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Feeding Your Canary

excerpted from

The Practical Canary Handbook, Keeping and Breeding Canaries

written by Marie Miley-Russell 2005, all rights reserved.


A good quality, FRESH vitamized seed mix blended especially for canaries is essential and should be before the birds at all times. A good basic seed mix should be about 80% canary seed and 20% rapeseed (also called canola seed).


Do not purchase finch seed or canary/finch seed

blends as these contain too much millet and other high fat, high energy seeds which finches require but canaries do not. If you are located in an area where it is difficult to locate good fresh seed consider buying a larger quantity of feed over the internet and storing the surplus in plastic freezer bags in your freezer. It will stay fresh for a very long time and you can save on shipping costs. (Be sure to allow the seed to return to room temperature in an open container to prevent moisture buildup inside the package which can lead to the feed becoming moldy.)


Song food or other treat seed should be provided only a couple of times per week and in small quantities as it is high in fat, calories and protein and too much can cause your bird to become obese and develop health problems. Petamine (adult bird formula) is a supplement which can be given to the birds a few times a week as well. This can generally be located in pet stores. Baked, finely crushed eggshells can be provided to supply calcium in addition to cuttlebone.


Several brands of pellets are available such as Zupreem, Pretty Bird, Harrison’s and many others. Some of these pellets are advertised as a complete diet to be used in place of seed, but I find that they are better used as an addition to their daily seed. Some people mix pellets in with the daily seed mixture but I serve them to my birds in a finger treat cup- when they eat all the pellets they get a refill. This way they have access to pellets every day and there is less waste.


Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential. Canaries enjoy apple, orange, cantaloupe, grated carrots, broccoli, endive, dandelion greens (chemical free), kale, cucumbers and many other kinds of fruits and vegetables. Fresh foods should be given in moderation as too much can cause loose stools and lettuces (other than romaine) should not be given to birds at all, as it has very little nutritive value. Make sure to clean leftover fresh food out of your bird’s cage at the end of the day to ensure that they do not eat spoiled food!


The debate over grit is ongoing. On the advice of several experienced breeders, I have never provided grit to my canaries; I have yet to see a bird suffer for lack of it. I have, however, heard of babies killed when their mothers fed them mineral grit- the grit built up in their guts and blocked their intestines (as discovered during a necropsy), leading to the death of entire nests of babies. For this reason, I would recommend against providing any kind of grit to breeding canaries.


Vitamins should not be mixed in water- at best, this is an ineffective method of vitamin administration (studies have shown that availability of vitamins given in water drops substantially after the first half hour) and at worst, it is potentially dangerous as the vitamin/water mixture forms the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Excellent avian vitamin supplements such as Prime and others are available at most pet stores or online and can be served sprinkled on top of fresh food. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions to avoid overdosing! If providing a vitamized seed one should not give supplemental vitamins.


Seed must be blown off daily to remove empty husks- many canaries have starved to death when their seed dish appeared full!


Clean, fresh water must be present at all times. Be careful with using well water as some wells can be contaminated with bacteria and chemicals which, while not posing a problem for people or larger animals, can sicken canaries. If you have any doubt about the quality of your tap water, provide bottled water.



You may also find the following article about feeding eggs interesting: To Feed Egg Or Not To Feed Egg, That Is The Question


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Last modified: 06/30/15