fetching finches

Click here to edit subtitle

ENCLOSURES FOR THE HOBBY FINCH KEEPER

Designing animal enclosures is not a simple process. A suitable environment for any animal encompasses a wide range of needs in all stages of life.

It should provide space in which the birds can express their physical and social behavior. Furthermore, it should be secure and sufficiently hygienic to prevent disease. A poor environment is likely to lead to poor health, stress, behavior problems and failure to thrive.

Im going out on a limb here, but more important than the cage size is the design. Many people assume ‘more is better’ but that just isn’t the case. I have seen massive cages which are counterproductive and not conductive to healthy birds.
 
Try to find an enclosure that is longer than it is high and has no more than half inch bar spacing.
Suitable cage size for a single pair is 18x18x24 however there are many possibilities, as long as they have 2 sq ft of space. Notice I said sq ft, not cubic feet. This is a common teaching that the birds desire to fly horizontal rather than vertical.

However, when I observed wild finches I noticed the flight patterns were spastic-  flying vertically approximately 35% of the time. I returned to my study and modified one of the cages to simulate a narrow enclosure. After 3 months they too were flying vertically, and ‘hovering’. They were able to lift off as if they were a helicopter and touch down on an adjacent perch.
 
You have to work twice as hard to flap your wings and fly vertical than horizontal. Upon examination, the supplemented group in the vertical cage had a significant increase in muscle mass from the exercise, while the control group was only a minor increase from improved supplementation.
This leaves a definite possibility to have a variety of cages and larger selection of shape and style options. My advise is to spend a few more dollars to get the better looking cage. Human physiology suggests that if you enjoy something, you will take better care of it. So buy a cage that fits with your home décor, and buy decorations for the cage that make it attractive. You will not regret it.
“One pair of hand raised zebra finches is more entertaining than my outdoor aviary with 6 Gouldians” -jb.

FOOD DISHES:
Most single pair finch cages come with two feeding dishes. One for water, and one for food. But as explained in the Advanced Nutrition section, this usually will not suffice. Because of the high metabolic rate, and the variation in the diet I recommend having at least 4 feeding containers. Two of which do not have to be mounted on the cage. Instead you can use small ceramic dishes- the Japanese soy sauce dishes work well.
Mounted dish 1: Water
Mounted dish 2: Seed Mixture
Ceramic dish 1: Wet food (fresh produce, sprouted seed and egg food)
Ceramic dish 2: Crushed shell and Herbal Tonic°

 
BEDDING:
Cages can be found at any pet store- most commonly with bar spacing of 3/8 in and three doors. Two doors access the food dishes and the third is for human access. They will usually be equipped with a grate on the bottom, and a sliding base tray for easy cleaning.
 
Because they are foragers- they will often bounce around on the base of the cage to find food or nesting material. The claim is that the grates are hard on a finches feet causing joint issues, and people remove them to and place wood chips or paper substrate. Being able to comfortably move around the base of the cage provides them with a rewarding activity, similar to how they behave in the wild.

But if you observe finches in the wild, they will actually stay for hours balancing on a single blade of grass. It is the variation in perches and branches available that will ensure proper joint health. Therefore I advise against removing the grate as it allows fecal matter to accumulate and spilled food can cause bacteria growth.
 
So for hobby pet finch keeper for the convenience of cleaning, I recommend leaving the grate on the bottom, and then placing paper in the tray for easy removal. Do remember, finch feces should be odorless. Please see this website for more information on fecal matter.
PERCHES/BRANCHES:
Small cages are made worse by people placing two long dowels in the center of the cage. This causes a slew of health and mental issues.
 
The mental stimulation provided by real branches is non-debatable, and saves the finches from arthritis and sores. Can you imagine standing in the same place, in the same shoes all day?
 
Please provide real branches (non toxic wood list here), and leave room for flight (even a flutter here and there). Even a small cage can be made more suitable by the addition of some real branches of varying sizes located on either long side of the cage- one toward the top, and one centered lower.
 
Make sure when designing your cage look at your cage from a birds eye view, ensuring the branches don’t vertically overlap other branches or food dishes (see image to the right). As the birds sit, their feces can easily soil things beneath them (other birds, branches, water dishes, etc). This only create more maintenance for you as the owner.
If you need assistance creating a positive enclosure, I am available to help. You can see examples and contact me here to create a custom cage.
 
DECORATION:
Make sure to decorate your enclosure. Plastic plants are best- there is concern the birds may shred silk plants. It is better to place plant outside the enclosure as this still provides the illusion of 'being in the threes' but doesn't take up valuable real estate inside the cage. Live plants are fine, as long as they are non toxic. However the soil (which often has fertilizer or pesticides in it) with foraging birds creates a huge mess and it is nearly impossible to get feces off limbs and leaves.

