While answering questions on a daily basis I hear a lot of old myths and wives tales surrounding finches pop up time and time again. I honest thought that over the years many of these myths would have died off as more books and articles were published. I guess I was wrong. So I have decided that this article would be dedicated to dispelling all the misnomers. Naturally I don't have them all in this article yet but as more crop up I'll be sure to add them for you.
#1 – Finches need to sleep in a nest at night.
I can't count the number of times I hear this one repeated by people who ask me for advise. This statement is not only false but believing it can potentially do harm to your finches.
Lets break it down a bit:
So what should you do? Get the nest out of the cage unless you are expecting your finches to breed. Removing the nest will help decrease aggression and bring your females egg laying back in to a more normal cycle.
- Nests are ONLY for breeding. In the wild finches will build nests to attract a mate and initiate breeding. The eggs are laid, the chicks hatch and once they fledge the whole family moves to a new area. The nest is either left behind to be use by another species or it falls apart over the next few months. Nests are rarely used more than 2 months out of each year. This leaves 10 months for the finches to sleep in the more natural location, a perch. Trees, shrubs, even the roofs of houses or any semi-enclosed space is the preferred and ideal sleeping area for a bird.
- Because nests are used when breeding they also serve as a stimulus for the female the lay her eggs. If you have a nest in the cage and your female finch is laying a clutch of eggs each month, now you know why. Normally a healthy pet female finch will lay at most 3 clutches a year, wild finches will lay once a year sometimes twice.
- In the wild it's the males job to protect the nest and surrounding territory while the female is laying her clutch. Once laid the female will often share in the defensive duties while the male takes his turn incubating the eggs. This defense of the nest is instinctive and if the pair has access to a nest they will defend it aggressively. This is often why finches will fight if several pairs are housed in the same aviary. The aggression will usually get worse over time because no matter how much one pair attacks and chases the other pair, the other pair wont go away because they can't. As you can image the aggression can quickly escalate out of control.
#2 – Females will only lay eggs when there is a male housed with them.
You really need to think of finches as tiny little chickens. The females will lay eggs whenever they need to or can. Notice I didn't say, "Want to". Female finches lay eggs in fairly regular cycles when they are healthy and kept in a breeding routine. The egg laying is part of her body's normal cycle. Because of this it is actually easier to gauge the health and fitness of a female finch than a male. If she is health and kept with a male you will see about 3 clutches a year.
If she is kept alone in a cage with no nests you will still find eggs from time to time. This does not mean she "wants to breed". All it means is that she is healthy enough to produce eggs. Without a male and/or nest her egg laying cycle may slow way down but she'll continue to lay eggs from time to time. If she doesn't lay eggs or lays too many you need to look at her diet and environment for anything that may be affecting her in a negative way.
#3 – Letting finches breed and produce young whenever they want to is fine.
It's actually unhealthy and reckless. If you own them you are responsible for their health and well being as well as for the welfare of the offspring. Finches are programmed breeding machines. Once they are successful parents they will continue to produce clutch after clutch until you stop them or one of the two drops dead from exhaustion. Yes you can breed a finch to death; the females are usually the first to go. Remove the nest after the chicks fledge and give the parents a break before allowing them to breed again.
Related Articles: [Egg Binding]
#4 – A single finch can die of loneliness.
I admit I still chuckle a bit when this one comes up. Let's stop and think about it shall we. A finch is living without a companion but in an otherwise good and healthy home. A finch wont decide one day to stop eating a drinking until a companion is brought; so starvation is out. A finch won't jump in the bath water an intentionally drowned itself; thought accidents can happen. Personal and voluntary injury is out because finches don't reason such things out. That leaves illness and stress as a cause for death.
Ok so the finch is lonely and because of this is probably under some stress but unless there is a major change to the home environment the stress levels wont change enough to cause any serious problems. Illness can kill a finch but if the cage is kept clean and the diet is good the chance of the finch picking up an illness is slim. Finally all your lonely finch has left to die from is simple old age. While a finch may appear to die because it is alone, it isn't the fact that the finch is alone that is fatal. It's always something else.
#5 – A 9 month old finch wouldn't want to mate with a 3 year old finch.
