A few months ago, I inherited a canary. My neighbor, an avid pet lover, asked me to care for her pet canary often while she was still alive. She had owned many birds during her lifetime and somehow knew that Happy, her canary, and I would be good together. My neighbor and friend, Margaret, had loved animals her whole life. She had horses, dogs, cats, birds, and chickens when she was younger. When I met her, she only had her bird, Happy. I enjoyed visiting with her and hearing her stories about life on the ranch with her horses and other pets when she was younger. When she became ill, she often asked me to help take care of Happy. He was the one thing that she would worry about when she would be admitted to the hospital. Since I lived next door, I would volunteer to check on him so she could relax. I didn’t know anything about birds. Margaret would tell me to feed him a teaspoon of birdseed and to make sure he had water. She would remind me to cover him up at night and to uncover his cage in the morning. I had never had a bird. I was more of a dog and cat type of person. Happy scared me a little. He was so small and fragile looking. I didn’t want to hurt him. After Margaret passed away, her brother and sister didn’t want the responsibility of her bird Happy. Instead, they were going to find him a good home. But they didn’t know where to find it. I started having dreams about Margaret’s reaction to Happy going to a strange home. In the dreams, she would come to me with Happy and frantically beg me to take him. In the dreams, she was adamant. She was worried that he would end up being neglected or mistreated. I would tell her that I didn’t know anything about birds and was afraid of not being able to take care of him properly. In the dream, she would tell me that I would be fine. Then she would disappear and Happy would remain and he would start singing. I had a couple nights of these dreams before I told her brother that I would take Happy. He said, “great! You want him right now?” The dreams stopped after Happy moved in to our home in August 2019. Betty the Border Collie was fascinated by him.
Happy is a great singer. He sings the prettiest songs every morning. Every morning I wake up with dogs snuggling me in bed and my bird singing. Betty, my Border Collie, loves to watch Happy. We keep Happy hanging from the ceiling, far from Betty’s reach - just in case. Margaret had some books about canaries. So, I got those too.
Canaries live for 10-15 years on average and some can live up to 20 years. Happy is about 5 years old. Margaret and my mom found him and brought him home. They were best friends. Canaries are generally friendly and easy going hardy pets.
Here is what I learned about Happy. He is really easy. I feed him in the morning when I feed the dogs. He gets a teaspoon of birdseed. I have read that pellets are supposed to be more nutritious but he has always eaten seeds so I kept his diet the same. He also gets some grit. I keep his water fresh and full because canaries can die after one day without water. I give all of my pets filtered water. Food is also very important. Because their metabolisms are so fast, they need to eat throughout the day and often. He likes fresh greens. He likes chopped up cabbage, broccoli and a non-toxic houseplant that is near his birdcage. He loves to pull the leaves of the plant into his cage and chew on them.
A couple things to note about fresh food:
Avocado is poisonous to canaries. Lettuce does not offer sufficient nutrition.
Recommended fruits and vegetables are: apples, apricots, asparagus, bananas, beat, blueberry, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrot, carrot top, coconut, corn, dates, fig, grapes, grapefruit, kale, kiwi, melons, mango, nectarines, orange, papaya, parsnip, peaches, pear, peas, pepper, pineapple, plum, pomegranate, pumpkin, raspberry, spinach, squash, strawberry, sweet potato, tomato, zucchini. Some recommend supplementing protein by offering a chopped up boiled egg. This will spoil quickly so remove this after a couple of hours.
He likes a dish of water for bathing. Place a shallow dish away from perches in the bottom of the cage. A plant saucer or small bowl works fine for this. Clean the water daily. It will get really mucky otherwise and is not sanitary.
He is messy with the seeds and feathers that fall out of his cage - but it all vacuums up very easily. I clean his cage weekly. I change the paper that is lining the cage every day at feeding time. Newspaper or paper towels work fine for this. Keeping the cage clean is important to prevent disease and illness. He has flown out of his cage once while I was cleaning it - but he flew back in on his own instantly. Birds have excellent eyesight so if he hadn’t flown right back into the cage, leaving it open would have probably been enough because his food is in his cage and they eat very frequently.
He sings every morning when the sun comes up. He sings every night. He sings sometimes when he likes the music playing. I would like to find him a larger cage. According to what I have researched, he would enjoy a larger space to fly from side to side as he enjoys flying around in his cage. He currently has perches but I have read that they should be of varied diameters. They are currently all the same size. The varied size is suppose to be good for his feet. He has a swing that he enjoys occasionally too.
Happy has a nice healthy appetite. If he lost his appetite, or ruffled his feathers a lot, that would be a sign of possible illness. The also fluff up their feathers when they are cold. We keep the temperature between 65-70 which is ideal for birds. It’s ideal for me too. If he was keeping his wings away from his body, that would be a sign of being too hot. Weight loss is another sign of illness.
I am not a veterinarian. This is just what I have learned so far in caring for my first canary. If you have a canary and are afraid that they might be sick, please take them to your veterinarian to be checked out. I have read that their talons need to be trimmed about every 6 months. I haven’t attempted that yet. That will probably be something that I have our vet do because their is a vein in their claws that can cause serious trouble if it is nicked. This is not something I want to do on my own.
Margaret was right. We are fine.
I hope you have enjoyed this. If you have any other tips about canaries, I would love to hear about them as I am new to birds.