I keep hearing that feeding finches is complicated because chop is “hard” and “time consuming”. I want to show you that simply isn’t true!
Chop can be as hard as you want it to be, but it can also be easy. If your finches have never eaten chop before, and you want to get started, go to the grocery store and buy a sweet potato. Bake or boil it, however you normally like to cook yours. Let it cool. Then spoon out a little for the birds. They will LOVE it!
The following photo is from one of my lazy days. I gave them pre-chopped kale from the grocery. I’m pretty sure the yellow/orange middle part is cooked sweet potato. That’s it! See how they are gobbling it up?
Here’s another easy way to make chop.
Walk over to your fridge, open the door, and see what vegetables you have on hand.
Take them out ** see note and wash, rinse, and chop them up. Hopefully you have a food processor – if so just throw em in there and turn it on. Chop to tiny pieces, but not mush. Gouldian finches in particular don’t like wet/mushy stuff.
If you want, add your vitamins, supplements, and/or cooked egg. Eggs can be scrambled or boiled. Egg shells can be sprinkled right on top, they’re great for calcium. These additives don’t have to be used today — maybe tomorrow!
**Note: Please do not feed them onions, avocado, or other unsafe foods.
Feeding finches doesn’t have to be hard work, and the benefits far outweigh the small bit of time required to give them fresh foods. Bookmark this page and visit again – I’ll be sharing recipes and more variations on chop, as well as hints for streamlining the process.
There are many brands of healthy foods on the market, and many ways of feeding birds. I recently met a woman whose family had bred birds for years before she took over. I feel strongly that in cases like these, doing it “like it’s always been done” is not the best way.
Yes, our birds lived in the 1980s and 90s. They survived. But did they thrive? What I mean is, were they beautiful and covered in shiny, strong feathers? Were they healthy? How long did they live?
The majority of pet birds in the pre-Internet days were fed seed. Not just any seed, but boxed bird seed from Kmart or someplace – barely better than wild bird seed. And that’s all.
So if that is what you are feeding your birds today, you’re about 40 years behind. Would you like your doctors to treat you medically from protocols of 40 years past?
I didn’t think so.
[pullquote]They survived. But did they thrive?[/pullquote]
My own bird keeping has evolved considerably, and continues to change. From seed (yep, I was one of those! I got my first cockatiel from a pet store in the 80s and kept him in one of those small inappropriate cages and feed him seed-only) to seed and pellets to fresh foods and then more fresh foods.
The Suggested Diet for Lady Gouldian Finches
Egg or Egg food
Seeds are packaged by many different companies today, and they can be purchased at big box stores, small “mom and pop” stores, and online. I’m using a combination of seeds. I’ll put some links at the bottom of this post.
Gouldians, and most finches today, eat much more than seed. Lots of people have gone the pellet route. Pellet food is an extruded form of corn, wheat, and so forth that’s a lot like dog food in that it’s a convenient, easy way to feed birds. But, like dog food, it can be high quality or not. Check your labels.
Most vets are suggesting the use of pellets in the diet, but their recommendations are all over the board. I see 20% up to 80% from various vets. We feed less seed than pellets, but pellets are still commercially processed foods and since we humans shouldn’t base our diet on 100% proce4ssed foods I figure our birds shouldn’t either. So I provide a high quality pellet but I don’t serve even 50% pellets. Maybe 50% is comprised of pellets and seeds, so about 30% of their diet is pellet based.
Finches need extra protein, especially during breeding or molting, so one way to provide that is via eggs or commercial “egg food.” We do both. For eggs, I just hard boil a bunch at once, maybe 6 or 8 (because that’s what my pot holds) brought to a boil on the stove then lowered to simmer for 12 minutes. You can even leave the shells on, throw them all into the food processor, and grind. Don’t mash them too much or they’ll turn to glue.
If you don’t want to serve the shells, or you want to grind the shells finer, peel the eggs before chopping. Egg shells can be ground in a nutri bullet or coffee grinder—here’s one that you can control the coarseness on. Serve them sprinkled on food or in a separate dish; birds go crazy over them.
I like to use Higgins, linked below. Dry commercial egg food is good for people who work because it can be left out in a dish like pellets and seeds.
The longer I have birds, the more I’m feeding fresh foods. I have seen proof from others that fresh foods are working for them. Birdie cholesterol levels drop when switched to a plant-based diet. Other numbers fall into line as well. So I chop lots of salad-type foods for my birds: spinach, kale, broccoli, squash, corn, peas, green beans. Basically every time you fix fresh food for yourself, you can cut up a little and set it aside for the birds.