As long as the potential mate is healthy and has proven him/herself to be a good provider, age doesn't matter. The whole concept of age is a human issue and you can't really give your finches human traits like this one. All that matters is health and the ability to rear chicks. Now as finches age their overall health and ability to rear chicks does diminish, but that doesn't mean you can count them out. Before you ask, yes if another potential mate comes along that is in better condition than the current mate the pair may split.
Related Articles: [Pair Bonding]
#6 – Finches only need a seed diet.
Thankfully this myth has been quelled over the years but do I still hear it now and then. You'd think with all of the books and articles out there about finch diets that this wouldn't be an issue anymore but for those of you that need a rock solid answer. Seed is not enough! Oh yes, and millet counts as a seed.
Related Articles: [Finch Food]
#7 – Finches are decorative birds, not pet birds.
This one is somewhat a matter of opinion, however finches need just as much care, love and respect as any pet. So in my mind they will always be pet birds even if they don't interact with humans as a parrot would. That being said, because they don't interact with people they are often used as decorative birds in nursing homes and private homes. Simply sitting and watching finches can have a very soothing and calming effect for many people. As long as they are well cared for I'm all for them being used in this capacity.
#8 – Finches are very fragile birds.
Naturally if you don't care for your finches properly they will die rather quickly and seem frail. However if you do care for your finch properly you will see how wrong this statement can be.
Finches are only as frail as their care, genetics and environment make them. If they are inbreed and kept in poor conditions they will be weaker and will die off fairly quickly. If they are bred in a strictly controlled environment the shock of being moved to a new home with more variables in temperature and diet can lead to stress and a sudden death.
Related Articles: [Inbreeding][A Sick Finch]
#9 - Treat Egg binding with oil on the vent.
The best way to treat egg binding is to prevent it! There is no substitute for Calcium Plus when it comes to this. I have tried just about every product and home remedy out there for egg binding and Calcium Plus works the best. If given Calcium Plus a few times a month you can often prevent egg binding before it's a problem.
Calcium Plus can also be used to treat egg binding when it does happen. One drop of undiluted Calcium Plus in the beak is usually all it takes to expel the egg. When you use oil, such as cooking oils, you risk the finch developing a serious infection in her vent. Naturally the soft warm tissues in that area will allow the infection easy access to her reproductive organs and digestive track.
If you don't have Calcium Plus move her to a warm cage, if you do put a little oil on the vent make sure you wash it off within 12 hours. Then get some Calcium Plus.
Related Articles: [Egg Binding]
#10 – You can clip a finches' wings to make it tame.
No. No. No. No!! Never ever clip a finches wings. Finches are not parrots. They are not "sit on your shoulder" or "eat off your plate" type of birds. Those types of birds are called parrots. They are often bigger and louder than finches and they have large hook shaped beaks.
The reason you can get away with clipping a parrots wins is because that parrots can use it's nimble feet and strong beak to climb around the cage to gain access to food and drink when you are not home. A finch cannot do this. Sit and watch your finch for a moment. Notice how it hops and flutters its' wings to get around the cage. Notice how it will fly to the side of a cage, grab hold of the bars then slide down a bit? These are all very big clues that without the ability to fly the finch cannot get around the cage. If the food and water dish aren't on the ground you will quite litterly starve your finch to death if you clip the wings.
The only time a finch is ever "tame" is when you hand raise it.
#11 – Hand raising a finch is easy and fun.
It still amazes me how many people e-mail me wanting to know how to raise a baby finch so they can make it tame. It's not like I can answer that question in one e-mail. In fact I can't walk someone through the hand feeding process in 20 e-mails. It's simply too complex, involved and there are too many variables.
This is why I wrote the book "Hand Feeding and Raising Finches". To answer all your questions and answer all the questions you haven't thought of yet. Hand feeding a baby finch is very hard work and 8 out of 10 people who try it, fail. Failing often means the chick dies a very slow and painful death. Stop and think about what you are contemplating doing before you go anywhere near that finch nest.
Related Articles: [Handraising Finches]
#12 – If you don't want the finches anymore just let them fly out the window.
It surprises me too but people still believe this is acceptable. For starters it's illegal, if you are caught you will be fined and possible jail time in some cities. Second the finches we keep as pets are not native to this land. There for they will die, probably eaten by a predator or die of exposure to the climate within a week.
Those few that may be lucky enough to be released in an area where then can live and if the happen to find others of the same species could actually reproduce. This has happened with the Monk Parakeet (Quaker) in many cities around the USA and is why it's illegal to own them in several states now.