Guide

Buying & equipment

Tips for buying canaries

Canaries are social animals, although they live in quite fluid flocks. They can easily feel lonely if kept alone, so it is best to buy them in pairs. The best combinations for keeping them as pets are two females or an opposite-sex pair. It is, however, also possible to keep several males together if you have a sufficiently large cage.

Cock or hen? 

Canaries can be bought from almost any pet shop or directly from a breeder. Specialists refer to the males as "cocks" and females as "hens", although they differ little from each other in their external appearance. One key characteristic used to determine the sex of these birds is, however, the cock's highly developed singing ability.

Signs of a healthy canary:

  • Lively behaviour 
  • Smooth plumage
  • Clear eyes 
  • A clean beak
  • A clean behind 

Checklist for initial equipment: 

  • A large birdcage with vertical bars for climbing
  • Perches of different sizes for foot exercises
  • Untreated branches for climbing
  • Water bath for daily refreshment
  • Bird sand, such as Premium SANDY with calcium carbonate and essential minerals
  • Food bowl or automatic feeder filled with main food, such as Menu canaries
  • Water bottle with fresh drinking water or  Vita Fit® Aqua drink
  • Mineral stone, e.g. Vita Fit® Mineral or Vita Fit® Sepia cuttlebones to provide added minerals and help care for your bird's beak
  • Kräcker® sticks to care for your bird's beak and provide variety

Your canary cage

An attractive, spacious birdcage with plenty of perches and room to hop around is ideal for canaries. It is also important to provide untreated branches. Since branches do not always grow horizontally in nature, those in your canary cage should also be placed at an angle to provide essential exercise for the muscles in their feet.

The right spot for your canary cage

Canaries are happiest in a quiet, well lit location. It is best to place the canary cage at eye level so that the canaries have a good view of the room, which gives them a feeling of security.

  • Canaries cannot tolerate draughts or heat. They are also sensitive to large fluctuations in temperature. 
  • Kitchens, in particular, can be hazardous places (hot hobs, washing up water etc.) and are not recommended.
  • You should place the cage at least three metres away from electrical devices, such as televisions, microwaves or PCs, as birds can hear frequencies that we humans cannot.

Caring for your pet

The more flying, the better!

Canaries are lively birds and need to exercise by flying around outside their cage as much as possible. As well as ensuring that your birds have fun, regular flying is also good for their muscles and promotes healthy circulation. You should, however, wait until your canaries have settled in before letting them out of the cage for their first free flight.

Goodnight!

Canaries have a preferred perch for sleeping and will retire to this on an evening. Before going to sleep, they will puff themselves up a little, rest their head on their back and sometimes stand on one foot. They place their beaks deep within the plumage on their backs.

Preening 

Canaries preen their plumage several times each day and do not require any human assistance. They should, however, be provided with the opportunity of taking a daily bath, especially when moulting.

Moulting

Canaries need particularly high levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients when moulting. Moulting aid for canaries and woodland birds and tasty Kräcker® sticks – designed specially for moulting – provide your bird with the additional nutrients it needs at this time.

Beak care 

To care for their beaks, canaries need a beak stone, such as Vita Fit® Mineral or Vita Fit® Sepia cuttlebonesfrom Vitakraft.

Cleaning your birdcage

You should replace the bird sand at least once or twice each week, depending on the number of birds and the size of the cage. Rinse out the bottom of the cage with hot water once each week and fill with new bird sand. While doing this, you should also clean the perches and other accessories, such as food and water bowls, using hot water.

The cage also needs a thorough clean once every month: This involves rinsing the cage itself in the bath or shower. However, you must never use strong household detergents!

Diet

The perfect diet

On the Canary Islands, where canaries originate, their staple diet comprises the seeds from countless different plant species. They also eat fresh greenery in the form of grasses and herbs, as well as berries and fruit. The food given to pet canaries also needs to reflect the variety enjoyed by their wild cousins.

Vitakraft's varied range of food products has been designed to cater for the specific dietary needs of canaries, and provides an ideal basis for ensuring your birds enjoy a long and healthy life. To reflect the specific dietary requirements of canaries in the wild, Vitakraft food contains selected high-grade seeds from the canary's native habitat together with vital nutrients and other beneficial ingredients.

