What should you expect from your canary?

Canaries are tidy, nondestructive and easy to care for, but they do not like to be handled. They are appreciated most for their pleasant, melodious song. All male canaries sing, starting as early as three months of age. If male canaries become ill, they may stop singing until the following spring even though the initial illness has resolved. Canaries are not social birds. One bird kept as a single pet will be content. Males must be housed separately from other males to prevent fighting but may be kept within visual or auditory range to stimulate singing. Group housing with mixed ages and both sexes will work only if the cage has enough perches and many feeding stations.

What do canaries do all day?

Canaries spend a great deal of their time eating and flying from perch to perch. Fresh food and water must be available at all times, and multiple, small diameter branches are important accessories in the enclosure.

Are canaries tame?

Canaries are considered skittish and will fly away when approached. If capture of a canary is necessary, one useful approach is to remove all perches and turn off the lights before reaching into the enclosure. Handling of canaries should be minimized.

Can I breed canaries at home?

Canaries are relatively easy to breed in captivity if they are healthy adults and if they have access to an acceptable partner, abundant food and water, and the presence of a nest and nesting materials. A lengthening daylight period is the primary stimulant to breed, whether natural or artificially produced. To prevent potential injury to the female, the pair should not be housed together until both are in breeding condition. The hen may lay 3-5 eggs, which she incubates for approximately 14 days before hatching. The chicks are featherless when they hatch and are ready to leave the nest in 11-17 days. Canaries are raised by both parents. When the chick first starts to get pin feathers, a closed band is slipped over the toes onto the leg for permanent identification. Once the bones harden, this can no longer be done.

How can I keep my canary beautiful?

Once a year at the end of the breeding season, canaries replace all their plumage. During this time the diet should be supplemented with high protein foods, such as commercial egg food, mashed hard cooked egg, finely chopped chicken or insects (either fresh or commercially available powdered insects usually marketed for finches). Feather color in red factor and new color canaries requires dietary sources of carotenoid, which is found in commercial diets that contain spirulina or in plant sources such as grated carrots, sweet potatoes and dark green leafy vegetables.

If there is a continuous source of stress in the canary's life, such as fear, cagemate competition, infection or poor cage design, feathers will not molt properly but instead will be shed over the entire year.

How can you keep your canary healthy, happy and safe?

  • Quarantine, test, and treat new birds for potential diseases.
  • Feed a fresh, high quality, toxin-free diet formulated specifically for canaries.
  • Alternatively, feed a variety of fresh, pesticide-free seeds suitable for canaries. This diet requires supplementation.
  • Vitamin/mineral supplements must be applied to moist food, not to seeds or placed in the water.
  • Feed a high protein egg food during reproduction and molting.
  • Provide clean, fresh, uncontaminated water daily for drinking and bathing.
  • Keep nails trimmed.
  • Check band periodically for irritation or constriction.

Housing for a single pet canary should:

  • Be indoors.
  • Be at least 10 x 10 x 18 long.
  • Be clean, secure, safe, and easy to service.
  • Be constructed of durable, nontoxic material.
  • Be protected by mosquito screening if placed outdoors.
  • Contain multiple perches of clean, nontoxic, pesticide-free tree branches.
  • Provide a light cycle that follows natural daylight: decreased hours in winter, increased length in summer. Automatic timers are helpful.
  • Be lined with newspaper, butcher paper, or plain brown paper.

Things you must keep away from your canary:

  • Sandpaper covered perches
  • Mosquitoes
  • Free-ranging birds
  • Fibrous nesting material or fine thread in nest box
  • Tobacco and cigarette smoke
  • Pesticides
  • Toxic fumes of any sort
  • Chocolate, avocado, salt, alcohol
  • Dogs, cats, ferrets, and young children
  • Pressure treated wood, cedar, and redwood cage substrates
  • Sources of lead or zinc

For more information visit: Association of Avian Veterinarians