Fruit tends to lead to yeast infection, especially in the smaller birds, so I do not give much to my Lady Gouldians. They do get some because I have bigger birds that love fruit – so once in awhile the little guys get some blueberries, strawberries, or similar. Mostly I try to avoid fruit with them.
Calcium, iodine, probiotics, and multivitamins are my go-to supplements. Veterinarians suggest that because pellet food is “complete” and has all the nutrients your bird needs, it isn’t necessary to supplement. That is true if you’re feeding `100% pellets. Since I am not, I give 50% or less of the recommended vitamins. I put calcium in the water once a week. I do use probiotics, which I sprinkle on their food, every day; these do not harm them. Kelp provides iodine, and I’ve switched from Avivita Gold to Nekton-S for no particular reason.
That’s the run-down! Hope it helps. Let me know how you feed and supplement your finches.
Products may contain affiliate links; by purchasing them, I can receive compensation which goes to a non-profit parrot rescue organization. Thanks for your help.
I have so many questions about quarantine practices, I decided to make a post to refer you to. Quarantine is necessary at 2 times: when a bird is ill/injured or suspected to be ill, and when a new one comes into your aviary.
Bringing a new bird into the aviary is what we are going to discuss today. Whether you have 2 or 200 Gouldian finches, it’s simply not worth it to expose them to illness. You could end up losing the entire aviary! So when bringing one in it is necessary to quarantine.
Quarantine to Prevent Illness in the Flock
In a perfect world, we would put the bird on a different air system than our current birds. However, that’s often impossible for various reasons. I keep my Gouldians in a bird room in my home (no more guest room! :D). I do live in Florida, so at some times of the year I could house new finches outdoors in the pool’s screen cage. I have a nifty countertop there that’s about 8 feet long and sheltered on 3 sides and is under roof. So if the temperatures are between 60-80, which truthfully only happens in March and maybe April, they can stay there. Otherwise it is too hot or too cold.
So usually mine are quarantined in a separate room of the house. I have never had problems with this. One must understand that there are risks involved – illness could potentially spread inside the home. But hand washing and using clean dishes goes a long way. So does keeping food bins separate to avoid cross-contamination.
In other words, don’t feel guilty if you must quarantine within the same air system. Just be smart about it.
That’s the why and the initial how of the matter, but there is one more issue:
WHAT are we trying to accomplish by quarantining the bird?
We’re trying to prevent bringing disease into our flock, and we are also trying to eradicate any disease or parasites the new bird(s) may have. To that end, I’ve developed a quarantine protocol that is 60 days long. 90 days would be even better. My quarantine procedure will remove external and internal parasites and give the owner plenty of time to observe the bird(s) and get them to the vet if needed. Continue reading “Gouldian Finch Quarantine Protocol”
Hopefully you’ve read this and purchased the medications before acquiring your birds!
The Quarantine Procedure
You will notice that there are no medications given on days 1 and 2. That’s because you want to let your finches settle in before applying potentially harsh chemicals. So spend those 2 days letting them become familiar with the new environment. Covering the cage on 3 sides can help, if it’s a busy room or busy household.
Also observe carefully. Do you see signs of illness? Runny eyes? Wet shoulders? Wet vent? All of these are concerns, and reasons you may need a visit with your veterinarian.
Assuming there are no problems, proceed from Day 3 as follows. In another post I’ll discuss what each treatment does and how often in should be repeated.
Scatt on back of neck
Begin 1-week Ronex in water
Day 18, 19
Treat with Baycox or Medpet 4in1
Scatt on back of neck
Administer worm-away in water
Treat with Baycox or Medpet 4in1
Administer worm-away in water
Treat with Baycox or Medpet 4in1
Spray all with AIL
Day before moving to new quarters
Dip in Avian Insect Liquidator bath
More About Quarantine
What’s It For?
When you purchase a new finch (or any bird for that matter) you may be tempted to place it directly into the cage or aviary with your other finches. However, that’s rather dangerous; the new bird could have mites, parasites, or disease, just to name a few. Even if it didn’t arrive ill, it can become ill from the stress of moving. If that occurs, all the finches you already own may be susceptible. That’s why we quarantine.
Quarantine should last a minimum of 30 days, but many people tell me they quarantine as long as 90 days. The average, you may have guessed, is 60 days. That’s plenty of time to observe the bird, watching for illness and signs of parasites, and treat him/her. Even if you are in a hurry to breed the bird, quarantine will save you time in the long run. Here’s why.
