Before you put a nest and nesting materials in your bird's cage - you should consider whether or not you want to have more finches now. Don't laugh, it really could be NOW.
Finches of breeding age will breed quickly and often if provided the environment, and a mate. Some people get a pair of young birds not yet of mating age and are unaware that their finches will begin breeding as soon as they are old enough.
Often a first time birdkeeper will find out the hard way that they had a male and a female bird in the same cage. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a set of fake finch eggs ahead of time and know where they are. Put them somewhere safe you will remember where to get to them in a hurry if you need to use them.
The easiest way to prevent them from breeding is to make sure you have only the same gender of finches in a cage.
You can always change your mind later and add a bird of the opposite sex to the cage if you decide you know enough and are prepared for the additional time commitment required for raising a clutch of baby birds. Count on at least one month of heavy time involvement from the day you find the first egg of a planned pairing of your birds. The first several days of nesting and egg laying is the easy part for the humans. Once the babies hatch, it takes much more human attention to see that your birds are successfully feeding and caring for their hatchlings, and if need be, help with crop-feeding, rescuing tossed babies etc.
Knowing how to tell a male from a female finch is not always easy especially when they are very young. The easiest way to identify a male is when they are about 21 days old, a male Society Finch will start trying to hop up and down with his head stretched skywards and scratching out a few notes of song. The voice will mature and volume will increase as he gets older. Females do not sing and dance - they do flutter their tail back and forth in a swishing motion and cheep a steady one or two cheeping tone.
If you have a female finch that is laying eggs (much like chicken hens will lay eggs without a male) or if you know you have a male and a female finch pair in the same cage and you do not want to have more finches, substitute each egg with a fake egg. Remove the real egg more than an hour after it is laid with a teaspoon. The eggs are sort of flexible right after being laid so if you wait an hour or so, there less chance of breakage. Just patiently wait for the hen to move from sitting on the egg and then use the teaspoon to get the new egg out of the nest and the cage. Place a fake egg back in to replace the first egg. If she lays more eggs, only add another fake egg every time a real one is laid. She will sit on the fakes for a couple of weeks. Then remove the nest and the fakes, clean them and leave the nest out of the cage. Finches can and will perch instead of sleeping in a nest when there is no nest available. Store your cleaned fake eggs for next time, there will be a next time!
Making eggs uses available calcium in a bird's body first through whatever nutrients they eat, but if they do not receive enough calcium in their diet, it will be depleted from their bones, resulting in what is sometimes termed a calcium deficiency crisis. This is why even though you may only have female finches and you are absolutely no males are mating with them, you should replace real eggs with fake eggs if they start laying eggs unexpectedly.
Sources for Fake Eggs - Fake Finch Eggs Are Your Friend!
Bird Supply of New Hampshire
The Egg Shop Look for the Small Finch Size
10 ZEBRA FINCH: 1/2" long (12.7mm)(PALE BLUE TINT, speckles, smallest available )
Vonda Zwick director of the FINCHSAVE CENSUS for NFSS.org and the moderator of Avian Microscopy Yahoo Group and owner of FinchAviary,com has published some great articles on breeding and caring for finches and softbills.
Maintaining a non-breeding aviary
Finch Information Center - Breeding Finches
First Steps - before you put male and female finches in the same cage
Bird Bands Info
Breeding Reference Articles from JustBirdStuff
Finch Breeding template in MS Word
Gouldian Breeding template in MS Excel
Keeping A Bird Journal
Software Packages for Avian Record Keeping
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