Keeping Pet Finches

There’s no point embarking on any kind of pet-keeping half-heartedly. Canaries and the commoner pet finches are easy to look after, but that doesn’t mean you can just bring them home and then forget them. Finches require daily feeding, plenty of distraction and regular cleaning.

Small birds are fragile little things - something you need to bear in mind at all times. If you make sudden movements, peer down on their cage from above, or make a lot of noise, it will make the finches nervous. Moving the cage around will cause stress too, so don’t relocate it on a whim - make sure it’s in a good, permanent position. The birds won’t take kindly to having their cages hoisted into bedrooms or plonked on garden tables at the whim of a restless owner.


canary nesting
A nesting Canary

Speaking to your pet birds in a quiet, calm voice will help you bond with them. They will come to identify your voice and associate it with good things such as fresh food. Over time they will get used to your hands, enabling you to sort out things in the cage without causing a flap. The birds will put their heads to one side and listen to you when you speak, responding with chirps and whistles, but they don’t have the power of mimicry, no matter how patient you are!

Keeping Your Finches Happy

Other sections of this guide go into more detail, but these are the basic requirements for happy birds:

  • A suitably sized, well-designed and regularly cleaned cage in a warm room (or a well-constructed aviary with an enclosed area for roosting)
  • A well-balanced and varied diet
  • Fresh, clean water for drinking and bathing
  • Cage accessories for comfort and stimulation
  • A stress-free environment (no predatory cats, no all-night lights, no children prodding things into the cage, etc)
  • Company – other finches, or just you
  • Horizontal cage space for flight

orange-faced canary
A Canary is an easy bird to keep, as long as you address some simple, fundamental requirements

Canary and Pet Finch Keeping Tips for Beginners

Everything mentioned in this simple ‘beginner’s list’ is covered in greater detail elsewhere in this guide:

  • Buy your birds from a reputable breeder.
  • Don’t buy a bird that’s less than eight weeks old.
  • If you want a Canary that sings well, make sure the ones you are looking at are ‘song’ birds rather than ‘colour’ or ‘type’ birds (i.e. ones bred for their plumage or shape rather than their voice). They also need to be male.
  • If buying from a pet store, ask how old the finches are. If the store isn’t sure, it’s best not to buy from them. Shop birds might have been in the cage for a long time without a buyer, and you want to avoid bringing home a bird more than six months old, as it will be set in its ways and harder to settle in.
  • Have a fully-equipped cage set up and waiting for the new birds, and make sure it’s in a suitable location.
  • If choosing two birds to live together, it needs to be a cock/hen pair, otherwise you’ll face constant squabbling. If you’re keeping lots of birds, you’ll need lots of space.
  • Canaries are the only commonly available pet finch that can be kept alone in a cage.
  • Feed your birds every day with a mixture of seeds and fresh food. Go easy on the treats, including oily seeds such as millet.
  • Expect a certain amount of mess from scattered seed husks and moulted feathers.
  • Expect a certain amount of noise. Finches are not squawkers like parrots and budgies, but they will still add a lot of background noise where there was none before. The vast majority of their repertoire is a pleasant musical twittering, but there are still a few bouts of angry chirping.

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