The photo to the left is two baby finches- note how many feathers they must grow in a matter of days. Supporting your birds nutritional needs gives you a healthy relationship with your birds.
The basal metabolic rate (BMR) of passerine birds is generally about 65% greater than that of non-passerines (parrots, etc), and their body temperature is about two degrees Centigrade higher (around 42°C). Zebra finches in particular may consume up to 30% of their body weight in food through the day. Inadequate food supply quickly results in hypoglycemia and death. Therefore the most important factor is to always have some form of food available in some form.
Finches are Passeriformes (perching birds), but while this is a classification- remember that traits are unique between species. Finches are foragers- they enjoy rummaging around in things, pecking at things and pulling on things. However they have a delicate nature and will ‘gently’ consume items; notoriously hulling only the seed on the top of their dishes (roughly 1cm deep). The husks left behind which can quickly conceal the fresh seed below and gives owners the illusion of a ‘full seed dish’. Therefore I recommend having multiple food dishes, as well as millet available. For more information on cage requirements, please see the Enclosures Section.
Because of their foraging nature, finches need an extremely varied diet preferably consisting of seasonal items. However this does not need to be complicated or time consuming to be successful.
You can adequately feed your finches a balanced diet with minimal or no extra financial investment. An advanced diet can be achieved by adding an extra 5.00 USD a month; preventing and curing disease- which is much cheaper than a vet bill or the pain of losing what will surely become a part of the family.
WHY ARE YOUR FINCHES SO LARGE?
I deliberately scoured the market to find healthy bodied birds with a large bone structure. They are about double to triple the size of normal ‘American’ finches you often find in the pet stores. These are often called ‘German’ or European’ finches- but no longer has any connotation to the geographical location. In these areas of the world the finches were bred for competitions where the size and shape was important- therefore they would selectively pick out the best stock for procreation.
These types of shows and competitions were not popular in the United States, and therefore the Zebra finch remained theoretically untouched as the majority of the finches introduced into the States were wild caught from Australia. Upon importation they were fed a sub par diet, and housed in unsuitable enclosures in pet stores. They became popular as a ‘starter pet’ for children- as they were inexpensive and easy to maintain, but were labeled as ‘frail’ and ‘skittish’ due to improper breeding and nutrition.
My finches came specifically from Austria, Germany or Holland, or otherwise portions of Europe and immediately go on my regimen to ensure a healthy bird and guarantee my young grow up hearty and strong breeding out any health conditions and streamlining my bloodlines.
However, recent findings suggest diet plays a more prominent role than selective breeding.
My most recent study was conducted on a series of pairs- where I used a Advanced Nutrition Protocol on the pairs 1 month prior to breeding and throughout the development of the young.
Advanced nutrition comprises a wide scale manipulation of the diet to enhance development. The details are explained throughout this website, but generally: delivery of nutrients was changed for faster absorption, protein content was increased by 20% 1 month prior to breeding, and protein was also increased by 10% for the clutch as they developed. Key vitamin compounds were added, which included essential amino acids, A, E, trace minerals, iodine and B vitamins.
This is a prominent case study which allows us to understand the importance of not only selective breeding for health and mass, but also for dietary needs. Here is a case study below:
grams) and Angelica (16.5 grams) (1 yr old) were given the Advanced
Nutrition protocol 1 month prior to copulation. They produced a clutch
of 6, and the clutch was supplemented with the same ratios of nutrients and proteins.
Conclusion: Resulted in a 10% overall increase in bodyweight of the young. The fledglings had increase in feather density estimated at 22% and advanced developmental rates- such as balance and coordination including perching and flying, approximately 3 days ahead of other groups. They showed a expedited weaning ability and stronger song characteristics. (The full study will be posted when the data is fully processed and second generation results are concluded).
Dr Laurie Hess, DMV, Dipl. ABVP-Avian; Owner, Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in New York, conducted a study on 135 pet birds and concluded:
57.8% consumed less vitamin A than recommended for maintenance
98.5% consumed less vitamin D3 than recommended for maintenance
21.4% consumed less vitamin E than recommended for maintenance
95.6% consumed diets containing less calcium than recommended for maintenance
The brain of the Zebra finch is incredibly complex, and similar to that of a human. There needs to be significant nutrition to feed the body as well as the mind which controls physical development. Jarvis (2005) confirms that the previously labelled "primitive" regions of avian brains are sophisticated processing machines- similar to those in mammals. These regions carry out sensory processing, motor control and learning. Studies have also shown that the avian and those in mammals brain regions are comparable in their genetic and biochemical machinery.
