How to Hand Train a Canary

By Connie S. Soto

June 02, 2013


If I hand raise a canary when they have no parents will the canary automatically be hand trained?


Yes, the canary thinks of you as a parent and if you continue to take time with them until they are grown they will enjoy spending time with you. Once a canary is hand trained they never forget and will be comfortable in your care even if you only bring them out once or twice a year.


What if the parents raise the canary, how do you hand train your bird?


The earlier you get started the better which means you will have a better chance at success.


How often do you have to take the bird out and work with them?


In the beginning, you should work with your bird at least ten minutes once a day as a minimum. Once a day will do but more often and a little longer will bring quicker results.


What about food?


Food is the easiest way to make the session a fun experience for your bird. Remember birds eat often which means if you take them out for any length of time you need to offer them something to eat.


Finches love to have their head or necks rubbed very gently, what about a canary?


If you have ever seen a hand trained finch, they love having their little necks rubbed or the side or back of their head. When you start touching them take care to do it very gently, they usually close their eyes and you can tell that they are enjoying the experience. A canary on the other hand does not mind having their necks rubbed but they probably will not close their eyes like a finch.


Would a canary react as if a predator is near during interaction with a human?


Yes, this is because it is a natural tendency for any bird to be aware of predators. This natural instinct causes them to dislike any movement that is coming toward them from above or behind them. To understand this you can see it more clearly in the case of a dove because it is a much larger bird and their reactions are more obvious. Even if the dove is hand trained, if you come up to them and put your hand over their head for example to reach and pet their back they will retreat. On the other hand if you bring your hand to their feet they will not move and enjoy soft strokes on their legs or under their neck.


When you catch your canary how do you hold them for training?


Your canary will want to hang on with his tiny feet. In the beginning, if he perches on your finger he will be able to fly away, which of course you do not want. Flying around would put him at risk of getting hurt. To alleviate this problem you need to position your canary so that he can hang on and feel comfortable and yet you keep them from taking flight. With his feet hanging onto your ring finger you can position your thumb, index and middle fingers to hold him such as Beki is doing in this photo.




Will I be able to just let him perch once he is tame?


Absolutely, he will respect his boundaries if you provide them. For example, you take your bird into a small room and close the door. You provide tissues for clean up and some kind of cloth for them to walk on. Usually, I sit on a bed with my legs extended and put the cloth on my lap. The bird will learn to only land on you, they may fly around a couple times and the come back to perch somewhere on you.


How do you give them boundaries so they only land on you?


When your canary behaves correctly you reward him with praise, attention or treats. If he makes a mistake and lands somewhere other than on you it is easy to provide a timeout. The timeout is simply hiding him under the cloth. Soon he will understand landing somewhere else makes it dark. It is as simple as he wants to come out and see what is going on. Therefore, he will begin to understand that his landing elsewhere will cause him to miss out. Remember this timeout should only last a minute at the most. You do not want to scare him; you just want to let him know he misses out on things. It is amazing how quickly they learn. If he relapses be consistent and do the same. You have to remember any room is full of dangers for a tiny bird. Never turn on an overhead fan, do not have hot coffee or tea sitting out. Remember no fido or kitties. He can even get wedged by falling between things such as the wall and the bed or the wall and a dresser or he can try to fly through a mirror not understanding what a reflection is. There are too many things that can happen to name them all. It is important to teach him his boundaries for his own safety.


What do I feed my canary when I am holding him?


Any of the vegetables listed on my web site that is safe for birds is a good choice. Always check the list to be sure as some vegetables are not okay for birds. Offer tiny bites and make it a fun experience for him. With corn you can squeeze the kernel and offer the inside part. Beki likes corn the best.


What do you do while holding your canary?


Being so small a canary can only relate to the features close to him. He cannot see all of you so remember to bring him close and talk to him, you can even sing songs to him. He will enjoy all of the attention. Once you are very comfortable with your time together you can look out the window with your canary. Tiki and I watch the wild birds eating at my bird feeder. Remember you have to be sure he is ready and will not leave you as you watch out a window. Just like mirrors windows too can be dangerous.


Will my canary be tame throughout his life?


Yes, once tame always tame. Here is Tiki who was born in 2006 who still hangs out with me. He has always brought me joy and I love to hear him sing. Tiki has his own kitchen towels that I put on my lap where I can add his little tub. Taking a bath on my lap is my favorite thing that we do together.




Tiki is fun!