When it comes to keeping any type of bird, the first thing you need to understand is their diet. What can they eat and what should they avoid? With finches, they are primarily seed eaters but they also benefit from eating different types of fresh foods.
Let’s take a look at what fresh foods finches can eat and how to feed it to them.
Vegetables to feed finches
Vegetables are beneficial for finches in a similar way to humans. All those nutrients in them are helpful for a whole range of reasons and provide crucial elements that their bodies need to be healthy. There are a few to avoid but most are fine. Some of the most popular include:
If they could speak, I’m sure that my finches would vote kale as their favourite vegetable. These leafy greens are readily available in supermarkets due to their place as a human superfood and this makes them easy to obtain, fresh and very nutritious.
Spinach is another one to add to the list along with herbs such as parsley in smaller amounts. Spinach is high in something called oxalate or oxalic acid which can cause diarrhoea, vomiting and poor blood clotting so I tend to only offer them this occasionally, with the resident rabbits being offered it first so the finches only get a limited amount.
Broccoli is another favourite along with grated carrot, sprout leaves and cooked peas. My birds enjoy the occasional bowl of frozen sweetcorn defrosted and served with peas and products such as Perle Morbide, which is yellow and green so blends in well! We often add some diced peppers and for some reason, they like all the colours apart from the green ones which are summarily thrown onto the cage or flight floor.
Cabbage and lettuce are both good, though iceberg lettuce isn’t full of goodness – they do get a bit extra water from it though so this can be good when it warmer. Cauliflower can be offered, especially with the leaves.
Many weeds can be ideal to feed to finches and I have even tried intentionally growing some of them (much to local gardener’s horror). Dandelions, grasses, alfalfa and chickweed are all examples of nutritious weeds but be careful that you know where they have come from. Roadside foraging is a bad idea due to the chemicals from car exhaust and grass verges may have been treated with chemicals that can be fatal to birds.
Other finch friendly vegetables include:
- Bell peppers
- Butternut squash
- Celery (leafy ends rather than the sticks which don’t have much nutritional benefit)
- Peas, fresh or frozen (but defrosted)
- Sweet potato
Like vegetables, fruit makes a great addition to the finch diet and there are many different fruits that are safe for them to eat. Top of the list are berries, naturally taken by many wild birds and perfect for captive species.
Apples are great – slice them up so they can easily eat the soft flesh. One preparation tip is to remove the apple seeds. They contain minute amounts of arsenic and while there’s probably little risk to the birds, I always think it is worth removing them for the time it takes. Pears are much the same.
Citrus fruits and apricots are also on the safe list along with grapes, melons and pineapple. Some are more beneficial in terms of their nutritional value than others but by offering a range, there is a better chance the birds will take a liking to something and sample the rest.
Other fruits to try them with include:
Other human foods
There are other ‘human’ foods that are great to add to finches’ diet. Cereal grains can be offered, some of which might need softening before they are editable for little beaks. Other foods such as quinoa and mung beans (bean sprouts) can be soaked until they begin to sprout and are at their healthiest at this point.
Corn is also another one to add, our birds always enjoyed sweetcorn defrosted and mixed with things like peas.
Avoid milk and other dairy products as birds don’t naturally consume such things, though some lists of safe foods do include cheese. Keep away from the strong stuff such as coffee, alcohol and tea as well as any manufactured foods as these usually have lots of additives and sugar in them.
While raw egg isn’t recommended, eggshells can be a good source of calcium. Bake them in the oven to remove any bacteria then mix in with egg food to disguise them if birds are reluctant.
Nuts are a good addition to bird’s diets and are popular with parrot species. Some lists recommend tomatoes and onions while others don’t but I admit I’ve never fed mine either just in case.
Fresh foods to avoid
There’s lots of tasty things you can feed finches but also a few that you should avoid. Some are for obvious reasons while other contain hidden nastiness that don’t really bother humans but could cause finches and other birds problems.
- Aubergine (eggplant) – both the stem and unripe parts are toxic and finches don’t usually bother the rest
- Avocado – fatty and toxic to birds
- Beans – uncooked beans are dangerous so keep away from them
- Chocolate – yes, you can keep your chocolate it isn’t healthy for them
- Potatoes – when raw can be mildly toxic
- Rhubarb – leaves are toxic
While it isn’t a guaranteed system, I often look at what kind of foods the birds would eat in nature then look for similar foods available here. And if they won’t eat something, then try hiding it with other foods that they enjoy, such as egg food and they may find it more acceptable. This was how I started them eating supplement foods such as Perle Morbide and now they will eat the Perle before the vegetables, it is no longer something for them to fear.