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Housing Finches

As a responsible bird owner, you should never allow your finch the run of the house given his small size, nervous disposition, and swift flying abilities. Therefore, you will have to house him. There are two methods for housing finches: the cage and the aviary.

The Cage

A finch cage is a sturdy indoor home. It keeps him safe from escape and household dangers while allowing you to view him and enjoy his activities.

Cage Materials
Most cages are made of metal or some combination of metal and plastic. The best cages are made of either wrought iron or powder-coated steel. These materials are extremely durable and completely safe for finches.

Size and Shape
When it comes to bird cages, size does matter. In short, you should purchase the largest cage you can afford. A finch cage must allow enough space for your bird to fly around. A minimum size would be 24 inches (61 cm) and about half that in width. Height is not as critical as having proper length and width.

If there is too much space between the bars of the cage, your bird may be able to get his head, leg, or wing caught in the bars. As a rule of thumb, the bars should be no more than 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) apart.

The closer your finch's cage is to a basic cube or rectangle, the better. Round cages and cages that have fancy metal scrollwork may look nice, but they are less than ideal for your bird. In these cages, the bars will taper in some areas, which can result in your finch getting his head or foot caught.

Other Cage Features
There are a number of other features to consider when deciding on a cage. One is a pull-out bottom tray. This will help speed up cleaning time considerably, and most modern cages will have one. Be aware that some finches are small enough to fit through the opening when the tray is pulled out for cleaning.

If your cage doesn't come with a seed catcher, plan to buy one. These drastically reduce the amount of food that ends up on the floor.

The Aviary

Think of an aviary as a walk-in cage that houses several pairs of finches. It will need to have all the basic features of a cage (perches, food bowls, etc.) but on a grander scale. An aviary can be indoors or outdoors. While there are some special considerations for the outdoor aviary, the basic principles are the same whether it is located indoors or outdoors.

Materials
You can buy or build an aviary. It should be sturdily constructed of a wood or metal frame with a fine wire mesh. If the aviary is outdoors, concrete makes the best material for the floor. Make sure that the floor of an outdoor aviary slopes slightly for better drainage.

Predator-Proofing
If the aviary is outdoors, you must consider the predators that might live in your locale. These include hawks, snakes, rats, cats, raccoons, and other animals. Different predators require somewhat different methods to keep them out. A good general rule is to have two-ply mesh walls with a few inches (5 cm or so) between each ply. If you are using a concrete floor, have a metal or plastic skirt around the bottom of the mesh walls. A well-behaved dog in the yard will discourage most predators. Frequently inspect the aviary for any signs of wear or intrusion.

Safety Porch
The safety porch is an important feature of an aviary, especially an outdoor aviary, because it will help prevent your finches from escaping when you enter and exit the aviary. Basically, the safety porch is a small room (it can be as small as 3 feet by 3 feet [0.9 by 0.9 m]) just outside the door of the aviary. You will enter the safety porch, close the door behind you, and only then open the main aviary door and walk in. If one of your finches flies out, he will still be enclosed in the safety porch.

Shelters
The shelter is a place where your finches can go to sleep in at night and escape inclement weather. It can be simple, but it must be solid and sturdy—most shelters are made of wood. Place your shelter in an area of the aviary that will stay comfortable for your finches no matter what the weather is like. This may require that the shelter be heated or have mesh windows for ventilation. It is very handy if the shelter can easily be closed off from the rest of the aviary.

Cage and Aviary Furnishings

Perches
Perches can be made of many different materials, including wood, plastic, concrete, and rope. Plastic perches are not a good choice, but the others are all fine. Most finch keepers use a mix of different perches. The only caution is to use only one concrete perch (sometimes called a sand or cement perch) because this type can be hard on your bird's feet. If you use rope perches, inspect them regularly and trim off any frayed strands before they become long enough to entangle your finch.

Do not buy sandpaper covers or other perch covers. These harbor bacteria and can cause foot infections.

Bowls
You will need a minimum of three bowls for feeding and watering your finch: one for water, one for seeds and other dry foods, and one for fresh foods. The best bowls are made of stainless steel and bolt to the bars of the cage. Heavy-duty ceramic bowls are also good. Plastic bowls can harbor bacteria and are sometimes easy for your bird to destroy. It's a good idea to have an extra set handy so that you can switch bowls in and out easily at feeding time.

Baths
Most finches love to bathe, so consider purchasing a birdbath, or you can use any clean shallow dish. For more details on bathing, see the article "Grooming Your Finch."

In an aviary, you can have some permanent water feature. However, you must clean it frequently or it will become a source of infection for your finches. The benefits of a water feature are access to bathing whenever your finches want to use it and the aesthetic charm it adds to the aviary.