Because evolution is not linear, nor are the relationships in our animals kingdom. We share a great deal with these small creatures, including 98 per cent identical proteins, differing by just eight amino acids. They share the same sequence for language learning as humans and are capable of a great deal.
If you provide them with the resources to display all of their unique characteristics, you will be rewarded with a strong bond and fascinating pet.
Exclusive seed diets are nutritionally deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D3, E, and K, several B vitamins), certain amino acids, and some minerals including calcium, iodine, zinc, copper, and iron and most importantly proteins. Therefore we need to offer our birds a more varied diet to support their mental and physical development.
Therefore consumables should consist of more than just a store bought seed mixture. Many suggest that your finch should have 70% seed, and 30% fresh mixture. In the wild the birds eat quite a bit of sprouted seed, buds, insects, mineral supplements, etc. Therefore this is how the finches are fed here:
50% sprouted seed & fresh produce, 25% seed blend, 20% pellets, 5% additives (egg food)
For most hobby finch keepers, the cages contain:
2 containers mounted in the cage.. and 2 ceramic separate containers which are easily removable:
1. Seed Mix, 2. Egg Food/Produce/Sprouted Seed, 3. Water dish, 4. Herbal Tonic/Shell grit dish
Read more details on their enclosure including consumable setups HERE.
CONTAINER 1: Seed Mix
I feed my finches a seed mix called XtraVital by beaphar. Make sure to use a quality seed mix to provide them with a great starting point, it contains 20 different seeds. There are hundreds of finch mixes available as well as pellets. My only recommendation is to try and find a mix which does not contain grit (explained below) and as many varieties of seeds as possible. Whatever mix you choose, I also add Chia seeds, Sesame seeds, broken Pumpkin seeds, Lettuce, Pepper seeds and Flax seed- these are expensive items that are not usually added to mixes, but are highly valuable and not expensive for the hobby finch keeper.
CONTAINER 2: Egg Food/Proteins
Egg food (recipe on right in blue). Egg food must be removed from the cage after a couple hours so it does not spoil. You could also serve insects- however I find egg food more convenient for hobby finch keepers and extremely palatable to the birds.
Importance of Egg Food:
One whole medium sized eggshell yields about 750 - 800 mgs of calcium plus other microelements, i.e. magnesium, boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, sulphur, silicon, zinc, etc. There are 27 elements in total. (for those that question the ratio of protein- I would encourage you to seek out wild zebra finches and witness their consumption of insects).
A single egg has 7 grams of high-quality animal protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. The egg is a powerhouse of disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin.
But an animal protein is broken down differently in the system from plant based, so the final ingredient is Quinoa powder- carrying 14-18 g of protein per 100 g. It is a complete protein and is composed of all 9 essential amino acids including lysine and is highly digestible.
Amino acids are incredibly sensitive to light, air and heat- so any processed food (pellets) which claims to have the recommended amount is listed before processing. After processing, much is removed or negligible in the final product.
CONTAINER 3: Produce (and sprouted seed)
Sprouted seed could easily be one of the most important items you feed your bird (see below).
Daily, I give fresh chopped veggies and fruit (carrot, peppers, parsley, cilantro, squash, greens- or whatever is seasonal and looks fresh at the time. You are not required to chop the produce, as finches will enjoy a large leaf of lettuce or slice apricot but it is easier consumed in small pieces. Generally anything you find in the produce section other than avocados, garlic, onions and mushrooms). You can chop the veggies one day, and serve throughout the week.
Did you have fruit for breakfast? Save a bite.
Salad for Lunch? Place a few leaves of greens inside the cage.
Did you have a side of cooked green beans or carrots for dinner? Share it.
