There are a wide variety of canaries and a broad range of reasons for which people choose to keep them such as highly specialized breeding, exhibiting or as pets. This article relates to keeping a single canary or a small group as pets indoors. Some aspects will be relevant to other types of canary but further research is advisable if the reader’s purpose is more specialized than keeping a pet canary.
As large a cage as possible is to be preferred, with bars spaced so that the canary can not escape. Wooden and similar cages are not a good idea because they can house infectious bacteria or mites so a metal-plated cage is preferable, which is also easier to clean.
Cages should be kept away from draughts and this is best tested using a lighted candle.
The floor arrangement of the canary cage should be of the removable tray type. By placing several layers of clean paper on the floor on a weekly basis, the top one can be removed daily which is both a hygienic and time-saving process.
Wooden perches are suitable because they resemble natural habitat and can be easily and inexpensively replaced periodically. Between replacements they can also be washed using well-diluted bleach. Using perches of different diameters and roughing their surface with a hacksaw to create grooves allowing the canary’s feet to aerate are both good ideas.
Canaries create a fair amount of debris in terms of wasted food, the remains of anything they can peck or by throwing seed, so a simple tube-type water dispenser mounted on the bars of the cage with just the base sticking into the cage is recommended in most instances.
Cuttlefish bone and grit as sources of minerals, a shallow dish to act as a bath much enjoyed by canaries and toys to entertain are also essential additions.
Canaries, like all birds, require a balanced diet. Various seed mixtures can be created, some quite complex, but the easy option for pet canaries is to buy the commercial canary diet foods, then provide plenty of water and some greens, which canaries do enjoy. Darker greens such as spinach provide more nutrition than lighter variants. Providing small amounts of greens regularly is much better than overfeeding, which can lead to diarrhoea and invite infections.
Small amounts of fruit can sparingly be used for variety, with apples, pears and peaches being recommended choices.
The commercial foods include the right balance of protein, carbs, fats, etc, so avoid the need for supplements unless for health reasons.
Food and water should be replaced and excess removed on a daily basis. Doing this as a regular routine, for example after removing the night-time cage cover, helps keep the canary relaxed by avoiding startling it.
The cage will need to be thoroughly cleaned every two weeks. A spare cage comes in useful for transporting the canary or while cleaning the main cage. If taking the canary to the vet, for example, the cage is best covered with a blanket whilst travelling.
Canary nails will need trimming periodically either by the keeper or a vet. Adding sandpaper covers to perches is a possible health risk and can damage the bird’s feet over time.
Keeping a stock of styptic powder is advisable to staunch any bleeding caused by accidental damage to the canary.
A single pet canary is unlikely to suffer many health problems as most issues are caused by interaction with unhealthy birds. The most common warning signs of potential issues are:
- Excessive preening – this could indicate mites, treatable with medication from the vet if diagnosed early enough,
- Diarrhoea – the simplest solution being binders such as banana or cheese, or antibiotics from the vet if recurring,
- “Runny” beaks – colds are common. Heat and rest usually solve these and if recurring, again this can be medicated by a vet.
A pet canary in a cage can be carefully caught by hand, clasping around the wings and if held gently canaries are unlikely to peck other than during the first few occasions.
Cage to cage transfers are best effected by opening the cage doors facing each other and putting a piece of spinach or fruit in the second cage to entice the canary into it. This will soon become routine for the canary.