Finches are high-energy animals and need to be able to fly inside the cage in order to stay healthy. An appropriate finch cage is wider than it is tall to provide ample space for flying from perch to perch. The minimum size cage required for one pair of zebras is 24"L x 18"W x 18"H. Bar spacing should be no more than 1¼ - 2" apart to prevent the bird from getting caught between the wires. Zebra finches are social birds, and need the company of other zebras. Pairs can be kept with other species of softbills or finches that are similar in size and temperament as long as the cage is large enough. A large flight cage or aviary would be appropriate for this situation.
Keep at least two or three perches in the cage, but don't crowd the cage with too many accessories, or there will be little room left for flying. Choose perches of varying widths and textures; this helps to keep your bird's feet stay healthy and strong. Make sure that all the perches are wide enough for the bird to easily maintain its balance while using them.
Zebra finches breed very readily in captivity, so no nests should be placed in the cage or aviary unless breeding is desired. They are quite prolific and will lay eggs in nearly any size nest, even their own food cups! Because of this readiness, the owner of these finches should decide whether to keep opposite or same sex pairs. Owning a breeding pair of zebras requires the purchase of additional cages (maturing chicks should be removed from their parents' cage at six weeks old) and dietary supplements, so anyone wishing to breed these animals should research the subject before beginning, as well as consult with their avian veterinarian.
Zebras can be kept at average household temperatures, but be sure to avoid fluctuations in temperature and drafts. Place the finch cage off of the ground and away from drafty areas such as doorways, vents or windows.
You may wish to cover your bird's cage at night, or move their cage to a quiet room for sleeping. Covering the cage, or placing it in a quiet area helps your bird to get the rest it needs to stay healthy. Even quiet noise in a room such as a television or computer can disturb your bird's rest, and keep it from getting a healthy amount of sleep. If the cage is in an area that is used after your bird's bedtime, it is beneficial to move the cage to a quieter room at night.
The natural diet of zebra finches consists of grains, green seeds, vegetation and an occasional insect. Your bird can best be cared for by providing a variety of foods. Pellet foods and seed mixes can be fed as a daily base diet. We are currently feeding our birds Kaytee™ Rainbow Exact and Kaytee™ Forti-Diet. It is better not to feed pellets or seeds exclusively, because it does not provide proper nutrition and is boring for the bird.
It is important to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your bird's diet. Some healthy fruits include apples, grapes, berries and melons. Vegetables and greens such cress, chickweed, grass seedlings, kale, romaine lettuce, carrot and broccoli are nutritious foods. When feeding fresh foods, be sure to remove anything uneaten after a few hours so that the food does not spoil, and to wash the dishes thoroughly before using them again.
You can also offer your bird insects as a treat. A variety of live and dried insects are available at That Fish Place. Eggfood (either chopped hard-boiled egg or commercially prepared eggfood) is an excellent source of protein for birds who will not accept insects, but should be offered no more than two times per week to non-breeding birds.
Grooming and Hygiene
Birds like to bathe, but different individuals prefer to bathe in different ways. Some like to bathe in a shallow dish, some like to be sprayed with a fine mist. Offering your finch the chance to bathe helps it maintain healthy, beautiful plumage.
Clipping your finch's wings is not recommended, as finches have a very high metabolic rate and need to have the ability to fly in order to get enough exercise and burn energy. Zebras do not normally appreciate being handled, so wing clipping is not necessary. Nails should be trimmed by a qualified person only, if they become unhealthy, too long or interfere with perching.
Clean the cage, perches and toys daily with warm soapy water. Use a non-toxic cleaner such as mild dish liquid and make sure that the soap is completely rinsed off when you are finished cleaning.
Disinfect the cage and perches with bleach water regularly while keeping the bird in a seperate room. Bleach fumes can kill your pet. Allowing the cage to air dry in sunlight is a natural way to disinfect. Make sure the smell from the bleach is gone before you place your bird back inside the cage.
Replace toys and accessories that become worn or damaged, as they can injure your pet.
Rotate toys when your bird becomes disinterested in them but remember never to place an unfamiliar toy in the cage without first introducing it to the bird in a neutral location. Mirrors can be confusing for birds, as they will sometimes bond to the bird in the mirror instead of bonding to other birds. If your bird behaves in this way toward a mirror, it should be removed. Mirrors should not be used in substitute of having a companion for your bird.
Behavior and Interaction
Zebras are social birds who live in groups in the wild. For this reason, they need a lot of social interaction with other birds in order to stay happy and healthy. It it best to keep at least two zebra finches together. Pairs can be same sex or opposite sex, though females tend to get along better together than males. If a same sex pair is kept, a nest or nests should NEVER be placed in the cage or fighting may occur between the birds. Also, a cage housing zebra finches of only one gender should never be kept in the same room with zebras of the opposite gender - if the birds can hear the song of a potential mate they will fight with their cagemates trying to establish a territory. However, pairs of zebras can be kept in colonial situations as long as the enclosure is of appropriate size. They can also be kept with other types of softbills or finches, as long as the cage is large enough to allow the different birds to have their own territories and interact without conflict or too much competition. Please research potential cagemates carefully to make sure that the birds will be likely to get along.
When taking your new bird home please remember that the surroundings in your home will be new to it and it may take some time for the bird to feel settled in the new environment. Speak softly and move very slowly whenever you are near the bird's cage. It is recommended that you do not handle your finch, as they are very fragile.
With a well balanced diet you should not need to give your bird vitamin supplements. Before giving any supplements in the bird's water, make sure you clean and wash the water dish daily to remove any residue from the supplements.
We recommend taking your bird to the vet for regular checkups and purchasing a book about your new pet.
We recommend using warm water and a mild soap solution for daily cleaning of your bird's cage. Once a week remove the bird from the cage and use a diluted bleach solution to disinfect the cage. Rinse the cage thoroughly then place the cage in the sun to air dry if possible. Be certain the cage and bowls are completely free of any bleach smell prior to placing your bird back in the enclosure as bleach is toxic to birds.
Keep the bird in a draft free area. A room temperature of 72° is good for most birds although we suggest researching your specific bird to determine the optimum temperature.
Always wash your hands before and after handling each animal.
You should have toys in the cage to prevent boredom. Bored birds are known to have behavior problems. Birds need to be active to maintain good health and to prevent them from getting overweight. Foraging toys are excellent because they stimulate the natural avian instinct to search for food.
Toys should be changed regularly to keep your pet interested and if the toy becomes worn to prevent injury.
When you change toys for your bird or even move your bird to a new location in the house, please be aware of how sensitive most birds are to changes. Never place a new toy directly inside the cage without first allowing the bird to see and get used to the new toy in a neutral area outside the cage.
Birds can be scared to death. Frightening a bird can cause the bird enough stress to harm and possibly kill it. Move slowly and talk quietly to your bird until it is comfortable with you and its new home.
Vary your bird's perches by type and sizes to keep its feet healthy and conditioned.
We recommend using a cuttle bone or mineral block for your bird.
If you notice signs of illness it is very important to get the vet promptly as most birds will hide illness until it is in an advanced stage. We recommend taking your bird to the vet BEFORE the bird ever becomes ill. Visiting your vet before the bird is ill will allow the vet to see your bird when it is healthy and help the vet create a routine preventive health care program for your new pet.