Zebra Finches are easy to accommodate. They can be housed inside in cages, or outside in open flights. However, a birdroom with attached flights provides a successful combination with most Zebra Finch breeders.
Before any firm steps are taken towards ordering or building a birdroom or aviary, it may be necessary to consult your neighbours and also your local authority. In the latter case all that may be required initially is a rough sketch, showing dimensions and general outlines, with a plan of the garden to indicate the proposed site.
Starting up, you need to provide a dry and draught proof accommodation for your birds. A converted garden shed is an ideal starting birdroom. If your birdroom has a wooden floor it is best to support the whole structure at least 6 inches off the ground, this allows a free flow of air to move under the bird room it also deters any rodents from taking up residence and nesting there. Once you know your birdroom is water proof it pays to insulate the walls and roof, B&Q do an insulating material on a roll which you simply staple to the woodwork, once this is done simply line the inside with plywood, this gives a sound finish inside your bird room which then just requires one or two coats of paint to give an attractive draught proof bird room. At this point i would also look at covering the floor. You can use a vinyl floor covering or even laminate flooring, this not only gives an attractive finish to your bird room but will also assist in adding more insulation to the inside of the structure.
A birdroom 8' x 6' would be the minimum size recommended for the beginner. When planning your birdroom it is good policy to take into account future expansion - so allow yourself room for extra cage, flight and storage space.
Outside flights, or aviaries, are normally timber and wire mesh constructions 2'' x 2'' squire timber for the main panels and 1/2'' x 1/2'' welded mesh proves ideal. The most popular aviary floor covering is course shingle. For cleaning purposes, it can be raked over, or hosed down in the summer. Natural perching is best employed in your aviary, apple tree or willow branches for example, this is used instead of dowling as it gives the birds feet more exercise having to adjust to differing diameters of perching, it also gives a more natural look to the aviary.
Zebra Finches may be kept in planted aviaries as part of a mixed collection - but this is not recommended for the serious breeder and exhibitor.
When Zebra Finches are kept in outside flights they can withstand the coldest winters but there must be a dry, draught proof shelter provided for them. It is recommended that your birdroom or aviary should be facing south as this provides the most natural light and sunshine, a north facing birdroom will be darker and cooler and will take longer to warm up.
Lighting and Heating:
Electricity is very useful in the birdroom so that artificial lighting can be used, especially during the breeding season. You can seek the advice of an electrician if you are not certain of any installation. Faulty wiring poses a risk not only to your birds but also to you and your family. The best time to install the wiring is before you line the walls of your bird room.
Heating may be used in the birdroom but is not essential. Most breeders use some form of heating, just enough to keep the temperature above freezing point during the dark cold winter months. A tubular heater controlled by a thermostat can be employed to do this job.
Cages and Fittings:
Cages may be built - 'in' or freestanding blocks. To start with, cages may be made at home using plywood. Cage fronts can be bought at quite reasonable prices, the most widely used cage fronts are of course Foreign Finch Fronts. These may be purchased at most local pet shops. They can even be made from constructing a simple wooden frame and a covering of welded mesh attached.
The average size cage for breeding Zebra Finches is 24'' x 16'' x 12'' deep (60cm x 41cm x30cm). Stock cages for housing birds when not breeding may be double breeding cages or flights. Smaller cages may be used - but this depends on the space you have available.
Food and Water Containers:
For those starting up in the hobby of keeping Zebra Finches you will soon find that sundry items such as food and water containers can prove to be expensive items if you decide to purchase them from your local pet store, however, with a little imagination there are many product containers that will suit your requirements. For example, coffee jar lids or flower pot trays make ideal seed containers. Knorr sizzle and serve cooking sauce jars (the Top Jar), also make great seed and grit pots and can also be used for feeding rearing food.
If you wish to purchase seed and water containers, the 'flowmatic' clip - on tubes are very popular. Plastic containers that hold a jam jar of seed are widely used also, but the conventional china products are also very useful. The round bowl types that sit on the cage floor are the best buy.