A Guideline on How to Breed and Exhibit Canaries

By Candace Pezzuti

Page Two

Caging Requirements:

Breeding cages can vary in size but you need enough room for your pair to breed and feed their young. The average breeding cage is 18"L x 15"H x 15"D.

Place cuttlebone in the cage as an extra source of calcium.

Place a nest material holder on the cage and fill it with nestling material.

Canary Nest can be purchased from supplier online that deal with canary products.

A canary nest is round and usually made of plastic. You will need to sew a nest pad, which is made out of cotton to the bottom of the plastic nest.

I the sprinkle sevin powder 5% into the nest to prevent any type of mite or ant problem from getting into the nest. I also spread Sevin Powder in the flights and bottom of the breeding cages.

Sevin Powder 5% is not harmful to your birds BUT ANYTHING STONGER WILL KILL THEM. Do not use 10 %.

Nestling material that can be purchased, I use commercial grade burlap from any fabric store.

The burlap needs to be washed several times, at least 4 in the washer with bleach and soap to remove the oils in the fabric. You then can cut the burlap into 1" squares and pull them apart. The strings can then be placed in the nest material holder for the birds to build their nests.


Birds need fresh water daily. If you use tube drinkers they need to be washed prior to refilling. Bacteria clings to glass and plastic drinkers.

Automatic watering systems need to be flushed at least once a week.

Most problems with birds getting sick can be prevented with Proper Management of your aviary.

Always wash your veggies, give fresh water daily and make sure your seed is clean and dust free.

Good ventilation is also important for your birds because it's the air they breathe. It's a good idea to invest in an air filter system.


Birds need baths at least twice a week. Bathing helps keep the down the dander in the room as well as giving the feather the conditioning they need to keep the skin soft. This will help to prevent feather lumps especially in older birds.

Bathing also insures hatching since living in a dry climate eggs need a certain amount of humanity to break out of their shells.

You can also keep a small container of water in your aviary to keep the humanity level up. I add a drop of iodine in the water to prevent bacteria from accumulating.

Pulling your eggs:

I pull the eggs every day and replace them with a dummy egg. This way all the chicks will hatch on the same day.

I place the eggs in a plastic square container that is filled with walnut shell. I place a small piece of index card with the cage number on it and line them up beginning with cage number one. After the hen lays her fourth egg I replace all the eggs under her and take away the dummies.

If you use this method it will ensure all the chicks are the same size when born and have the same opportunity to get fed and banded all at the same rate of growth.

Candling Eggs:

I candle my eggs between 5-8 days old. The better you get at candling the less time it will take you to know the difference between a fertile egg and a non-fertile egg. If the eggs are no good remove the nest for 5 days before putting it back. Give the hen and cock time to breed again and rest.

Producing eggs takes a lot of calcium out of the hen's body she use her own calcium that is stored in her bones. So we don't want to over breed her or you might not have this hen to breed next year. Don't be greedy.


Eggs hatch between 13-14 days old. If the hen sits tight the eggs will hatch on the 13th day. This all depends on when you set your eggs and some breeders do not include the day the egg was set.

Hens that do not sit tight will usually hatch them 2-3 days later. Watch your bird and see if she is sitting tight on the nest and how often she gets off. New hens are the ones to watch, this is all new for them. If your hen is not in full breeding condition she will not sit tight and you will have a problem with her hatching them and feeding them. Don't rush the process.

If the eggs don't hatch by the 16th day I remove them to see if they are still alive. I use a stethoscope that comes with a blood pressure kit to listen for a heart beat. But do not put your finger on the hearing piece or you will get a false reading. You will be listening to your own pulse and not that of the heartbeat of the chick. Place the egg gently on a soft surface and place the round end of the stethoscope to the egg and listen for the heart beat. If you don't hear anything, the chick is dead in shell.

If the egg is dead you should open it to examine why the chick died. Was it fully formed? Did it look like it died from low humanity, was the egg not turned by hen in the nest, Ecoli problem, etc. This information will help you prevent this from happening again if you can find the cause.

Eggs are porous and they intake oxygen and also anything else that is in the air or nest.

