Pet Finch Guide

Written by A-Z Animals Staff
Updated: April 8, 2022
© iStock.com/joe hidalgo photgography

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Before Buying a Pet Finch

Finches are both entertaining and easy to care for, in terms of pet ownership. But there are some things you should know before buying your first finch. For example, some finches are healthiest and happiest when living in pairs or small groups. Unlike canaries, their cousins, finches are social creatures. But having two of these birds is not much more work than having just one. It is important to consult with your veterinarian before buying finches to learn whether you should house one alone or multiple birds as companions for each other.

When choosing your finches, you have multiple breeds at your disposal. Society finches are most popular. They were bred especially for pet owners, having never existed as a species in the wild. These are friendly little birds with a delightful chirp. Their feathers are typically brown and white tones.

RELATED: Types of Pet Birds

Another popular breed is the zebra finch. These little birds hail from Australia. Their feathers are gray with a black and white striped throat, providing a perfect contrast to their bright red beaks and legs. Their wings feature the spotted brown and white pattern for which they are also known. If you prefer, you can own a combination of zebra and other types of finches because the zebra variety are social.

The most common species of finches include:

Regardless of whether you choose society finches, zebra finches or other breeds, you will find the birds available for a price range of $20 to $40 per bird. If you choose a companion pair, this means you will get two birds for $40 to $80. It is best to watch your prospective birds before selecting them. Look for signs of positive socialization and birds that engage well in their environment and with the other birds in their cage. When selecting your pair or flock, you can have birds of the opposite sexes or of the same genders. A bachelor flock can live just as happily as those with both males and females, in many cases. It can be helpful to select birds that have already been introduced to each other and lived harmoniously in the same cage.

Finches are tiny birds. But they really enjoy flying in their cage, both for exercise and as entertainment. A finch cage should be at least 2 feet to 3 feet wide and 3 feet long. Of course, the more room they have to fly, the better.

How much does a finch cost?

The average price of a finch is between $20 and $40. Since you may need to own multiple birds for social purposes and to keep the birds happy and healthy, you should expect to pay $40 to $80 per pair.

Your finch cage will cost $70 or more with perches and food dishes. You can choose a simple tabletop cage, a hanging cage or one on its own stand or cart. Although you can find less expensive options, it is easy to spend well over $100 on a cage for your new birds. Besides the cage, you need to buy food, treats, swings and other supplies. Most people spend about $295 in the first year of their bird’s life.

The annual cost for a finch is approximately $185 from year two forward. Most finches live only 5 to 10 years, but some can live as long as 15 to 20 years! This means that you should be ready for a long term commitment and the costs that go with owning a bird for 15 or more years. Over the course of 10 years your finch could easily cost beyond $2000.

New Finch Owner Shopping List: What to Buy

As said before, it is very important to understand that many finches are happier and healthier when living in pairs or small flocks. Some need companionship from other finches and are very social animals. You can choose to have multiple birds of the same gender or a mix of males with females.

Of course, whether males or females, your finches will need a safe, comfortable and engaging habitat. But owning a new pet of any kind can feel confusing, particularly when it comes to what supplies you need and which are optional.

To make owning your new finch easier, below is a shopping list of what to buy for your new finch before you take them home. These supplies include:

  • Appropriately sized habitat – A cage at least 2 to 3 feet wide and 3 feet long to allow the birds enough room for flight
  • High-quality finch food – nutritionally complete and well-balanced finch pellet food to make up 70% the birds’ daily diet
  • Millet spray – A “branch” of millet to clamp to the inside of the birds’ cage
  • Treats – Snacks to enrich their diet, such as beak-sized fruits, vegetables, seeds, cooked eggs, crickets, mealworms and waxworms
  • Habitat paper or litter – placed in the bottom of the birdcage, this liner paper or litter makes cleaning easier and faster
  • Food and water dishes – Your birds need at least one dish for their food and one for drinking water, typically dishes that clamp to the side of the cage and provide easy access for refilling
  • Variety of perches, ladders and swings – finches love to perch, swing and climb ladders, bouncing from one perch to the next
  • Variety of toys – Small bells, mirrors and other toys made for finches can provide extended entertainment
  • Birdbath – a birdbath is usually a plastic bowl that clamps to the side of the cage, providing a means for the bird to bathe itself and enjoy water time
  • Vitamins and supplements – Your veterinarian can recommend vitamin drops or syrup to drop into the birds’ water for added nutrition, along with a calcium/mineral block

Ongoing Needs: What You Need to Care for Your Finches

Once your pet is settled into their cage in your home, you need to pay attention to their daily needs. These needs include ongoing maintenance of their cage habitat, feeding, providing clean water, grooming, companionship and healthcare. It is important to ensure your birds stay happy, healthy and safe.

