Canaries are very easy to care for: they do not require constant attention, are not destructive, are perfectly happy as a single bird and the males have beautiful songs. They are great birds for beginners and are relatively inexpensive. The canary is generally between 4 3/4″ to 8″ (12-20 cm) in length. Their plumage is very bright starting in the yellows, yellow-greens, greens, and shades of orange to shades of red. The average lifespan of a canary is 10-15 years, though there have been canaries that have lived up to 20 years!
Place the cage on a stand or hang it from a wall bracket at eye level or at about 6 feet off the floor. Be sure the spot you pick has good light and is well ventilated, though free from drafts. It should be away from doors and windows where direct exposure to sunlight can make it overly warm, but placed close to at least one wall to enhance a feeling of security. The cage should be covered at night to prevent drafts and disturbances.
Canaries like wide open spaces so provide your pet with a roomy cage. They are flyers rather than climbers, and therefore require larger cages relative to their size than many of the hook bills. Remember, canaries like to fly back and forth, not necessarily up and down. Keep the cage accessories to a minimum to allow free movement. A single toy, mirror, and a couple of branches/perches will be plenty and you can change them around periodically to provide variety. Provide two or three good softwood perches about 3/8″ to 3/4″ in diameter at either end of the cage. Also provide dishes for food, water, and treats as well as an area for a bath. Keep these dishes away from perches so they do not collect bird droppings. The basic cage care includes daily cleaning/changing of the water and food dishes and changing the cage papers. Plain newspaper is fine on the cage bottom. NEVER USE CAT LITTER! Weekly, wash and dry the entire cage, including the perches using warm soapy water or a bird cage disinfectant. Rinse very well.
Most of the time, canaries are simply enjoyed for their beauty and singing. Canaries can learn some simple tricks such as playing with a toy, but they are quite timid and it takes a lot of patience. If they are exposed to sounds when they are young, male canaries can also learn to mimic sounds such as a telephone ring or a doorbell. If you wish to tame or train your canary, it is best to buy a single bird. It is also easier to tame a young bird. When you need to hold your canary, place your palm on it’s back and wrap your fingers around the bird with your thumb and forefinger on either side of its head. Canaries rarely bite, and even if they do, they do not have a harmful or dangerous bite. Taming or training a canary requires a lot of patience and persistent effort.
Fresh food and water must be provided daily. Fresh canary seed is their everyday food and vitamin coated seed mixes are readily available at a pet store. A single canary will eat about one teaspoon of seed a day and canaries will rarely overeat, though they may need to eat a bit more when the weather is cold or during molt. It is important to provide your canary with a variety of food, not just seed. Pelleted diets are also available and contain vitamins and more protein than seed, making additional supplementation unnecessary. However birds not raised on a pelleted diet may not recognize it as food, so may not accept it. Daily supplements that canaries like to eat include greens such as kale, broccoli, dandelions, spinach, celery, peas, and watercress. Small amounts of fruits such as apples, oranges, grapes, bananas, and melons can also be offered.
Canaries are very hardy birds and almost all illnesses can be traced to improper diet, dirty cages, and drafts. A balanced diet and plenty of exercise will prevent most canary illnesses. If a canary becomes ill it will lose weight rapidly, so it is essential that you know your bird and watch for real drastic changes as indications of illness. Some signs of illness to be aware of are droppings that are not black and white, feathers that are ruffled, lack of appetite, wheezing, molting out of season, male does not sing, and lethargy. Their nails will occasionally need to be trimmed, but be careful never to clip into the vein as the bird can quickly bleed to death. Bird nail trimmers and styptic powder to stop the bleeding are available at pet shops. Please consult your vet prior to trimming nails for the first time.