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by Dunstan Browne, President AACC

Follow these proven pointers and you will have a happy, healthy singing canary!

Fresh WATER daily:  never let a canary go without water, if he has no water for 24 hours, he will not survive.

Master or Deluxe CANARY SEED daily:  includes canary (beige colour), rape (black round seed), flax (brown)seed, and niger (black).  Most good pet shops carry a good mixed canary seed. Vacuum packed seed is the best. (Hagen or other brand names)

GREENS daily:  these are a must especially during spring, summer and fall. Give a variety of vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach, and brussel sprouts. Weeds such as dandelion leaves and chickweed are excellent food for a canary. Greens can be kept fresh after washing, in a bag in refrigerator.  Always replace greens after one day. Avoid lettuce and celery --- too watery. Once a week, give your canary one quarter of a hard boiled egg, mixed with bread crumbs as a treat.
Sliced apple is excellent for your bird.

Canary gravel and oyster shell:  a canary needs gravel for his digestion and oyster shell for the calcium. These can be mixed together. Put this mixture in a small cup off the bottom of the floor of cage. It is essential to have gravel in the cage at all times.  Most pet shops can supply.  Cuttle bone and mineral blocks are recommended.

Be careful with "store bought food" made for canaries such as song, moulting, condition foods, candied bell, millet,  etc.  They can often be  stale.  Fresh foods are the best. Ce-De soft food once or twice a week especially during the moult is excellent for your bird. A tablespoon with a drop or two of water to make it crumbly is best but you can give it dry.


Keep your canary clean!  Change paper on floor daily and a major clean of entire cage and perches once a week.  By keeping cage and perches clean, you will avoid diseases, and mites.

Avoid sandpaper perches and bottom sandpaper -- not good for the bird's feet.  Use wooden or plastic perches.

Bathing:  a canary loves to bath daily in spring and summer if possible and about once a week in the winter when it is cooler.  You can get good plastic hook on baths from the pet shops or just place a container of water on the cage floor.

Summer:  may be outside in a warm area but avoid direct sunlight where there is no shade. Never place the cage in direct sunlight without     some shade.  Don't move the cage too often when the bird is in the moult. Avoid cool drafts also when in the house.


A canary moults once a year usually from July through until September.  Your bird may stop singing during this time but this is normal.

Feed him a heavy diet of greens, cucumber and egg during this time as it improves your bird's colour and health.

If you have a red factor canary there is a special colouring supplement available to enhance the birds colour.  Ask at the pet shop.


If you care for your bird you will be rewarded with many years of his wonderful song.

Your little bird is an animal.  He cannot stay healthy unless he gets more than just seed and water.  There are many vitamin and mineral additives but fresh food is always the best.


by Rado Pagac (2000, Vol. 23 #1)

 The basic care of canary birds require the following: proper housing, balanced diet, drinking and bathing water. In the following paragraphs you will find out what is needed to properly accommodate, feed and keep your canary healthy.

 Considering that canaries have been domesticated for quite some time, they will live and reproduce in almost any size of cage, in an indoor flight, or an outdoor aviary with shelter attached to it. They have no great demand when it comes to cages. A large cage, preferably a long one, is better than a small or high round cage, because the bird will have more freedom of movement and exercise. The cage, size adequate for one canary, is 60 x 50 x 60 centimetres. Such a cage placed near a window, where it will get a bit of direct sun, will keep the canary happy, and encourage the bird to sing. The best place for the cage is at eye level as this will help the bird feel more comfortable. Of course, always beware of drafts and do not place the cage in a drafty area. If the window near the cage needs to be open, move the cage to an area where is not a full effect of a draft.

 Perches in the cages, preferably natural branches, should be from a hardwood or a fruit tree ( oak, apple, cherry, for example ). it is a good idea to have perches of varying thicknesses, about one-to-two centimetres thick, so that the muscles of the birds' feet and legs get a lot of exercise. The perches should be placed within easy reach of the food and water vessels. They should be placed apart, so that the bird is forced to fly from perch to perch, not just jump from perch to perch.