Ongoing needs for your single finch or multiple finches include:

  • Clean cage – Their cage should be kept clean through light daily maintenance and more intensive weekly cleanings, including replacement of cage liner paper
  • Variety of food – Besides the high quality food pellets that make up 70% of a caged finch’s diet and clean water, your birds also need healthy snacks and treats like fruits, vegetables, mealworms and millet spray
  • Perches – Once you get to know how your bird likes to move about the cage you can customize the habitat for them using multiple 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch diameter perches
  • Mentally stimulating toys – Finches are smart birds that enjoy playing with toys and need this stimulation and entertainment
  • Leather and fabric – Finches enjoy fabric strips or leather to chew on and should be provided these options in a safe manner
  • Small bells – Finches love tapping on tiny bells to make sounds
  • Swings and ladders – Just like humans, finches have fun going up and down ladders and swinging on swings provided within their cage
  • UV lighting – Your birds need UV light to process vitamin D in their bodies, so it helps to shine a UV bird light onto their habitat for 10 to 12 hours daily
  • Nesting and breeding materials – If you want your finches to breed, you need to supply a nesting box made of natural materials and soft natural fibers for them to create their own bedding

Finch Exercise and Ongoing Care

Finches make great pets because they are so easy to care for and have few requirements of their human owners, outside of provision of a clean and comfortable habitat, food, companionship and stimulating toys. Sometimes they need healthcare from a veterinarian. Of course, you also need to manage daily and weekly habitat maintenance to keep their home clean and sanitary. Below, we explore ongoing care for your bird, including exercise, cleaning and healthcare.

Finch Exercise

To adequately exercise your finch and keep them entertained and stimulated, you only need to provide an appropriately-sized cage, perches, swings and other toys. These little birds are quite content living their lives in a single cage habitat as long as they can stretch their wings and fly within it as exercise. For this purpose, ensure you provide your finches with a cage measuring at least 2 feet wide and 3 feet long. Of course, the bigger the cage, the better. A rectangular, elongated cage is more suited to finches whereas birds like parrots do better in tall cages. You should never clip your finches’ wings because they need to fly for exercise and good health.

Besides the cage, you should also provide multiple perches measuring at least 3 inches long and 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch in diameter. It is best to place multiple perches of different sizes in your finch’s cage to prevent pressure sores on their feet. Your birds live most of their lives on these perches, even sleeping on them.

Swings, ladders and other stimulating toys enable your finch to explore their habitat and get exercise along with mental stimulation. It is fun to watch these little birds happily swinging on their swing and chirping with glee. It provides them with additional exercise and a chance to see their world from another point of view.

Finch Cage Cleaning

Cleaning your finch cage is important for ensuring your birds stay healthy and content. The cage gets dirty quickly, particularly if you have a pair or a flock of companions. You need to check their food and water dishes daily, providing them with fresh food and water from which they can feed as desired. These little birds eat in small amounts throughout each day. Like chickens and canaries, they eat from the top layer of provided seed, pellets or other food. When you give them a cup of seed or pellets, you may need to remove hulls or other debris from the top layer to make them aware that more food is there for them.

Never place your birds’ feeders beneath a perch. The animals’ waste will drop into the water and food cups if you do this, contaminating their food. This is a common method by which bird diseases and parasites are transferred from one bird to another. Wash the food and water cups daily using warm, soapy water. Ensure the food cup is completely dry before refilling it with food to prevent clumping and sticking.

You also need to more deeply clean and refresh your birdcage once weekly. This involves removing the soiled cage liner paper or litter at the bottom and replacing it with fresh materials. You will also need to use a soapy sponge or rag to wipe down all cage surfaces and remove waste matter. It helps to use a sponge with a soft side and a scrub pad on the other side. You can perform this cleaning using specialized habitat cleaner or warm water made soapy with standard dish soap. It is important to not use toxic cleaning solutions.

Finch Healthcare

Your finches may show signs of illness from time to time. It is important to visit your veterinarian as needed. Some signs of finch illness include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Beak changes like swelling or deposits on the beak
  • Plucked or fluffed feathers
  • Soiled feathers
  • Sitting at the bottom of the cage
  • Coughing, heavy breathing or wheezing
  • Runny or odd-colored stools
  • Standing on one foot and staying off of the other when awake
  • Nasal or eye discharge
  • Swollen or red eyes
  • Social isolation or aggression

Besides watching for signs of illness, you should also provide your finches with nail trimming every few months. Your veterinarian can provide this service as part of regular checkups. Your birds will typically groom themselves well if you provide them with a birdbath in their habitat and keep the water in it clean.

