How cute is that? Those are my society finches and are the topic of this post. The two at the bottom left are the offspring of the two just above them.
The society finch (Lonchura striata domestica) is one of the more common species of finch kept in captivity. They’ve been bred in captivity for hundreds of years and are considered to be truly domesticated, so there’s no such thing as a “wild” society finch. Societies are likely descendents of the White-rumped Munia (Lonchura striata), and some societies look quite a bit like wild munias. Societies come in several different colours and patterns (as can be seen in the picture above), and there’s even a “crested” variety that has a circular crest on the head. The bird in the middle-right in the above photo is a crested society.
Society finches are sometimes called Bengalese finches. I suspect that they’ve been called “society” finches due to their extremely sociable natures. They will get along with anything that will get along with them, and in fact, if bullied by another type of bird, they will usually just back off. This makes them a nice addition to an aviary that houses other gentle species, such as Gouldian finches.
Societies prefer to be in groups or at least pairs. Even in a cage with several nests, it’s not unusual at all to see numerous birds all jammed in one nest. It’s really quite cute but can be a bit of a problem during breeding season. Often, if several birds share a nest, eggs may not be incubated properly and won’t hatch. The best breeding results tend to be from birds that are paired off or are kept in trios. Birds can be paired for part of the year in order to breed and then placed in a flock during the rest of the year.
Males and females of this species are similar in appearance, although males sing and females don’t. Male societies have a soft, short, squeaky-sounding song. Both males and females incubate eggs and feed nestlings. Societies will breed in nearly anything of suitable size but seem to like the woven bamboo nests, like the one in the picture above. Most will pad the nest with some sort of nesting material and I’ve given mine timothy hay, straw, aspen shavings or strips of newspaper to use as nesting material. Never use cedar chips, as they will irritate the birds’ respiratory systems. Incubation takes about 13 days and the young fledge in about 21-25 days. Once the young fledge (leave the nest) they will still be fed by the parents for another couple of weeks. Society finches are usually excellent parents, to the point where they are often used to foster eggs and chicks of other, more difficult to breed finch species.
For those who want to keep societies but don’t want to breed them, the eggs they lay can be replaced with fake eggs right after they are laid, or the birds can simply not be given a nest. Note that even without a nest box, societies may still lay eggs on the floor of the cage. If eggs in a nest are to be taken, don’t just keep taking eggs away without adding fake ones, as the female may just keep laying more and more eggs to replace the lost ones. That can be hard on her body.
I feed my finches a standard finch seed mix, along with some egg food and greens (they love broccoli). I also provide a cuttlebone, since my females do lay eggs, and the cuttlebone is a great source of calcium. I did let my societies raise a couple babies, but I’ve been putting fake eggs in their nests lately, mainly because if I let them raise every egg they laid, I’d be up to my armpits in finches. Plus, I kept both babies that my birds raised and I don’t really want them to breed with each other or back to their parents.
The cage-set up I use involves two of these…
…that I stuck side-by-side. I took off the side doors so the finches can fly back and forth between the cages. This set up wasn’t terribly expensive and it gives the finches lots of room to fly around in. Pet finches really should be given enough room to fly and they should never be wing-clipped like parrots often are since they do not climb like parrots do. I also have two spice finches and four Gouldians in with the societies and they all get along wonderfully.
The finches are very different than the parrots I usually write about, since they don’t really rely on people for social interactions the way a lot of pet parrots do. Finches are very tricky to tame, and thus are pets for looking at more than anything. I personally enjoy watching my finches, as they’re quite active and are often busy courting each other, singing, preparing a nest, flying around or eating. They’re really quite active and endearing little birds. They require less maintenence than parrots, but still need some degree of care. Food and water needs changing daily, and the cage should be kept clean. On occasion, a finch may need his nails trimmed, although I’ve only ever had to trim my spice finches’ nails. Finches also should be fed more than just seed. Egg food can give them protein and greens can provide the vitamins that are lacking in the seeds. Finches also don’t play with toys the way parrots do, but they do need space to fly and a variety of perches. Some like swings and bells.
I also keep button quail with the finches. Button quail are usually fine to keep in large enclosures with finches, although the quail should be placed elsewhere if the finches are raising chicks. Any chicks that fall out of the nest may be pecked at by the quail.
Above are three button quail chicks I raised. I got them at a few days old, so they still needed supplemental heat. I kept them in a 10 gallon aquarium with a heat lamp over it. Their food (game bird feed) had to be ground into a powder so they could eat it. I got the three since my female quail had died (she was at least 4.5 years – old for a button quail!) and my male was left alone. I put one female from the trio with him when she was grown and I left the other two together (and they’re in with my lineolated parakeets). I normally would not recommend keeping quail with parrots but the linnies are not aggressive and leave the quail alone.