Food types

Main food: 
A main food such as Menu canaries, covers your canary's basic nutritional requirements

Kräcker®: 
Tasty Kräcker® sticks have a number of functions in one: Birds have to work for their food like in the wild. This helps prevent boredom and is a natural way to occupy your canary. Picking at the nibble stick also helps keep your canary's beak healthy 

Natural Snacks: 
VITA NATURE®. Tasty treats that cater to the birds' natural instincts, e.g. picking seeds from natural millet spikes

Treats: 
Snacks, such as Bisquiti provide variety, serve as a reward and help to tame your pet and create a bond

Nutritional supplements: 
Pet food supplements, such as Vita Fit® Mineral or Vita Fit® Multivitamine, strengthen your bird and promote well-being. They help meet the specific nutritional needs that can arise during certain stages of life, e.g. during periods of growth, after illness or when laying eggs. They may also be beneficial for particularly active animals.

Feeding tips

  • Remove the empty grain casings from the food bowl or dispenser on a daily basis and top up with new food 
  • Kräcker® sticks should be placed in your canary's cage to nibble and peck on. This is a natural way to keep your bird occupied and exercises its beak
  • Provide a varied diet 
  • Provide fresh drinking water every day
  • Provide fresh fruit

Behaviour & familiarisation

Behaviour 

The spirited nature and cheery song of a canary cock is sure to enthral the entire family. These birds can become very trusting if you treat them with affection. Canaries are also ideal for families with children: interacting with canaries helps young children learn responsibility and consider the needs of others.

A new member of your family 

Taming canaries and familiarising them with humans requires patience and intuition. It is best to hold back to begin with so that your bird has the opportunity to initiate human contact. It can, however, be helpful to use treats such as Kräcker® sticks to attract the bird in the first place.

Canary song 

For canaries, singing is primarily a male pursuit. The singing instinct is triggered by male hormones and it is therefore rare for females to sing. Male canaries use their elaborate songs to lay claim to territory and find a partner during the breeding season. Once it has mated and eggs have been laid, the male tends to fall silent again and focuses instead on providing its mate with food.

The master singers of the canary world are song canaries: breeds that have been cultivated with an emphasis on producing a particularly melodious and varied song. The "Harz Roller" breed, for example, can sing in four different registers (called "tours"): hollow roll, bass roll, flute and hollow bell. Other breeds, such as the Belgian waterslager, have a singing range that includes as many as 17 different tours!

Portrait

Canaries

Alternative Title

The scientific name also refers to the wild ancestor of our domestic species, the Atlantic Canary.

Scientific Title

Serinus canaria

Appearance

Selective breeding has produced many varieties, differing in colour and shape. Size: 12 to 23 cm (depending on variety), average clutch size: 4 eggs, incubation: approx. 13 days, the babies fledge at around 25 days.

Origin

The Atlantic Canary is native to the Canary Islands, being particularly common on Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Wild birds are mostly yellow-green, with brownish streaking on the back. They tend to live in flocks, and in pairs during the breeding season. The canary is known for its beautiful songs. It has been bred and kept domestically since the fifteenth century. Canaries were first brought over to Europe by Spanish sailors. Over time, breeding increasingly focused on a brighter coloured plumage and talent for singing. Although the appearance and behaviour of the modern domestic canary may differ from its wild ancestor, they still have a great many traits and needs in common.

Behavior

The canary’s popularity is not only down to its voice – this bright, lively bird is also a docile, sociable creature that enjoys companionship. For their well-being, they should not be kept alone. Canaries like plenty of light. If kept in an environment that is too dark, they sing less and lose their appetite. 

Special features

In the wild, canaries do not start incubating their eggs until the final one has been laid, meaning that all the eggs hatch at the same time and there is no disparity in chick size (ensuring that none are placed at a disadvantage). This is not the case with domestic canaries, which usually start incubating immediately. For this reason, experienced breeders tend to replace the first eggs with dummy eggs and then return the real eggs once the clutch is completed.

FAQs

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Canaries

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  • What is a "Harz Roller"?

    Harz Roller is the name of the most well-known breed of song canary in Germany. The canaries were first introduced by Tyrolean mountain dwellers, who once came to the Harz region in search of work. Even then, the animals were gifted singers – people say that the Tyroleans used nightingales to teach their canaries. It's also important to know that male canaries take other, mature males as a model and use them to perfect their singing. With the nightingale as an example, they were able to become such good singers. The breeding of these talented singers continued in the Harz mountains. The "Harz Roller" is the product of these efforts. The second part of the name ("Roller") refers to the most striking stanza of their song.

