Canary Care

Canary Care

Origin: The Canary Islands.


Song Canaries: Perhaps the most famous canaries of all, these are bred strictly for their song. Most are yellow, green, or variegated. Best known are the Rollers, Waterslagers, American Singers, and Timbrados.

Type Canaries: These canaries are bred for their shape, stance, or some other physical characteristic. Some well-known type canary breeds are the Fife, Border, and Gloster canaries. Rarer are breeds like the Lizard, Yorkshire, Norwich, and Frilled (which is also seen in many varieties). While some can be fairly free-singing, little to no attention is paid to the style or quality of the song by most breeders.

Color Canaries: These canaries are bred for the colour of their feathers, and range from the yellow-and-green colours of the other breeds, to more esoteric shades of bronze, vermillian, silver, and pink, including almost every hue except true blues and solid black.

Unlike many species of birds commonly kept as pets, canaries are territorial rather than social. The song of the males, and, to some extent the hens as well, is used to announce their presence and their claim to their territory. They are not very social with others of their kind and will rarely if ever enjoy sharing a pet-style cage with another bird.

Cages: Canaries are flyers rather than climbers, and therefore require larger cages relative to their size than many of the hookbills. Round cages should never be used with any kind of flying bird the shape makes it difficult to place perches parallel to each other, and so restricts the birds, making it difficult for them to move naturally. Bar spacing can be as much as 5/8 of an inch for the larger canaries, but should be no more than 1/2 an inch for the smaller breeds. Clean cage bottom papers everyday.

Diet: Like most other cage-birds, the canary requires far more than just seed alone. A basic seed mix should consist of 75% canary grass, 15% canola rapeseed, and 10% mixed specialty seeds such as flax, hemp, niger, and teazle. As much as 50% of the diet can consist of fresh foods, especially greens in the cole families mixed with grated carrot. Some good choices are broccoli, savoy cabbage, kale, grated carrots or beets (they learn to eat these faster if you mix them with chopped greens, at first at least.) More good choices are dandelions (no pesticides, please!), leafy endives, rapini, collard greens, gai lan, or any other nutritious leafy green. Avoid giving too much lettuce, except romaine, as it is too watery. You can give fruit such as apple, pear, or orange Feed ‘treats’ such as millet sprays and ‘song’ food mixes sparingly and infrequently – they are very fatty and can stress their livers and kidneys if given too frequently. Clean, fresh water must always be available. Due to their small bodies and high metabolic rate, a canary will die within 12-24 hours without it.

Health: Canaries are extremely sensitive to trace gases and other such toxins, so be careful to not use air fresheners, rug deodorizers, perfumes, and other such volatiles in their presence. For this reason, the kitchen is not a good place to keep them; fumes or smoke from cooking foods could make them ill. Every bird-owning household should beware of Teflon cookware as this emits gases that are highly toxic to birds if overheated. Moulting should occur once a year, just after midsummer. A moult at any other time of the year is usually caused by the presence of a (warm or cold) draft from which the bird has no shelter. It can also be associated with shock or illness. A pet canary will usually live an average of 10 years or so, given good care.

Noise: Some of the type canaries can sing loud, rather shrill songs, but they are the exception to the rule. In general, the canary is one of the sweetest-voiced birds on the planet. Song canaries are trained to sing in harmony with others of their kind, and their owners compete vigorously for the prestigious prizes awarded their proteges. You can find quiet-singing canaries (Rollers), moderate-singing canaries (Waterslagers and American Singers), and loud singers (Timbrados, Type, and Colour Canaries). Rarely will canary owners receive complaints about the noise of their birds, which makes them particularly ideal for apartment dwellers.

Sleep: Canaries are photosensitive, and therefore should be kept on a cycle similar to that followed by the sun outdoors, unless you live in the tropics or at a pole. Many people cover their bird at sunset, and then remove the covers just before they go to bed, after the lights are out. That way the birds will see a natural sunrise. Don’t allow their nights to be shorter than about 10 hours, or longer than 14 hours.

Bathing: Bathing is very important to a canary, especially in the summer. Every day is preferred, but at least once or twice a week is a must. Use half-inch deep of cold water in a dish or store-bought bird bath. Give baths early in the day. Never let your bird get wet in the evening, as having damp feathers at night could make him seriously ill.