Keeping Waxbills in an Aviary

Waxbills belong to the same family as finches (Estrildidae) and there are sixteen species of these lively and entertaining little birds. Keeping waxbills is not a complicated undertaking. However, they do have specific requirements to maintain optimum health and these should be taken into consideration before deciding to buy one (or preferably two).

Waxbills are gregarious, curious and energetic birds that thrive under the right conditions. They need at least one companion, but flocks of four to six birds generally do very well. Each waxbill in a flock will develop its own personality and they enjoy interacting with each other as well as their human companions. It is difficult to determine the sex of a waxbill, but observing their behavior may assist in differentiating between male and female. Males tend to display their colors and hop around the perch in front of the female. The female may move away from the male, sending him hopping along after her, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. Another clue to the sex of a bird is that it is only the male that will truly sing.

Although waxbills are small, they do not fare particularly well in a small cage. Bearing in mind that waxbills originate from the grasslands of Africa, factors such as temperature, lighting and diet are very important. In the wild, waxbills use the grasslands to find their food, to build their nests and to hide from predators. An aviary that provides a similar environment will be ideal. Either an aviary planted with some wild grasses and shrubs, or if this is not practical, then an aviary with dried grass bundles and plastic plants will suffice. The aviary needs to be warm and free from drafts. Waxbills need at least 12 hours of light per day which can be natural lighting, artificial lighting, or a combination of both.

Waxbills need a high protein diet and enjoy live food – such as worms and bugs – as a supplement to a good seed mix. If live food is not practical, waxbills should be given a high protein mix. However, they are not likely to breed if live food is not available. This is possibly an instinctive reaction, as they will need live food to feed their hatchlings. Fresh sprouts and greens, such as cabbage and broccoli, as well as treats such as a little cooked rice, peas and beans can be given, but should not form the bulk of their diet.

Cuttlefish bone and oyster shell should be made available to aid the waxbill’s digestion and maintain normal calcium levels. If these are not available, there are calcium supplements that can be added to their drinking water. Clean drinking water must be available at all times and waxbills love to bath in their drinking water. If they do this, replace the drinking water when they are done splashing around.

If you are considering buying waxbills, why not chat to other waxbill owners for first hand information on how these little birds can add a new dimension to your life.