    A perfect "Harz Roller" has a song that consists of four main tours and four subsidiary tours. It will often focus intently on singing for a long period of time and always reproduces the individual tours in the correct order.

     

  • When do canaries moult?

    Feathers are little marvels which, together with other peculiarities in the "construction" of the bird, enable them to fly. As feathers are also very sensitive however and wear out, birds need to moult, meaning that each bird needs to regularly renew its coat of feathers.

    Canaries moult in August and September. Within a few weeks, all of their feathers will have been renewed. For the bird, this is very stressful, meaning that during this period the animal will often react very nervously and be more susceptible to stress or illnesses. During moulting, male canaries sing very little or not at all.

    To help the canary with moulting, you can preventively give it a moulting product, such as Moulting aid for canaries and forest birds or moulting Kräcker® sticks, and lots of succulent food. In addition, the bird will need a daily opportunity to bathe or shower. Stark differences in temperature and too little humidity make moulting more difficult and should therefore be avoided at all costs.

     

  • How did canaries' wild ancestors live?

    The ancestor of our canaries is the Atlantic or wild canary (Serinus canaria), which lives in the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores. The plumage of this wild bird is green, yellow brown and black brown and therefore less conspicuous than that of most canaries bred in captivity. The colours are indeed very strong, but they are simply not as bright as a pure yellow-coloured canary, for example.

    For part of the year, the canaries generally live in large flocks, moving around in search of food. From February, however, the males find it impossible to get on with each other: using their song, which they tirelessly sing from a high branch in a tree, they mark out their territory from that of the other males. Their song also encourages the female to build a nest. The male itself takes no part in this, limiting itself purely to singing. Singing is therefore also very important in the life of wild canaries.

     

  • What do I need to pay attention to when breeding?

    Watching young canaries grow up is a joy. It does, however, takes a little experience to breed canaries. You should therefore get very precise information from experienced breeders or the specialist literature before you decide to let your own bird breed.

    An important point to mention here about breeding canaries: Unlike wild canaries, domesticated female canaries mostly lay just one egg at first, although others will follow over the next few days. As a consequence, the young hatch out at intervals of several days. With such a difference in age, the younger ones have a worse chance of surviving. To prevent this, experienced breeders carefully take the first eggs out of the nest and replace them with dummy ones. Only once the last egg has been laid are all the eggs put back again, so that the young hatch at the same time.

    This means that breeding canaries can be a complicated affair which is best left to experienced breeders.

     

  • How can I tame my canary?

    Canaries are individuals. Each is a little personality with its very own character, so getting used to people will differ from animal to animal. What's important is not to stress a new bird, but slowly get it used to be presence of a human being, for example by standing near to the cage, without making loud noises or rash movements.

    It can be helpful to tempt them with a treat, for example Perls Honey, or a piece of fruit. Hold this out carefully to the bird. If it appears frightened, withdraw your hand slowly. After a while, the curiosity will become so great that the bird will approach you. What you need to do then is keep calm, as hasty movements would destroy all your efforts. Very soon the bird will cautiously be taking food out of your hand – and then the ice is broken.

     

  • Why do canaries sing?

    The melodious singing of the male canary is certainly the main reason why these birds have become such popular pets. Nowadays, we are also fascinated by the glowing colours and overall appearance. But even the comparably unremarkable wild bird sings wonderfully, quickly awakening the interest of the first canary keepers and breeders.

    The males use their song to limit off their patch from rivals, to court females and encourage them to build a nest. The longer the male sings, incidentally, the more keenly the female will go about building the nest. The male itself limits itself completely to singing, in the meantime, and takes no part in the building of the nest. What's interesting is that young male canaries only perfect their singing skills once they have listened to experienced singers. Italian breeders once used this to their advantage and kept male canaries together with nightingales, to enable them to learn their song.

     

  • Why has my canary stopped singing?

    Cocks tend to stop singing or significantly reduce the amount of singing when moulting, which generally occurs in August and September. This is completely normal, because moulting is very stressful and the bird needs its strength to renew its plumage. It may occasionally be the case that a bird doesn't start to sing again once it has finished moulting. However, a little trick can often help in such cases: a recording of a canary singing! The supposed rival will encourage the male to sing again.

    Amazingly, other noises can sometimes have the same effect; for example, music from the radio or even the loud, monotone noise of the vacuum cleaner. Even young, unpractised singers can be given a start with the use of a recording: the young animal will be animated by the song of the older bird and learn from it.

