Canaries.cage.4.jpg (85653 bytes)

Bird index

Canaries.coloured.cage.3.jpg (85036 bytes)

Buff Hen + V.Cock.jpg (41428 bytes) Buff hen above 2 chicks.sml.jpg (33893 bytes) Buff canary hen + chicks.sml.jpg (37991 bytes) Buff hen + Variag. cock.sml.jpg (46085 bytes)


Fife pair enjoying dandelion leaves

Buff Hen + Chicks

Buff Fife Canary with Chicks

Variag.cock + Buff Hen

Chicks approx 6 days

HISTORY OF THE CANARY (by Alan Pennington)

  • The Canary was first discovered by the Spanish, when they conquered the Canary Islands towards the end of the fifteenth century. 
  • They then introduced them into Europe selling only cock birds at first 
    • for their song and at a high price 
    • Only the wealthy people could afford to purchase them. 
  • By the Seventeenth century the Italians and English had succeeded in breaking the Spanish monopoly on females
  • How they succeeded in doing this, remains a mystery even today.
  • From this beginning various breeds of canary have been developed
  • Today there must be at least 20 or so different breeds.
  • They can be split into three groups

1. Type Canaries

  • These are bred "Exhibition-wise" for their shape, size, position etc.
  • These Breeds include the Border, Yorkshire, Fife, Gloster and Irish to name a but a few.

2. Song Canaries

  • These birds are bred  just for their song.
  • Contests are held where the birds are judged on their song and points awarded for various notes 
    i.e.  tours and rolls.
  • These Breeds include the Roller Canary and other Continental varieties.

3. Colour Canaries

  • These are bred just for colour and can be anything from Clear reds to Opals plus other colours too numerous
    to mention.

Canaries come in all shapes & sizes

  • From the larger breeds such as Borders, Norwich, Crests and Yorkshires
  • To the smaller ones  -  Fifes, Lizards, Irish and Rollers, to name but a few.
  • Normally the smaller varieties are easier to breed
  • If starting-up, the Beginner would be advised to commence with this type before progressing
    onto the larger ones.

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Rest of Info via BJH > >


  • These are lovely, neat canaries around the size Border Canaries used to be many years ago when
    my Grandfather used to keep them
  • Since then Border Canaries have become a lot bigger in size and substance.


  • A good Fife is about the size of a sparrow (maybe slightly smaller)
    • and it will be pert, 
    • sit upright on a perch - not slouched down onto it. 
    • have  a neat shape, 
    • with a round head shaped like a marble, 
    • clean beak and eyes and look alert, 
    • with good definition of feather shape and colour.
    • If it's variegated it should have equal variegations to either side of it's body, as near as poss.
      a bit like a mirror image. (this is for showing purposes)
  • It should have Tight healthy feathers
    • - not loose and fluffy
    • The Buff (paler lemon colour, has a "harder" type of feather
    • The Yellow (a deeper colour yellow) is a "softer" type of feather
    • So, it follows when you pair up that putting a Buff to a Buff will produce feather that is too coarse and hard - to the eye
    • Yellow to yellow would produce a feather quality that is too soft and fluffy
    • So the ideal pairing would be a Buff to a Yellow to produce the optimum type of feather.
    • The yellow also produces better coloured chicks
      • One compensates the other.
  • You then have to decide if you want to Breed Clears (either yellows or buffs)
    • i.e. birds that are self-coloured with no dark markings
    • or variegated - those that have dark markings over the yellow 
      • (see pictures above which show a clear Buff Hen with a Yellow variegated cockbird)
  • The wings tips should meet down the back of the bird - like an inverted "V"!
    • They shouldn't cross over
    • Neither should they sit apart 
    • i.e. no gap between the wings down the birds back
    • They should be held firmly together
  • The above are just the basics required for a good quality Fife Canary.


  • They thrive on Mixed Canary Seed of a good clean quality, 
    • that doesn't have too much black rape in it -
    • this they seem to disregard, so it's wasted. 
    • I am sure some seed manufacturers just seem to use it to bulk out the bags of seed.
    • they do prefer the Red Rape seed.
    • It also contains linseed, which has a high oil content,
    • Hemp which is high in protein and therefore good during the breeding season.
    • Plain canary seed, which is high in carbohydrate but a good all-round seed.
    • I tend to add extra Plain canary to my seed mix, as it seems rather lacking in the Manufacturers mix.
    • I often give them Budgie Tonic seed instead of Mixed Canary as it also has groats in it, which they love.
    • They also like a few (not many) small sunflower seeds.
    • They will eat Millet sprays but not as keenly as Budgies do.


  • Canaries love Wild Foods:
    • Dandelion Leaves & the Ripe Brown Seeds later when the flower has died and formed a tight seed container with the fluffy head - just before it opens into the Dandelion Clock.
    • Ripe Rats Tails (Greater Plantain)
    • Shepherd Purse
    • Chick weed
    • Ripe Dock Seed
    • Seeding heads of Hay Grass - just before the Farmer cuts it for Hay
    • Fresh spring grass - just pull it for them (NOT LAWN CLIPPINGS from a lawn mower,as they can start to ferment)
    • CARROTS - they love them - stab them onto a pin nail on a perch.
    • All vegetables that a Rabbit would eat.

