Zebra finches are active little birds that are easy to care for and easy to breed. As a group of zebra finches become familiar with the presence of their care giver they will begin to trust the care giver and not fly away when approached. Zebra finches are very social and live in flocks in the wild. It is important to keep zebra finches in pairs and not singularly. If a cage becomes overcrowded for finches they will begin to pluck at each other. If this behaviour is observed it is important to thin the flock before serious injuries occur.
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Zebra finches will display mating behaviours all year long. These behaviours are not just for practice, as the zebra finch will mate during any month of the year. In its natural habitat the zebra finch will breed after a heavy rain, which can occur at any time. When a pair of birds is ready to mate they will collect nesting material, select sites to build nests and begin courting rituals. If these behaviours are observed, a mating pair of zebra finches should be provided with nesting boxes.
Nesting boxes need to be provided in pairs to the breeding zebra finches. Each box should be 4 inches by 4 inches and placed next to each other high on the cage wall. It is important to leave adequate room between one pair of nesting boxes and another pair so that the breeding parents don't attack each other in efforts to protect their nest. Nesting material will need to be added to the cage for the zebra finches to build their nests. The material needs to be soft and flexible so the finches can bend it easily with their beaks and feet. Soft yarns along with small, tender green vine plants are some possibilities of good nesting material.
Zebra finches will breed well in a single pair or in three pairs or more. If only two breeding pairs of zebra finches are present in the cage they will fight each other for dominance and likely cause injury to each other. Breeding is likely to be more successful with three or more pairs of breeding birds as finches are very social and are often found in large groups in the wild. By recreating this atmosphere in captivity the zebra finches are likely to feel more comfortable and begin to breed sooner.
It may be necessary to reduce the number of eggs that are being fertilised. Eggs can be made un-viable by shaking each egg before incubation starts. It is important this happens prior to incubation or it could result in disfigured chicks. It is also possible to replace the laid eggs with plastic placebo eggs. This will allow the finches to sit and complete the breeding time but won't result in chicks. The zebra finch parents will abandon the nest when the placebo eggs fail to hatch.
Female zebra finch birds will lay a clutch of 4 to 6 eggs at a time. Occasionally females will lay up to 12 eggs. Both the male and female bird will take turns sitting on the eggs. The eggs will incubate for 12 to 14 days before hatching. When the chicks hatch the parents will need to be provided with fresh sprouts and soft food, such as milk soaked bread, to feed the chicks. The chicks will start to leave the nest approximately four weeks after hatching and will live on their own by the time they are six weeks old. Once the chicks have left the nest and started to perch at night with the other adults of the flock it is important to remove the nesting boxes. If the nesting boxes are left the parent finches will begin to mate again too soon and cause stress on the flock.
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