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Canary Care 101

The canary is a charming small bird that makes a cheerful companion. Plus, it's relatively easy to care for. If you're thinking of getting a canary, our Turlock vets have some tips for you on how to keep your canary happy and healthy. 

The Canary

Originally from the Macaronesian islands of Maderia, the Azores, and of course the Canary islands, a pet canary is a small finch that sings beautifully and graces its owner with a happy disposition. This bird comes in an array of colours and sizes. 

Bred in captivity, canaries are inexpensive birds that are readily available in most pet stores across the United States. 

A Canary's Song

While female canaries rarely sing, they will chip or let out a "peep-peep" sound to communicate. In contrast, their male counterparts are known for their beautiful song. A single male canary will typically live alone happily and sing to their heart's content. 

If you'd like to enjoy even more of a canary's song, you might consider investing in two male canaries. However, they'll need to live in separate cages, out of sight from each other. Housed this way, the birds will sing to each other in competition. 

An easier way to encourage your canary to sing is to play a recording of another male canary. One important fact to remember is that canaries to 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 that your space will accommodate. Canaries like to fly, so giving your feathered friend as much space as possible is an important part of keeping your bird healthy and happy. 

It's best to provide your canary with a cage that's longer than it is wide so that it has enough 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 the canary from getting its head caught. 

Place wooden perches of different diameters in your canary's cage. Ask the staff at your local pet store for recommendations. Perches should be strategically placed to provide your bird with space to rest and exercise their feet. You might also provide branches for your bird to rest on. These can also be purchased from pet stores, or you can use branches from outside that have not been sprayed with chemicals, such as branches from maple, willow or fruit trees. 

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 vet for more advice on how to provide your avian companion 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 when combined with other foods and supplements to form a balanced diet, the easiest way to ensure that your canary receives all the nutrients they need is to feed them a high-quality pellet food, specially formulated for canaries. That said, if your canary was raised on seeds it may be challenging to coax your pet to change over to pellets. Transition seed eating canaries over to pellets gradually until 75-80% of their diet is pellets. Ask your vet for advice on how to help your bird transition their diet safely.

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 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.

Your bird's dietary needs will change throughout their lifetime so be sure to speak to your vet to learn which supplements should be given to your canary at each stage. In most cases, vets recommend a good quality powdered or liquid supplement that should be added to their fresh foods. Your vet will provide you with instructions regarding how often your bird's diet should be supplemented.

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

Looking for professional veterinary care to help your avian friend stay happy and healthy?  Contact our veterinarians in Turlock today. We perform wellness exams for birds and other exotic pets.

New Patients Welcome

Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Turlock companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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