Canary Breeding FAQs

By Connie S. Soto


Canary breeding is a very rewarding challenging experience. It can be easy one time or extremely difficult the next. A successful outcome is dependent upon many factors and the more you learn about the process the more comfortable you will feel.


What triggers the breeding cycle?


Warm weather of about 70 degrees and about fourteen hours of daylight typically triggers the start of the breeding season.


When does the breeding cycle start each year?


Typically the canaries breeding cycle begins in April unless it is modified by light or air temperature as some breeders are known to do.


What are the natural stages of a canaries breeding cycle?


·        Restlessness

o   Males vigorous singing

o   Hens frantic paper tearing

o   Hens setting in the food dish

·        Searching for a nesting site

·        Choosing a mate

·        Male feeding the hen

·        Nest building

·        Mating

·        Egg laying

·        Incubating

·        Fledging

·        Youngsters learn to eat

·        Independence


What should be done for breeding preparation?


It is my opinion that preparing to breed canaries is the same for all canaries throughout the year. The basics all year include and are not limited to a proper basic nutritious diet, fresh veggies and fruits, cuttle bone, oyster shell grit and vitamins, clean drinking and bath water, clean cages.


The diet changes for the rearing of young which includes an egg muss formula.


Can long toe nails cause problems in the nest?


Yes, toe nails should be clipped unless they are not long at the time that pair is moved to the breeding cage. This will prevent a nail from getting caught in the nesting material which could loose an egg or a hatchling. 


Which nests work well and are there any cautions about nesting material?


Good nesting material should be provided, stay away from the very thin string like material that can get wrapped around a toe or leg and cut off circulation. The thin stuff could cause gangrene if not seen in time causing a loss of a digit, limb, or even a life. Cotton is a good selection for the padding material that the hen will use in the interior of the nest. The cotton should be offered along with the basic material that you have chosen.


Wire and wicker nests can cause problems such as toe nails that can get stuck causing babies to fall out of the nest and the wicker cannot be cleaned as thoroughly as necessary. The plastic nests seem to resolve those problems and can be used again and again.


Which birds should be chosen for breeding?


Too young or too old is not a good idea and the male and female should be chosen to breed only if they are in top condition.


If you have a young canary what should you do for success?


Young canaries sometimes have infertile eggs, or do a poor job of feeding the young, or they may abandon the nestlings entirely. To help them to be successful it is advantageous to mate a young male with a mature hen or a young hen with a mature male.


What signals do the canaries give you to know that they are getting ready for the breeding cycle?


Male canaries will sing vigorously and females will chirp slightly as she begs for him to feed her. The hen will also sit in the food dish and shuffle the food around trying to get it just right.


Are canaries monogamous or polygamous?


Canaries by nature are polygamous.


When should the male join the female?


The female will not mate until she is building her nest. If she is ready there should be no fierce fighting. A little bickering can be expected but if she is not ready it is important for her safety to remove the male and try again until she does accept him. If it ends up that he does not suit her try another male. Typically if she begs for food from him she will usually accept him.


How many eggs per day will the hen lay?


On the average a canary hen will lay a total of five eggs. She will lay her eggs once each day in the morning hours usually between 7 and 8 AM.


Do the eggs have to be removed and returned to the nest?


Removing eggs and returning them all at once is sometimes done to have the babies hatch the same day. This is not necessary and most of the time more babies is lost due to improper handling or broken eggs or improper temperature, or insufficient turning. The hen usually does not get serious about incubating the eggs until the 2nd or 3rd egg is laid.


Does the male canary share with incubation?


The hen always incubates the eggs alone and the male provides supplemental feeding for both her and the nestlings.


How long is the incubation cycle?


Once the hen starts to set, the incubation time is about fourteen days to hatch the young.


Can canary hen bathe during the breeding cycle?


Yes, bathing during the breeding cycle is actually beneficial to the embryo. It aids in providing higher humidity keeping the eggs more supple instead of a dry condition. This aids the embryo’s development and assists in hatching.


What is candling?


Candling uses an intense light and is a process that is done to examine the nesting eggs for fertility.


When should the eggs be checked for fertility?


Candling should only be done once as the light is strong and it is not good for the embryo. It is typically checked between the 5th and 8th day of incubation.


If candling is not really good for the embryo what other method can a person use to check for fertility?


An infertile egg will be clear as light shines through it and it will look the same as one that is freshly laid. With a fertile egg, holding it up to a natural light source will display the embryo with an adjoining network of veins. If it is hard to see with natural light then after the 8th day of incubation an infertile egg will look pale red in color and the fertile egg will have a shiny tint and look purplish brown.


Does the new born hatchling need nourishment the first day?


No, the baby canary does not need to be fed the first day after hatching as the baby has a yolk sac that feeds the baby while it is still in the egg. This yolk sac is drawn into the abdominal cavity during the last day before the baby hatches which provides nourishment for the first day of life.


Is it good for the nestlings when they fledge to provide soaked bread with milk?


Milk or cream products can cause digestion problems in canaries and soaking bread in milk is not a useful method of feeding young canaries. There is much more balanced type of soft foods available that make it easy to feed the fledglings.


Does the nestling behavior change before they fledge the nest?


The baby canary does go through a behavior change when they reach 14 days old. They become wary of movements and noise in their surroundings. The flight instinct takes over when they feel threatened and will feel the need to escape to safety. A thorough cleaning of the cage when the babies reach 12 days old will prevent you from disturbing them when this behavior is reached. This will help them to fledge naturally.


At what age will the nestlings fledge?


The nestlings typically fledge the nest between 15 and 17 days old.


At what age can the canaries become independent?


The age that a baby canary can survive without its parents is typically 31 days.


Will the baby fledglings be able to learn to eat from the normal food dishes?


The fledglings need low profile small food dishes to learn how to eat on their own at the bottom of the cage. If you can find a small ˝ inch tall soap dish or something similar it will work quite well. The important point here is it needs to be available at the bottom of the cage. The babies have soft beaks and cannot crack hard seeds so nestling food is important. It is good to continue to offer egg mixture and gradually lessen the amount of egg while increasing the amount of nestling food.


What is the point of egg food for the young?


Egg food plays a very important role in the rearing of canary babies. It is a supplemental food for fledglings. It is one of the foods that is given to the parents to help them with rearing the young. It can even be home made, although there is a variety of mixtures readily available. Homemade mixtures are basically made of whole eggs, Rusk flour and poppy seeds. They sift it until it is finely mashed into a consistency of fine crumbs. Commercial egg muss is made from whole eggs, wheat meal, white millet, niger thistle among other ingredients.


Will new canary youngsters molt earlier than the adult canaries?


Yes, the youngsters will molt earlier than adult canaries. During the time they are learning to eat they have basically all of their feathers. At that stage they will have a little down left on their heads and short tail feathers. The molt is a partial molt and can begin as early as six weeks from birth through their first fall season. The flight feathers and tail feathers are not replaced until the following fall.


When do the fledglings need to be separated?


November marks complete independence, this is the time when the youngsters should be separated.



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