How to Raise Baby Canaries

By Ruth Amick

Raising healthy baby canaries begins with proper care and feeding of the breeding parents and their chicks, along with the knowledge that “letting nature take its course” is usually the best way to go. The parents of these cage birds do most of the raising by themselves, which makes caring for canary chicks much easier than most other pet bird chicks that need to be hand-raised in order to teach them to accept human handling.

A few weeks before breeding, begin feeding your breeder canaries a conditioning food, boiled egg, fruits and vegetables in addition to their regular canary diet. Mating season begins when the length of daylight reaches 12 to 12 1/2 hours. Use either artificial lighting in order to make your birds think breeding season has begun a little early, or let the natural daylight of spring be your canaries’ guide.

Place the male and female canary in separated areas of the divided cage. Allow your birds plenty of privacy. Look for signs of mating behavior, like the male feeding the female through the bars, the female assuming the mating position or paper tearing. When you have observed these signs, remove the divider and let the birds decide if mating will occur. Separate the birds if you notice fighting that goes beyond a little squabble.

Purchase a 4-inch open straw or bamboo nest with hooks on the back for securing the nest onto the cage. To keep the nest from tipping, make sure the hooks are attached tightly to the cage bars. Add nesting material like coconut fibers, small cut-up pieces of cloth or paper towel shreds. Do not use anything with strings that may become wound around any part of your canaries’ bodies. Let the canaries build their nest; the hen should begin laying eggs soon after fashioning it to her satisfaction.

Leave the male in the cage through the weaning period; he will typically continue to feed the hen and help feed the chicks. The canary hen usually produces four to six eggs, laying them one at a time either once a day or every other day. She should begin to sit on the eggs once she has laid her third egg. You should not feed your canaries egg food during the incubation period. Incubation takes between 13 and 14 days. The chicks may hatch within a few hours of each other, or there may be a day or two between hatchings. Allow the hen to eat the shells after the chicks hatch -- they provide extra calcium.

Offer soft foods like commercial egg food, sprouted seed, soak seed and some softened pellets to the parent birds as soon as the first chick hatches. Make sure that fresh food is always available and do not allow food to spoil in the cage. The hen may not feed her chicks immediately; she will usually begin to feed within six hours of each chick’s hatching. She may refuse to feed if she is being watched.

Feed soft foods continually while the chicks are weaning. Two to three weeks after hatching, the chicks will begin to leave the nest. The parents continue to feed the babies until about the fourth week. Do not offer the canary chicks seed until after six weeks of age -- their beaks will not be hard enough to crack it. The hen may become tired of caring for the chicks. If you notice this, divide the cage, allowing her to be alone. The father will continue to feed the chicks himself until they are weaned.