Finch Seed Mixes
A general rule of thumb is that seed should make up about 50% of your finches’ diets. The reaming 50% needs to be made up of various fresh foods.
Different species of finches will enjoy different seed mixes. You should always buy seed according to the birds you are keeping. The trick is to make sure that every bird are getting all the nutrients they need whilst not wasting too much food. For example, a Java Sparrow will leave out the smaller seeds from a seed mix and go for the larger and tougher-husked seeds such as oat grains. For these larger-beaked birds, a budgerigar seed mix will go down well as they tend to have chunkier seeds.
Finches enjoy a range of seeds as part of a balanced diet
Pre-mixed seeds are available to buy in all pet stores, and if you are keeping only a Canary or a few birds, this is by far the easiest option to go for. If you do wish to prepare your own seed mixes as this lets you fine-tune the food to minimize waste. You just always make sure you are providing all the nutrients your birds need.
If you are buying pre-mixed seeds, make sure you buy one made for finches. Even though the Java Sparrow thrives off the budgerigar mix, this is only an exception and not the rule, and in general, your finches won’t be all too happy with a parrot mix. Any seed you buy should be fresh. Cheap bags of food should also be avoided as they could contain older seed which has lost their nutrients. Always check with your supplier on whether or not the seed is fresh, if they seem unsure it is probably best to choose a different outlet
You can test the freshness of your seed at home by placing it into a wet paper cloth and leaving it for a few days. If the seed is fresh it would have sprouted, as long as you keep the paper wet that is. Anything that doesn’t sprout will have no nutritional value for your birds.
Seed needs to be replenished regularly. Even if you have a deep bowl, your birds will only eat the top layer - it does not cross their minds that there may be seed underneath. Blow away any old husks so that your birds can enjoy the seed underneath.
Gouldian finches and Zebra finches happily forage seed on the aviary floor
Seed Mix Recipe
Seed mixes can be made at home, but they will require a well balanced mix of seed of the following ingredients:
Canary seed - A lot of finch seed mixes will be about 50% canary seed. As you can already tell, the seed was named after the bird and is an essential basse for your mix which can indeed make up around 50% of the mix.
Other grains and grass seeds - These should make up around 25% of the mix. You don’t need a great variety form the following list, two will suffice.
- Sweetcorn kernels
These are all members of the grass family. They can be replaced with the following wild grasses, if you are able to successfully identify and harvest them.
- Annual meadow-grass (Poa annua)
- Meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis)
- Orchard grass, aka cock’s-foot grass (Dactylis glomerata)
- Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)
- Poverty brome, aka barren or sterile brome (Bromus sterilis)
- Rough bluegrass (Poa trivialis)
- Soft brome, or soft chess (Bromus hordeaceus)
- Velvet grass (Holcus lanatus)
- Timothy grass (Phleum pratense)
- Yorkshire Grass, aka Meadow soft grass, velvet grass or tufted grass (Holcus lanatus)
- Mustard (yellow, red or black)
- Red Clover
Oily seeds need to make up the final 12.5% of the daily dry seed mix. As is mentioned elsewhere in this guide, the amount of oily seeds your birds are receiving needs to be upped during the moulting season
Millet, hemp, niger and rape are, stricly speaking, grains but they are included in this list due to their high fat content.
- Hemp (needs to be thrashed about a bit to crack the tough husks)
- Niger (also sometimes spelled “Nyjer”)
- Pumpkin (needs to be soaked and allowed to germinate first)
Sprouting seeds are a good source of nutrients for finches
When seeds germinate, they undergo a nutritional transformation of sorts. After sprouting, seeds will produce a rich supply of vitamins and nutrients lacking in dry seed. The sprouted seed is relatively easy to produce at home, and should be available at most pet stores if you don’t fancy some DIY seed sprouting. Sprouted seed goes mouldy after around 3 days. It is best to sprout or buy in small amounts to minimise waste.
A lot of the seeds above are suitable for sprouting. In summer and fall, nature will do much of the hard work for you, offering a ready supply of seeding grasses. Grains, most notably oats, go moldy relatively quickly so it’s best not to sprout them. Flax should also be avoided, as it simply goes slimy as part of the germination process.
To start sprouting the seeds at home, rinse a small batch of seeds under a tap in a plastic sieve and then soak them in a bowl of cold water for around 8 hours, no longer or they will begin to ferment. After the 8 hours have passed, rinse the seeds again in a sieve and then suspend the bowl and cover it. After 24-48 hours the seeds will begin to germinate. RInse them gently every 8 hours or so to prevent mildew from forming.
Once the seeds have sprouted, dry them on a tea towel before giving them to your birds. Never serve your finches cold seeds (i.e. ones that have just come out of the freezer). The ideal seeds for birds are the ones that have only just germinated. Serving them slightly more sprouted seeds is good for them in terms of nutrition, though you should offer a portion of your DIY sprouted seeds over a 3 day period.
Marcy, 24 June 2021