Always wash your hand prior to handling eggs. I also recommend that you keep a hand liquid hand sanitizer in your birdroom. I never touch my eggs, chicks, and birds without washing my hands first and then applying a liquid hand sanitizer. Prevention is always the key.


Chicks should be banded between 8-10 days old. Closed bands are used in this country. The band can be obtained through your local clubs or through the specialty club of that particular breed of bird. The band will include the initials of the club, band number, color of the year and year date.

The club secretary will have a record of those bands you purchased. A buyer can contact the secretary of the club and ask who the breeder was of a particular band number/year for a bird.

Closed bands are a requirement as proof of a breeder when entering a bird for exhibition for a show.

There are 6 years of colors and then the repeat. The color is dependant on what year it is.

YearBand Color

Procedure for banding: You hold the birds foot with your left hand and take the first three toes and hold them forward, keeping the back toe behind them, slip the band over the first three toes and then over the back toe, you will need a toothpick to pull the back toe forward and over the band. You can apply a dab of Neosporin on the foot prior to banding, this will prevent infection if you scrape the birds foot while banding it; its also a good lubricant.

Recommended Reference Sources:

Linda Hogan's book called " Canary Tales" www.geocities.com/Heartland/Valley/6364/

"IGBA" International Gloster Breeders Association-US Chapter www.igbaglostersusa.com

"NPC" National Norwich Plainhead Canary Club www.npcnorwich.com

"NCBS" National Cage Bird Show www.ncbs.org

"ACFA" American Canary Fanciers Association www.acfa-canaryclub.com

Chapter 5: Weaning Chicks away from Parents

Weaning chicks away from their parents takes time and good knowledge on part of the breeder. You should have been watching your chicks as they grew. Some chicks are more aggressive and therefore become more independent than their clutch mates. Each breed, especially the larger breeds take longer to wean.

Fifes and Glosters can start to wean as early as 3-4 weeks but they may still be getting feed on some degree by their parents. I do not take the chicks away until at least 4 weeks for Glosters and Fifes and 5-6 weeks for the Norwich. But I watch each chick individually the day I separate them to see if they like their new environment and if they take to eating aggressively on their own.

If a chick does not look happy after being separated you will notice right away, within a few hours. Put the cock in with the chicks for a day or two if the hen is already back on the nest and has laid her second round.

If not place the chick back in the parent's cage for another day or two until they are psychologically ready. Birds are like people it's not only our physical needs but our psychological ones as well.

Once in a weaning cage try to place the chicks according to age. Keep the same food regiment as they grew up on.

Give them daily baths especially if you plan on showing your birds in the fall. Adding Epson salt or pigeon salts to the water gives the feathers a softer and more finished look.

Do not over crowd your birds. They fight for perch hierarchy, food, water, flying space etc.. You do not want to stress your weaning chicks by giving them an environment that is not bird friendly. This applies to all your birds, adults and well as fledglings.

When feeding put several dishes of feed around the flight so that all the birds do not have to compete for one dish or feeder. This will also reduce the stress of too many birds trying to get food.

Once you start to see your birds coming into their own you can separate what you think will be a show bird. Each show bird should have it's own cage until after show season.

You will want to keep these birds separated so that you can critic them along the way and give them the special attention they will need to win on the show bench.

Chapter 6: Moutling and Color Feeding

Canaries will start moulting from June until September/October after breeding season has ended. At this time you can reduce your lighting to natural light in your birdroom. Keep the temperature moderately cool and give your birds' daily baths.

Feed extra protein for the proper development of their feathers. Hard-boiled eggs sliced into quarters makes a good source of easily digestible protein. Keep giving them vitamins along with eggfood. Fresh, greens and fruits. Fresh water. Cuttlebone should always be in your flights and cages. Unflavored gelatin by Knox is a good source of calcium and protein that can be added to your eggfood for better development of the feathers.

Feed seeds rich in oils such as nyger, and flax seed.

Color Feeding has to start now while the birds are producing those new feathers. If you raise Norwich, Yorkshire, Lizard or colored bred canaries, now is the time to introduce color feeding.

