Housing Canaries are high-energy animals that need to be able to fly inside the cage in order to stay healthy. An appropriate cage is wider than it is tall to provide ample space for flying from perch to perch. The minimum size cage for a canary is 24" long by 18" tall by 18" wide. Bar spacing should be no more than 1¼ - 2" apart to prevent the bird from getting caught between the wires. Wild canaries live in pairs or in flocks in the wild and if at all possible, should be kept in pairs in captivity. Even though canaries have been kept as single male birds for many centuries, this was originally done because female canaries were not available to the general public. Canaries are finches and just like other members of that group of birds, they enjoy the company of a partner of the opposite gender.
Keep at least two or three perches in the cage, but don’t crowd the cage with too many accessories, or there will be little room left for flying. Make sure that all the perches are wide enough for the bird to easily maintain its balance while using them - for canaries, this would be between 1¼2" and 3¼4" in diameter. It’s good to use several perches of different diameters and materials to keep your canary’s feet healthy and strong. Other than wooden dowels, other good choices for perches include natural wood, bonded sand or concrete (for trimming nails), and rope.
Canaries can be kept at average household temperatures, but be sure to avoid fluctuations in temperature and drafts. Place the cage off of the ground and away from drafty areas such as doorways, vents or windows. A healthy bird will not die from exposure to a draft, but a wet bird can possibly catch a cold if it is exposed to cold air before it dries. If your canary frequently bathes in its water dish, be sure to keep it in a room that is not less than 70 degrees and well away from any possibility of a draft to ensure that it does not get sick.
You may wish to cover your bird’s cage at night, or move it to a quiet room for sleeping. Covering the cage, or placing it in a quiet area helps your bird to get the rest it needs to stay healthy. Even quiet noise in a room, such as a television or computer, can disturb your bird’s rest and keep it from getting a healthy amount of sleep. If the cage is in an area that is used after your bird’s bedtime, it is beneficial to move the cage to a quieter room at night.
Diet The natural diet of canaries consists of seeds, insects, fruit, and leaves. Your bird is best cared for by providing a variety of foods. Pellet foods and seed mixes can be fed as a daily base diet. We currently feed our birds Kaytee Rainbow Exact and Forti-Diet. It is better not to feed pellets or seeds exclusively, because it does not provide proper nutrition and is boring for the bird.
It is important to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your bird’s diet. Dark green leafy vegetables such as romaine, kale, chicory and dandelion are often enjoyed by canaries. They can also be offered small pieces of apple, grape, melon, and berries. When feeding fresh foods, be sure to remove anything uneaten after a few hours so that the food does not spoil, and to wash the dishes thoroughly before using them again. You can also offer your bird insects or hard-boiled egg as a treat. Commercial eggfood can be offered dry or moistened to your canary once per week to supplement extra protein in its diet.
Grooming and Hygiene Birds like to bathe, but different individuals prefer to bathe in different ways. Some like to bathe in a shallow dish, some like to be sprayed with a fine mist. Offering your canary the chance to bathe helps it to maintain healthy, beautiful plumage. It is best to give the canary an extra dish to bathe in - otherwise they will bathe in their water bowl and may splash all the water out.
Clipping your canary’s wings is not recommended as these birds have a very high metabolic rate and need to have the ability to fly in order to get enough exercise and burn energy. Canaries do not normally appreciate being handled, so wing clipping is not necessary. Nails should be trimmed by a qualified person only if they become unhealthy, too long, or interfere with perching.
Maintenance Clean the cage, perches and toys daily with warm soapy water. Use a non-toxic cleaner such as mild dish liquid and make sure that the soap is completely rinsed off when you are finished cleaning.
Disinfect the cage and perches with bleach water once a week while keeping the bird in a separate room. Bleach fumes can kill your new pet. Allowing the cage to air dry in sunlight is a natural way to disinfect. Make sure the smell from the bleach is completely gone before you place your bird back inside the cage.
Replace toys and accessories that become worn or damaged, as they can injure your pet.
Rotate toys when your bird becomes disinterested in them but remember never to place an unfamiliar toy in the cage without first introducing it to the bird in a neutral location. Hanging a toy outside of your bird’s cage for a few days is a good way to do this. Some owners like to provide their canary with a mirror as it stimulates the natural desire to sing, but not all canaries enjoy having a mirror. Some birds are afraid of it, while others will attack it. A mirror is not a substitute for having a companion for your canary.