 Canaries are natural seed eaters, with short, wide, and strong beaks, which are designed to pick up and dehusk seeds. Canaries have a specially designed digestive system that allow them to obtain all of their essential dietary nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals ) from a mixture Of seed, green food, fruit, plus a little bit of animal food and a grit. There is no single kind of seed in which all these nutrients occur in a sufficient amount, so a seed mixture is necessary to make the diet of your bird as varied as possible. Using the basic canary mixture, consisting of rape seed, canary grass seed and groats in a ratio of 30:50:10, will mean success with your birds. On alternate days, a teaspoonful of either universal-conditioning food or egg food should be given to your birds for a good health. All of the above mentioned food mixtures are available in a pet supply stores.

 Another very essential addition to the bird diet is green food. Green food should be offered to your bird at least once, preferably twice a week. A small, thoroughly washed and dried up, fresh piece of lettuce, spinach, cress or dandelion should be given to the bird, which the bird can eat in an hour. Any left over pieces should be removed and discarded before bedtime. Only one kind of the above mentioned greens should be given at once. As most canaries will take fruit, a piece of sweet apple, pear, pineapple, kiwi, orange etc., could be also offered.

 Drinking water, of course, is a very important item. Canaries should have fresh, clean water available at all times. Water should be renewed every day, because the unclean water can be a source of disease. The drinking water is best offered in an automatic fountain drinker made especially for this purpose. The vessel should be positioned in the cage, in a way so that the chance of pollution is minimal.

 Canaries also like to take a bath at least once a day. Bathing water can be supplied in a popular birdbath, available in the pet store, which fits over the cage door opening. The bathhouse should be filled with lukewarm water, and after the canary's first bath it is best to remove it. If the water is left in the cage for a long period of time, there is a possibility that canary will drink the soiled water, which is unhealthy.

 There is a lot more about the care for canaries and other exotic birds that I could write, but I wrote these paragraphs having the beginner of canary fancy on my mind. I believe that these basic steps will be helpful to any newcomer in the care of healthy and happy birds.


by Anthony B. Olszewski (199, Vol. 22, #1)

The goal of every canary breeder is to improve his stock. Unfortunately, so much time and energy is invested in simply keeping the birds alive that improvement is impossible. Miserable breeding results, too often accepted as the norm, also stop the fancier from upgrading his birds.

Numbers are important in aviculture. The frequently recommended small but high quality stud is impractical. Even the long established breeder produces only a small percentage of top quality birds. Thus to get a quantity of high quality young, it is necessary to breed a much greater number of mediocre birds. Darwin, in his monumental work, noted that evolution proceeds most rapidly in large populations. Also the small stud quickly becomes too highly inbred, forcing the fancier to constantly seek outcrosses or to suffer a decline in vigor.

In this article I will give the method by which I maintain and breed my birds. Though mainly intended for the canary fancier, these rules may easily be modified to include all seed eating birds. Aviculture requires a great deal of time and effort and a little information which is absolutely necessary. This information I can provide but each fancier must provide his own labor.

Nutrition is the most important aspect of aviculture. Every canary must be provided with a fortified blend of canary seed, rape seed, golden German millet, oat groats, thistle, steel cut oats, flax, sesame, and hemp. This mix may be more costly than the usual "black and white", but, in the long run, pays dividends. Birds fed a vitamin, mineral, and protein enriched blend produce more fertile eggs, better feed the chicks, are less likely to pluck the feathers of the young, and are more resistant to disease. The extra young produced more than pay back the few cents a day it costs to feed a top quality mix.

The seed mixes of all birds should be vitamin fortified. Aviculturists should take vitamins seriously. Vitamins are essential for the metabolic functions of all living things. When seed is not vitamin fortified birds are not able to reap the full benefit from the nutrition present in the feed. Vitamin enriched feed is a must for optimum growth, maintenance, reproduction, and health.

Some counter that vitamin enriched seed is not "natural." The natural diet of seed eating birds is very rarely dry seed. For the better part of the year, all seed eating birds consume the milky seed directly from the plant. This seed is at its nutritional best. The vitamin content of even the best processed seed is nether consistent or adequate enough to assure optimal nutrition. Natural factors, such as drought, insects, excessive moisture, disease, and molds, make the vitamin levels of seed uncertain. Man made variables, the storage, transportation, and processing of feed, conspire to rob the seed of the vitamins needed by birds. Research has proven that the vitamin supplementation of seed is a must to achieve peak production.

