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Canary Care 101

The canary is a charming little bird that is relatively easy to care for and makes a cheerful companion. Thinking about getting a canary? Below our Southgate vets share tips on how to keep your canary healthy and happy.

The Canary

A pet canary is a small finch with a happy disposition and beautiful song that originated on the Macaronesian islands of the Azores, Madeira, and, of course, the Canary Islands. Canaries are bred in captivity, making them inexpensive birds that are widely available in pet stores across the United States.

The Canary's Song

Female canaries rarely sing but will let out a chirp or  “peep-peep” sound to communicate, whereas male canaries are known for their beautiful song. A single male canary will typically be content to live alone and sing to their heart's content.

If you want to hear more of the canary's song, you could buy two male canaries and keep them in separate cages away from one another. The birds will sing to each other in competition if they are housed this way. Playing a recording of another male canary is a simpler way to improve your canary's singing. Canaries do not sing during their molting period, when their feathers are lost and replaced.

How to Care for a Canary

Choosing & Decorating Your Canary's Cage

Purchase the largest cage you can afford and accommodate in your space. Canaries like to fly so giving your bird as much space as possible is an important part of keeping your bird happy and healthy. It is best to provide your canary with a cage that is longer than it is wide so that they have some room to fly. A single canary needs a cage that is at least 20 inches wide by 24 inches long, with closely spaced bars to prevent your canary from getting their head caught.

Provide your canary with a variety of wooden perches of varying diameters; ask the staff at your local pet store for recommendations; however, we recommend that you only provide one sandpaper perch, which may cause your canary's feet to become injured. Perches should be strategically placed to allow your bird to exercise and rest their feet. You could also provide branches for your bird to rest on. These can be purchased at a pet store, or you can use non-sprayed branches from nature, such as fruit trees, maples, or willow.

Be sure to place your canary's cage in a safe place away from other pets, drafts, and air conditioners. Canaries need natural sunlight but not direct light so choose an indirectly sunny spot for your bird's cage. If you notice that your canary is puffed up, it could be a sign that they are too cold. On the other hand, if your bird is sitting with their wings held out and their beek slightly open it's a good sign that they are too hot.

It's a good idea to line the bottom of your canary's cage with bird specific cage paper which helps to make cleaning your canary's cage easier. These specially designed cage liners are easy to remove and don't turn into a sloppy mess when water is splashed onto them.

Fresh water must be available for your canary at all times. There are a variety of inexpensive water bowls, bottles and fountains available from your pet store. Make sure that your bird's food and water containers are not located under a perch where they may become contaminated.

Birds love to splash around and take baths. It's a good idea to provide your canary with a small birdbath or bowl of fresh water every second day so that they can treat themselves to a splash and wash.

While parrots need a variety of toys to keep their minds active, canaries are easier to occupy. Provide your canary with a single toy, branch or mirror to keep their mind active throughout the day. You can switch things up from time to time by providing your bird with a swing, bell or wooden toy. 

Try not to keep your canary up too late at night. Ensure that your canary's sleep-wake cycle isn't disrupted by the glow from your TV or electric lights by covering your pet's cage each evening then removing it in the morning when you get up. 

Speak to your avian vet for more advice on how to provide your canary with a home they will love.


Your canary needs proper nutrition to stay healthy and happy, so it's important to consult with your vet when it comes to deciding what and how much to feed your canary. The wrong combination of foods or too much food could prove lethal to your feathered friend.

While seeds can be used to create a balanced diet when combined with other foods and supplements, the simplest way to make sure your canary gets all the nutrients it needs is to give it a high-quality pellet food that is made specifically for canaries. However, if your pet canary was raised on seeds, it might be difficult to convince them to switch to pellets. Gradually switch seed-eating canaries to pellets until 75–80% of their diet consists of them. Consult your veterinarian for suggestions on how to safely assist your bird in changing its diet.

Freshly washed fruits and veggies should make up about a quarter of your bird's daily diet. You do not need to remove the skin but you will need to cut your bird's daily fruit and veg into very small pieces that your canary will be able to manage. If you find that your pet develops a preference for a particular fruit or vegetable stop feeding that particular food for a while in order to balance out their diet. (It can be reintroduced later).

Never feed your canary avocado which can be toxic to birds and many other animals. Speak to your avian vet to find out which fruits and vegetables are best for your canary to enjoy.

Some canaries enjoy tiny amounts of cooked meat, fish, egg or cheese on occasion but keep in mind that these foods should be used as a special treat only. Birds are lactose intolerant so only tiny amounts of dairy products should be offered to canaries. Never offer your canary junk foods, chocolate, alcohol, caffeinated products or processed human foods since many of these foods contain ingredients that are toxic to birds.

Cuttlebone is an easy way to provide your canary with calcium, phosphorus and other minerals required for good health. Provide a fresh cuttlebone every couple of months since they can absorb smells and tastes in the environment, such as cooking fumes and smoke.

Always refresh your canary's drinking water at least once a day, and clean their food and water dishes daily.

Canaries do not require grit in order to digest food since they break the outer shells off of seeds before eating them, unlike some birds which swallow seeds whole.


While birds fed a high-quality pellet diet combined with fresh fruit and veg may not need supplements to stay healthy, supplements can be helpful for birds on a seed diet.

As your bird ages, their nutritional requirements will change, so be sure to consult your veterinarian to find out which supplements to give your canary at each stage. The majority of the time, veterinarians advise adding a high-quality liquid or powdered supplement to the animal's fresh foods. Your veterinarian will give you instructions on how frequently to supplement your bird's diet.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding canaries. For an accurate diagnosis of your canary's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our vets at Southgate Animal Hospital in Southgate can help you keep your feathered friend looking and feeling their very best. Contact us today to book a wellness exam for your canary.

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