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Choosing a Pet Bird

After having decided that you want a finch, you must begin on choosing your new pet bird.

Canaries and Zebra finches are the most popular, and as a result most readily-available, finches on the market. Most pet-stores will have both of these birds. If you are looking for something a little less traditional, you will need to do a fair amount of research on the bird type you are looking to get. Some birds, such as the Java Sparrow, are boisterous and territorial whereas others are timid and more prone to stress. If you plan on keeping more than one species of finch in the same aviary/cage, be sure to check if the two will get along.

Zebra finches feeding station
Zebra finches rub shoulders happily at this feeding station

Another factor to take into account is the health of your bird. Many buyers senter the store with an image of a bright yellow bird who sings just like...well… just like a Canary. Having found your specimen, it is important to do a few other checks on the bird. If the bird is front and center of the crowd, singing his song, you have probably found your new pet. If, however, the bird imore alone, with his feathers ruffled up whilst his friends sing along without him, there could be problems. Bad health and illness show up subtly in birds, but a fluffed up, lethargic bird usually signals problems.

There are other, much more obvious, signs of bad health. For example, a wheeze, a limp, a wing held at an odd angle, bald patches across the body, crusty nostrils, dull eyes, dirty chins, breasts or vents or even a protruding breast bone are all signs that a bird is in bad shape. If you see a bird displaying some of these symptoms in a pet store, avoid all birds in the same cage as the ill one, illness like this can spread quickly.

Some other birds may be rather shy or flighty. It is important to watch how all the birds interact with one another, especially if you plan on keeping more than one bird, as you don’t want one bird to dominate over the other. If buying more than one bird, try to go for ones that are already happily living side-by-side. Also be sure to check the bird's age, a ten year lifespan suddenly seems very short when buying a bird that has already lived 8 of them.

The best time of day to visit a pet store is in the morning. Birds are at their liveliest right after breakfast, and it is at this time that their true personalities come through.

In addition to signs of good health, it is important to pay attention to the conditions that the birds are being kept in.

Canary varieties
Canaries of a feather perch together

This is a useful tick-list when choosing pet finches:

  • Are the cage and the accessories in it clean? If cages are dirty their could be ill health hiding behind the bird’s seemingly healthy exterior.

  • Are the bird’s food and water containers full and does the non-seed food look fresh? Poor-diet is another factor that speeds up the development of illness.

  • Are the cages large enough? Cramped conditions will stress-birds out, leading to a more jumpy and timid bird back at home.

  • Are the birds seemingly in a panic? This would suggest that the birds are not used to human presence around them, or that there;s something beyond the cage that’s freaking them out. Such birds will be harder to settle in.

  • Be sure to ask the seller any questions you may have. Whether they be a breeder or just a store worker, they should have a lot of knowledge on the birds and will give you an answer. If they don’t know, how does that reflect on the finches quality of life?

  • Be sure to get a written guarantee of good health, this comes standard in lots of places. It should enable you to return the finch and get a refund should the vet find any existing health problems in the young bird.

  • If you are planning on keeping your birds in an outdoor cage/aviary, you should get one from a breeder who keeps his birds outside. The will be used to the highs and lows of outdoor living, whereas a bird that has spent all its life in a central heated room is likely to catch a chill if placed straight into an aviary.

  • Choosing a Canary that will Sing

    Singing is what Canaries are most well-known for, it’s what brought them into human households in the first place, so it should come as no surprise this is a factor that most soon-to-be Canary owners look for when picking out a bird. You need to get males if you want them to properly sing to their full melodic capabilities, if you keep them with females they'll simply chirp their little hearts out.

    Caged Canaries
    Canaries are highly popular cage birds across the world

    Hen birds can sing, but their songs are far more limited than the cock’s. It may also be worth noting that both male and female canaries stop singing during their annual moult.

    All types of canary sing, but it is reckoned that the ones with the ebay voices are the Harz (German) Roller, the American Singers, the Spanish Timbrado and the Waterslager (see the Song Canaries section, below). In the singing category at shows, these 4 types are the ones you’ll see the most.

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