Two weeks after being laid, tiny featherless baby canaries hatch into a brand new world hungry and ready to grow. It may surprise you, however, that feeding baby canaries starts a few days before they emerge from their eggs. This proactive approach is called "nestling feeding."
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Food for Parents = Food for Chicks
Nestling food is what two parent canaries eat, and then feed their young upon hatching. When you begin to wean your canaries out of the nest, they will continue to eat nestling food on their own, until moving to adult dry seed mixes.
Nutrient-rich and packed full of protein, nestling food ensures that stressed out parents are getting enough to eat before the nestlings hatch. Later, the same combination of seed and supplements will help the new canary chicks to grow.
What's in a Mix?
Nestling food is primarily comprised of soaked seed, "egg food" and extra greens. Soaked seed is exactly what it sounds like: dry seed that has been kept wet long enough to soften and begin to sprout. Soaked seed can be commercially purchased and then soaked at home following the brand's directions. Usually seed is soaked in room temperature water for a number of days to encourage small green sprouts to form from the seed. After sprouting, the seed is checked to make sure no mold has formed, rinsed thoroughly and then added to the adult's food.
Sprouted seed is not immediately for the nestlings themselves. Instead, the parent canaries will chew the seed and regurgitate it into the babies' mouths.
"Soft seed" should not be confused with soaked seed. Soft seed is dry seed that has been boiled until it is softened, and is often used to hand-feed nestlings, or sick adult birds.
Be Sure They Eat Their Greens
In addition to the soaked seed, "egg food" and dark leafy greens help make up a complete diet for adults and babies. Egg food is simply hard-boiled egg that has been mashed up and included with the seed and greens. The high amount of protein in the egg helps the adults as they work hard to take care of their new young, and also provides important amino acids to the quickly growing nestlings. In the wild, canaries will eat insects during this time to keep their protein levels high; domestic canaries do just fine with the protein from hard-boiled chicken eggs.
Greens provide iron and vitamins during the breeding season, but can be served fresh year-round. A tablespoon of greens and some kind of treat -- such as apple, banana, grapes or berries -- will keep the birds interested and stimulated.
Canaries can eat the same kind of produce we can, except for avocado. If you are not sure about fresh food before serving, the best advice is to avoid it.
Store Bought and Hand Fed
Commercial nestling food has come a long way in offering a variety of options for different styles of canary-ownership. In addition to seed made for soaking and sprouting, there are pellets, insect protein blocks, dried fruits and veggies and supplements for calcium, iron and other important vitamins and minerals. These flexible feeding points rest upon how many canaries you may be feeding, how many are breeding parents and how often you are able to work hand in hand with your birds.
There are times when canary parents are simply not up to the job of feeding their young. When this happens, hand-feeding is an option that may save an otherwise neglected chick. To hand-feed, choose either a completely softened seed mix, or a newborn formula mix from your local pet food supplier. You will need to feed the baby nestling via an eyedropper several times a day.
A Note of Caution
It is important to keep the breeding and nesting cage clean and free from insects, rot and mold. All wet foods should be removed from the cage after six hours to prevent toxic mildew or fungus from forming. Feed your canaries nestling food that they can eat in one sitting, keeping the remainder in the fridge under a damp paper towel in the mean time. Make fresh nestling food every two or three days.