Pelleted feeds, seemingly an answer, fall short of the mark. Pellets have a place as supplements and in commercial production. If by a "complete diet", the manufacturers mean that birds are able to survive and raise young on their products, then they are correct. If by complete is meant being able to rear vigorous show winners, without the addition of vitamins, fruits, vegetables, or eggs to the ration, then pellets fail miserably. No one knows all the elements that are required in any cage bird diet. Only the cockatiel has been the subject of recent university research. Human diet, intensively studied for millennia, is constantly being revised and updated. Canaries fed on pellets alone, particularly red factors, show rough plumage. The droppings of canaries on pellets are often loose.

The seed should be given to the birds in a deep dish. Fountain style feeders encourage the birds to pick out their favorite seeds. This is wasteful and leads to an unbalanced diet. The mix should only be changed when all the seed is consumed. The hulls should be blown off the top daily.

The birds should also get a small amount of fruits, vegetables, and greens. I use apples, oranges, bananas, green peppers, canned corn, fresh corn on the cob, cooked broccoli, raw spinach, raw dandelions, raw collard greens, raw Swiss chard, pears, peaches, strawberries, and cherries. The various berries are very good, especially for red factor birds, but these fruits are very expensive. Lettuce is useless and should not be fed.

Ideally, all produce should be home grown. Organically grown fruits and vegetables are free of dangerous pesticides, Any insects add an extra touch of protein; the birds relish them. Rinse store bought fruits and vegetables in an effort, albeit most often in vain, to remove all chemicals.

Soaked seeds are an absolute necessity for the feeding hen and for the newly weaned young. They are a treat for all birds. Cracked corn, wheat, buckwheat, and safflower, normally too large and hard, are made acceptable to canaries by soaking. Soaking breaks down complex carbohydrates rendering the seed more palatable and more highly digestible. This is done by taking a special soak seed mix and adding two parts, or more, of water and refrigerating. Soak for at least twenty-four hours. Rinse well and strain before feeding.

Sprouts are not the same thing as soaked seed. Not all seeds can be sprouted. Most bird seeds are treated with preservatives and vitamins and will not germinate. Seeds for sprouting should be kept separate for various species of plants have different germinating times and requirements. In addition to the regular bird seeds, many seeds for sprouting are available in health food stores. My favorite is the Chinese mung bean which is very easy to sprout and possesses a high degree of palatability for the birds. I have also used soy beans for sprouting. My birds do not like alfalfa sprouts.

Sprouting seed is the simplest way to provide your birds with fresh greens. For a few birds only a quarter cup of seeds should be sprouted at a time. Seeds increase in volume tremendously when sprouted. Place the seeds in a clean glass jar. Fill with tap water and let stand at room temperature for twenty-four hours. Rinse and drain completely. Repeat the rinsing and draining completely daily until the seed has sprouted. If a foul odor or mold develops, discard. Preparations are available to prevent spoilage. Rinsing and draining well is very important. Any surplus sprouts may be refrigerated up to two weeks.

A proper nestling food is very important. The best bet for the beginner is to purchase a good quality dry nestling food with which many local fanciers are experiencing good results. I have found it economically unfeasible, as well as time consuming to mix my own. A treat dish of dry nestling food should be before the birds at all times. This serves as a treat and protein supplement out of the breeding season. In this way the birds are also trained to eat the nestling mix. Whenever given a new food, birds will ignore it for a few days. If you wait until the nestlings hatch before giving the rearing food, the babies will starve by the time the parents sample it. When the birds have young, give them as much dry nestling food as they want.

Nestling food can also be mixed with egg. To four cups of dry nestling food, add one pound grated carrots, and one dozen grated hard boiled eggs. Chop the eggs in a food processor shells and all. This is for about fifty feeding hens. Boil the eggs for twelve to fourteen minutes to ensure that no fowl diseases are transmitted to the canaries.