     

  • How can I get my canary back into its cage?

    Ideally not at all, as any kind of capture would frighten the bird, making it timid and, the next time it is allowed to fly free, even harder to get it to return to its cage.

    The best thing to do is entice the bird back with food. Outside of the cage, therefore, you should not give it anything to eat. Canaries' quick circulation will then quickly lead it to become hungry and return to its cage.

    If necessary, you can darken the room or wait until the evening, when the bird is sure to seek a place to sleep in. There, you can pick it up carefully, as the birds are practically night-blind. This is only really an emergency solution, however, as the bird will view this as a breach of trust – and all your efforts to tame it could come to nothing.

     

  • Do canaries need to fly freely?

    The wild ancestors of the pet canary cover large distances in the wild. Having the opportunity to fly is therefore very important for our pets. When setting up the bird cage, therefore, it's important to take this into account.

    As canaries – unlike budgerigars, for example – hardly climb, they need fewer perches and twigs in their cage, but instead lots of space to fly and hop.

    If you don't have a large aviary, you should regularly let your birds fly free. Only in this way can the canary show off its outstanding flying skills. In addition, the activity helps to keep the bird fit and healthy. This means taking some precautionary measures in the home: windows and doors should be closed and toxic house plants only located where the birds cannot gain access to them. Not to be underestimated: even potting soil can be harmful if fertilised or if the moist earth becomes mouldy – and this may not be clearly visible.

     

  • Can I clip the claws myself?

    A canary's claws may occasionally grow too long. However, you should do everything you can to prevent this from happening in the first place. Through climbing on perches, branches and twigs, the claws will wear down by themselves. What's important is that the branches have different diameters.

    A practiced canary owner can cut the claws of their bird themselves, if needed. A zoo retailer, breeder or vet can show beginners how to go about it.

    When clipping the claws, it is very important not to damage any sensitive blood vessels, so make sure you never cut too deep. The veins are easy to see against a light surface. Cut the claws diagonally to create a new point.

     

  • How can I stop my canary becoming bored in its cage?

    Boredom can become a real problem for pets. This also naturally applies to canaries.

    One of the most important activities you can give it is to allow it to fry flee. The birds enjoy the activity which, at the same time, keeps them fit. A twig fixed to a raised position, for example on a cupboard, can serve as a landing and resting place for the canary from time to time. You can also put fresh twigs in the bird's cage: these will offer it variety and it will happily nibble on it, especially if it has young buds on it. That's why you should only use twigs from certain types of trees, such as fruit trees, hazel bushes or rowan. When putting together your bird cage, however, you should remember that canaries are less fond of climbing than, for example, budgerigars.

    A suitable diversion is obtaining food: On a Kräcker® stick, for example, the bird really needs to work to get its food – as it would in the wild.

  • What greens and fresh food are suitable?

    Although canaries are seed eaters by nature, succulent foods such as fruit also form part of a correct diet for them. The term "granivore" is therefore a little misleading: canaries do feed mainly on seeds – but not exclusively.

    Each canary has its own very personal taste, but most of them can't resist treats such as apples, pears, melon, grapes, cucumber, peeled carrots and garden cress. You can also feed your bird wild plants from the garden, such as dandelions, chickweed and shepherd's purse. Many wild plants, otherwise known as weeds, provide excellent food for canaries. Whether fruit, vegetables or herbs: all succulent foods should be washed before feeding. Over fertilised fruit and vegetables or those sprayed with pesticides, as well as wild plants from the roadside, should be avoided completely.

    If you grow your own fresh food yourself, you can be certain that it is free of pollutants. Using our practical VITA NATURE® Fresh Box, you can grow your own greens yourself and put it in your bird's cage.

     

  • What do canaries eat?

    Canaries are granivorous, meaning that they feed on grain. You can see that from their beak, which is perfectly designed for eating seeds, including large ones or those with a thick husk. The main food of a canary should therefore consist of seeds. One ideal main food is the tried-and-tested Menu canaries, as its balanced mix contains many valuable seeds.

    For healthy nutrition and, at the same time, to keep your bird busy, we recommend Kräcker® sticks and Vita Nature® natural millet. These treats encourage the bird to work harder to obtain its seeds – just like it does in the wild.

