Proceeding as nature intended is good advice to anyone taking up canary breeding. If your birds have been properly prepared in the lead up to the breeding season, there is no reason why breeding operations should not be successful, even for an absolute newcomer.
Initially, put the hen into her breeding cage, and place the cock bird in the cage alongside her, with a wooden or wire partition separating the two cages. If using a wooden partition, withdraw the wood from the back of the cage approximately half an inch, in order for the birds to become acquainted. Alternately, drill a series of one inch holes into the slide, approximately two inches above ground level. If both are given a little soft food, the cock bird will soon be seen feeding the hen through the gap between the cages, through the holes, or through the bars of the wire divider. Place a nest pan and felt into the hens breeding cage with some nesting material, and she will commence nest building. She may take two or three goes to make the nest to her liking, but when you see her sitting there regularly, it is time to withdraw the partition, and let the cock bird cohabit with the hen. Chances are they will mate immediately, assuming they are both in tip top condition.
Canary eggs hatch after about fourteen days, depending on the weather and how well they have been incubated. It is not unusual for the first round to take up to seventeen days to hatch, so be patient. Try not to disturb the hen whilst she is incubating. She will usually refuse all tit bits, preferring a plain diet during this time, but provide a little soft food on the morning the eggs are due to hatch. Experienced fanciers can tell at a glance whether eggs are ‘full’ or not after about five days, but there is little to be gained from this knowledge by the newcomer. Leave well alone. During the incubation period, keep a watchful eye on the cock bird. If he harasses the hen or attempts to sit in the nest alongside her, return him to his own half of the cage whilst the hen continues to incubate – be sure she doesn’t leave the nest looking for him, as the eggs may become chilled. Birds are individuals so it is trial and error, and some have better manners than others!
You will notice your hens swallow the chicks droppings for the first few days, as they carry out nest cleaning duties. This is normal behaviour for canaries – chicks don’t come with disposable nappies just yet! After about ten days, the chicks will begin to defecate over the side of the nest, and the hen will relinquish these duties. At about fourteen days, place the nest pan onto the floor of the cage, and install a new pan for the hen to commence building her second nest. The cock bird should be re-introduced if not already with the hen, taking care that he does not attack the first round chicks.