Here is a short list of the items I include for my little birds in their cage year around:
A varied diet with rotating fresh items is very important in maintaining the health and beauty of your cheerful little companion(s). These little birds enjoy and need fresh fruits and vegetables at least 2 – 3 times per week. Fresh items need to be washed on the outside and cored to remove pesticides, seeds, pits, etc. Some all-time favorites include apples, oranges, corn on the cob, yams, melon, broccoli, and sprouts. Sprouts can be bought at most stores already washed and ready to go, which is very convenient for busy people…and who isn’t?! They come in zippable bags or sprout containers. Just rinse with cold water to freshen and make sure it is clean.
A high-quality style mix is kept in all my cages year round as this food is more nutritious than seed-only diets.
A premium select seed diet, as opposed to the plain or basic seed, is also highly recommended as these little birds will live about 8-10 years or so. Twenty-Two years old is the oldest I have heard of!! Good nutrition is important for them. It is important to check your bird’s seed dish every day as a dish full of empty shells looks deceptively full of seed still! Shake or blow the shells out of the dish once a day and refill every day or two as necessary. This is especially important if the bird(s) do not have the other food items to fall back on! In busy homes like ours in the morning, I like the peace of mind of knowing that they have several other items to turn to if it has been an especially hectic morning. This could also encourage them to eat more of the pellets, which is not all bad!
Millet sprays which you hang in the cage is a favorite of most species of birds including canaries. If you hang them in the middle of the cage with just a clothes-pin through the top, you will greatly cut down on the amount of hulls thrown out around the cage. It can be hung near a perch, or they will simply hang on to the spray to enjoy it as it is such a favorite. Of course, just the fun for them of “hanging around” is also worth jumping up to hang on. They are such clowns. Some will just jump up and hang upside down from the top and then spin down to the perch over and over just for jollies. They love to have fun and are greatly entertaining just watching them inventing things to stay busy with! 🙂
A separate dish in the cage which is just for plain Petamine is great. It is loaded with vitamins and very palatable to the birds. It is a powdery food that is made by Kellogg’s and is great for them!
Bee pollen, which can be found in the health food section at grocery stores that have them, is just a marvelous addition to your bird’s diet. It is packed with nutrition in almost unbelievable variety and quality. Although it is rather expensive per pound, buying it by the ounce for them will not be very expensive, as these little guys can’t eat THAT much, and will hopefully be provided several other food options.
They need blue mineralized grit and eggshell that is available to them year round. These two items come in plastic bags and are at many pet stores. Just mix these two items half and half. I use the long tube feeders for this mix, and it works very well.
A small cuttlebone attached to the cage wall will also serve your bird very well both for the minerals it provides, and also to keep the beak trimmed down. It can tend to grow too long without adequate measures for natural reduction in size. Fruit branches (not cherry wood, however) will be greatly appreciated (and utilized) by your canaries!! Willow branches, apple tree branches, and plum tree branches are great favorites. Make sure these have not been sprayed with pesticides etc. as this will harm your birds as they “chew” on it.
Red factor canaries also need color food added to their diet during the molting season, which is once a year, in the summer. This replaces what they would normally access in the wild to enhance the unbelievable color of these beautiful birds. The molt lasts approximately six weeks, and during this time they need canthaxanthin (or preferably Roxanthin which is an easy-mix form of canthaxanthin). Throughout the molt, the birds lose and replace all their feathers. Canthaxanthin is a perfectly harmless addition to these birds diets and is available at pet supply stores. I mix it in with the egg food, which I give more frequently during this somewhat stressful time for the birds. It can also be mixed into the water, but neither my birds nor I like it this way. The egg mixture I put on a paper plate for ease in clean up. Give them a small amount 2 – 3 times per day during the breeding season, or once a day during the molt for consistent coloring up, on a fresh paper plate, as you must be careful of dirty dishes or spoiled food! The color egg food, or color water if you mix it that way, can both be stored in the fridge for about 3 to 4 days. Roxanthin is fairly expensive, and you want the best use of it. Hint: the birds also especially benefit from cold baths each day during their molting time!
Picking at and playing with anything placed in the cage is a continuous and pleasurable activity for these very busy little birds. They eat off and on throughout the day (frequently!), and providing them with the needed variety is no more costly than providing simply more of one item…and much more costly if you figure in the health cost to the bird!
Avocados, tomatoes, lettuce, chocolate, and other junk foods, are not recommended for the health of your canary. We have also recently discovered that spinach inhibits the uptake of calcium for your canaries, and this is obviously especially bad during breeding season when the hens are repeatedly forming their eggs. Kale, broccoli, sprouts, etc. are much preferred.
These little birds are very intelligent and friendly, and love to go from one food item or dish to another to another to another for something to keep them occupied and happy throughout the day. Lots of toys are also recommended (see “housing”) to avoid any trouble in keeping several birds together in one flight cage. It is sort of like with my three young sons: keep them busy and happy with fun things, or they will keep themselves busy with things that are not so fun for YOU! Like picking on one bird, fighting, etc.
Do your best for your birds, and they will reward you for years with their wonderful playfulness and beautiful singing. They are sure to lift up your spirits and brighten your home with their loveliness in both song and beauty. Each of my sons has their own canary (and budgie too), and they are so wonderful for the kids to enjoy. They are quite bold as all our birds live in our living room where we can watch them throughout the year. When they are raising babies, you would think my sons were the real fathers here!
They have brought us much joy, and we want to help with the best care of them we can! Cleanliness is VERY important. Please do them and yourself the favor of proper care, remember … a happy, healthy bird is a singing bird!!.