Why Quarantine is Important
Suppose you’ve just purchased a red-headed male Gouldian finch and you’re eager to breed him with your hen, who is already showing a black beak. You put him in the cage, and in less than 2 weeks you have a full nest of eggs. The babies hatch, and by the end of the third day they seem weak. You observe your parent birds and they seem fine but they’re scratching a lot. A visit to the vet reveals that they have mites, most likely brought in by the new male. Now your entire cage (or your flock) has been subjected to mites, so you buy a new bottle of Avian Insect Liquidator concentrate ($17+) or Scalex http://amzn.to/2EXSuyE $8.25 on Amazon and treat them. You have to treat again in three weeks to kill off the breeding cycle of the mites.
In the meantime you lose the 5 hatchlings – easy to do with mite infestations. Now you’ve lost a couple months and you’re out the cost of the meds, plus you’ve spent a lot of time and energy cleaning and spraying for mites. Quarantine would have been a better option.
How to Do It
Here’s my quarantine procedure. There are probably a million others; just do what is best for you and your aviary.
When a finch first arrives, I put it in a cage away from the others and do nothing for two days. I’m observing, letting it settle in, making sure it eats and drinks.
Links are below this article for all products mentioned…...
On the third day, I place a drop of Scatt on the back of the neck. It’s important to part the feathers and get this product onto the skin (much like we did dogs with flea treatment, if you’ve ever done that). SCATT goes into the bloodstream and kills off airsac mites as well as external mites. It remains active for up to 21 days. The air sac mite’s life cycle is 14-21 days, so I’ll retreat on the 22nd day. That way I can eradicate any that escaped the first treatment.
SCATT also will treat Scaly mites (scaley face mites).
Birds affected with these mites may also have a secondary lung infection.
SCATT is a strong/harsh medication and is not the best choice for old, very young, or injured/stressed birds. S76 is an alternative.
I’m just going to share how we feed our birds. This is not intended to be the be-all, end-all ‘law’ of how to feed Gouldians. There is a lot of discussion about the “best” way to feed. There might even be the occasional heated disagreement. But we consistently raise good size, healthy finches that parent their own babies, and this is how we do it.
Note that this is what we do now. We have evolved over the years, and probably will continue to do so in the future. We like to learn, and as manufacturers improve on what they’re doing we will embrace it. If you read a post last year, it might have a slightly different list.
Basic Diet in Order
Tiny bit of Fruit
The Why and How of the Diet
So. The main food for our finches is fresh food. Vegetables mostly with a small bit of fruit. Mine don’t really like fruit that much, and I don’t like to waste food. So after teaching them how to eat fresh foods, they were still rejecting most fruit and I cut it out instead of continuing to waste it.
Here are just a few of the veggies we serve. The first 5 are their favorites.
Corn (cut off the cob, although they ‘re happy to eat it on the cob)
Sugar Snap peas
Cooked Sweet potato
Frozen veggies from Walmart: carrots, green beans, corn, peas mix, thawed/warmed –> this is the I’m-too-tired backup plan. I keep these on hand.
The Parrot University aims their diet plan, the Circus Diet, toward bigger birds but it could totally be for finches. Just chop it smaller.
The second food we serve is pellets. We have had a little bit of trouble recently with the pellet food because Roudybush changed their formula and the birds decided to reject it. I then switched to Harrison’s which they ate for a couple weeks (long enough for me to order a bunch) then they turned their beakies up at that.
So now I bought another bag of Roudybush and about half of them are eating it. I’m not really sure what to do. I did find they’ll eat the Harrison’s and the old bag of Roudybush if I wet and warm it. Little prince and princesses!
You’ll have to try to find the best pellets for yours, and it can be really frustrating if they have not eaten pellets in the past. More on that in a future post!
Please don’t go crazy on the pellets. They are an extruded processed food
After the pellet food, the next thing we probably serve the most of is egg food or birdie bread, which I consider interchangeable. I do make my own and avoid sugar at all costs. I see no reason whatsoever to give finches sugary food that could lead to a yeast overgrowth. Just my 2 cents.
Seed mix should come after all those foods. Seeds are not a complete diet. If you feed your birds only seeds, they’re going to have some deficits, like “holes” in their nutritional makeup. They will lack calcium, or Vitamin A, or D3. You might feel they’re healthy “except for…”
That’s what I hear. Except for egg binding.Or, Except for unexplained deaths. One lady wants to buy from me (I have finally quit selling to her) but she wants exceptionally young birds because “they don’t live more than 3 years.” Well, mine do. I bet if we examined her Gouldian diet, we’d find the problem.
Anyway, don’t believe the pet store employee who’s never owned a bird if they tell you to buy the seed and nothing else. Please. And don’t feed it because your grandmother gave seed-only to her canaries and it was good enough for her. Our understanding of birds has evolved since then. More scientists have studied their diets since then. We’ve all fed our birds and, via the Internet, we’ve pooled our information. We are better now!