Another form of 'produce' to birds is flowers- the rich pollen from safe flowers has profound nutritional benefits aside from the mental and physical stimulation. I often provide them with fresh flowers to devour a few times a week. I simply 'plant' their seed mix, and as the flowers develop I place them on the bottom of the enclosure. Please refer to safe plants lists before adding live plant material to your enclosure.
The most valuable of the produce items are Apricots, Mustard Greens, Kale, Collard greens, Baby lettuce mix (not romaine), Carrots, Peppers, Zucchini, Turnip tops, Winter Squashes and Herbs.
To sprout seed: (you can see instruction in blue on the right hand side of the page). You will soak the seed until it sprouts. It is a very simple process that has a plethora of benefits.
Place a few tablespoons of seed in a mesh strainer and rinse well. Place the strainer in a bowl and cover will water and a dash of apple cider vinegar (to prevent bacteria growth). Let sit overnight. In the morning, rinse the seed well again and cover with water. Rinse and cover with water 3 times during the day. On day three, strain the seed and poor into a shallow dish with paper towel underneath to retain moisture, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let sit for another 24 hours. Sprouted seed will last for 7 days in the fridge. The seed should have no odor- if it smells like ammonia, discard immediately.
* Be sure that hard foods like squash and carrots are shredded so they can be easily consumed by their delicate beaks. Fruit and vegetables should not remain in the cage for extended period otherwise it will rot.
CONTAINER 4: Water
Bottled mineral water or tap water is fine but do not use distilled water as basic minerals have been removed and it is unstable.
It is generally accepted supplements are added to water or food. Used as a pre-breeding fitness and stamina builder, or as a means of maintaining a healthy bird. There are a multitude of options available and they differ by country, but the fact remains it is difficult to determine what dosage to administer and if the supplement benefits the birds.
In the aviary for breeding finches I supplement the water two to three times a week (on days in which they don’t get the above extras). I rotate between Harisons Bird Builder (specifically made for seed eating birds), and Labafers Multivitamins. These are what is available here- other brands may be better, or available in your area.
Ceramic container for easy administering without modifying your existing enclosure and do not harbor bacteria like plastic:
This is the wet food blend in the morning so it is the first thing they consume, for two of my breeder pairs currently separated from the aviary. Egg food, fresh produce and sprouted seed mix.
The high metabolism of the finch requires that food constantly be available therefore they have a adaptation referred to as the ‘crop’. The crop is a holding area for food until the stomach is ready to digest it.
The consumables then pass to the stomach (gizzard) where acid is secreted and keratin plates grind the seeds. If grit (stones) was consumed, it is believed to aid in the grinding process. As consumables are manipulated in the gizzard, the grit is worn down and then passed through the digestive tract.
Grit is often small stones, and sea shells. Each of those small rocks, and shells is filled with various minerals and with wild active birds passes through the system without causing issue. However with many stressed, sedentary captive birds this can exasperate health issues.
Consumables provide both supplementation and essential stimulation.
The cuddlebone A perfect example of this is the cuddlebone. Cuttlebone, also known as cuttlefish bone, is a hard, brittle internal structure found in cuttlefish. It is dried and hung from the cage. Providing minerals, calcium, promoting beak trimming/health and nervous system stimulation which can prevent aggression and boredom.
Another good example is spray millet. Spray Millet can be purchased at any pet store, and is the 'candy' of the bird world. Highly digestible and fatty- this item gives them an energy boost that is enjoyable to consume. There are 'food clips' that can be purchased at many pet stores allowing you to place millet in interesting areas of the enclosure. Note that millet is messy- so consider getting a seed guard (piece of clear plastic) near the location the millet is hung.
If there is one thing that no one ever addresses, it is live food. Fresh insects are an important part of the diet in the wild- especially during breeding season. I find that is nearly impossible to get hobby pet finch owners to keep meal worms or larvae in the fridge and feed it to their finches. Th Egg Food serves as an alternate source of heavy animal proteins. On occasion (especially during breeding season to keep birds occupied and deter territorial behavior), I will give Aphids on a big flower blossom.
Stress and disease are very real to these little birds, and visible symptoms often mean it has progressed to an irreversible state. I provide them with a opportunity to address health issues, vitamin deficiencies and illness before it can effect their quality of life through a formulated supplement which is always available in the cage.
