The society finch is unique in that it is a cultivated variety of bird for which there is no wild population. It does not and never did exist in the wild state. They possible originated as hybrids of 2 other manakin species which produced fertile hybrids. It’s scientific name Lonchura domestica denotes it’s relationship to the manakins and it’s status as a domestic species. There are no known origins for this species, but it is most likely that it was brought to Japan from China sometime around the year 1700. The first known specimens in Europe were 2 pure white birds brought to the London Zoo in 1860.
The beautiful plumage, quirky song and antics of the society finch have made them one of world’s most popular finches. Society finches are admired and kept throughout the world. They are easy to care for, hardy, and suitable for any type of household. They require little space, however as with any bird they enjoy having space to fly.
Society finches make excellent family pets for people of all ages, but they’re particularly appealing to the elderly because they add color and sound to the home without requiring them to leave their cage. They are an excellent starter bird for children and especially young aviculturists who want to learn first hand about breeding birds. They are constantly active hopping and flitting around the cage making a very pleasant squeaking call sounding much like a toy trumpet. Society finches are popular as house pets because of their beauty and the joy they bring to their owners.
Although they are highly domesticated they are not typically hand tamed and do not like handling.
They can be kept in groups in aviaries and even get along well with other species of similar sized birds. Plant aviaries make them particularly eye-catching. However, when nesting, they may become aggressive toward other birds, particularly finch species that are more vulnerable to attack.
Numerous color mutations have been developed over the years but most of the birds commonly seen are pieds.
Colors include fawn/white, gray-brown/white, chocolate/white and solid white. Dilutes of these color have recently been established. As pieds no 2 birds are identical. The patches are usually uneven but with careful breeding, birds with symmetrical marking can be produced. Solid colored society finches, birds with no white, have been bred and are referred to as selfs.
An almost black bird has also been produced by crossing societies with Bronze-winged manakins. Breeders have also created crested varieties, which are becoming increasingly popular. Japan produced frilled societies, which resemble frilled canaries.
Society finches are monomorphic; the sexes cannot be distinguished visually. They are sexed by behavior. The male society is identified by his song. He sings frequently and does a cute squatting, shuffling dance to accompany the song. Young males will start to practice their song shortly after leaving the nest.
When shopping for a society finch, look an eye out for birds that seem to be full of energy. For the sake of the birds’ social well-being, society finches are typically sold in pairs. If you are selecting birds from an aviary try to select two birds that are perching together to enhance you chances of obtaining a compatible or bonded pair.
Catch the society finch and cup it in your hand to feel its chest. If the keel bone is prominent it may be too thin. You can detect signs of respiratory disease by listening to the bird’s clicking respirations. The bird’s eyes and plumage should be bright and alert.
Weighing in at15-20 grams and 4.5-5 inches (11-12 cm) in length, they are slightly larger than the popular zebra finch.
Diet and Feeding
Society finches are granivorous by nature feeding primarily on grass seeds. Classical society finch diets have been seed diets consisting of a mixture of mixed millet seeds, and canary seed but they can also be offered rapeseed, dehusked oats, niger, linseed, hemp, lettuce and other small seeds. Rape is high in protein and beneficial oils. Carbohydrate content is high in canary seed and millets.
Kaytee’s pellets (extruded diets) are small enough for canaries and finches to eat comfortably, yet they contain a complete and balanced diet. These can be substituted for seeds and seeds can be given as treats.
Society finches should also be offered small mounts of fresh dark green leafy vegetables such as romaine, endive, spinach, watercress and dandelion greens. They also enjoy tiny slices of apple, grapes, melons, or sprouts. These fresh foods are relished by society finches, which have been introduced to them especially at a young age.
Boiled eggs or commercial egg food are excellent for young and breeding society finches but care must be taken in avoiding contamination, leaving moist foods in the cage too long.
