Canaries are small finch-like birds. They have been bred in captivity for centuries and are so domesticated that they have been developed as specific breeds. There are two primary categories of canary breeds, Song Canaries and Type Canaries. All canaries (at least the males) will sing, but Song Canaries are specific breeds that have been bred to sing a particular song. Type Canaries on the other hand are breeds that have been bred for color and conformation such as variations in plumage appearance.
Canaries are primarily seed eaters. Canary seed mixes are comprised of canary grass seed, flaxseed, rapeseed, various types of millet, thistle seeds and other small seeds. Cooked eggs and greens such as kale, romaine and leaf lettuces are also offered in the overall diet. Extruded diets are also available, but some canaries prefer seed blends over the nutritionally complete extruded foods. Since these birds primarily consume seeds, fortified grit may be offered to help them digest their meals.
Use of an avian daily multivitamin is recommended. These are usually water soluble and can be added to the drinking water or sprinkled over the food. If the vitamins are added to the water, the water container must be thoroughly washed each day.
Fresh water must always be available.
Canaries are housed in various types of cages. There are hundreds of shapes and sizes of cages available but because of their high activity level, canaries do best in a rectangular cage that is longer than it is wide. Tall, narrow, columnar cages are not at all suited for canaries because they need room to fly. Perches should be placed at both ends of the cage so the birds can fly back and forth.
The door opening must be large enough for you to reach in with your hand and possibly a small net so that you can remove a bird from the cage easily if need be.
If you are planning on trying to breed your canary, consideration should also be given to nest location and access. Sometimes a separate opening is needed for access to the nest for regular inspection and cleaning.
The wires of the cage should be spaced closely enough to keep the bird from putting its head through the openings. Wire spacing of 3/8″ to 1/2″ is recommended.
In addition to everything listed above, a pull-out tray built into the bottom of the cage makes for easy cleaning.
Handling & Care
Canaries have been domestically raised for generations. When purchasing a canary, look for an active bird with clear, bright eyes and sleek feathers. Never purchase a bird that is sitting still and has its feathers puffed up, this is usually a sign of ill health or high levels of stress.
Canaries are best kept as individuals. Two males in the same cage will fight, and a male and female kept together may cause stress to either of the birds.
Birds keep their plumage in peak condition by preening their feathers. Providing a large, shallow dish at room temperature will allow the birds a great place to take a bath. There are also bath houses that attach to the opening of the cage to allow the bird to bathe outside of the cage.