What kind of housing should I provide for
my single canary?
Can I keep several canaries together?
What kind of housing should I provide
for my single canary?
Canaries should be housed in cages with no
greater than 5/8 inch bar spacing; Ĺ inch is standard. Any wider bar
spacing can allow a bird to stick his head through the bars and injure
Despite the fact that pet bird cage
manufacturers produce great numbers of tall, round, highly ornamented
cages, what a canary really needs is a simple rectangular cage which is
longer than it is tall to provide room to fly back and forth. Some height
is beneficial since a bird that has to fly from a high perch down to the
floor of its cage and back up is exercising some of the same muscles it
uses to sing.
Locating a good cage in a pet store is
often difficult- the majority of cages sold there are simply inappropriate
and more hassle than they are worth. Most of my customers who have
purchased cages in pet stores tell me that they have had to buy a more
suitable cage within a few months, so it is best to simply buy a good cage
in the beginning and save the money.
The only cage I recommend for canaries is
a flight cage- this is a rectangular cage that provides plenty of space
for flying back and forth as well as allowing for up and down flight. It
has room for placing perches at different heights, is easy to clean, and
allows for full viewing of the bird. Wooden cages or highly decorative
cages are hard to clean and provide mites and other parasites space to
hide and breed. Metal or plastic coated metal is fine- itís easy to clean
and sterilize. Floor grills are not necessary and add to clean up work.
Many flight cages are made with an irremovable floor grill- removing it
makes the entire cage unstable. Irremovable grills can be covered with
newspaper. As for cage size, the general rule of thumb is the larger the
better unless birds will be let out of the cage daily for exercise.
The best- and most inexpensive- material
to use for covering the cage floor is newspaper. Other items such as
ground corncob, wood shavings, etc. harbor parasites, bacteria, and can
grow moldy if they become wet. It is difficult to clean fresh food out of
the cage if one uses materials such as wood shavings- canaries often
scatter or carry food to other parts of the cage and may become ill from
eating spoiled tidbits they locate in the bedding. Besides the tendency of
the material to scatter in the breeze created by birds in flight, some
birds develop a habit of gathering this material up and soaking it in
their water dish creating an unsanitary situation. Newspaper can be laid
down in a single layer and rolled up, thrown out and replaced in a few
seconds on a daily or every other day basis.
Sunlight is important to a birdís health.
Place the cage in a bright location with a portion of the cage out of
direct sunlight so the bird can take shelter and avoid overheating. If
natural sunshine is not available, a full-spectrum light should be used to
ensure that your bird receives an adequate amount of light.
Fresh air is wonderful, but keep your pet
out of hot or cold drafts including those created by fans, heat and air
conditioning vents. Sometimes a bird can get a draft from an unexpected
source- such as when air from a fan directed away from his cage bounces
off of a wall or other object and is redirected back at the cage. The
common wisdom is that if the flame of a candle flickers near his cage, it
is probably too drafty for your bird. This said, I believe that a certain
amount of airflow is needed and that the gentle breeze from a window will
not harm a canary as long as he is able to move out of it if he desires (a
cloth can be placed over one end of the cage to block the breeze) and the
breeze is neither extremely cooler or hotter than the overall temperature
of the room. Certainly, a breeze from an air conditioning or furnace vent
would not be good.
Generally, a canary will be comfortable at
the same room temperature people are- 65 to 70 degrees. Be careful if the
temperature becomes too high as this can stimulate your bird into an
Can I keep several canaries together?
It depends. Canaries, although friendly,
are not particularly sociable. In fact, they have a distinctly territorial
Male canaries should be housed separately.
Two males caged together WILL fight- sometimes until one is killed or both
are injured badly. Once in a while two males seem to work out an
arrangement and do manage to live together in relative peace but in almost
all of these cases, one of the males stops singing. Males caged separately
seem to enjoy the presence of each other and encourage each other to sing
more often, though, so having another bird for companionship is
Female canaries can be caged together
throughout the year, though once again they do have their own
personalities and some get along better than others.
Males and females should NOT be kept
together at any time except during the breeding season and during the
molting period (BOTH must be in full molt, however). Males can chase a hen
to death trying to mate with her and hens can be pushed into laying eggs
when they are not in condition to do so, which can lead to egg binding and
The social dynamics of a large walk-in
flight are different than that of a small flight cage - if the space
provided is sufficient, often a number of canaries may be housed together
throughout the year if the personalities of the individual canaries is
amiable. Occasionally, a particularly territorial bird (and it can be
either a male OR a hen) will cause problems so an alternate housing
arrangement should always be available should the need arise.
I have resolved these issues in the past
by removing the offending individual to separate quarters for a week or
two and then reintroducing him to the flight, which alters the social
dynamic of the flock enough that most "bully birds" do not become repeat
You may also encounter a rare bird that
seems to be the "omega flock member" and is bullied incessantly by other
birds. These birds can become seriously injured and severely stressed by
being ruthlessly chased, pecked, plucked, and just generally mistreated.
The kindest thing to do for these unfortunate birds is to house them
separately- perhaps with other birds of a similarly meek temperament.
For an interesting article on
territoriality in canaries, check out the article
published in Robirda's Flock