Victorian Canary Society [V.C.S.]
Caring for your canary
|Buying a Canary||Life Expectancy||Food Requirements||The Yearly Cycle of the Canary|
|Canary Song||Cages||Some Do's and Don'ts||Further Reading|
It should be remembered that the cage bird is totally dependent on its owner for all its needs and general well being. The owner consequently has a responsibility to provide for those needs. The following is intended only as a brief guide to caring for your canary. It is strongly recommended that further information about caring for your canary be sought from one of the books listed at the end of this page.
Buying a Canary
When purchasing a canary ensure that the bird is in good health. That it is bright and active and is not: fluffed up sitting on the bottom of the cage, has diarrhea has a discharge around the nostrils, bad feet, or dirty feathers.
Purchase your bird well before it gets dark and place it in its new cage preferably several hours before nightfall so that it can familiarize itself with its cage and new surroundings and can find its food and water.
Purchasing a canary from a breeder who is a member of a club should help to ensure that you have a good quality healthy bird. You will no doubt also receive tips on how to care for it. Most canary breeders enjoy their hobby and want to ensure that their birds are looked after when they leave their care. If you find the seller has the birds in dirty conditions or has a number of sick birds, don't buy a bird from them as you may inherit problems.
If using an old cage clean the cage, perches and all food utensils thoroughly with a good quality disinfectant rinse in fresh water and dry before introducing the bird to the cage.
Canaries can live up to 12 years, although 6-7 years would be normal when kept in good conditions.
In order to remain healthy canaries need a balanced diet. For the person keeping one or two birds, one of the commercially available mixed canary seeds (with grit) sold by pet shops is the best way to ensure a balanced diet. A good seed mix should look shiny, clean, have no dust or broken seeds, and should contain a good range of seeds. Many commercially available seed mixes do not live up to this standard.
The seed mix fed to your canary should as a minimum include; plain canary seed, rape seed, and small quantities of hulled oats and linseed. A wider mix of seeds is also recommended in order to keep your birds healthy, with niger, maw seed, millet and other seeds being appreciated by the birds.
Canaries love green feed such as endive, chicory, thistle, chickweed, seed grass. Use a clothes peg to peg a small piece to the cage bars Cuttlefish bone provides the calcium they need as well as helping to stop the beak from growing too long.
Birds need grit in their gizzard to help them break down their food. It will also provide them with calcium.
If you intend having more canaries or breeding them it would be best to buy one of the canary books listed at the end of this document to help you care for them properly.
The yearly cycle of the canary (Southern Hemisphere)
The normal yearly Cycle of the canary is shown below.
The birds will start to moult. At this time the birds will tend not to sing and will start to look rather scruffy as they begin to lose their feathers.
First season birds (those a couple of months old) will only moult their body feathers but not their flight and tail feathers. Older birds progressively loose and replace all of their feathers at this time.
If birds moult at other times of the year (soft moult) the location of the cage, or diet may need to be checked. The moult is a stressful time for the bird and particular attention needs to be taken of the diet to ensure they get a well balanced diet. Give them a bath every second day. Keep them out of drafts, and provide them with a position that allows them to get some sunshine. Sunshine during the moult improves the feather colour. Sunshine is also essential in providing canaries with vitamin D which they do not normally get through their diet unless you are providing them with a vitamin supplement.
The birds should be over the moult and should start singing again. As the weather gets cold keep them out of drafts. Give them access to a bath once or twice a week on sunny days. Give them a simple diet. Too rich a diet will tend to make the birds fat and may give them gout. During May to July the major show season begins for canary breeders who have joined a club and want to show their birds.
The canary breeding season starts in September and continues through till the end of December and sometimes into January. If you are breeding your birds they will need a special diet of sprouted seed and soft food to ensure that they are fit enough to lay, and raise their young. If you are not breeding your birds and the hen wants to lay, keep an eye on her but do not be concerned at the odd egg that may be laid in the cage. If you do not intend breeding from your hens it is best to keep them separate from the cock birds at this time.
All Male (cock) canaries sing, although the song can vary considerably between different breeds and from bird to bird.
Some canaries such as the Roller canary have been bred specifically for song. Generally, the more tours (tunes) the canary sings the better the song. Roller canaries sing softly and would barely be audible from an adjacent room.
Other canaries such as Border, Norwich, and coloured canaries have a much stronger song and would be heard throughout the house. Some hens (female) also sing although the song is not as good and is often more like a chuckle.
Various cages are available from pet shops and other sources for the housing of small birds. For indoor use with a single canary the best cages are wider than they are tall and should allow the perches to be set a minimum of 20 cm (8 inches) apart and at the same level. A reasonable cage size would be 45 cm wide, 35 cm deep and 40 cm high (18 x 14 x 16 inches). A smaller size does not allow the bird sufficient space to move around. Many of the smaller cages in pet shops are not suitable. Generally the larger the cage the better.
Unless the cage is large, square/rectangular cages are better than round ones because they provide more useable space for the canary and allow the perches to be placed far enough apart on the same level for the canary to get exercise jumping backwards and forwards between perches without hitting its tail on the cage bars as it turns around.
Cage perches are often neglected. Ideally they should be 12 mm wide. Oval perches are preferable to the round ones. Perches that are too small or too large will be uncomfortable for the bird and may result in foot problems. The bird spends most of its life on the perch so comfortable perches are important. Canaries are generally active birds and hop from perch to perch (the smaller varieties being more active than the larger). They need the exercise to keep fit. A cage with a deep floor with removable trays, and seed and drink hoppers positioned below the bottom wire is recommended to stop seed and other litter being scattered on the floor below the cage.
The indoor cage should be located in a position out of drafts, and out of traffic ways so that it cannot accidentally be knocked over. A position that receives some sunlight during the day is ideal, although it should not get too hot. The bird should ideally be able to move out of the sun if it feels hot.
Cage floor coverings need to be absorbent and replaced regularly. Suitable cage floor coverings include: newspaper, paper towel, sawdust (coarse grade from sawdust suppliers. Care needs to be taken with other sources that it is not treated or harmful to the birds), rice hulls. NB Paper towel or newspaper is the easiest for cages kept inside and is easily replaced.
Some do's and don'ts
If you are interested in buying a book on canaries several are available from your local book store including
Dodwell, G. (1986), The complete book of canaries, Sydney,Landsdowne
Newby, C. (1984), Canaries, Brookvale, NSW, TFH.
Leaney, J. & Williams, F.(1993), The Australian canary handbook, Melbourne, Vic., the authors. [Contact: Auscanary]
Walker, G. (1987), Coloured type and song canaries, Sydney, Blandford Press.
The Southern Tasmanaian Canary Club has some usefull hints about breeding and caring for canaries ite URL is: http://www.tased.edu.au/tasonline/stcs/index.htm
Additionally: A very good Canary Homepage exists at: http://www.cyberramp.net/~gulicks/canaries/curtis.html
If you are seriously interested in breeding canaries join a canary club. This will greatly enhance your knowledge of canaries, their care and breeding, and provide you with access to quality stock. A number of clubs exist in Victoria covering different breeds of canary. Addresses for these may be obtained from the phone book or your local public library community information service. Some of these clubs are listed on this site. In other cases you may find canary shows advertised in the daily papers.
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V.C.S. Home Page maintained by Robet Hornett. Comments or suggestions for their improvement to Robet Hornett, email: email@example.com This Page was last updated on 30 October, 2000