There is no better way when preparing canaries for breeding than starting with exercise. During the show season, most exhibition canaries have lived in stock cages, with relatively limited flying space. Flying in a less confined environment will help build up their musculature in readiness for the breeding season. This is important for both the hens and cock birds. Depending upon the space at your disposal, two options are open to most fanciers. This is to use either flight cages, or indoor aviaries.
A flight cage is simply a number of stock cages with their dividing partitions removed, allowing the birds more length to fly. My own flight cages extend to more than twenty feet in length, or can be divided down to smaller units. Generally, I tend to house my hens in flights which are approximately eight feet long, in groups of four to six birds per flight.
There are two reasons for this. The first is a practical reason. I can easily check my stock each time I visit my bird room, and can catch up any bird which needs a closer examination into a training cage, with little trouble. The second reason I prefer to house my birds in small groups, is that a definite ‘pecking order’ is established whenever birds are housed together. I do not want to allow fighting to develop, nor do I want to see birds in the ‘lower orders’ be discouraged from feeding.
Whenever introducing birds into flights, remember that the object is to help them exercise. For this reason, place the seed and water containers at opposite ends of the flight – make the birds move in order to drink and feed, and remember to provide multiple feeding stations, relative to the number of birds housed together to stop bickering. Perching should be provided at intervals allowing flight between perches. The usual grits and treats need to be provided, to ensure maximum fitness. The use of an indoor aviary is ideal, because it provides vertical exercise, which gives the canary a ‘proper’ workout! Initially, remember to provide perching at the midway point in the aviary, because some canaries will not be able to reach the upper levels. They will after a couple of weeks though – which is why they are in there! Provide feeding stations which are accessible to the birds too – and position these away from overhead perches, to prevent fouling.
Remember that an indoor aviary need not be a permanent fixture in your birdroom.
Similarly, several breeders used to place aviary panels half way across their birdroom, allowing their birds free access to the enclosed half. Cages were either left in-situ and sheeted over, or removed, as required.