    Succulent food is also a valuable supplement to a canary's diet. You should therefore regularly give the bird foods such as fruit, vegetables and herbs.

     

  • My canary is overweight, what should I do?

    Depending on its body length and stature, a mature canary can weigh between 18 and 30g. You can tell if the bird is overweight by carefully blowing into its breast feathers so that the skin becomes visible. With overweight birds, there will be fat deposits there, which show up in yellow. A diminishing ability to fly, coupled with shortness of breath, can also be a sign of an overweight bird. If in doubt, your vet can support you in managing the diet of your pet.

    An overweight canary should however under no circumstances simply be placed on a starvation diet. This would bring with it other health problems, for example liver damage. What's important is a balanced diet which, in addition to the main food, contains lots of succulent food. As a main food, we recommendMenu canaries or native Canarian food for canaries. Besides this, you should give it fruit and vegetables daily, as well as something to nibble on and keep it busy, such as Kräcker® and Vita Nature® natural millet.

    Energy consumption is also important however: The more exercise a pet gets, the more calories it needs. Unfortunately, birds can often be susceptible to a vicious circle, whereby overweight birds turn into bad flyers and then, because they then tend not to fly so often, they do not get enough exercise which, in turn, causes them to put on more weight. It is therefore important to repeatedly encourage your bird to fly. To do this, ensure that you provide suitable landing places, which do not require complicated flying manoeuvres, in the room. The perches in the bird's cage, too – which should of course be of a sufficiently large size – should be arranged in such a way as to allow for short flights. This is particularly important for canaries, as the birds barely climb and get their activity mainly from flying.

    Canaries are not loners; they are social animals that prefer the company of other canaries. If kept alone, they can become lethargic. If kept in pairs or a small flock in the aviary, they seldom tend to put on excess weight as the birds mutually encourage each other to move around and fly.

     

  • How big should a canary cage be?

    As big as possible! Canaries are very lively and active animals which, in the wild and depending on the season, may cover very large distances. The bigger the space available to do this in, the better.

    Some canary owners even have large outdoor aviaries or set aside an entire room for the bird, but a large and suitable cage can also offer the bird a secure and fine home. The size of the cage should allow the canary to fly short distances – and remember, canaries don't climb – and the equipment should also be suited to the bird. What's important, for example, is a number of perches with different diameters. But don't forget: canaries absolutely need to fly freely on a regular basis!

     

  • How do I set up a bird room?

    A dedicated room that is always or temporarily available to the canaries is a great thing to have. When setting up your bird room, however, do remember that safety, hygiene and suitable equipment should always be provided!

    Experienced bird owners will not have a problem with that: secured windows and doors, a cleanable floor covering and suitable landing places provide these, and an unused or little-used room can quickly be turned into a great bird room. Suitable landing places include horizontally hung twigs or a thick climbing branch with side branches, placed in a flowerpot filled with sand.

    A cage also deserves its place in the bird room and serves an important function. It can be used as the basis for sleeping and feeding, meaning it is associated with something positive and can, as needed, easily be used as a quarantine station or transport option.

     

  • Why does the information on the packaging sometimes differ to that given on the website?

    We may occasionally change the recipe of our products for example, to comply with legally prescribed changes, or to make the food even more tasty for the animals. Such changes in composition naturally mean that the packaging in question needs to be revised. It can also be the case that new provisions in the laws governing pet food apply only to the food declaration, while the recipe remains unchanged. The product packaging will be changed in this case too.

    While we are able to update online information very quickly, including changing pictures where necessary, it takes longer with retail stores, and for a time, you will often find both the old and new recipes, as well as the old and new packaging, available in stores.

  • Sugar in canary food? Is that allowed?

    Did you know that most Vitakraft products for birds are manufactured using sugar-free recipes?

    To be able to consider sugar and its importance objectively, however, it is first important to be aware that there are many different types of sugar. Those generally known include fructose, dextrose and lactose. In addition to having different origins, they also have different chemical structures.

    Sugar is naturally present in virtually all foods, as it is the natural product of the photosynthesis of plants and is required as a source of energy by all living creatures. The sugar is either consumed directly or released by other carbohydrates during metabolism. The canary's natural food also contains a certain proportion of sugar, for example in herbs, vegetables and fruits.

    If, for reasons of principle, you would like to use only food with a sugar-free recipe, Vitakraft offers an enormous selection! No sugar is added to most Vitakraft products, particularly those fed in larger quantities; the main foods in other words.