DURING THE BREEDING SEASON  (Click here to go to a page on how to bring your Canary into Breeding condition)

  • Leading up to the Breeding Season the Protein levels in the diet will be "upped"
  • This helps the bird come into Breeding condition
  • They benefit from Blue Maw Seed, Teazle, Niger added to the Egg Food or Seed mix
  • + wild seeds and dandelion leaves etc.,
  • + Egg Food until the hens lay
  • Once the Hens lay just a basic seed mix with mainly plain canary, as they are just on maintenance diet while they incubate the eggs
  • Once the chicks are due to hatch then you can feed a more varied seed mix again
  • + the Egg Food (changed 3 - 4 times per day) for the parents to feed the chicks with.
  • Cuttlefish and Oystersell + mineralised Grit are essential to aid digestion and maintain the calcium levels required for the formation of the egg shell.
  • The Canary will help itself to however much it requires - so free access is essential.
  • I also put in a pink Iodine nibbles block as this also contains extra minerals as well as the iodine, 
    • which is essential in budgies and desirable for Canaries at Breeding time.


  • Canaries will build a nest in any receptacle in a Mixed Aviary, as soon as they feel they are ready
    to breed.
  • So, it is probably better to either allow them to chose their own partners and catch them up into Breeding cages
    • or decide well in advance, which pairs you want to go together for colour, type and feather etc.
    • Put them into a Breeding cage that is partitioned off, at first (if they haven't been together before)
    • This is to introduce them (safely)
    • Then open the back part of the partition about 1/4" so that they can just see each other.
    • If there is no aggression then you can open the partition a little more or replace it with a
      cage-front type of partition.
    • Once the cock starts to sing and display at the hen and feed her thru the bars 
    • You can let them in together.
    • Provide a nest pan with a Nest felt either stuck to the bottom or Zip-tied thru the ventilation holes in the bottom of the nest pan.
    • If you don't they will pull it out and re-organise it - or pull it to shreds to make their own Nest.
    • It is also wise to follow the instructions on the Red Mite page (>>A comprehensive page of info on the Life and death of  Red Mite)
    • Ensure that you put some sort of Red mite deterrent under the nest Felt.
      • If Red Mite get into a nest of chicks it can cause havoc and even kill them as they are bloodsuckers and only come out of crevices at night - so more often than not you don't even know you have them!!

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  • Hang the Nest pan at the back of the cage - not in direct sun - and about 4 - 5" from the top of the cage.
    • They like to be in a discreet area - out of view.
  • You need to provide Nesting material.
    • You can either buy it from Pet shops
    • or "make" your own : 
    • i.e. Moss, clean combings off your short-haired dog or horse's body hair (not the horses mane-hair or sheeps' wool - this would be too strong and could wrap round the chicks legs or necks
       and kill them or maim them. 
    • Wash whatever you have decided to use in a seive,
    •  then put it in the microwave for approx. 1 minute 
    • - this steralises it and kills any bugs or eggs left in it.
    • You can either buy special Nesting material holders, which look like small barrel-shaped
      plastic cages (11/2" x 2 1/2") which fixes on the inside of the cage bars 
    • You then fill it with nesting material and they can pull it out thru the spaces.
    • or just push the nesting materials thru the cage bars.
    • The act of pulling & collecting the nesting material helps to bring the hen into Breeding Condition.
    • You will know if your Hen is ready for Breeding becos she will carry the nesting material,
      she has collected, well back in her beak.
    • They will then make the nest.
    • It's usually thicker to the front of the Nest pan.
    • Within 2 weeks of them being put together they will usually lay their first egg.
    • You need to remove this egg (very carefully) and put it somewhere safe
      • Use a box that has been sectioned off into compartments
      • Put a little cotton-wool in each compartment to cushion the egg
      • Keep it somewhere safe, COOL, but not Cold!
      • This is so that the egg lies dormant until you put it back into the nest.
      • If you keep it too warm, the embryo will start to develop.
    • The Canary hen lays every day - usually 4 eggs
    • Remove the first 3 eggs and store (as above)
    • Put a Dummy Egg (you can buy these at Pet Stores) in the nest in it's place, as you remove
      each egg.
    • On the 4th day - put these 3 eggs back as the 4th egg should have been laid
    • All the chicks will then hatch out together.
    • As they grow very quickly and can be almost feathered at 14 days, 
    • the 3 day gap would mean a big difference in chick size 
    • and the youngest almost always gets left out at feeding time or crushed 
    • as it's bigger siblings fight for food.
  • INCUBATION  :  Hatch 14 DAYS (After you put all the eggs back)
  • EYES Open : start slitting around 7 days
  • FLEDGE : 21 Days +/-
  • CLOSE RINGNG : once the eyes are about 1/2 open 8-9 days - but read the info below under
    Split rings" before going ahead with close ringing.
    • The other problem with Close ringing besides what I have outlined below, under Split Rings,
      is that some canary parents won't accept their chicks with rings on their legs and regard the Rings
      as foreign objects.
    • They often end up throwing the chicks out of the nest while trying to get the rings off their
      legs or can actually kill them - is it really worth the risk?  The choice is yours! 
    • If Close ringing is not really necessary for Showing etc., Split ringing once they have left the nest is the
      much safer option for identification purposes only.
  • Split Ring : Best to ring after they come out of the nest, as once you disturb a canary chick that
    is in the nest it becomes like a
    "Spring-loaded Furby" and keeps leaping out of the nest even tho
    it's not ready to come out.
    • this is a recipe for disaster, as once they have been out once they keep leaping out and then they become chilled.
    • If you don't touch the chicks, they actually clamp tightly down into the nest pan if you go near them but once they have been out once, they go the exact opposite way and keep leaping out!
    • they then don't beg for food as their metabolism slows down, as does their digestive system and if not rescued by either human or canary parent - they will die!

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