Feeding Your Pet Finch

Finches eat food pellets specially formulated for these birds. These pellets make up about 70% of their daily diet. But they also need other sources of nutrition for a well-balanced diet. This article will further inform you on what finches eat. But for now, know that these are the foods and treats you should provide them with include:

  • High quality finch pellet food – 70% of their diet
  • Natural treats – Offer them beak-sized bits of fruits, vegetables and crickets, mealworms or waxworms
  • Cooked eggs – When your birds are breeding or otherwise need additional protein, feed them bits of boiled egg in addition to their regular diet of food and treats
  • Millet spray – This branch of millet offers the birds mental stimulation while also providing them with a supplementary food source
  • Calcium or mineral block – A calcium or mineral block typically mounts to the side of the birdcage and provides essential minerals for good health
  • Clean drinking water – Your bird needs a fresh supply of clean drinking water every day
  • Vitamin drops – Your vet can provide guidance on the right vitamin syrup or drops to add to your birds’ water

Finches eat small amounts of food and treats throughout each day. They usually need no more than a heaping teaspoon of daily pellet food- provided in a feeder cup attached to their cage. If you have several birds in one habitat, it helps to provide multiple feeding stations to ensure they all have access to adequate food. The birds drink water from a clean cup also mounted to the side of the cage or an inverted water bottle with a feeder spout specially designed for small birds.

How long will your finches live?

Most finches live between 5 to 10 years. But a well cared-for and healthy finch can live as long as 15 to 20 years!

Signs of a healthy finch include:

  • Alert and active
  • Sociable
  • Eating and drinking throughout each day
  • Bright, dry eyes
  • Dry nares
  • Normal looking beak, legs and feet
  • Smooth, well-groomed feathers
  • Clean, dry vent

You can help your finch live its longest and happiest possible life by providing them with a clean, comfortable and adequately sized cage. Ensure you clean their habitat weekly, checking it daily for general maintenance needs. Feed your finch well on a daily diet of at least 70% finch pellet food and 30% dietary supplements, vitamin-rich foods and nutrients, such as from bite-sized vegetables, fruits, insects and worms. When your finch needs grooming care or veterinary care, provide those services to keep them healthy and strong.

Common Health Issues for Pet Finches

Feeder-borne diseases and parasites are the biggest threats to your finch’s health. These common health problems include:

  • Avian conjunctivitis
  • Salmonella
  • Bird mites and lice
  • Tapeworms
  • Respiratory tract mites
  • Bacterial infections
  • Diarrhea
  • Feather barbering and aggressive picking among cage mates

If you notice changes in how your finch looks or behaves, it is important to provide them with immediate veterinary care.

Where to Buy Your Finch

It is relatively easy to find finches to buy on the open market. Visit any national pet supply store for a selection of the birds or to inquire about buying one. If your pet store does not have finches in ready supply, most will source some for you. Because they are common and make great starter pets, you do not need any special licenses or permissions to acquire these animals. Just ensure you prepare a habitat for them, specifically an amply-sized cage, before buying the birds.

If you do not find finches at a national chain pet supply retailer, you can also find them in local pet suppliers, in online pet directories and through breeders. You can also talk to your veterinarian for additional resources or visit a local animal shelter.

About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Pet Finch Guide FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can I buy just one finch?

Most finch breeds are very social animals and need to live with companions. This means you should buy more than one at a time, in most cases. It is important to choose finches that will live well together. For this reason, it is best to consult with your vet or a pet store expert before buying your birds.

How much does a finch cost?

Because you will typically need to buy at least a pair of finches at once, this will double some of your upfront costs when you become a finch owner. You should be able to find a healthy pair of adult finches for somewhere between $20 and $100. In most cases, expect to spend between $40 to $80 for two birds and more if you decide to house a flock of three or more.

Are finches good starter pets for beginners?

Finches are easy to care for and have few demands. This makes them great first pets for children and adults. They are fun to watch and live happy lives within a relatively small cage. Children over the age of 8 years can easily take responsibility for the daily and weekly care needs of these little birds.

How long does a finch live?

Well-cared-for finches can live surprisingly long lives. They are commonly known to live 15 to 20 years in pet owners’ homes! The majority live 5 to 10 years, still a lengthy life for a cage animal!

What is the difference between a finch and a sparrow?

The main differences between finches and sparrows are their leg, tail size, the shape of their bill, and the general complexity of their pattern and coloration. It’s important to note, however, that finches and sparrows aren’t a single species, but groupings of birds with similar traits. As a result, there is no single “tell” or “difference” that works 100% of the time. For most North American species, the above-mentioned differences are generally true.

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