So seed should fall near the bottom of the list. It is easy, but it’s like you and me eating potato chips every meal. Do we want to? Of course! But is it good for us? No way.
Now, I’ve listed fruit way down near the bottom, although I serve the fresh fruit with the veggies or in the bread, and I’m not sure it’s really that small. Honestly mine don’t care for fruit. They absolutely won’t touch anything with orange or tangelo (darn it — I have a tangelo tree) or lime. I read that you could let a canary teach them to eat oranges; mine said no go. So I give a little apple now and then, or some applesauce in the bread, or maybe a slice of pear. That’s all.
At the very bottom we have supplements. Calcium, D3, or just a good overall vitamin will do well. Remember to account for what’s in the pellets — you don’t want to overdose them. I figure my birds get about 1/3 what the manufacturer recommends, so I give them 1/3 the recommended vitamins. I like to use the kind that you mix in water.
That’s about it! Please let me know if you have any diet questions. I’ll try to answer them the best I can.
You may have heard of birdie bread but never served it to your finches. If you have a small number, you may even wonder if it’s worth it. Because it is another way to offer healthy food, I believe birdie bread is an important part of the weekly diet. If you make large batches and freeze them, y ou’ll have plenty for weeks to come.
What is It?
Birdie bread is a healthy, sugar free bread made from flour or cornmeal, vegetables, fruit or fruit juice, and additives like seeds or nuts. Some people sprinkle vitamin powder, probiotics, or other supplements on the bread to ensure the birds ingest it. Bread is especially good for those rushed mornings when you simply can’t make chop. If created with pellets and vegetables, it is just as good for them as anything else you serve.
Here are a couple of ways to make birdie bread that works for finches.
Gouldian Gardens Super Awesome Birdie Bread
1 cup pellets (I use roudybush) soaked in water or apple juice to cover
1 cup flour: Soy, wheat, oat, whatever type you are comfortable with
3-4 jars toddler vegetables (baby food)
Any fresh vegetables you have on hand
Water if you didn’t use baby food
Cinnamon, about 1 T
Because my fids are small, I whirl the veggies in the food processor. Then I add baby food, eggs, pellets, and last put in the flour a little at a time. You may need to add water. It should be thicker than human bread mix would be.
You can add bird seed if you have new birds that aren’t use to breads. Also add nuts, flax seed, chia seed, etc. Spread into 9X13 pan and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. I cut into small squares and freeze most. It always smells so good hubby begs to eat it. (Actually I think maybe he’s tried it)
Easiest Bird Bread
8 eggs, reserve shells
1-2 cups flour
1 cup of pellets (I use Roudybush) soaked in apple juice or water
2-4 cups broccoli, carrots, and squash OR a large bag of frozen corn/peas/carrots.
2 T coconut oil, divided.
Put eggs in large bowl and whisk. Add flour a little at a time. If using pellets, only put in 1 cup flour – if no pellets, use 2 cups. Let the pellets absorb water before stirring them in. Chop the vegetables finely in food processor (thaw first if frozen). Grind the egg shells very fine (I use a nutribullet) and stir in. Add 1 T coconut oil.
Spread the other Tablespoon of coconut oil in the bottom of a 13X9” baking pan. Spread bread mix on top, it will be thick.
Bake in oven 30 minutes at 350 or until slightly brown on top. Cut into tiny squares and serve. Freeze unused portions up to a month or more.
Optional additives to bird bread: dry egg food, up to 1 cup – add ¾ cup water with it. Bird seed, as much as you like. Ground flax seed or chia seeds are appreciated too. Baby food, toddler veggies, work in place of fresh veggies.
Note: many people recommend using cornbread mix in place of flour. I do not use it because of the sugar content, which can easily lead to yeast infections.
One of the first things new Gouldian finch owners learn when they go online is that seeds are not a complete diet. In fact they are a very, very incomplete diet lacking in most nutrients. So one of the foods we immediately offer is “chop.”
Chop is simply cut-up vegetables, which provide many of the vitamins our Gouldians need. Chop is good for every species of bird, from finches all the way up to the largest parrots – so if you have other birds feel free to give them some of the chop as well.
A good way to get them to eat vegetables is to serve those same vegetables each day in the same type of bowl and at the same time.
There are very few vegetables that are off-limits: onions, avocado, apple seeds, and tomatoes come immediately to mind. People will tell you that lettuce isn’t the best, simply because it has high water content. But my argument is this. If they like it, which most do, and it helps get them to eat chop, why not? Just don’t overfeed it since it does cause a loose stool.
