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.

Life Expectancy

Canaries can live up to 12 years, although 6-7 years would be normal when kept in good conditions.

Food Requirements

The yearly cycle of the canary (Southern Hemisphere)

The normal yearly Cycle of the canary is shown below.

Canary Song

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




Further Reading

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:

Additionally: A very good Canary Homepage exists at:

Canary Clubs

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.


Calendar of Events Club Members Canary Types and Standards Caring For Canaries
Contact VCS Other Australian Clubs Canary Web Sites VCS Breeders (Who Breeds What)


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This Page was last updated on 30 October, 2000