Feeding canaries is relatively simple, but there are a few pitfalls to be aware of.
Canaries needs change throughout the year, in line with the seasons. Breaking the year down into four quarters means youf feeding can enable your birds to achieve their maximum potential, in line with the wild finches in Nature’s aviary.
In the first quarter, our birds are effectively resting and building up their energy reserves for the rigours of the upcoming breeding season. They will enjoy access to the flight cages in order to exercise and break down any reserves of fat they have developed over the winter months, and ensure they approach the breeding season in peak condition. Regular access to baths, undergoing treatment against mite, trimmed nails and beaks and of course access top titbits such as fruits and vegetables will ensure they remain healthy, throughout this time. Softfood should also be given, starting off at once a week, and building to three or four times per week as the end of March approaches. Too much too soon can lead to a false breeding condition which should be avoided, particularly given our ever changing weather patterns at that time of the year.
A good quality basic seed mixture is essential, as this ‘convenience food’ forms the staple part of our birds diet. I have tried many mixtures over the years, but find that my birds benefit from a mixture with less rape seed than most manufacturers offer as standard. One simple solution if you do not want to make your own mixture is to mix a bag of plain canary seed into a standard bag of mixed seeds, which will effectively do the trick.
When hens are sitting on their eggs, I find softfood is rarely taken, and a plain diet is all that is necessary during this period. On the evening before the eggs are due to hatch, I again introduce softfood, as the hens will need to increase the protein content of their diets, in order to successfully rear their chicks. Soaked or sproated seeds can also be offered once the chicks are four days old, carefully rinsed off, before being offered. Never leave stale food in the breeding cage during this period, as this can be a recipe for disaster in young stock. When weaning, hard seed should be withheld until chicks are about five weeks old, then the normal mixture, sprinkled with soft round seeds such as rape or perilla should be offered, which will be eaten readily at this stage. ‘Little and often’ has been a maxim used by canary breeders for many years, referring to the practice of providing softfood at regular intervals throughout the day, and removing any leftovers immediately!
Towards the end of September, most canaries will be emerging from their moult, and the softfood can be reduced to once per day, then every other day, as October commences. The objective now is to ‘harden of’ your stock in time for the shows, so a plain seed diet throughout the week, and the odd titbit at the weekend, is ideal.
Some fanciers find condition seed is beneficial when offered in small quantities, especially through the long, dark winter months. A finger drawer of condition seed once a week during the bleakest weather will often work wonders on your stock, but do not be surprised if the cock birds burst into full song at the least provocation. Do not overdo condition seed though, as the rich mixture can cause stomach upsets when used to excess.