Most people like to vary their chop, offering many different vegggies. I usually make a big salad for the humans and divide out part of it for the birds before putting in the onion, avocado, and dressing.
So your first chop might consist of a small bit of lettuce, broccoli, carrots, peas, and corn. Maybe some cucumber. Put those in the food processor and pulse just a little, enough to make it small but not too much like purée. Gouldians don’t care for terribly wet foods so purée won’t work for them, although some other birds like it just fine.
One thing I do for birds that haven’t tried chop before is dry it a little by stirring in a spoonful of plain dry breadcrumbs or dry egg food. This helps soak up the water content. You could also sprinkle a little of whatever they are used to eating on top.
The first time you serve chop, don’t be surprised if they don’t eat it. This is to be expected. Everything is suspicious at first! A good way to get them to eat it is to continue serving those same vegetables each day in the same type of bowl and at the same time. You could even pull out their other food containers for an hour or two to encourage the Gouldians to give it a try.
If after a week they have not tasted their vegetables, it’s time to change it up. Don’t chop it as much, or chop it smaller. Offer it as little piles of separate foods instead of mixing it. Warm it up (birds love warm food). Don’t overheat it though, especially if using a microwave. Offer cooked sweet potato – I have yet to see a bird refuse warm sweet potato.
Remember that a finch eats maybe ½ teaspoon per day, so don’t expect them to eat big piles of vegetables. If you see them nibbling it, or dragging a kale leaf across the floor, celebrate – you did it.
Once you have your Gouldians eating fresh vegetables, it is easy enough to change it around. Offering 10 or 20 different foods in a week is not too much. The point is to provide them with as many whole food nutrients as possible in order to provide the best health possible.
Did you notice that the perches that came with your cage were all 1/2-inch dowels, and they’re extremely smooth?
Yeah. That’s not what we want.
See, your Gouldian’s feet get sores on them when they have to stand day in and day out on the exact same surface. So it’s best to give them varied types of perches –different lengths, widths, and different types of surfaces. You can find a lot: sand/cement covered, twisted wood, real wood branches fitted with screws to fasten them on. These are great because they get to exercise their feet.
You’ll need finch sized perches, by the way. Their feet should wrap about 3/4 of the way around it, if it is a dowel perch.
I’m not saying don’t use the dowel perches, but add some other ones in addition to.
Just stay away from those sandpaper covers you can put over a perch, they’ll hurt them. And avoid the plastic ones that come with the itty bitty pet store cages; just watch your birds and you’ll see how uncomfortable those are.
You may have purchased your Gouldian finches thinking that you could put them in the same cage as your other birds. You may have hookbills, finches, or a combination. You may have an aviary, and you’re thinking that’d be an awesome place for a few Goulds. But Lady Gouldian finches are very calm, quiet birds and don’t do well as cage mates for just everyone.
Finches are often an impulse buy at the pet store. I don’t blame you if you bought some this way. What’s not to like? They’re bright, pretty, intelligent, and curious. We fall for them easily. But some people say Gouldians are not beginner birds….
What the Pet Store Probably Told You…
Gouldian finches are only 4 to 5 inches long, and the pet store may have told you they fit in one of those itty bitty cages. That’s not true. Well, strictly speaking it is true – they fit. They just don’t thrive in there. Gouldians need to be able to fly in their cage; it’s good exercise and it keeps them healthy. Hopping from perch to perch doesn’t cut it. So before you do anything else, please buy at least a 30X18X18 cage for your finch.
Or, if you are willing to go a little taller right off (it’s even better for the birds) try a flight cage:
This one is available in both white and black: (click to enlarge) See on Amazon
I have several of these and really like them:
click to see on Amazon
One reason I like those is that I can remove the side panels and fasten 2 or 3 together.
There’s a little more room inside that last one ^^ because there’s less storage underneath.So it’s up to you: More room for flight, or more storage?
Feeding Lady Gouldians
Now that the cage thing is out of the way…. Did you know that a seed-only diet is unhealthy for birds? Most people think “bird seed” is all they eat. That’s not the case, if you want to keep them in good health. They can eat lots of people food, like kale, lettuce, spinach carrots, and more. They can eat finch pellets, which are fortified with vitamins. And they love hard boiled egg, which you can give them fresh or, if your time is limited, supply dry egg food. Below are the seed, egg food, and pellets for feeding your finches.
Bird Seed Egg Food Harrison’s Pellets – be sure you get extra fine.
Those were the two main things for keeping Gouldian finches well even if you are a rank beginner. If you’d like to know more about keeping Gouldian finches, try one of these articles: