How to train zebra finches

Written by jane tyne Google
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How to train zebra finches
The male zebra finches have the bright orange cheek patches. (Zebra Finch image by Mike Price from

Zebra finches are cute, active little birds that are usually enjoyed for their charming little beeps and chirps and bustling activity. They are very small, only about 2 inches long excluding the tail. Because they are so small and fragile, zebra finches are generally not interactive the way many other pet birds are. With patience, you can train these delightful birds to come near your hand and eventually sit on your hand.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Millet or other very tasty treat

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  1. 1

    Stand just close enough to the cage to cause the birds to alert. They will fly around and try to move to the opposite side of the cage. Simply stand or sit there quietly until they calm down. Don't push, and don't get the birds so frightened that they are frantic.

    How to train zebra finches
    There are many types of finches. (female house finch image by Al Mueller from
  2. 2

    Place seed, millet or fruit and vegetable treats into the cage once the birds have calmed down and are going about their business (while you hold your position). It's important that this be done quickly and without upsetting the birds any further.

    How to train zebra finches
    Millet sprig (Ear of wild millet. image by mdb from
  3. 3

    Repeat steps 1 and 2 multiple times daily until your presence no longer causes an alert. Don't progress any further until standing in this position no longer frightens the birds. This could happen fairly quickly or slowly.

  4. 4

    Move just close enough to cause an alert again, and repeat steps 1 through 3 multiple times daily, until your new position no longer causes an alert. Repeat this process until the birds do not react at all when you are standing or sitting right beside the cage and looking inside.

  5. 5

    Repeat steps 1 through 4 with your hand on the cage door.

  6. 6

    Repeat all the above steps with your hand inside the cage, gradually moving your hand farther until finally you can place your hand inside while holding a sprig of millet.

  7. 7

    Continue as described in steps 1 through 6, until the birds eat from or perch on the sprig while it is in your hand. Finally, continue until the birds are willing to perch on your hand and eat seed from your palm.

    How to train zebra finches
    It will take considerably more time and effort to train a zebra finch to eat from your hand like this. (friss mir aus der Hand image by Rüdiger Hirsemann from

Tips and warnings

  • Work very slowly and gradually. This will take considerable time and effort.
  • Each cage cleaning will set this process back, so try to make cage cleaning as quick and gentle as possible.
  • Once you have succeeded in hand taming, move on to more advanced training, using the references below.
  • Never try to pet or hold the birds. They are too fragile to be held except if they are in need of medical attention or must be moved to another cage.
  • Never stand with your hand in the cage while larger birds or other animals are in the room. Before placing your hand in the cage, thereby leaving an opening in the cage door, close curtains and turn off ceiling fans and close the door to the room the cage is in. This minimises the dangers in case a bird manages to escape the cage in blind fear.

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