rand avicultural society
conservation through aviculture

by Gordon M Duncan©

The domestic canary is one of the most widely kept and popular cage birds world-wide. They are inexpensive, easy to feed and house. They are beautiful to look at and they sing magnificently. There are clubs devoted especially to canary breeding and showing, or you could join a general bird club like Rand Avicultural Society.


A good canary should cost you about R150. Do not buy a small, cheap cage. All wire cages are suitable. The cage should be AT LEAST 45cm long by 25cm wide and 30cm high. Round cages with only one central perch are not suitable. Nor are bamboo, multi-storey ‘pergolas’.

Should you intend to breed canaries you will need a double breeder box-type cage about 90cm long by at least 30cm high and wide. These are available from any good bird farm or pet shop.

The cage should be fitted with three perches, preferably natural twigs of varying thickness. Do not clutter the cage with more perches, swings, etc.

Position the cage about 1.2m above the floor in a room where there is activity, but not in the kitchen with the heat and steam of cooking. Avoid drafts, and try to get a LITTLE morning sun.

The cage should have a removable floor tray, covered with newspaper, for cleaning. A cloth ‘bag’ fitted over the bottom of the cage will catch spilt seeds etc.

The best time to buy a canary is in the late summer or early autumn. Try to get a young bird. If you want a singing bird, you must buy a male. Male and female canaries are alike visually. You have to trust your dealer or breeder to supply you with a male. Get a guarantee that if the bird turns out to be a female and fails to sing, you can exchange it for another within a reasonable time. Expect to pay R75 to R150 for a young male canary.

Canaries are seedeaters, but they do need extras. Their diet should consist of:

A good mixed canary seed, which includes Rape and Niger, from your pet shop or bird dealer. Replace the seed daily and give the ‘leftovers’ to the wild birds.

SOFT FOOD: Sold in a dry form and only requires moistening. Offer a teaspoon daily in a small dish.

A slice of fresh apple, pear, etc. twice a week.

Parsley, lettuce spinach and even carrot tops are excellent. Fasten a piece to the bars of the cage with a clothes peg every day.

GRIT: See that your canary always has a dish of ‘Health Grit’, available from your pet shop, in his cage.

CUTTLEBONE: Attach a small piece of cuttlebone to the bars with a clothes peg.

COLOUR FOOD: For the red canaries, colour food is needed. This is as simple as a powder or liquid mixed with his soft food.

WATER: Clean water, changed every day must always be available for both bathing and drinking. Offer this water in a bath and he will be quite happy.

With food and water this is essential. NEVER offer food or water in dirty dishes. Feed fresh every day in clean dishes.

When you get your new bird home

Gently release him into his cage. Move quietly when approaching him and he will soon settle.

To breed canaries, buy the best pair that you can afford. Place them in a double breeder in the early spring with a wire divider in place. Offer top quality food, including increased supplies of soft food. Hang a nest pan with a felt liner glued in place on the female’s side. Offer commercial nesting material or soft, dry grass to the hen. When she begins to carry nesting material remove the wire divider. Remove the eggs that are laid and replace them with artificial ones. When the 4th egg is laid return the real eggs and remove the artificial ones. When the chicks hatch the supplies of canary rearing food (soft food) must be unlimited.

Both parents will feed the chicks. Once the chicks are ready to leave the nest provide a second nest pan. The hen will make a new nest while the cock finishes rearing the babies. As soon as you are sure that the babies are feeding themselves properly remove them to an aviary or large cage where they can exercise and develop properly.

If you wish to meet others who enjoy the hobby as much as you do then it is advisable to join a club.

The members of the Rand Avicultural Society meet at the Honeydew Country club Tennis club section, No 1 Boundary Rd Honeydew, Johannesburg on the LAST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH, except December.

If you wish to find out more about the club then click back to RAS introduction page.


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