Zebra finches are a common caged song bird you can breed at home, allowing the hobbyist to enjoy the raising of a nest of birds. The process of going from a mated pair of Zebra finches to adult birds takes about six weeks. Zebra finches can live to an age of 8 years in captivity. You can raise a clutch of Zebra finch eggs to adult birds in a larger home bird cage equipped with a nesting box.
Zebra finches lay between three and eight eggs usually at the rate of one egg per day. Eggs are laid in a provided nesting box. You can build these nest boxes from light plywood or use woven wicker nest boxes available in many pet stores. The eggs hatch after an incubation of about two weeks.
The chicks stay in the nest about three weeks after hatching. Baby Zebra finches are about 1 inch in length with pink skin and have possibly a few small white feathers. The chicks become increasingly vocal starting at about three days. Banding chicks is done after about a week.
Even though they have left the nests the young fledglings are still reliant on their parents for food until they are about four weeks old. Chicks and fledglings have juvenile plumage and colors. The birds develop adult color patterns after their first molt.
Adult plumage begins to develop at about six weeks of age. This includes the distinctive orange beak of the species. The birds should be separated from their parents at this stage and moved to their own flight cages.
Zebra finches reach sexual maturity at about six months of age. Male birds reach sexual maturity earlier than females. Birds that have just reached sexual maturity may have nesting problems such as the male removing eggs from the nest. If the birds are not successful, the eggs don’t hatch or the chicks fail due to lack of feeding by their parents; therefore, on the first attempt remove the nest box for a few weeks and allow the birds to reach a higher level of maturity before returning it.
Zebra Finch image by Mike Price from Fotolia.com
Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.