Please see bottom of this page for ordering information.
NOTE* I see there are similar mixes on the market, but they are not as extensive or digestible as the mix I am offering. They have large piece of root and otherwise that has been processed or bleached- which cannot be consumed properly, and offers no beneficial nutrients. Pleas do your research before ordering such products... note the size of my ingredients to the right (small enough for even the tiniest fledglings):
I place a small dish of this in a discrete location of the cage (away from droppings) and refill accordingly. They may go days without touching it, and then selectively pick through consuming specific herbs. That is my cue to increase the heat in the enclosure increasing the metabolic rate and expediting the processing of the medicinal herbs.
Astragalus, Apricot, Bee Pollen, Carrot, Chili Pepper, Dandelion, Echinacea, Ginger root, Wheat-Oat-Barley-Spelt and Millet Grasses, Hibiscus, Kelp, Lemon rind, Lemongrass, Licorice root, Olive leaf, Pau d'Acro, Peppermint, Plantain leaf, Red Clover Blossom, Spirulina, Thyme and Wormwood.
HERBAL TONIC © BENEFITS:
For more information on self medication, please see this website: Astorwilliam
I produce large batches and provide a supply for bird adopted from Fetching Finches. However many desire the protocol, and therefore Herbal Tonic° can be purchased for $8.00 usd per 3 grams (plus 6.00 shipping and handling in the continental united states).
For purchase of Herbal Tonicº
Health is the measure of functional or metabolic efficiency in a organism- the general condition of not just your feathered friends body, but also the mind.
You need to think beyond the consumable diet and understand the anatomical structure, to prevent toxicity, malnutrition, and stress.
red millet, nyger, white millet, canary grass, buckwheat, hemp, paddy rice, peeled oats, wild turnip, rolled oats, sorghum, safflower, wheat, linseed, sesame, lettuce, flax, chia and hemp.For flavor there is citrus, dried honey and rosehips. There is added Vit A / D3, Calcium, Sodium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Iron, Iodine, Copper, Manganese & Zinc and Echinacea.
The seed blend I sprout is less complex: nyger, white millet, panorama millet, red millet, canary seed, flax and linseed
1 Hardboiled Egg (preferably organic)
2 tsp Quinoa Powder (complete protein with 9 amino acids)
Vitamin supplement (Thrive by Morningbird)
Kelp (optional, but note that finches need Iodine- if this is contained in your multivitamin then omit, if not then sprinkle a little in the mix)
Peel the egg and place the shells on a microwave safe dish. Microwave the shell for 3 minutes.
Let the shells cool, and place in mortar and pestle, coffee grinder, or other means to crush them into a powder.
Place ingredients in a shallow bowl and crush with a fork until it becomes a fine crumbly mixture. (Or use potato masher, garlic press or Eurochopper).
Keep refrigerated in air tight container for up to 3 days. To serve: place in feeding dish separately (do not mix with dry seed) and remove from cage within 2 hours. If your birds are new the the idea of egg food, you can add some millet over the top, however birds catch on very quickly and will enjoy the protein.
place a 2 tablespoons of commercial bird seed in a mesh strainer and rinse well.
(or in a jar or cup of water)
Day 1: Place the strainer in a bowl and cover will water and a dash of vinegar (to prevent bacteria growth). Let sit overnight.
Day 2: In the morning, rinse the seed well again and cover with water.
Rinse and cover with water 3 times during the day (approximately).
If it starts to grow too large, refrigerate or feed the 'grass' trimmings to your feathered friend.
"No matter how you 'Cut it'. . . its all good.'
If there is no visible sprouting you may have seeds which have been genetically altered and are unable to sprout. If so, change seed mixture.
Packets are 5 grams and shipped anywhere in the world (or if Dubai they are delivered at no extra cost). I recommend purchasing two packets as birds will select items specific items to self-medicate and leave the remainder. You should be able to replenish the entire mixture so they can select items accordingly.
Herbal Tonic• is suitable for all small-medium size birds including canaries, budgies, lovebirds and cockatiels. Individual herbs are not available, only sold as mix.
This container should be small, as if it is too large the birds will perch in the container and defecate, which exposes the mix to bacteria.