Canary care

Canaries (Serinus canaria domestica) can make wonderful pets. They are generally inquisitive, social birds that are relatively easy to keep.

They are a domesticated form of the wild canary, a small songbird in the finch family originating from the Macaronesian Islands. Canaries were first bred in captivity in the 17th century.

There are a many colour variants available – yellow, orange, red, white etc. Yellow being the most common colour.

Male canaries tend to be more vocal than females, and love to sing.

Canaries only grow to a small size with adult body weight’s being approximately 20 grams.

Pet canaries generally fall into one of three groups according to how they are bred:

  • Canaries bred for colours.
  • Canaries bred for different shapes and sizes.
  • Canaries bred for their unique song patterns.

When kept as pets, canaries typically live 10 to 15 years, but the average is five to six years.

They enjoy the visual company of people, but it does not like to be handled in the way that budgies and parrots enjoy it. The canary is a relatively solitary bird, though it does well in an aviary environment with other small birds. Do not house two male canaries together in a single cage, as they will likely fight. This bird will do fine when housed alone in a cage.

They can be housed individually or in groups. If introducing a new canary to the group, it is important to slowly introduce them to avoid fighting and dominance issues. Even with a very slow introduction it is important to remember that some canaries simply won’t get along and may need to be kept separately.


Diet – It is advised to provide a diet not too high in protein, as a diet high in protein can lead to kidney disease in some cases. It is best to avoid diets high in commercially produced bird seed as they are often high in fat and low in the major vitamins that they need. This means that a bird on a high seed diet can be prone to developing obesity and can have large fat deposits and other lumps develop around their body.

A recommended diet is as follows:

  • 40-50% premium commercial pelleted or crumbled diet suitable for canaries.
  • 20-35% vegetables (recommended vegetables include: capsicum, broccoli, chili, corn, carrot, zucchini, squash, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, beans and peas).
  • 5-7% fruits (i.e. melons, strawberries, banana, blue berries, grapes, peaches, pear, apple).
  • 10-35% quality commercial seed mix.
  • 1-2% snacks as treats (unsalted nuts (i.e. macadamia, cashew and walnut), pasta, eggs and brown rice.

 *These ranges are guidelines only and for a personalized diet plan please discuss this with your avian vet.

Our Nature’s Nest Avian Softgrain is perfect for canaries.



  • Cage – We advise a good quality powder coated or stainless steel cage of an appropriate size. Some painted cages can contain lead elements which can be toxic to your bird so please take care when selecting your cage. Cages that have been galvanized with a zinc coating can also cause problems so please select carefully.
  • Bowls – stainless steel or ceramic bowls, these materials are not porous therefore cannot harvest bacteria if cleaned properly. Plastic bowls can become porous after a while and can cause problems if bacteria build up in these areas.
  • Perches – perches of various sizes are important for exercise of the toes and feet health. Natural perches from native trees are ideal as they generally vary in size anyway. We generally advise against calcium perches as they can dry out the bottom of the feet and can easily harvest bacteria due to the porous nature of the material. We generally advise against sand paper covered perches as they can harm the skin on the feet due to their abrasive surfaces.
  • Toys – please do not provide string or rope toys, they fray over time and can cause obstruction if swallowed.
  • Environmental enrichment is recommended. Paper roll and toilet rolls make great toys, they can be used to hide food in, by placing treats in the middle and placing newspaper or shredded paper on each side. This can provide hours of entertainment for many birds.
  • Daylight – It is important that your bird gets enough sleep as long-day light exposure can stimulate excessive molting and increased reproductive activity. We recommend you keep to the natural day length. If your bird is kept inside in a well-lit area, then you can cover the cage when the sun goes down and place them in a dark room to ensure that their day length is not too long.


Common diseases:

  • One of the most common diseases that we see in canaries is an upset gastrointestinal track; may it be regurgitating, vomiting or diarrhoea. It is advised when any of these signs are noted to bring them in for an appointment as there are various causes. The causes can be infectious or non-infectious.
  • Obesity is common as mentioned above. In many cases this is related to diets high in seed. Fatty lumps can develop and interfere with your bird’s movement. In many cases the size of the lump can be reduced by placing them on an appropriate diet. Sometimes these lumps can be more sinister and it is best to bring your canary in if you notice any lumps or swellings present.
  • Another common disease is scaly face mite. This ectoparasite causes lesions on the feet and the beak. We advise to book an appointment at your avian vet if you notice this problem occurring. There are a few different treatment options.
  • Upper respiratory tract infection is characterized by sneezing or ocular discharge and is common in young birds. Once again it is highly advised to take them to your avian vet for an appointment as there are a range of different causes of upper respiratory tract disease. Chlamydia infection is common in young birds, this is a serious disease that can be transferred to other birds AND humans.
  • Kidney disease can occur due to high protein diets. The disease requires medical attention and can be quite serious. Clinical signs associated with this disease involve vomiting, nerve pain, lethargy and watery droppings.


Veterinary care:

  • Regular check ups are very important, as birds are very good at hiding any illnesses that they have. These check ups allow problems to be detected early before they worsen.

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