Color feeding recipes vary from breeder to breeder and ingredients have changed over the years. I use the following formula to color feed my birds. Canthaxanthin, bogena, Orlux Can-tax, Orlux yellow color intensive. Mix together in one large container, will last one breeding season depending on how many birds you color feed. I add 1 teaspoon of the above mixture to about 16 cups of eggfood. Watch your birds closely as they begin to color in. You do not want your birds to look "burned" which would look like a rust color instead of the deep orange red your looking for. Better to color your birds in slowly then to overdose them and get the burnt affect that hinders you on the show bench.

Yellow feather birds will hold the coloring faster and deeper than a buff bird. So keep an eye on all your birds as they color in. Some birds eat more than others so they will color faster. If the bird is fully colored, separate it. Color feeding takes months and constant diligence on the part of the breeder. You can't color one day and skip the next. You have to be consistent with color feeding or your birds will not develop an even coloring.

Remember feathers are mostly made up of protein, so when developing these new feathers they need extra protein in their diet.

Moulting is very stressful especially in young birds so keep the environment as quiet as possible and give the supporting care we discussed in the previous paragraphs.

A young canary will moult all of its feathers the first year except their tail and wing feathers. Therefore, they are called "Unflighted" as compared to adults, which will loose their tail and wing feather and are called "Flighted" birds.

Chapter 7: Show Preparation and Training

Picking out your show team is probably the hardest thing to do. Pick the bird that catches your eye. If you have been attending shows you'll have a better handle on it. You will know that show bird in the flight. Show birds need the type standard but they also need the show personality as I call it. Some birds are perfect in type for the show bench but will not show because they do not have the personality to stay in a show cage for any period of time, no matter what you do in the training process. Do not waste time on these birds they may settle down for you the following year. If not, we discussed this topic already in selecting your pairs. I believe breeding in temperament is as important as trying to breed the standard type profile.

Start training your young birds after the moult usually the beginning of September. Introduce them to a show cage on a gradual basis. Try 1-2 hours at first. Place a drinker on the front of the show cage for now; later on we will discuss training them to drink from a show D Cup.

Put nyger and roller mix in the cage and maybe a piece of spray millet. You want to make it a pleasant experience for the bird; one that they will look forward to. Place your show cages under a direct light source because they will need to get use to bright lights on the show bench.

After a few days place the D Cup drinker on your show cage and fill it with water and place a small piece of roman lettuce, watercress or their favorite veggie in the drinker. The birds will smell the water and see the vegetables and will slowly get use to putting their head through the hole in the show cage to drink from the cup. Again, you have to watch your birds and know which ones take to it and which ones need more encouragement. Be patient, it takes some birds longer than others.

Gradually increase the length of time that the birds spend in the cage. Most shows are 2-3 days long. So your birds should be trained to remain in a show cage for 3 days.

Always present your birds in a clean, well-painted cage. The judge will take into consideration the presentation of your bird in its show cage. The bottom of the show cage should be filled with roller mix for Glosters, Fifes and Norwich.

Each breed of canary has its own type of show cage, seed requirements and water drinker cups. Educate yourself for your particular breed on the show requirements and the standard and points of judging that can be found in most show catalogs. Again, here is another reason to attend shows; it will provide you with show catalogs that have breeders advertising available stock, show standards and points for each breed. They will also include all the specialty clubs and membership forms.

Flying to a show will require a special traveling case. If you drive you will still need to keep your birds in a traveling cage to keep them from ruining their feathers and hurting themselves.

When you get to your show destination you should let your show team rest in individual cages a day before entering them in a show. Traveling does take its toll.

Bring your own bottled water or buy bottled water. Never, use the local water at a show. You do not know what is in that water system and you do not want your birds getting sick. Refer to my article on Giardia. Hope to see you at the show.


The information provided here is for educational purposes from my own personal experience and research. Do not hold me liable for anything printed within these pages. Please do your own reading and research. Consult your avian veterinarian if you have any concerns or problems.

Copyright 2007 by Candace Pezzuti

Reprinting of this booklet without permission of the author is prohibited.