I also create at least one structure on the floor of the cage which can be removed through the main access door for cleaning (see images to the right).
 
Rock mound: I used tumbled rocks so they have a smooth surface so excrement can easily be washed off. I made a wire frame, and glued the rocks to the surface.
 
Concrete stand with Shells: I mounded concrete leaving a hole for plastic vegetation. Can also be hosed off, or thrown in the dishwasher. I often use concrete, and then attach a facade of assorted stones or shells.
 
Firewood: easily purchased untreated firewood provides an interesting perching station. After these become heavily soiled I just dispose of them.


I use a combination of grounded and hanging items- for example this ‘tree stalk’ actually hangs from the ceiling of the cage using washers and a screw so it can easily be removed and cleaned.

PHYSICAL MOTIVATION:
Please provide your finches with entertainment in the form of found objects.  Long grass clippings to carry around, flowers to gnaw, or nesting material. These items can just be placed on the cage floor for a couple days worth of enjoyment.
 
CLEANING:
Make sure you keep your cage clean.  F10 once a month- involves removing birds and deep cleaning the cage and ornaments. Remember- whatever you put in the cage at some point needs to be cleaned- maybe removed. So use things that are washable.

F10 is a veterinary grade cleaner that is positively amazing. They make three important products:
Hard surface cleaner with suds (for areas that can be rinsed off), disinfectant (for areas that cannot be rinsed) and fogger (if you have a area which has been infected with a disease). I dont recommend any other product, details can be found HERE.

NEW BREEDER FLIGHT ENCLOSURE:

New cage before it will be moved to aviary. It will be seen from a angle- like this image from the inside of the home. 3 pair will comfortably be housed here.

This is a front view- as if you were standing in the aviary. There is also a area on the table left open for a small cage when integrating new birds. This cage should hold three pair comfortably.

ENCLOSURE SIZE/ POPULATION:
There is a direct correlation of population density on development and reproduction. Finches in lower density conditions produced significantly larger birds, longer song motifs with more syllables and increased surviving offspring. The results of numerous studies prove that population density affects various aspects of Zebra Finch development, with birds living in low population density conditions having an advantage over those living under higher population density conditions. This should be considered when created an aviary environment.

ADDRESSING QUARANTINE:

Quarantine cages are a necessity. They can be something as simple as a old aquarium, to a small bird cage. But often quarantine happens at the least expected time.... you need to be able to medicate, introduce or separate birds. Therefore it is advisable to have a suitable enclosure in a separate area that is amicable to the lifestyle a finch is accustomed too. Make natural branches of varying size, cuddle bone and aesthetic items so they don't feel as if it is a prison. Make sure however that any of these items can be washed or thrown away at a moments notice to prevent the ailments from spreading.

As an example, I use multiple different cages as quarantine cages, here are a few examples:

Note that none of the branches overlap each other- so feces doesn't recontaminate while in quarantine. I added a 'rustic' approach to this, using some rocks and artificial pine branches to create an aesthetic appeal for the birds. This stimulates them and gives them a feeling of safety. 

When (or if) your bird needs a quarantine cage, don't make the cage a 'prison'. Spend a few extra minutes designing it to make their stay a little bit more enjoyable. There is a rock pile in the middle of the enclosure with another very small branch that gives them ample play room and easy access to the supplements in the small containers below.

Thank you for contacting us. We will get back to you as soon as possible
Oops. An error occurred.
Click here to try again.

Breeder Flight Enclosure: 45x75x90

A larger flight enclosure per pair means better physical and mental health. This finch aviary is meant for 1 pair of Jumbo Zebra finches.



Side of Breeder Flight Enclosure






Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.
-Victor Hugo
























Breeder Flight Enclosure from the top- note that the branches do not overlap other perches or food and water dishes. This prevents items from being soiled, and makes cleaning much easier.

ENCLOSURE ELEMENTS:

Elements of the enclosure: plastic plants in a pile of smooth rocks (which have been glued together), and another with plastic plants in cement. Both items are removable and can be easily rinsed off.

These elements are themed as a Pine forest, and seascape (made from sea shells). Both of which can be soaked, washed, etc.

Another option would be to go to the reptile section of your pet store- they will have artificial plants and stones to be used in terrariums.
Second breeder flight cage- awaiting design- center gate will be removed to create a large enclosure for 3 pairs of zebra finches (45x150x90cm). It will be placed on a large table with natural sunlight in the aviary area.

After the two cages were attached, I maintained the continuity of the design- but making the left side more 'Ocean' themed going from rock and tree to shells and vine.
Longines (F) and Omega (LB) in the quarantine cage while their permanent enclosure is modified.