and Zebra Finches
Ideal for Beginners by Gordon M Duncan©
The Zebra Finch (Poephila guttata) from Australia and the Bengalise
(Lonchura domestica) from the Far East are absolutely ideal birds
for anybody who wants to try his hand at keeping and breeding small
birds. These tiny little birds (about 11cm from the point of their
beak to the tip of their tail) are available in a big selection of
colour forms. The Bengalise can only be sexed by their behaviour,
but the zebra finch is easily sexed, only the pure white may be difficult
for the beginner to sex. In all the other forms, the male has orange
cheek patches, absent in the female.
Zebra finches and Bengalise will live and breed happily in an ornamental
cage in the living room, a standard double breeding cage, an indoor
aviary or a planted garden aviary.
INDOOR CAGES: The only
requirements are that they should be sheltered from draughts, get
a little morning sun (never full sun without shade!) and be at least
60cm long by 30cm high and wide. Use natural twigs as perches. The
varying thickness will prevent the birds from suffering stiff feet.
Position the cage about 1.2m above floor level where you can enjoy
the birds. Not in the kitchen, steam and heat are bad!
OUTDOOR AVIARY: Any
size and shape will do, as long as it offers sufficient sunshine in
winter, shelter from the rain and, very important, shelter from cold
winds. Plant the aviary with non-poisonous plants, decorate it with
an ornamental bird bath, use natural branches as perches and you will
have a thing of beauty. Ready-made aviaries can be bought.
Most pet shops and bird farms stock Zebra finches and Bengalise. Good
stock can also be located via bird clubs direct from the breeder.
Always buy a pair or small group, never a single bird. In a cage,
one pair is a rule. In a large aviary many pairs can live together
These birds are basically seedeaters but the extras make the difference
between existing and living. Their diet should consist of:
SEED: Good mixed wild birdseed
SOFT FOOD: Sold in dry powder form and only
requires moistening. Offer a teaspoonful daily in a small dish when
not breeding, and as much as they will take when there are babies
in the nest.
FRUIT AND GREEN FOOD: A slice of fresh apple
or pear once a week and parsley, lettuce, spinach or carrot tops fixed
to the bars of the cage every day.
GRIT: Always have a small dish
of grit, available from your pet shop, in the cage.
Attach a small piece of cuttlebone to the bars with a clothes peg.
WATER: Clean water, changed
every day, must always be available for both drinking and bathing.
With food and water cleanliness is essential. ALWAYS wash the food
and water dishes every day before offering fresh supplies. Lack of
hygiene kills birds!
Zebra Finches and Bengalise should always be provided with a small
nest box or wicker basket. Even when not breeding they will sleep
in their nest. Hang the nest securely in a sheltered position in the
cage or aviary, where it is not exposed to the weather and where they
will have some privacy.
Fill the box or basket ®¯ full with soft grass and provide
soft, dry grass (long lawn clippings, dried in the sun are fine) for
building the nest. Small feathers or commercial canary nesting material
are both good for the lining. They will soon build a neat little nest
in their box or basket.
As long as you have a true pair and they are well fed and healthy,
you can confidently look forward to eggs. They should lay from 3–6
eggs which will hatch in 12-13 days. It is now essential that you
keep up a steady supply of fresh soft food for the babies.
Within about three weeks the chicks should leave the nest, becoming
independent within another two weeks. At this stage you should remove
them to their own cage, as their parents will want to start a new
family. In an outside aviary they can stay together as long as there
are enough nest boxes to go around.
If you wish to meet others who enjoy the hobby as much as you do then
it is advisable to join a club.
The members of the Rand Avicultural Society meet at the Honeydew Country
club Tennis club section, No 1 Boundary Rd Honeydew, Johannesburg on the LAST
TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH, except December.
If you wish to find out more about the club then click back to RAS