All about Canaries


A new pet can be a fantastic companion, but sometimes the novelty can wear off (some pets live for a very long time). You may find that regular cleaning, feeding and handling becomes a time consuming chore. Please try to handle and play with your pet as often as possible, you will find that you will be rewarded with a much happier and friendlier pet. If you are not 100% sure that you or your children will be able to give your pet the attention that it needs then please think twice.

  • Average Adult Size: 4 3/4 to 8 inches, weighing less than 1 ounce
  • Average Life Span: 5 to 15 years.

A canary is the first pet bird many people own, and many of these owners become lifelong canary enthusiasts. This little finch is a very pleasant companion bird with its cheerfulness communicated with a melodious song that is much softer and more pleasant than that of many larger birds. The canary has been carefully bred to be available in a variety of colours and sizes, and even song variations are available. This undemanding little charmer is an excellent starter bird for beginners.

Canaries are not sexually dimorphic, which means males and females are not visually different. Mature male canaries do usually sing, which will usually reveal the sex of the bird. Females have a simple, sweet “cheep” sound. Male canaries learn their sweet, intricate songs from their fathers and other male members of the family. They can also pick up pieces of songs from outside songbirds or from recordings of canaries. Each segment of a tune that they learn will be incorporated into their own personal song.

Canaries are energetic, sweet-tempered birds. They will happily hop from perch to perch and are a joy to watch. However, they can be territorial, so if you have a group of canaries, be prepared to separate one or two out into individual cages if they begin to pick on one another. Canaries do not enjoy being handled, although some keepers have trained them to sit on a finger.


Feeding Canaries:

Canaries benefit from a good quality pellet diet in addition to their seed mix. A seed-only diet can result in nutrient deficiency and diseases such as liver, kidney and heart disease, as well as obesity, all of which can severely shorten the life expectancy of your pet. Pelleted diets, such as Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine, have been carefully formulated to meet the specific needs of your canary. If your bird is not used to pellets, they can be mixed with seed. As time goes on, you can slowly convert your bird to a majority of pellet and fresh food diet. Some canary diets are also fortified with specific nutrients, such as vitamin A foods that will enhance the colours of some of the red, orange and yellow coloured canaries.

Your canary should also be offered fresh vegetables, fruit and grains daily. You can also offer “egg food” or cooked egg as a good source of protein and vitamin A (be sure to include the yolk). Remember that vitamin A foods found in the red and orange fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potato) will enhance the colour of a brightly hued canary. Canaries often enjoy leafy greens and can be offered in small bunches or chopped finely. Be sure to remove any fresh foods that have not been eaten within a 24-hour period.

If your bird is eating a balanced diet, the only supplement that you will need is calcium. Calcium can usually be offered in the form of a cuttlebone or mineral block. Do not use gravel or grit as it can cause impactions. For optimal calcium metabolism, your bird will need some UVB exposure for at least 3-4 hours a day.

Clean, fresh water must always be available and should be changed daily. All water should ideally be free of fluorine, chlorine and heavy metals. We recommend that you use unflavoured bottled drinking water or bottled natural spring water. If tap water is used, you should treat it with a water conditioner. If you do not want to chemically de-chlorinate the water, you can leave an open container of tap water out for at least 24 hours with exposure to ultraviolet light. Do not use distilled water, which can cause severe medical problems, since it lacks minerals that are essential to important body functions.

Because your bird will often even bathe or dunk food in its water, it must be checked/changed several times a day. It is recommended that the bowl be wiped clean with a paper towel at every change to prevent a slimy film (bacteria) from collecting on the inside of the bowl. Thoroughly wash the bowl with a pet safe disinfectant and water at least once a day.

Housing Canaries:

Canaries need a clean, warm, mentally stimulating environment. One bird should have a cage no smaller than 18”x18”x18”. Two birds should have a cage measuring at least 24”x18”x18” inches. Do not purchase a round cage. The basic rule of thumb is the bigger the better! Canaries are very active and like to flit back & forth as much as possible. Remember that birds fly horizontally, not vertically like a helicopter! Choose a cage that allows that natural movement. The spacing between the bars of the cage should be no wider than 3/8 inch to a ½ inch.

The cage should be placed in a family- cantered room where the bird will feel like a part of the “flock”; however, the back of the cage should be positioned against a wall to provide security. Avoid drafty areas and any placement that will get too much direct sun for any portion of the day. If your bird spends time out of its cage, make sure that any ceiling fans are off. Do not place your bird’s cage in the kitchen, as cooking fumes and even a small amount of smoke can be fatal. Average room temperature will be fine for your bird, not to exceed 80 degrees. Be careful of drafts especially when bathing and misting.

Perches of varying materials and types should be included in the cage, such as wood dowel, natural branch type, cotton rope or a cement perch. Having different sizes will exercise the feet and prevent sores and foot-related health issues. We do not recommend sandpaper covered perches as they are too abrasive for bird feet.

At least three clean bowls should be ready for use: one for fresh water, one for dry pellets/seed and one for fresh foods. Use sand sheets to cover the base of the cage this helps keep the cage clean and you can monitor your bird’s faeces daily. We do not recommend sandpaper as it can be ingested and cause obstructions. Your bird may appreciate a cage cover for night-time. The cover can block out any extraneous light and create a more secure sleeping place. Be careful not to use any fabrics for your cover that your bird might catch its claws or beak in, or that it might pull strings from and ingest. Canaries will enjoy picking at small toys made of leather strips or sturdy string.

Your canary’s cage should be checked daily. Faeces and spoiled food should be wiped clean of perches, cups and cage bars consistently to prevent health problems. Cage paper can be changed every to every-other day. The entire cage should be cleaned thoroughly at least once every month with a safe disinfectant.

All birds should be gently misted with a water bottle dedicated to this use only. In addition to misting, a shallow dish (2-3 inches deep) for bird bath should be offered to your bird at least twice weekly.

Canaries as Pets

Canaries enjoy the visual company of people, but this is not a bird that likes to be handled in the way that budgies and parrots enjoy it. The canary is a relatively solitary bird, though it does well in an aviary environment with other small birds. Do not house two male canaries together in a single cage, as they will likely fight. This bird will do fine when housed alone in a cage.