Behavior and Interaction Canaries are social birds that live in pairs or groups in the wild. For this reason, they need a lot of social interaction with other birds in order to stay happy and healthy. Male canaries do not enjoy being housed in the same cage together, however - in the wild they would have enough space to claim a territory and defend it against all invaders. Males and females typically get along, though it is best to house them in separate cages for a few weeks and let them get used to each other before placing them in the same cage. There can be exceptions to this, though - That Pet Place cannot guarantee that any two birds will get along, even if they were previously housed together peacefully. However, if your canary can be provided with a suitable companion, it is more likely to live a long, healthy life.
Many people advocate keeping a single male canary because when kept alone, he will sing more. In reality, his singing is a call to another canary to either convince a female to become his mate or to tell another male that this is HIS territory. A solitary canary sings without an answer, searching for other birds. He might sing more often than a male kept in a pair (though all canaries stop singing during their molt, which happens twice a year), but having another bird of his same species with him will give him a greater feeling of security. Wild canaries are prey animals and use their flock (safety in numbers) as a defense at any sign of danger. Even having another canary of either gender in a separate cage near him will help a lone male feel more secure and less stressed.
Canaries can also be kept with other types of softbills or finches to keep them company, as long as the cage is large enough to allow the different birds to have their own territories and interact without conflict or too much competition. Canaries have a slightly different diet than most other finches, so it is important to research the diet of all species before placing them together. Also, please research the temperament of potential cagemates carefully to make sure that the birds will be likely to get along. Canaries are relatively peaceful when living in a mixed aviary, but not all finch species are so willing to share their territory!
Helpful Hints When taking your new bird home please remember that the surroundings in your home will be new to it and it may take some time for the bird to feel settled in the new environment. Speak softly and move very slowly whenever you are near the bird’s cage. It is recommended that you do not handle your canary as they are very fragile.
With a well balanced diet you should not need to give your bird vitamin supplements. Before adding supplements to your bird’s diet you should consult with an avian veterinarian. When giving any supplements in the bird’s water, make sure you clean and wash the water dish daily to remove any residue from the supplements.
We recommend taking your bird to the vet for regular checkups and purchasing a book about your new pet.
Always wash your hands before and after handling your new pet.
You should have toys in the cage to prevent boredom. Bored birds are known to have behavior problems. Birds need to be active to maintain good health and to prevent them from getting overweight. Foraging toys are excellent because they stimulate the natural avian instinct to search for food.
Toys should be changed regularly to keep your pet interested and if the toy becomes worn to prevent injury. When you change toys for your bird or even move your bird to a new location in the house, please be aware of how sensitive most birds are to changes. Never place a new toy directly inside the cage without first allowing the bird to see and get used to the new toy in a neutral area outside the cage.
Birds can be scared to death. Frightening a bird can cause the bird enough stress to harm and possibly kill it. Move slowly and talk quietly to your bird until it is comfortable with you and its new home.
We recommend using a cuttle bone or mineral block for your bird. Many birds enjoy chewing on these items but only absorb a small amount of minerals from them. A cuttlebone or mineral block should never be used as a substitute for a proper, nutritious diet of pellets, seeds and fresh vegetables and fruits.
If you notice signs of illness it is very important to get the vet promptly as most birds will hide illness until it is in an advanced stage. We recommend taking your bird to the vet BEFORE the bird ever becomes ill. Visiting your vet before the bird is ill will allow the vet to see your bird when it is healthy and help the vet create a routine preventive health care program for your new pet.
Signs of a Healthy Animal
• Active, alert, and sociable
• Eats and drinks throughout the day
• Dry nostrils and bright, dry eyes
• Beak, legs, and feet appear normal
• Clean, dry vent
• Smooth, well-groomed feathers
• Beak swelling or accumulations
• Fluffed, plucked, or soiled feathers especially around the vent
• Constant sitting on floor of cage
• Wheezing or coughing
• Runny or discolored stools
• Favoring one foot when not asleep— it is normal for birds to sleep on one foot
• Eye or nasal discharge
• Red or swollen eyes
• Loss of appetite
If feeding fruits the stool may become runny for a while. Many birds cannot tolerate too much acid that is in many citrus fruits, therefore we recommend limiting the amount of citrus you feed to your bird.
When changing the food your bird is given, do so gradually. A sudden change may upset your bird’s digestive system, or the bird may refuse to eat the new food. We currently feed Kaytee™ seed and pellets along with fresh fruits and vegetables to our birds.