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  Frequently Asked Questions About Canary Care

Housing Questions are addressed here.

What if my male canary stops singing or my new canary doesn't sing?

Can I house several canaries together?

Can canaries be housed with other kinds of birds?

How long will my canary live?




What if my male canary stops singing or my new canary doesn’t sing?


Healthy male canaries sing because their hormones- especially testosterone- tell them to! They sing to attract a mate, to declare territory and sometimes simply for their own pleasure. The song announces to other canaries that the singer is healthy and strong.


If for some reason your bird’s testosterone level drops, he will sing less frequently or quit altogether. This happens every year during the molting period, when a bird loses and replaces all of his feathers. The majority of male birds will not sing during the molt, which lasts between six and eight weeks. Some older males also experience declining testosterone levels and sing less frequently than when they were younger.


Singing is also a sign of health- weak, stressed, or ill birds will not sing.


Sometimes a bird will quit singing due to environmental reasons such as being placed with a hen (after all, why should he sing to attract a mate when he has one?), having a mirror (he views the other canary as a mate), being frightened, being placed in a dimly lit or too quiet setting, or sometimes just because he doesn’t care for his cage location. (Birds have preferences, too!)


If your bird stops singing when he has previously, appears to be in good health and is not molting, then check and see if there is anything different in his environment that may have upset him. Sometimes you have to put yourself in your bird’s place- can he see out a window where hawks or a neighbor’s cat can be seen? Have you introduced a new pet or member of the family? Given him a new toy? A little problem solving will often provide the answer.


A new bird should sing soon after bringing him home- within a couple of weeks at the latest. If your bird never sings at all, it is possible that it is a female- though some male birds do lack freedom (the drive to sing) and only sing infrequently.


Remember that all birds are individuals and what makes one happy could bother another. Many canary buyers insist that because their previous canary always had a mirror and sang anyway, their new one should do the same. Not so!


One of the biggest environmental problems I have seen is when a canary is taken from an aviary setting- which is noisy and boisterous- and placed in a very quiet, single- canary home. This is terrifying for the bird (to a bird, silence indicates the presence of a threat) and he will need a longer period of adjustment as well as some low background noise- a television, radio or other sound. Eventually, the bird should sing but will probably not sing as frequently as one with more stimulation.


Can I house several canaries together?

It depends. 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 beneficial.


There is conflicting information about keeping males together in different numbers - some sources indicate that four or more is okay. I would not count on it. My opinion on the matter is that some folks may indeed be successful at keeping these numbers of males together, but not everyone will be so lucky. It is much safer- and exposes the birds to less danger- if you assume that the males will not be willing to room with other males outside of the molting period.


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 death.



Can canaries be kept together with other kinds of birds?


The answer to this is a qualified “yes.” Canaries may be kept successfully with certain kinds of finches such as society or zebra finches. Sometimes the higher-strung finches seem to get on the mellower canary’s nerves, however. And communal housing will affect both the quality and quantity of the canary’s song- a canary who gets jostled around by energetic finches will be frequently interrupted and he may develop the bad habit of breaking off his song. Additionally, his song will be corrupted by the finch sounds he hears every day. Finches also require a higher fat content in their diets and higher caloric intakes than do canaries. For this reason, canaries housed with finches may become fat.


Canaries should never be housed with hook bills of any kind- canaries usually end up with toes bitten off if they are fortunate and seriously injured or dead if they are not. Besides the danger to the canary kept in this situation, the two types of birds have very different dietary requirements.



How long will my canary live?


This is highly variable. In general, pet canaries live longer than breeders due to the strain of raising babies.


A pet canary can live anywhere between 8-10 years on average, although I have had pet owners who have had birds live as long as 18 years- and sang right to the end of their lives! This is certainly the exception rather than the norm, however.


Canaries that have been used for breeding usually live about 5 years. Again, this is a generalization as many breeders have certainly had birds which lived and successfully bred much longer than this. Birds may still breed at five years and older, but fertility does tend to decline. Their ability to survive the rigors of breeding season and the following molt is also reduced.



Much more information on canary care is contained in The Practical Canary Handbook



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Last modified: 06/30/15