This mixture is given in an amount that the birds will eat in one hour. All birds get one treat cup per day of this egg mix. The supply for birds with feeding young is constantly renewed during the day. The nestling food with egg spoils very rapidly, particularly during the Summer. It would be best to prepare the egg mix fresh every day. If this is not possible, refrigerate the excess immediately.

It has been stated that birds will die from overeating soft foods. This is nonsense. That birds will be killed by fresh, nutritious foods is the height of absurdity. It is true that birds will die from eating rotten nestling food. Just like tropical fish, birds die not from overeating but from overfeeding.

Grit and cuttlebone are before the birds at all times.

I must emphasize that there is not one diet for the adult bird, one for the nesting hen, one for the young bird, and yet another for the moulting bird. Each and every bird must get a balanced diet each and every day of the year. It is foolish to think that birds may be bred on a diet of seed and water. Try living on bread and water yourself. It is ridiculous to keep a bird on a plain seed and water diet for nine months and then to "gear up" for the breeding season. This misplaced economy is responsible for the majority of breeding failures: hens not coming into breeding condition, eggbound hens, dead in the shell young, and nonfeeding hens. The percentage of protein in the diet will increase during moulting and nesting, but the list of items in the diet should not vary.

I do not feed any milk to my birds but do add small amounts of yogurt to the nesting egg food. Bread soaked in milk is a very primitive nesting food. I question that birds can completely digest milk.

The original staple of the captive canary was freshly gathered milky seeds and seed heads. Plaintain, Chickweed, Shepherd's Purse, Anne's Lace, Charlock, Smartweed, Dandelion, and Thistle have all been recommended as canary foods. The old time poverty stricken British miner or farmer, our ancestors in the Fancy, maintained their beloved pets in perfect health solely on such a diet. Only by gathering these foods were they able to afford to feed the birds.

Today we are not allowed such a luxury. Plants in both rural and urban areas are fouled by engine exhausts, factory fumes and by the spraying of pesticides and herbicides. Feeding roadside plants can cause lead poisoning. The only safe way to feed milky seeds is to grow them yourself. I raise the small sunflower seed for this purpose. This plant can be found growing wild. Seeds may be collected and cultivated in an area that is known to be safe. This food is very rich and should only be offered in small quantities. This will help to bring about a most beautiful feather sheen.

The most practical housing for canaries is the commercially available wire cages with metal trays. The seed and water dishes should fit into the cage-front. This sort of cage is easily serviced without bothering the birds. There should be a provision for two dividers, one solid and one of screen. Since it is all metal, this cage is easily sterilized.

The box style cage may also be used but to no real advantage. Only in a location subject to drafts will the cage with solid wood sides be superior. Box cages are no longer a bargain. The material to construct these cages might easily cost more than the conventional metal cages. The construction of the box cage is time consuming and laborious. They are also impossible to sterilize and require more maintenance, at the very least a yearly painting.

I have found flight cages to be unnecessary. Supposedly birds in a flight a healthier for they are thought to get more exercise. This is not the case. In the flights birds tend to sit in one spot all day. It is difficult for them to move about, for each tends to maintain a territory. In a cage they will keep active jumping from perch to perch all day long. Canaries do best in a cage around 24 inches in length by 10 inches square, one bird to the cage, except during the breeding season.

Young birds and hens may be put into a flight. Cocks over a year old should not. They may attack and kill each other. The hens and young may also be harassed and mutilated. In any event, flights must be constantly inspected for birds failing or going light. Large populations bring unbearable pecking order pressures on individual birds. These low men on the totem pole will rapidly fail. Placed in individual cages they will often recover. Despite all precautions, occasional unexplainable mortalities will occur in any flight.

I must here mention the revolutionary system of Doctor Travnicek, budgerigar and grass parakeet breeder. He uses all wire cages constructed of one-half inch by one inch welded wire and fastened with crimped clamps. Water is provided by means of automatic valves, a device long used in labs for rodents. It is important to stress that the whole cage is wire, including the base. Soiled food and droppings fall below to a sheet of disposable plastic film. Since the waterers are automatic, the birds are not able to soil their drinking water.

