Breeding canaries in cages

Breeding canaries in cages By: Dan Antonio

Breeding canaries is an enjoyable hobby that has many different levels of involvement depending on your motives. Regardless of whether you are doing this for fun, for the show, or maybe a combination of both, the art of breeding takes patience, time, and organization. The complexity of how to actually breed and the many variations within the process, makes it nearly impossible to cover every step and potential outcome that could exist. Below are a few tips and pointers from Fancy Canary to help get you started.

Cage and Equipment

The double breeding cage is a much easier way to go about breeding your hens and cocks. These cages are equipped with a wire and solid divider. However, two separate cages can be used and still achieve the same outcome with just a little more effort. Flight cages are used to allow the hen’s room to strengthen themselves prior to breeding. Nest pans come in many varieties and could be mounted outside of your cage for easily accessing the nest with less disturbance.

Nest liners are taped inside of the nest pan in case your hen does not build a suitable nest. Nest material consists of shredded burlap, cotton, jute, white paper towels/tissue, etc. These materials are sold pre-mixed as a convenient time saver or can be collected and shredded by hand. Perches should be firmly set in the cage as loose perches could result in infertile eggs. Some breeders use dummy eggs. These are swapped out with the hens’ real egg each morning it is layed and on the third day, they are returned to allow all the eggs to hatch at the same time. Giving the babies a better chance of survival being that they are all of the same age. Treat cups are provided to feed egg food during the rearing of the chicks.

Canary nest material
Nest material consists of shredded burlap, cotton,
jute, white paper towels/tissue, etc.
Canary nest pans
Nest pans come in many varieties and could be
mounted outside of your cage.
Canary nest pans
Front door making access to the nest and eggs
Canary hens exercise
Hens need a lot room for exercise and flight to
gain strength going into breeding.


Canaries are photosensitive and require a certain amount of daylight hours to become fertile. In Spring, the hours of daylight stretch between 12-13 hours a day. Typically this is when most canaries are ready to begin breeding. Artificial lighting and heating can be used to simulate the sunrise and sunset scheduled needed to breed. If artificial lighting is used, full-spectrum bulbs, provide the canaries with the benefits of natural light. It is very important that you maintain a strict lighting schedule that incorporates the gradual increase/ decrease of “sunlight” according to Mother Nature’s organic sunrise/sunset routine.

Diet and Nutrition

Cuttlebone is an excellent source of calcium. Hens need calcium to help produce durable eggs.

Canary cuttlebone
Munching away at the cuttlebone…this hen is
showing signs of being in condition.

Vegetables and fruits help to avoid any deficiencies during breeding and provide the same benefits to the birds, as they do to humans. In addition to ensuring that the adult canaries receive proper nutrition, you also must be prepared to provide food to the chicks. Soft food is the staple diet for rearing canary chicks. This is a combination of egg food, soak seed, and fresh produce (preferably dark greens rich in iron). While maintaining clean food dishes and water drippers is important throughout the year, it is especially critical while babies are present due to their small, sensitive stomachs. In addition, food should be changed frequently to avoid spoilage.

Soak seed is an assorted mixture of sprouting seeds. The seed is soaked for approx. 12 hours, rinsed and then re-soaked for an additional 12 hours. Following that allow the seed to sprout for the next 24hours.

Egg Food or Nestling Food can either be purchased, homemade, or a combination of both. Egg food that is prepackaged is basically a dry mix that you need to add moisture to. This will make it soft enough for a baby to chew and digest. Other homemade versions can be made with various components such as chopped boiled eggs with shells, grated carrots, oats, wheat germ, etc. Soak seed and Egg food are typically used together to help support the parents in feeding their chicks a balanced diet.

Canary Fresh fruits and veggies
Fresh fruits and veggies help maintain a well
rounded diet, while providing a variety of taste
and nutrition.
Canary seed
A canary will eat about 1/2 tablespoon of seed
per day.
Canary mineral grit
Mineral grit

New canary articles starting in this edition.

An Environment for a Flourishing Canary

The canaries should be housed separately to avoid squabbling and stress. Maintaining a clean environment is another critical key in owning or breeding canaries. Perches should be routinely checked and cleaned as needed. Bedding material should be changed weekly or more frequently if necessary. Nooks and crannies should be washed weekly to avoid unwanted guests in your canaries’ living quarters. In addition, birdbaths should be made available as often as possible to remove dust and dirt that may have collected in their feathers.

Water should be no more than half an inch deep and be room temperature. Natural light must be provided as a Vitamin D source and placement of your cage or aviary should avoid drafty areas. Canaries thrive on a “sunrise” “sunset” schedule. Using a cover for your cage may aid in encouraging this routine.

Keeping those unwanted guests out…

While keeping a clean environment is important all year it is even more of a priority with the warmer weather. Making sure those unwanted visitors, like red and air sac mites, stay far, far away can seem daunting, however, with a few small steps can be easily controlled and avoided.

More information about pests is on page 8.

The following topics are also covered in the magazine.

Record Keeping

Signs of Readiness

Gradual Introduction of the Pair

Surviving the Molt

The complete article can be downloaded in the following edition:

magazine download canaries

Visit Dan Antonio’s website:

Fancy Canary is a family-run business located in Fall River, MA. We specialize in breeding show-quality Fife Canaries and have begun dabbling in Border Canaries. We were fortunate enough to have bred our birds from award-winning stock and continue to uphold high standards inbreeding. Please feel free to contact us for more information or to purchase Fifes.

Canary Dan Antonio website
Click on photo to visit website.

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