If your society finch is fed a seed diet vitamin supplementation is needed. Ideally vitamins should be added to soft foods such as egg food and a soft bread mix. To avoid bacterial growth, you can add vitamins to the water, but be sure to wash the bowl or bottle every day. A pelleted diet eliminates the need for vitamin supplements in birds.
Society finches have historically been given grit however contrary to popular belief society finches do not require grit. They’ll eat it and it won’t hurt them if they’re healthy, but if they’re not, they might overeat and end up with an impaction. A recent scientific study demonstrated that grit consumption in canaries is not essential or even clearly beneficial.
Mineral grit which contains digestible minerals may however but an important source of minerals if the birds otherwise do not receive adequate minerals in the diet.
Society finches are vulnerable to death if their water supply is cut off for more than a day.
Housing (Society Finch)
Society finches are small but they are very active and should be given plenty of room to move around their cage. They should have at least 2 perches far enough apart to jump or fly between. Cage size for a pair should be at least 14 inches square. Bars are often vertical for society finch cages.
The floor of the cage should ideally be lined with paper, newspaper or craft paper. Daily paper changes are facilitated by sheets of paper that are cut to the exact dimensions of the cage floor. When changing the paper, make it a daily ritual to look your bird’s stools.
This is a great way to keep tabs on its well-being. If your society finch is eating seeds the feces should look like a small dark round dot or string (the feces) with a smaller white spot (the urates or solid urine) on top. If he’s eating pellets, expect his feces to be a little bulkier and possibly colored by the pellets, which will pass through his system without harm. This is normal.
Some colors may also show up in the urates. Stools can become more liquid and bulky if you feed them fruits, greens, or vegetables. Stop feeding these food and the feces should return to the more typical
appearance (Society Finch)
The cage should be placed so it is not directly below an air conditioning vent, or in a direct sunlight fro a window, but should be in an area of the home where there is much activity. Airborne toxins have a significant effect on the health of society finches. If you keep your society finch in the kitchen, always be aware of the dangers of Teflon poisoning, cleaning chemicals, oven cleaners. (Teflon poisoning occurs when a Teflon pot or pan is overheated, not during normal cooking temperatures).
Taking care of one’s appearance
These birds enjoy baths, and there are small bird baths available that can be used with their cage doors. Fill with lukewarm water to use. Allow the bird to come in at his own pace. A shallow bowl of water on the cage floor can also be provided to society finches. They should be allowed to bathe twice weekly to maintain excellent plumage.
Society finches rarely have their wings clipped because they are rarely handled. If you do choose to let your bird fly in the house however there are safely concerns. Accidents are often associated with ceiling fans, birds falling into open toilets, swimming pools, pots on the stove, etc. Escapes can also happen very quickly when a door is suddenly opened and the bird becomes startled and flies out.
Nails should be kept an appropriate length, as overgrown nails can be a hazard as well. The quick (vein) inside the nail can be clipped with fingernail clippers. Since a society finch’s nails are white the vein can be seen easily and the nail should be clipped a little bit past the vein. If a nail bleeds after being cut, apply quick stop to stop the bleeding. If no such product is available you can stick the nail into a bar of soap, apply flour or cornstarch or you can light a match, blow it out and cauterize the nail on the hot head of the match. Because of their small size control of bleeding is important.
Breeders often use a leg band to identify their society finches. These bands often show the hatch year and code of the breeder. They may also indicate the family of the society finch. If well fitted they represent negligible risk but may help you to retrieve your bird if it is lost.
Breeding (Society Finch)
A pair of society finches will breed and raise their young on their own, making them an ideal pet for beginners. In North America, the breeding season typically lasts from March to July. Generally, they are dependable breeders, but there are a few outliers who may burry eggs, toss eggs from the nest, or fail to properly care for chicks.
Breeding society finches in pair cages is ideal however they can be bred in aviaries. Breeding in cages yields higher yields and greater control over pairings than open-air breeding. If you are breeding for specific colors pair breeding is required. Breeding is a large aviary housing several pairs requires less work, however the results are usually not as good.
