Feeding Finches the Conventional Way


All finches are principally seed eaters, which means they feed on all types of grass and weed seeds available in their native habitat. In captivity, finches in general, adapt easily to various kinds of millet - smallgrained millet (panicum, for example) for all tropical and sub-tropical finches; large-grained millet (white millet, for example) for large birds such as Zebra Finches and Munias - and canary grass seed.

Millet spray, which is small-grained millet still on the stalk, provides very important nutrients for newly imported or recently hatched birds. Scatter a few "ears" or "spikes" of millet spray so the birds can peck at them from all sides.

Many finches enjoy niger, rape, and linseed, which are rich in minerals. However, they also are high in fat and should be offered only in small quantities. Excessive consumption can cause liver problems.

Brown rice, which is included in some ready-made commercial bird seed mixtures, is suitable for Diamond Finches, some Lonchura species and a few other finches with strong, large beaks. However, it can lead to death in some birds, such as the Pin-tailed Parrot Finch (Erythrura prasina).

Soaked kernels of wheat and oats are much better additions to the basic food given to strong-beaked finches. These soaked grains may constitute as much as two-thirds of the total amount of sprouted food. However, birds in cramped quarters grow fat easily on oats.

All seed should be clean, dry, free of dust, and of good quality to prevent birds from ingesting harmful germs. Various excellent commercial seed mixtures are available on the market. Always check the date of packing; do not buy packages that are more than half a year (topsl) old.

Sprouted Seed

In addition to dry food, various finch species need sprouted seeds. During the winter, these substitute for green foods and immature seeds. They contain valuable nutrients, including vitamin E, which is particularly important during the mating season.

There are various ways to produce sprouts, but a fresh batch must be started every day. Here are two tested methods for sprouted seeds:

• Mix two parts small-grained millet and one part canary grass seed in a large pot. Add water to soak so the seeds will swell. To speed up the process, place the pot on a radiator or in a warm room. Place the seeds in a sieve and rinse thoroughly under running water two or three times a day. Return them to the pot with fresh water. After 24 hours, the seeds are ready for use. Dry them lightly with a clean towel, then mix in a few drops of cod-liver oil. This helps the sprouts remain moist longest, adds to their nutritional value, and supplies vitamin D.

• Mix two-thirds small-grained millet, a little largegrained millet and no more than one fourth canary grass seed in a pot. Add waterto soak so the seeds can swell, and leave them for 12 hours. Place the seeds in a sieve and rinse thoroughly under running water. Return them to the pot, cover it and let it sit for another 24 hours. The seeds then may be fed to the birds.

The choice of seeds to be sprouted depends, of course, on the tastes of your birds. Exotic finches from Africa like small-grained millet and canary grass seed, while those from Australia (Zebra Finches, Gouldians, etc.) also enjoy soaked large-grained millet.

Spikes or ears of millet can be sprouted as described above, but it is extremely important to change the water frequently so the cores of the spikes will not rot. Discard the water after 24 hours and set the spikes upright in a glass. Let the...