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Zebra finches are hardy, cheerful, compact-in-size birds. They are easy to care for and easy to breed. If you think you'd like to try your hand at breeding birds, these lovely little creatures are excellent subjects. Before you start, though, be sure of one thing: that you will be able to provide homes for the resulting babies. Zebra finches are nothing if not prolific and will often start a new nest before the previous babies have fledged. Make sure you have a local pet store ready to take the babies or that you have family or friends who are willing to adopt them.

To be sure that the birds have adequate space, provide them with the largest cage you can find. The bars need to be close enough together so that the finches can't squeeze through, and the cage should be large enough to allow for some flying and stretching room. Next, visit your local pet store or breeder and purchase a nest basket. These baskets come in several shapes and sizes. Some are open, bowl-shaped baskets while others are enclosed on all sides with a small opening in front through which the birds enter and exit. You may want to get one of each to see which your birds prefer.

While at the pet store you should also purchase a package of nesting material. This is what the birds will use to line their nest, but you will find that they will also used shredded newspaper, feathers, bits of seeds, and whatever else they can carry up to the nest basket. Hang the basket in the cage, place the nesting material in an easy-to-get-to spot within the cage, and wait to see if the pair will begin building a nest.

If you have a compatible pair, and the birds are old enough, they will usually start building their nest at once. Make sure you provide lots of clean water for the birds, as the female will want to bathe often to keep her feathers slightly damp once she is on eggs. This ensures that the egg shells don't become brittle or dry.

There will usually be between three and six eggs. The eggs are tiny, about the size of the ball of your little finger. Don't disturb the parents once they are on eggs; and if they seem unusually nervous about humans coming near, move slowly and calmly when you feed and water them. It's usually a good idea to restrict visitors from their cage area while they are nesting.

Feed the parents a varied and nutritious diet both before they begin breeding and after the hen has started laying eggs. Millet, a high quality finch diet; hard boiled egg yolks; fresh fruits and vegetables; and slices of whole wheat bread provide a very good diet. You will want to continue feeding the birds these foods after the babies arrive, as well.

The parents feed the babies by regurgitating food. By providing nutritious foods for the adults, you will be making sure that the babies are well fed. In a few weeks, the babies will be fully feathered and pecking at the food offered in the seed cups. When they are feeding themselves and the parents are no longer supplementing their meals with regurgitated food, they are ready to go to their new homes.

By following these hints and carefully reading up on zebra finches on the Internet and in books, you will be well on your way to raising these charming little birds. Good luck!