Every breeding season attaching the nest liner to the nest is a disagreeable chore. Sewing. is very troublesome. I have used ELMERS glue. That works, but it is difficult to change the pad-the whole nest has to be soaked to remove the old glue. A local breeder has come up with a better idea. A small hole is drilled in the bottom of the canary nest. A hole is cut in the bottom of the felt nest liner. The nest pad is then attached to the nest with a brass fastener, the kind with the two "legs" that are used to hold papers together. This way the pads can be efficiently and quickly changed.

Wooden finch nest boxes are time consuming to construct and to clean. It is very easy to make small boxes out of 1/2" x 1" welded wire. Cover the wire boxes with cardboard using twist ties to fasten the cardboard onto the wire. When cleaning, simply discard the soiled cardboard and sterilize the wire basket. A wide range of sizes and styles are easily fabricated using these materials.

The birdroom itself should be a peaceful and relatively dry environment. Optimally, it should be located above ground and away from flashing lights and noises at night. Unfortunately, most of us are forced to locate our aviaries within earshot of screaming babies and rock music. That the birds survive and reproduce under these conditions is a miracle! It is certainly not to be recommended.

The temperature of the bird room should regularly be between sixty and sixty-five degrees. This should be raised, gradually, to seventy-two degrees during the breeding season. Canaries will live and breed under colder conditions, but this is minimum survival, not the best conditions that we should strive to provide.

Artificial light for the bird room must be wide-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. The fixtures are to be controlled by an automatic timer a regularly set for eight hours of light per day. This will be slowly increased, for the breeding season, to seventeen hours of light for each twenty-four hour period. The birds will start to show a desire to breed from about fourteen hours of light for each day, but at this point are not really ready to breed. If the cocks and hens are united too soon, the entire first round of eggs may be infertile. The pairs should be set up at sixteen hours of light. The slight wait is required to insure fertility. Seventeen hours of light gives the hen that much extra time to feed the young. Birds must have proper rest. Turning the lights on and off can be a death sentence.

It is usually recommended to increase the light only a few minutes each day. With the mechanical timers this is not possible in practice, since these devices are accurate only to the half hour. The old fashioned timers must be periodically checked, set, reset, and lubricated. Eventually they wear out. New computerized, remote-control timers are available. These space age instruments are accurate to the minute and can independently control many fixtures. They can also dim incandescent bulbs. This allows dusk and dawn schemes to be implemented.

Sanitation can not be overlooked. The paper in the trays must be changed at least once a week. More often is better yet. All water and soft food dishes must be washed out every day and frequently sterilized. A dish washing machine is best. The floor of the bird room is to be kept swept and mopped clean.

Hand in hand with sanitation goes disease prevention and control. I write prevention and control because treatment is only to be done under a veterinarian's supervision. All sick birds are to be isolated and professional assistance sought. The shotgun approach of antibiotics, sulfa drugs, vitamins, and god only knows what else has killed as many birds as germs.

All new stock must be quarantined. The cage and fixtures of a sick bird have to be well scrubbed and disinfected. All wooden items, like perches must be discarded. Mites, feather lice, and flies may be controlled by spraying a .05% solution of pyrethrum. This may be dispensed by means of a hand held mister. This pesticide concentration can be sprayed as a mist directly on the birds and cages from a distance of eighteen inches. A stronger mixture,. 1% may be used on the floors and walls of the room, but not on the birds. Ivermectin, through a veterinarian, is used to cure mites and lice.

The aviculturist should endeavour to make the birds' quarters mosquito free. These pests are at the very least a source of irritation. These insect bites are unsightly and perhaps permanently mutilating. Mosquitoes are a very serious source of infection. Through them our birds may be infected with Pox, Newcastle, or Ornithosis.

By following this outline anyone can experience success. It is now up to the fancier to implement the rules.

This material may be reprinted by any non-commercial entities. Full credit must be given to the author. The authors name, address, e-mail address, phone numbers, web site, AND THIS NOTICE must appear with any distributions. The document may not be edited, condensed, annotated, or modified in any way. Any translations must state that fact and the translators name must be listed. COPYRIGHT 1996

Anthony Olszewski
470 Grand St.
Jersey City, NJ 07302

 Reproduced from the The Budgerigar & Foreign Bird Society of Canada bulletin with thanks.

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