STARTING A CANARY FAMILY
Canaries are not social by nature. Outside of the breeding season, canaries should always be kept apart. Male canaries fight with each other, sometimes with fatal results. He might also kill the female, if she is not ready to breed. Several canaries may be kept, in separate cages, in the same room. This sort of arrangement will encourage the males to sing, but is not necessary for the bird’s health or well being.
When not breeding, it is not always easy to tell the male canary from the female. Only the male sings and only the female will build a nest. During the Summer and early Fall, it takes a well informed canary fancier to detect the gender of a bird hatched that year. When shopping for a hen, go to a store that will guarantee the bird – allow a replacement if the wrong gender is supplied.
Canary hens are generally in good supply from mid-summer until early autumn. With nesting finished for the year, fanciers sell off their excess birds. They are not easy to obtain at other times of the year. Plan to purchase the female at the earliest opportunity. This will give the bird a chance to adjust to her new home. Very rarely are productive hens sold during the breeding season. Female canaries that are put up for sale then are most often either past their prime or are poor mothers.
The canary breeding season is controlled by the number of daylight hours that the birds experience. Throughout most of the United States, if the birds’ cages are kept covered from dusk to dawn, your canaries will most likely wish to breed sometime around Valentine’s Day. The hen will let you know her intentions by furiously shredding any available paper, feathers, or plant material. She should now be provided with a plastic or wire canary nest that is available from your local pet shop. Be sure to ask for the special nest liners, in case your hen does not weave a proper nest. The liner may be sewn into the nest or glued. Check to see that the glue is completely dry before putting the nest in with the bird. Do not try to use a wicker finch nest. Your canary will probably ignore the finch nest. If, in desperation, she does use the basket sort of nest, you will be unable to inspect the eggs or babies. A plastic or metal nest can be cleaned and sterilized, wicker can not.
A regular canary breeding cage comes equipped with two dividers:one solid, one wire. Keep both in place, until you see the hen canary start to build her nest. Then, remove the solid partition, but leave the wire one in place. Now wait until you see the birds kissing through the bars. At this point they should be united. Remove the wire partition. Watch for any lover’s quarrels. Don’t let any wife beating take place! If this happens, immediately separate the birds. Remember, it most often only will get worse.
If your birds are in pet style cages, just keep the cages alongside each other. The rest is the same as above.
The hen lays up to eight small blue eggs. Five is the average number. She will very often not sit on them until the last one is produced. Two or three days after she starts to sit, the eggs may be carefully removed and held up to a light. You will make out the outline of the embryo and the network of veins nourishing it. If you can see right through every egg, put them back in the nest and wait five days before checking them again with the light. If the eggs are still clear, showing no sign of an embryo, discard them. This gives the birds a chance to go to nest for a second try. Wash your hands before handling the eggs, for germs, oils, and chemicals on your hands can pass through the egg shell. This might kill the developing chick.
Canary eggs hatch in 14 days. This is counted from the day that the hen starts to sit on the eggs, not from the day that the egg was laid. The canary chick hatches without any assistance from you or the parents. The little chick enters the world blind and naked, adorned by only a few wisps of down. The parents provide all care for the young.
Canaries that are starting a family must have perfect diets. They need a vitamin enriched seed in front of them at all times. Every day, every bird should get a small dish of nestling food. This provides extra protein. Also, on a daily basis, the birds must get a small piece of fruit or vegetable, any healthy item you eat yourself. In addition they need grit and cuttlebone as sources of calcium for the eggs. Many good vitamin preparations are sold to completely ensure a balanced diet. Pellet and other processed feed preparations have been formulated as complete diets. These may also be used, but I do suggest to also provide small amounts of fruits and vegetables, just to be on the safe side.
If nutrition is adequate, the hen most often lays the eggs with no problems. Sometimes, particularly if not supplied with all the vitamins and minerals that they require, the hen will have trouble laying an egg. If the hen seems unable to move, quickly consult your avian veterinarian Without immediate help, the hen will die.
When the eggs hatch, place an unlimited supply of dry nestling food in the cage. The young require large amounts of this to fuel their rapid growth. You may also mix grated egg and carrot with the nestling food. This mix must be changed every two hours, for it rapidly spoils. If you are using pellets, no supplements are required, but will be enjoyed by your pets..
When you are certain that the young are eating on their own, give them a separate cage. Watch the young birds very carefully the first day away from ma and pa. Some babies might be eating but still require food from the parents.
After the young have been removed, the original pair will frequently go to nest again. Two nests are safe. Three are possible. After the third set of young, remove the nest. Now, put the birds in different cages. For the regular canary breeding cage, the dividers should be put back in. After breeding is finished expect your birds to begin to molt. Continue with the high protein food, so that they may regrow beautiful new feathers. Allow the birds to rest until next spring’s breeding season.