Perches, Dishes, and Accessories
PerchesDowel perches should never be the sole perching option for finches since they do not allow for ample foot exercise, may increase the pressure placed on one point of the foot due to their regularity in cross section, and may increase the potential for bumblefoot by aggravating the feet5. Ideally perches should be made from clean, nontoxic hardwood branches that have never been sprayed with chemicals or other pesticides, are free from wood rot and mold, and are variably sized with irregular cross sections.5 Do not use perches that are excessively large or flat, and NEVER use sandpaper-covered perches since these may predispose birds to foot problems without having any beneficial effect on nail length.2,5 I highly recommend using manzanita branches, which are available at many pet stores. To prevent contamination by feces, perches should be positioned in such a way that they are not stacked directly above each other nor above the seed or water dish(es). Because wood is impossible to disinfect, perches should be replaced as they become fouled by feces.5
DishesDishes should be easy to clean and disinfect. For this reason, I recommend stainless steel coop cups (available at some pet stores and online. Do not use metal water containers which have been soldered at the seams, as they may cause lead poisoning.5 If stainless steel dishes are difficult to locate, plastic or glass dishes are good substitutes. Position the dishes to encourage the birds to exercise--place the water bowl at one end of the cage and the food dish at the other. If you notice your birds attempting to nest in their seed cup, try switching to a seed dish which does not allow the birds to lie in it (see the example picture to the right). Providing multiple feeding and watering stations may be necessary in cages housing aggressive and/or territorial birds.
ToysMost finches will appreciate the addition of a swing to their cage provided that it is not placed in such a way that it obscures flight or jumping path. The swing should be able to move freely without striking the walls of the cage or any of the perches while in use. As far as other forms of entertainment you can provide for your finches: some birds take a keen interest in a short piece of "string" tied to the side or ceiling of the cage. Just be careful that the string you use is not made of small synthetic fibers (such as yarn) nor thin/long enough to entangle the bird. A 2" long shred of burlap should be safe to use.
If your cage is large enough, nontoxic live or silk plants can be added to the enclosure to stimulate the birds. As an engaging treat, spray millet may occasionally be suspended from the top of the birds' cage, encouraging the birds to work for their treat. Lastly, please make note that providing the bird with a mirror is no substitute for providing the bird with an appropriate cagemate.
Nests and Nesting MaterialSome species enjoy roosting in a nest at night, so including a nesting receptacle in one of the upper corners of the cage is an option. However, be warned that providing a nest may stimulate breeding and induce bickering, and that any nest made of wood will need to be replaced as it becomes fouled with feces.5 Also, be weary that some woods are toxic. Pressure-treated plywood, for instance, contains numerous toxins, so do not use it to construct nest boxes.5 Cedar and redwood are also toxic, whereas Aspen and most hardwoods are safe to use.5 Although plastic and metal nest boxes are disinfect-able, they are also susceptible to temperature fluctuations,5 so be careful to only use them in temperate environments. Do not let nest boxes get wet, be in direct sun, or get cold.
If you chose to provide nesting material, make sure that it is natural and nontoxic. Avoid small, synthetic fibers such as yarn, any type of hair (human hair included, which may be present in dryer lint), and avoid hay, soil, eucalyptus leaves, and corn cob (since any of these materials may lead to fungal growth). Do not use pine or cedar wood shavings, as both of these have been proven cancerous to lab rodents and may also be cancerous to birds.2 Burlap cut into 3" strips, shreds of newspaper, coconut fiber, and shreds of facial tissue are good nesting material options.5 Providing a nest or nesting material is not necessary.
BeddingNewspaper, paper towels, paper bags, recycled computer paper, and butcher's paper are all great choices for cage bedding.5 Although hardwood and aspen woodchips are nontoxic, they may not be the best choice for bedding because they tend to promote fungal growth.5 Larger aviaries, particularly outdoor aviaries, may make use of a more permanent flooring that can be hosed down, disinfected, and rinsed clean instead of disposable bedding. Examples of flooring include smooth concrete or a sheet of vinyl tiles.
Notes of Importance
- Be careful not to crowd the cage with too many perches or accessories--you need to allow the birds plenty of flight (as this is their only means of effective exercise).
- To help curb or avoid aggression among your birds, try providing visual barriers within the cage (silk and/or nontoxic plants work great).
- To avoid "night frights" where the birds are disturbed while roosting in the dark, consider installing a dim "night light" so that your birds will be able to see where they are flying in the event that they are awoken in the night. The night light should be bright enough to allow the birds to find a perch in the dark, but dim enough to allow the birds to sleep.