The breeding cage should be larger than a single pet cage. The classic breeding cage size is approximately 24 inches long, 14 inches tall and 10 inches wide. A good option for a canary breeding cage is a standard one like this one. They are usually constructed so a partition can be slid into the cage to separate the male from the female. Because the male assists the female in raising the chicks, society finch pairs tend to stay together.
Society finches build a nest in a half-open basket hung on the side of the breeding cage. Baskets can be purchased in pet shops and are usually about 4 ½ – 6 inches long. Small wooden finch boxes could also be used. If breeding in an aviary scatter the boxes and provide approx 2 boxes per pair to prevent quarreling over nest sites.
Nests should be placed so they can be inspected without too much disturbance. Provide building materials such as dry grasses, moss, and cowhair, unraveled cut hemp rope, which should be placed on the floor of the cage or aviary. Boxes of short strings sold by pet stores can be used to build nests for society finches. Strings should be kept short to avoid entanglements for the birds and chicks.
She begins to lay eggs a few days after mating and will produce 4-8 white eggs in a clutch. The majority of eggs are laid one day apart and in the early hours of the morning. There is a 12- to 13-day incubation period.
Provide plenty of food for the pair to feed their young, especially egg foods and some fresh greens. Sprouted or germinated seeds are also relished. The children are cared for by both parents. The chicks can be banded at 8-10 days of age.
Serious breeders use these leg bands to maintain genealogical records to assist in breeding for desired traits. For a few more weeks after they leave the nest, the young chicks are still fed by their parents. During this time the hen may start preparing for the next brood.
About three weeks after hatching, chicks should be removed from their parents’ cages because they will be clamoring to get back into the nest with their parents. It is generally recommended that the pair be limited to 2-3 broods in a season to prevent exhaustion. The adults can
To get back in shape for the following season, the birds will be placed in large flock flights separated by sexes. Reducing the photoperiod (reduce to around 10 hours of light daily) will also help to shut them down.
Before they go through their first molt at around 6 months of age, the young birds should be moved to a large flight cage with other young birds. The molt lasts about 6 weeks and during this time the birds will be less active and usually won’t sing. Feather regeneration is aided by well-balanced nutrition, which includes additional vitamins. After molting the young birds should be sexed and separated into aviaries by sex.
Diseases (Society Finch)
Bacterial infections, especially Campylobacter- can cause intestinal disease. Yeast infection in the intestines can cause weight loss and poor digestion. Society finches frequently carry the flagellated protozoan Cochlosoma. In most cases, adult birds are unaffected by the parasite, but it is possible that they could spread it to other species, particularly when caring for orphaned animals. Chicks of zebra or gouldian finches may become infected if they are raised by or with Society finches.
Atoxoplasmosis – A common disease of canaries, this disease is occasionally found in society finches. Known as Isospora serini, a coccidian (protozoa) is to blame for this parasitic disease that affects young birds (2-9 months old) and can have a high mortality rate. It is diagnosed by fecal examination.
- Coccidiosis – A similar organism (Isospora canaria), which also produces intestinal disease and diarrhea.
- Emaciation, regurgitation, and respiratory problems are all symptoms of Trichomonas, a flagellated protozoan pest that infests crops.
- Liver disease – Probably associated most often with poor nutrition or bacterial infections, however can also be associated with many other disease processes.
- Lice and mites – Uncommon on pet society finches but may be a problem in breeding aviaries.
Don’t allow your society finches to have un-supervised freedom in the home. Other family pets such as cats & dogs often kill pet society finches. They are also particularly vulnerable to airborne toxins and household hazards. Make sure you don’t get poisoned by carpet cleaners, scented candles, or even Teflon.
A yearly checkup by a veterinarian is recommended for your pet society finches if you want it to reach its full potential. Society finches can live up to 8-10 years with good nutrition and care.
Learn about the different types of pet birds.