Young canaries feet are extremely tender, and any damage caused at a young age can ruin their chances on the show bench, and make life extremely uncomfortable for the bird. Foot injuries do not generally handicap the bird in the breeding room, so even if cures cannot be affected, these bird may eventually produce valuable exhibition specimens themselves, in future years. Remember, prevention is better than cure and provision of the correct oval softwood perching, initially placed at a low level in the cage, is a pre-requisite. However, accidents do happen. The two most common foot problems are stiff claw, and slipped claw. Both conditions are treatable, if acted upon immediately. Both affect canaries predominantly under eight weeks of age, but can also afflict older canaries, so vigilance must always be maintained.
Take a length of thick twine, and pin this to the back of the stock cage, at a low level. A weight tied to the other end of the twine and hung outside the cage bars, will keep the twine taught, but also allow a little movement. Remove all perching, and house the affected canary in a single cage. My preference is to keep the bird in one of the bottom cages in a corner of the bird room, to minimise disruptions. A thick cage floor covering should be provided.
The twine will move when the bird lands and perches, causing the bird to grip, using its hind claw as it clings-on for balance. This exercises the damaged toe, with movement easily visible to the eye, after a few days.
Initially, I apply witch hazel, iodine or vaseline to the injured toe, but whilst these may ease any soreness or swelling, the jarring to the toe can only be cured by exercise. This can take several weeks to fully remedy and may easily revert, if the toe is again unintentionally knocked.
In time, a thin perch can replace the twine. I have also used a slightly wider perch, which has been hollowed out in the centre to ease the pressure on the ball of the foot, with some success.
My practice is to position the rear toe backwards, using the leg as a splint. Because young birds feet are very flexible this manipulation does not harm the bird, but the longer the injury is untreated, the harder it will be to cure.
Cut a thin length of low-impact masking tape about ¼ inch wide, and wrap this around the base of the toe, and tie the toe back, against the leg in a position which is comfortable to the bird, without being too loose. Do not foul the joints of the toe, and leave the toe-nail free.
Again, place the bird in a single cage without any perching, with a thick layer of sawdust or wood shavings to act as a cushion.
The bird may nibble away at the masking tape, and an eye should be kept that it is not removed, if so, it should be replaced immediately, as only time will cure slipped claw. After a couple of weeks, the tape can be removed, and the toe will generally remain in its proper position. By simply snipping the tape and providing regular baths, the bird will quickly remove the tape, without causing itself any damage or irritation.
I have used this method in the past using wool and other soft materials, but masking tape works just as well, and is much easier to apply.
Whilst the above cures are effective, a high incidence of these ailments indicates a failing in your management methods, or points to a hereditary weakness in your birds feet. If this is so, remove these birds from your breeding team, to reduce occurrences in future generations.