The zebra finch originally came from Australia where the climate is warm and well suited for breeding. Once a pair of Zebra finches mate, they readily breed and are very prolific. They are extremely hardy birds and for a beginner because they are easy to care for. These birds will breed year round in captivity as long as the temperature is kept warm. Diet is also important to make sure they are prepared for laying eggs and raising young.
Before even purchasing the finches, the housing issue needs to be taken care of so the birds will have a cage ready for them. The cage should be a minimum of 16"x16" x 20". This will be enough room for one breeding pair of finches. They also like toys to play with to keep them healthy and active. Finches are very active birds and need things to keep them occupied. Any small bird toys such as ladders, swings or colorful things they can pull on or spin will keep the birds happy.
A nest will also be needed for the finches to lay eggs and raise young. There are a couple of different types of housing for these birds. A wooden nest box can be placed on the outside of the cage attached to an opening in the cage. Wooden nests are good if you are going to be doing a lot of breeding. They allow for easier cleaning then other types of nests. The woven basket nest is a much simpler and smaller nest. The advantage of this type is that it fits inside the cage and the birds are less likely to be disturbed. It is also easier to position in the top of the cage.
Once the cage has been set up, the next thing on the list is food. The main diet of finches is going to be seed-based. A good, quality seed can be purchased at the local pet store. The best seed for these birds should be one with vitamins and dried fruits and vegetables in it. This will meet most of their dietary requirements. Fresh fruits and vegetables also can be given to them. Especially leafy greens like spinach or green lettuce. Live foods are also needed and provide the finches with extra protein. Cuttlebone is another thing that should be placed into the cage with the finches. This will provide them with calcium that their bodies need and will also help when they start laying eggs.
Finches mature to breeding age quickly and at 11 to 12 weeks of age, are capable of mating. It is recommended to wait until the birds are between six to nine months old before allowing them to mate. It is easy to determine the sex of males and females with Zebra Finches. The males are the most colorful of the two sexes and are usually the louder singers. The health of the birds can usually be determined by how active the birds are. Birds that sing and jump from place to place show signs that they are healthy.
When the pair is in the process of mating, the male will start singing and bobbing up and down. The mating process of the male mounting the female can also be noticed during the mating dance.
Now is the time to place nesting material into a small container on the bottom of the cage. This can be small grass cuttings or small 2" pieces of cut string. Some pet stores sell small boxes of nesting material that can be placed in the cage with the birds. The male will start building a nest out of this material for the female to lay the eggs. After this, the female will lay one egg a day and will lay between three to eight eggs. When she has laid the last egg, they will start to sit on the eggs. The male finch will do most of the sitting on the eggs during the incubation period.
Hatching and rearing
They will continue to sit on the eggs for 14 days before the eggs start to hatch. Both parents will take on the responsibility of feeding the young. At three weeks of age, the fledglings will start to poke their heads out and come out of the nest. Once they have left the nest it should be removed so the the female will not try to start laying another clutch of eggs. The parents will continue to feed them for another week or two before they start to eat on their own.
These birds are very vocal and do a lot of singing and dancing. Because of the ease of breeding, these are good birds for young children to learn about life from. Caution should be taken with handling finches because they are small and their bones can break easily.