in the poster available from the Zebra Finch Society

 

GENERAL MANAGEMENT:

ARE ZEBRA FINCHES EASY TO KEEP?

Zebra Finches are very easy to maintain and breed. They can be considered an ideal bird for the newcomer to aviculture.

WHAT IS A SUITABLE FOOD FOR ZEBRA FINCHES,DIET?

Zebra Finches are primarily seedeaters, and the BASIC diet consists of millets, and clean water. However, they will do better if certain additional materials are available. For example, mineralised or small oyster shell grit, crushed baked eggshell, cuttlefish bone should always be available. Additional seeds like small canary will also be taken, and small amounts of other tonic seeds like niger. A number of proprietary seed mixtures are on the market. Millet in the form of millet sprays is often a particular treat. Zebra finches will also take delight in clean, contamination free, chickweed and seeding grasses.

DO ZEBRA FINCHES NEED HEAT?

In spite of their Australian origins, Zebra Finches can stand quite low temperatures (below freezing) if some shelter is available. They do NOT enjoy and thrive in draughty and damp conditions. They can be housed in outside aviaries all year round. However, when breeding it is advisable that the temperature does not fall below a minimum of about 5oC (41oF), and 10oC (50oF) is better.

CAN COCK AND HEN ZEBRA FINCHES BE KEPT TOGETHER?

Yes. However this is better in an aviary environment than in cages. The extra space gives more room for manoeuvre when the occasional bout of "chasing" takes place. In cages, especially when preparing for breeding, and if the pairs are intended for exhibiting, it is more usual to separate the sexes

 

BREEDING ZEBRA FINCHES:

AT WHAT AGE ARE ZEBRA FINCHES ABLE TO BREED?

Zebra Finches are capable of breeding from a very young age, even at 3 months old. However it is better if they are allowed to attain a greater level of maturity. The ideal time seems to be between 9 and 30 months of age for optimum breeding success. Generally cocks have a higher fertility potential than hens at ages greater than 30 months.

WHAT CONDITIONS ARE NECESSARY FOR BREEDING ZEBRA FINCHES?

Zebra Finches will breed in cage or aviary very readily at any time of the year. It is best not to allow Zebra Finches to breed in the coldest weather, because of possible problems for the hen in successfully laying her eggs. Length of daylight is a key factor in both the prospective parents achieving breeding condition, and for the bringing up of chicks. A daylight length of at least 14 hours is preferable. In an aviary a small colony of Zebra Finches can be housed and bred, provided a number of nest boxes are provided (preferably in excess of the number of breeding pairs!). However, for controlled breeding for specific colours and for exhibition birds, single pairs in a cage are the preferred route.

 

WHAT SIZED CAGES ARE NEEDED FOR BREEDING?

The smallest recommended cage for breeding with a single pair of Zebra Finches is 18 inches (45cm) long x 15 inches (38cm) high x 12 inches (30cm) deep, but larger is better. At least two perches should be provided.

WHAT TYPE OF NEST BOX SHOULD BE USED?

Zebra Finches will use many types of nesting receptacle, including finch baskets. However a simple cubic box shape 4.5 - 5 inches tall, high, and deep, can readily be constructed. The top half of the front should be removed to allow access to the nest, and a hinged lid makes for easy inspection by the breeder. Plywood is a frequently used material, but disposable ones made of fluted cardboard are now commercially available.

WHAT TYPE OF NESTING MATERIAL SHOULD BE PROVIDED?

Most Zebra Finches are not good architects. The nest box should be filled to about half way with soft hay and grasses. Additional soft material should be available to enable the pair to complete the nest to their liking. Once egg laying has commenced (typically 5-7 days after introduction of the nest box), remove all surplus nesting material. Zebra Finches are notorious for building "sandwich" nests, that it constructing another nest on top of their eggs!

HOW LONG IS INCUBATION?

Incubation usually starts at about the time the 3rd egg is laid, and hatching begins about 12 days later. However there is some variability in this, so never be in too much hurry to remove eggs that haven’t hatched. A typical clutch size is about 5 eggs, but may be as many as 8, so it often happens that the hatching process takes place over 3-4 days.

 

REARING CHICKS:

DO I NEED TO FEED MY ZEBRAS AND THEIR CHICKS EXTRA FOODS?

It is normal to provide some form of soft food in addition to the seed mixture when Zebra Finches are breeding, and especially when rearing chicks. Typically this is an egg containing mixture, and a number of good proprietary brands are available commercially. A key factor is the protein content: protein promotes both body and feather growth in the chicks.

WHEN DO ZEBRA FINCHES LEAVE THE NEST?

Typically at about 19 - 21 days old. Sometimes chicks are reluctant to take the plunge and take a day or two longer, especially in aviaries. Normally the chicks crash about in their first attempts to fly. Most chicks manage to return to the nest by the end of the first day out.

SHOULD I RING MY CHICKS?

Ringing chicks is predominantly to enable identification. Two types of leg ring are used; "closed" rings and "split" rings. Both should be of a size recommended for Zebra Finches.

Closed rings need to be put onto the leg of the chick at about 8-10 days old. They cannot be removed, and serve as a lifelong identification. Members of the Zebra Finch Society can obtain closed rings, which are colour coded for year on a seven-year cycle. Each ring has the member’s individual membership code number, and a sequential number (starting with 01). If you intend to exhibit your birds, these rings are desirable

Split rings, as the name implies, can be put onto the bird at any time - even as an adult - with the aid of a special tool.

WHEN CAN ZEBRA FINCH CHICKS BE REMOVED FROM THEIR PARENTS?

As a general rule, Zebra Finches can be removed from their parents at 5 - 6 weeks old. However, the key rule is to see that they are able to feed themselves adequately.

EXHIBITING ZEBRA FINCHES:

In the UK, Zebra Finches are exhibited in pairs, cock and hen, of the same mutation. In many other parts of the world single birds can be shown.

WHAT SORT OF SHOW CAGE DO I NEED TO BE ABLE TO SHOW ?.

In the UK, there is a standard show cage for Zebra Finches. These are commercially available, or can be made by a skilled handy man to the defined specifications laid down by the Zebra Finch Society.

HOW SHOULD I GO ABOUT IT ?.

Join your local Cage Bird Society and the Zebra Finch Society. Local CBS's often have member's shows as well as an open show. You can then obtain experience at both these levels before attempting the specialist Zebra Finch Shows organised by the ZFS and the Area Zebra Finch Societies. 

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ALL THE ABOVE TOPICS?

All new members of the Zebra Finch Society receive a ''Starter Pack'' which gives all the above information, and more , in greater detail, in fact as a Society we have included the ''Starter Pack'' as a free down load on this site, Simply start at the first page in the- Zebra Finch Section, entitled 'Housing Zebra Finches', and then download all the pages until you reach the page, 'Judging Zebra Finches', and there you have it, the ''Complete Starter Pack'' just a click away. If you wish to find out any more information on the Zebra Finch Society then you can contact our General Secretary, who's details can be found under the section, 'The Society, ZFS officials' or simply use our E-Mail Contact service which can be found under the 'Contact Section'.   Image

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