Breed profile: Information about the canary

Breed profile: Information about the canary

Origin and history

There are two very distinct and well-known things people attribute to the canary – their singing voice and their employment in coal mines due to their delicate respiratory system. It is said that after being brought to Europe and taken in by Monks that the males were sold, as the demand for their birdsong was so high, and the females kept for breeding. Demand boomed and it wasn’t long before peoples demand for the bird outweighed the amount of canaries available, making them extremely expensive and as such only something the wealthy could acquire. Nowadays canaries are widely available and come from lines bred for colour variations or for the song patterns and it said to be an excellent bird for beginners.


Round cages are unsuitable for canaries and should be avoided and you should never get your canaries wings clipped, as they need to fly to get their exercise. If you have a solo canary it can live in a cage 22” in width and 24-26” in length, as with all caged animals, the bigger the better as far as your budget will allow. Due to flight, it is recommended to get a cage that is longer rather than taller giving them the area they need to do this. The bars on the cage should have no more than half an inch between them and due to cleaning, wire cages are preferable.

These birds will be fine at room temperature, if you’re comfortable, they will be. Canaries are hardy birds, but it is best to keep them out of direct sunlight and any drafts. You will need to provide them with a day/night cycle, this may require you to put a blanket over the cage during night-time. These birds will get stressed if kept awake by artificial light, so be wary where they are and what could disrupt sleep – televisions or electronics. Make sure they are provided with plenty of toys to play with to keep them occupied but remember to keep them out of the way of your canary’s flight path to avoid any accident.


The main part of your canaries’ diet will be seed mixture, but you will need to feed them a varied diet alongside the main part of their diet. It would be best if you can find a seed mixture that is coated with vitamins as this will be beneficial to your canary. Remember to take uneaten seeds from your canary’s cage daily and replacing it with fresh food. Alongside their main diet of seed mixture, you should be feeding them supplements daily of greens (broccoli, corn, green peppers, spinach, peas, kale, watercress, celery and dandelions). You can also get them to try fruit and even little bits of hard-boiled egg.


These birds are not ‘hands on’, they are ideal as a pet bird to be observed and listened to, but they do not enjoy being handled in the same way other domesticated birds do. They are also solitary and will be fine if caged alone. Do not put two male canaries in a single cage as they will fight. If you are luckily enough to own or have access to an aviary or aviary environment, then canaries will be fine to get on with other small birds. These birds will need room to fly so try and get a cage that is as large as your budget will allow for. If a canary is something that you are buying for their singing, it is worth noting that if you place a male canary in a cage with a mirror, and during moulting, they may be less likely to sing, if at all.


Over many years the canary has been bred and developed into many different colours and variants from the original yellow/green and brown. If you are interested in getting a colour bred canary, please be mindful that those bred for colour do tend to be smaller than those that haven’t. There really is a science behind the colours of canaries and that lies in the factors of their colour – melanin and lipochrome. The melanin, if present, darkens the hue and creates blacks and browns in canaries. The Lipochrome does not have the brown and black and is a base colour; these being yellow, red and white. If you are interested in reading more about canary colours, there are hundreds of websites and colour charts found all over the internet.

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