Spring Canary Care
by Ginger Wolnik

First published in the Pacific American Singer newsletter, volume 1, number 2, April 1994.

Hopefully, most of you are in the middle or end of the breeding seasonby now. If you haven't started yet, it will soon be too late becausethe daylight will be too long and the hot weather will make itdifficult to keep the eggs from drying out. If you are stillbreeding, provide incubating hens with a daily bath. Most hens willtake a quick dip to get their breast feathers wet and then return tothe nest. This will raise the humidity around the eggs.

A common mistake of new canary breeders is to let a pair raise toomany families. Just because a hen lays eggs doesn't mean you have tolet her incubate them. Limit each pair to two families a year or theymay become exhausted and not survive the summer molt. If a hen lays athird clutch, wait until you are sure it is complete, then remove herfrom the breeding cage.

If possible, put the hen in a large flight cage out of sight of hermate. Do not give her a nest. If she pulls her own feathers out, youcan give her some burlap or other nesting material to shred to keepher busy, but don't let her construct a nest. She may lay some eggson the floor of the cage, but without a nest, she cannot incubate andthe hormone cycle will eventually shut off for the year.

If you have another hen who has not raised two families yet this year,you can try to give her the eggs to incubate and raise if you want tosave the third family of the first pair. This works best if thefoster hen has just laid a clutch herself. However, some old hens canpick up the cycle at any stage because they are relying more on memorythan instinct. It is handy to keep a proven good mother forfostering, even if she is too old to be fertile anymore.

Young birds should be weaned slowly to prevent them from "goinglight." If you feed your birds seed, do not give dry, hard seed tobaby canaries until they are at least 6 weeks old. They will eat moreif you feed them egg food and soaked seed. To make soaked seed, buy amix that contains only whole seeds like millet, rape, canary grass,sunflower and whole oats. Put some in a bowl and cover with water.Soak for two days, rinsing once a day. Start a new batch daily sothat you have freshly soaked seeds available daily. To make sproutsfrom soaked seed, rinse, drain, and spread in a bowl. Cover with adamp paper towel. Rinse the seeds and resoak the towel daily. Inabout a week, the seed sprouts will be ready to serve to the birds.

Consider converting your birds to a commercial pellet diet. Weaningis the easiest time to do this. I feed my birds Kaytee Exact pelletsfor canaries and finches. For weaning, I soak the pellets in waterfor a couple of minutes to make them puff up soft and moist. Theyoung birds relish this like egg food! As they get older, I make itwith less water until they are eating it dry. Treat the soakedpellets like egg food that can spoil. Replace it a couple times a dayand always serve in a clean cup.

Adult canaries are harder to convert. Try mixing soaked pellets withegg food and gradually increase the percentage of pellets. Thengradually decrease the amount of moisture. Reduce the amount of seedto make them eat the pellets, but be prepared to revert to seed ifthey start getting thin. After the breeding season but before themolt is a good time to try this stressful conversion. Once all yourbirds are eating nothing but dry pellets, feeding them will be easierand cleaner and you will be glad you persevered!

Return to PAS Articles Index