Canary FAQís

By Connie S. Soto


How long does a canary live?


A healthy canary can typically live for 10-12 years.


What are the lighting requirements to ensure canary health?


Canaries can be raised successfully with either artificial or natural light. Consider a birdís natural environment in the wild when making the decision for the canaries lighting. The key to help them respond well is to limit the number of hours of light making it mimic the rising and setting of the suns natural cycle. Canaries benefit from a routine and if artificial light is used it would be beneficial to use a timer.


Is it important to cover the birdís cage at night?


Covering the cage at night can assist in providing a draft free, dark environment for the canary. If the bird is located in a low traffic area and the lights are set to a timed routine then it is not necessary for the birdís health to be covered at night.


What about drafts?


A draft directly on your bird can be detrimental to the health of your canary. Even a draft from a fan in warm weather can be just as bad. It is very important to protect the canary from drafts as it can be fatal.


How should bird seed be stored?


Store bird seed in a cold dry place as stale see can cause problems for the canary.


What causes moths and larvae to be present in bird seed and are they harmful to the birds?


Moths and larvae can be found in bird seed when conditions are to warm. Storing bird seed in a refrigerator helps to keep the seed fresh for a long time. The moths and larvae will not harm a bird but if there is a large amount of them discard the seed.


How much and how often should a canary be fed?


Fresh seed should be offered each day. It is very important to have both food and water available at all times. Any small bird can dehydrate or starve to death in just a few hours. Two tablespoons of seed per day is about the right amount to feed a canary bird.


How often should bath water be offered?


Canaries as well as finches typically love a daily bath. At a minimum offer the canary a bath at least once a week. To prevent a chill offer the bath early in the day so that they are thoroughly warm and dry by bed time.


When should the bath water be removed from the cage?


A half hour is a good amount of time for the bird to bathe. Sometimes they are slow to take their bath and some hop in right away. It is a personal thing for them. It is important to remove bath water after the bird is finished to prevent accidental drowning.


What tips are suggested for cage litter?


Newspaper seems to be the easiest and the most inexpensive litter available. It is important to never use cat litter! Corn cob litter can become moldy and requires daily changing. Paper cage liners typically are more expensive and work quite well.


All litter should be inaccessible to the birds. The litter should be placed under the floor rungs and not on top of them. Illness can occur if a bird is allowed to pick though the droppings.


Should the canary be allowed to fly free?


The cage is the canariesí home and he feels safe there. There are a lot of things in a home that are hazardous to a free flying bird. Hazards in a typical home could cost the bird its life.


What else can keep or make your bird feel safe?


Provide at least one wall near the canariesí cage. Fear of predators is instinctive and having the wall provides the canary with a feeling of safe shelter. High traffic areas can give your bird anxieties; place the birdís cage in a low traffic area. Keep a careful watch that cats or dogs cannot taunt your bird.


If the canary escapes its cage, what kind of hazards exists in a home?


It would be impossible to list all the hazards that can be found in a home.


Among some of the most obvious can include






fire places,

hot surfaces,

light bulbs,


open water,




What other type of hazards exist when the canary is in its cage?


Again it would be impossible to list them all. One of the most common is Teflon non-stick cook ware and irons that are coated with Teflon. When the temperature of the Teflon exceeds 500 degrees toxic fumes are release and can be fatal to any bird.


Other hazardous items are


aerosol sprays,

bug bombs,

carbon monoxide,

cigar smoke,

cigarette smoke,



flea repellents, collars or sprays



most kitchen and bathroom cleaners†††

nail polish,

paint vapors,



polish remover


Companies that make Pyrethrin solution has an incomplete warning on their label, what caution should be suggested?


Pyrethrin solution is a commonly used product for birds. The label cautions highly toxic to fish but they neglect to mention cats. Maybe they do not believe people have cats and birds in the same household but that simply is not true. Keep your cat alive, use with caution when using Pyrethrin for your birds!


Pyrethrin is derived from the extract of chrysanthemum flowers, and is an excellent control for insects. Chrysanthemums are toxic to cats so it makes sense that this product should have a warning for cats.


As a side note, the label should also warn the gardener that Pyrethrin is toxic to honey bees.


How can a person tell if their bird is ill?


Birds have a tendency to hide illness because in the wild they would be easy prey. This means that you have to observe closely to notice when a bird is sick. The most important way to know the health of your bird is to learn what normal behavior for your bird. Sitting on the bottom of the cage may mean illness for one and normal for another. It would be impossible to list all possible signs of illness.


Signs of illness can include


Fluffed out feathers

Sleeping more than usual during the day

Acting listless

Sitting on the bottom of the cage

Can you catch them when normally they are hard to catch?

Do they sit around with their eyes half closed?

Is there a look of wetness around the beak or eyes?

Are there stains or feces in the vent area?

Do they have diarrhea or their drippings discolored from normal?

Do they make noise while breathing?

Do they breathe with their mouth open?

Do they bob their tail up and down?

Have the birdís feet become scaly?

Do they have droopy wings?

Do they shiver?


Any of these signs or other signs that are not normal for your bird should be a warning to take action.


What basic things should be done when the canary is ill?


The following is given as a basic guide to give some immediate relief but it is not intended as medical advice. Consult your local veterinary for care.


First and foremost is to isolate the bird to keep other birds from becoming ill. Provide some warmth and easily accessible food and water at the floor of the cage.


Items you will need include


A small hospital cage

A clip on light, 80-85 degrees is about right, do not to overheat his cage

A towel to cover the cage

A small waterer clipped on at floor level

A shallow dish for bird seed, use one that does not tip easily


Keep in mind that when your bird is feeling better and you want to return to him to his regular cage it is important to bring him back to room temperature slowly. Quick temperature fluctuations are never very good for canaries. These basic steps never hurt and might help and could possibly be all that is needed for a minor problem.


If a new bird is purchased can the bird join the existing flock?


A new bird should be quarantined for a month before it is introduced to the other birds that live there. This will protect the existing flock from possible illness.


How many canaries can share a cage?


Canaries are not really social birds and are perfectly happy alone in a cage. Two males most always fight, and unless it is mating season a male and female will also fight. Finches on the other hand become lonely and are much healthier and contented living together.


What are considered safe or bad foods?


This list is suggested only and is not complete. If it is not listed and you are not sure do not take a chance.


Food that is bad for your bird include




Avocado - Highly toxic, quickly fatal











Food that is safe for your bird include






Bean sprouts


Brown rice




Collard greens




Green beans

Green peppers


Leaf lettuce









Potatoes - sweet potatoes

Pumpkin - pumpkin seeds

Pearl barley


Soy beans

Sprout seeds



Snap peas

Swiss chard

Whole wheat


Are vitamins necessary for the health of a canary?


Vitamin supplements is beneficial to the canaries diet the same as they are beneficial in a humans diet.


How often should a canary be fed fruits and vegetables?


Fruits and vegetables should be offered at least twice a week.


What other suggestions should be considered for the canary diet?


Bird seed, fruits, vegetables, vitamins, hard boiled eggs, oyster shell, cuttle bone are all important elements toward a balanced diet.



January 15, 2008