Can You Keep Bullfinches as Pet?

Bullfinches have a tumultuous history in their relationship with humans. A couple centuries ago, Bullfinches were popular and kept as cage birds. They were tamed easily and even and even taught to imitate melodies.

But there have been times when bullfinches were vilified and considered a foe, especially because of their appetite for fresh buds and shoots of fruit trees. Their voracious feeding on buds of fruit trees earned them the reputation as a pest of fruit orchards.

General licenses for culling bullfinches were widely available and the practice was even rewarded by parishes.

Because of their dwindling population, bullfinches have become protected birds in the UK and several other areas of their range.

Although bullfinches have a history of being kept as pets, there are a few things you should know before you decide to have a pet bullfinch. Especially when it comes to the legality of it.

Below, I will address some of the biggest concerns of having a pet bullfinch. And I’ll start with whether it’s legal or not to keep bullfinches as pets.

Is it Legal to Keep Bullfinches as Pets?

Yes, it is legal to keep bullfinches as pets. And it’s also legal to breed bullfinches. But here’s the catch – you cannot capture or trap them. At least not in the UK.

In the UK, you can only source Bullfinches from a breeder. Therefore, you can only keep captive-bred bullfinches as pets. Captive-bred bullfinches can be quite expensive, fetching a handsome price for their breeders.

Trapping wild bullfinches and forcing them to live in captivity is a morally indefensible practice and prohibited in many of the regions in which bullfinches live. In the UK, it’s illegal to trap, possess, or sell a wild Bullfinch.

Therefore, if you’ve set your heart on owning a bullfinch as a pet, make sure to find a reputable breeder that will not only sell you a captive-bred bullfinch but also offer you invaluable advice on how to best take care of your pet bullfinch.

Why Bullfinches Don’t Make Good Pets?

Tame bullfinches are intelligent and docile. They can even be taught to perform tricks, imitate melodies and sounds, and they can become quite attached to their owners.

Apart from their ability to imitate sounds and melodies, bullfinches have also been found to have excellent problem-solving abilities.

In a study that examined the mechanisms behind the cognitive performance of some birds, Bullfinches were found to excel at solving problems such as lifting the lid on a jar of food or even opening a packet of sugar

So, despite their intelligence, what should give you pause in keeping a bullfinch as a pet?

It’s not that it’s difficult to keep bullfinches per se, it’s that they have a couple of rather inflexible requirements that might make it difficult for some to take care of a bullfinch.

Here’s why bullfinches might not be the ideal pet bird for you:

They’re secretive and shy – Bullfinches get scared easily and need a sheltered, safe environment where they can feel at ease.

If it’s your first time taking home a bullfinch, you’ll need to set up their enclosure in an area with little to no traffic.

To avoid scaring your bullfinch every time you approach their enclosure, it’s best to make a sound to let them know of your presence.

By making that sound each time you approach, your bullfinch will know you’re approaching and won’t be caught off guard.

They need a clean and spacious enclosure – Bullfinches must be kept in a clean enclosure to prevent them from getting sick.

Regularly cleaning the enclosure is something you must factor in besides the time spent on feeding your bullfinches.

You must also make sure the enclosure is spacious enough for them to be able to fly.

You must meet their dietary requirements – It goes without saying that it’s important to feed bullfinches only with quality foods that meet their dietary requirements.

Bullfinches are herbivorous, feeding on seeds and berries. You can feed them parakeet mixes, millet, British finch mixes, sunflower seeds and hearts, and other species-specific feed formulations. Besides food, bullfinches need fresh, clean water.

They don’t like being alone – Bullfinches form lasting bonds with their pairs. While they don’t crave being in large groups, a bullfinch kept alone will crave company.

Identify and treat diseases – Bullfinches raised in captivity can suffer from a variety of diseases such as air sac mites. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms and remedies of the various diseases affecting these birds.

Some of these things are self-evident, of course. But it’s good to have an overview of the basics of Bullfinch care before you decide to keep one, especially as a first-time bird owner.

Other Finches You Can Keep As Pets

Bullfinches aren’t the only finches you can keep as pets. Here are several others that can also be a good option for a pet:

  • Greenfinch (can be kept with other birds of similar size)
  • Zebra finch (extremely social and lively, must be kept in pairs)
  • Gouldian finch (they don’t like to be touched and they’re quite stressful)
  • Society finch (possibly the friendliest of finches and most resistant)
  • Owl finch (playful, curious, and entertaining, but you can’t keep them alone)

Before you buy any finch, make sure to read up on their personality. Most finches need company, so you can’t get just one.

Some don’t handle stress well, while others are more sociable. Make sure to understand their needs and requirements.

Attract Bullfinches in Your Garden Instead Capturing Them

If you want to enjoy bullfinches without having to actively take care of them, don’t buy or capture them, but attract them to your garden instead.

Plant native hedgerows and berry-producing shrubs, or fruit trees and plants that form seed-heads in the winter.

You can set up feeders close to a shrub or hedge, so that bullfinches will feel at ease visiting the feeder. Put out suet, seed mixes, and other foods that bullfinches enjoy.


Bullfinches can be kept as a pet but that sort of endeavor comes with responsibilities that go beyond just feeding them. You’ll also need to create a stress-free environment in which they feel safe.

If this feels like a lot of responsibility, you can still enjoy their presence with a little garden-planning to make your backyard more appealing to them by planting native trees and shrubs that attract bullfinches.

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