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Bird Basics: Canaries


Before bringing home a canary, it’s best to first ready its cage. Get a rectangular or square cage, not a circular one. Canaries find circular cages confusing and they might make the birds anxious or neurotic. The wider the cage the better, so canaries have some room to take short little flights.

If your cage is previously used, clean it completely. Replace any materials previous birds might have pecked, such as the perches and the cuttlebone/mineral block. Cuttlebones and mineral blocks can be purchased from pet stores; they provide important nutrients like calcium for the bird. Make sure the perches are not covered in sandpaper, as this hurts a canary’s feet.

Layer paper towels or newspaper at the bottom of the cage. At least one of the layers should be changed every day, and the cage itself should get a full cleaning once a week. Some canary care sites recommend that each week you put seven layers of paper down, and remove one of the layers each day. When you take out the last paper, it’s time to clean the cage.

Now that your cage is ready, it’s time to get your canary. If you want a singing canary get a male, but be warned that it might wake you up first thing in the morning with its chorus. Female canaries still make cheerful vocalizations, but they’re less insistent about it.

Canaries don’t need company in their cages so long as you spend time with them each day, as you are their flock. If you do want more than one canary don’t put two males in the same cage; at worst they’ll fight and at best they won’t sing. Purchase either multiple hens or a hen and a male if they are going to live in the cage together.

Fresh water must be provided at all times in a canary’s cage, as with fresh seeds. Canaries will try to bathe in their water and scatter their seeds around their cage, so purchase water bottles and hooded food bowls to cut down on the mess. Place a bathing trowel in your canary’s cage for an hour or so once a day or at least once a week. Do this earlier in the day, as it’s not good for your canary to go to sleep wet.

Canaries also need fresh greens in their diet; the darker the leaf the better. Good choices are kale, spinach, dandelion, broccoli, and endives. Indoor canaries also need vitamin supplements; the best are powders that sprinkle onto their seeds.

During molting season especially canaries need their vitamins and fresh greens, as they are more susceptible to illness during this period. For full details on what and how often to feed your canary, consult your breeder or veterinarian.

Like many birds canaries need time to fly; pick a small space within your house in which they may have some free flying time. They also need darkness at night to sleep, so either purchase a cover for the cage or keep them in a room with no artificial light at night.

If you prepare for them well, canaries can be lovely, cheerful pets.

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Birds: No Cages Required

*(This image by tanakawho is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.)