A canary is a small bit of flesh with lots of fluff. It can be very
delicate, but also very hardy. Give it what it needs and it will bring you fun and cheers
for many years. Too busy to attend it, through neglect or oversight, gone is the fluff,
gone is the cheer, for it will die in just a few days.
Most birds sold are youngsters,
born in the spring. Your birds song is not fully developed, he will improve as he
gets older. Even Caruso had to practice when he was little! As you bring him home it will
all be new, he will have to feel at home in his new cage, in his new surroundings. He may
not sing right away so give him a few days. Then surprise, joy!
Choose a good cage for your new tenant. A nice large one is best. A round one is
pretty, but awkward for the bird to get around and because of it, hard on the feet. It
likes two perches to hop back and forth, and at the feeders or whatever setup you have
that is the best arrangement. The perches should be of soft wood and not too big in
diameter. Do not cover them with gravel paper covers. Do not use gravel paper on the
bottom of the cage.
A used cage is fine. It must be scrubbed and disinfected. Clorox is handy and very
good. A spray paint job, non-toxic paint, and presto sparkling quarters.
A swing is appreciated and good exercise. Feeding dishes should consist of a water
drinker fresh water everyday. A cup for seeds, a cup for gravel or grit and a treat
cup or two for bits of egg or pieces of fruit.
A canary is a seed eater, therefore it must have seed mixture at all times. Gravel or
grit: A bird has no teeth and must use gravel to grind its food (in crop), therefore
gravel is essential, given in a feeding cup, not scattered on bottom of cage with bird
droppings. Water: Clean everyday. A Cuttlebone: For minerals and clean beak.
These are the very basic!
For extra song, good feathers, etc., Song food: A mixture of many seeds. Petamine: A
commercial mixture, also given at all times by most breeders. Bits of sweet apple, orange
pear, a grape, a spinach leaf, dandelion (in season), fresh leaf lettuce out of the garden
or store. Iceberg lettuce has no food value whatsoever to man or beast. Care should be
taken that whatever greens are given they have not been sprayed with insecticide and
should always be washed thoroughly. A bird should be given only as much green as it can
consume in a half hour. Wilted greens are trouble so avoid them at all costs. When the
bird is done, take it away. Fruits on the other hand will be fine for 2 or 3 days. A bit
of hard boiled egg occasionally a 20-minute egg is very digestible for man beast or
Change water daily. Check the seed feeder. Sometimes it looks full but is mostly hulls.
Tall, clamp-on feeders may get clogged with seeds at openings. Tap lightly and the seeds
will flow. If your bird chirps at you insistently, check. Something may be amiss. He is
trying to tell you something.
Birds like to be near a window, enjoying sunshine. However, the cage should be in part
shade so as not to receive the full force of the sun when very hot. In winter it should be
okay. Watch your bird, it will tell you. A bright, sunny day makes them that much more
peppy and cheerful. Keep them away from drafts and air conditioners.
Kitchen, particularly near stoves, is not advised; in a far window is fine. Our
cookware is not like grandmothers. She didnt have toxic Teflon pans that give
off toxic fumes when the pan overheats poisoning our ounce of flesh and fluff. I have four
cages hanging in my kitchen away from the range and I cook in Teflon only occasionally,
taking care not to overheat the pans. Heat and fumes and steam rise, and bird stand
height, about eye level, is as high as your pet should be. Top of the refrigerator is not!
It may induce a molt.
On a very cold night, and we have had many of these, the bird stand can be stood
slightly further from the window or a thin, plastic sheet or newspaper can be placed
between the cage and the window. A cover over the cage can be used.
To cover or not to cover your bird at night? It is up to you and your birdie. Your bird
must rest a good number of hours. If you see that it wants to tuck itself away for the
night and goings on bother him cover him. Some do it on their own, fluff up
(insulating itself with air), stand on one leg (normal) and tuck their head under their
feathers. Maybe early evening it will retire may sing till 9 or 10 PM. Who knows?
A bath is thoroughly enjoyed by all my birds. They are used to one, once or twice a
week, in summer almost every day. (The bird porch sometimes gets warm.) Your bird may get
very wet, sit on its perch pitifully fluffed up to dry. Its okay. The bird is fine.
A ray of sunshine really hits the spot then.
A healthy bird is active, busy and constantly in action. A bird sitting on its perch on
both feet, fluffed up, is usually a sick bird. Immediate action is necessary. Constant
feeding provides the energy and heat needed. Therefore, as your bird sits, this must be
replaced quickly. First: Heat. Cover cage with cloth on all sides except the front. Put
electric lamp over cage 60 Watt should be sufficient to give approximately 85 to 90
degrees F. Or, heat from radiator or space heater, or put cage on top of a heating pad.
But, make sure you dont cook it. Expensive bite! Second: My instant energizer. Mix
in about 4 ounces of water, 3 or 4 drops of spirits (whiskey, rum, etc.) and about 1/4
teaspoon of honey. Stir. Give to bird instead of water so the bird will have to drink it.
If bird is on the floor of the cage, make its food handy for it to reach. Water or honey
mix in a small lid and seed scattered on bottom of cage. I also keep some sulfa on hand.
8-in-1 remedy (pet shop or others). I have saved many a ball of fluff from sure death with
this energy formula which soon gives them an boost and restores a lost appetite. A bird
must eat to live.
Diarrhea: Give a crumpled toast. Strong tea is also very good, for a couple of days, or
till it clears up, normally 2 or 3 days.
If the bird seems out of sorts, picks at his seed but doesnt eat, he may have an
intestinal disorder. A treat cup filled with a piece of white bread soaked in milk (likes
to drink the milk too) and poppy seed (acts as a tonic) sprinkled on top.
Sore feet: Rub gently with Vaseline. Cuts and Sores: sulfa ointment.
About June July or August the bird will go into molt. It sheds it feathers and grows
new ones. At that time it will appreciate a few extra servings of conditioning food,
greens, vitamins and cucumbers (excellent to go through this period quicker). It is a
normal biological state for birds, but at this time they are definitely more delicate.
Some do it quickly; others take longer.
Canaries do not like a cage with a roof. They do not like toys in their cages. It
worries them and they may not sing. Use common sense with your bird. What is not good for
you is not good for it either. Drafts, sudden changes in temperature, sun too hot, drafty
cold near window, fumes (sprays, paints, etc.), rich foods, too much egg, cakes or
cookies. Most of those are no, nos for all of us anyway.
Already mixed seeds, in a box form the grocery store are okay for emergencies, but
birds waste a lot of the fillers that are used and the seed may be old. I use a good
canary mix which consists of 40/60% rape (black round seed)/canary seed (long white seed).
It can be bought in these ratio from any reputable grain store (Dodge Grain in Salem,
Agways, etc). Seed should not be dusty or musty. It should smell like freshly cut
Song food: A treat cup full as often as one wishes.
Petamine: A complete mixture of seeds; expensive but it goes a long way. Given at all
time in a seed cup separate form other seeds. Used by most breeders.
Birdbath: A margarine container or a commercial plastic clamp on type, which will
confine the splashing (my birds use both).
Grit: Most any suitable for finches and canaries.
Thank you Nicole for allowing BOAF to publish your story. This story may not be copied
in part or in whole. All rights reserved by Nicole B. Smith. May, 1972, revised January
Any questions or comments? Call Nicole at (603) 776-2041.
Copyright: Birds of A Feather Avicultural Society and Author Mar 1999