Hard Feather Canary VS Soft Feather Canary

Published by CrestedCanaryClub on

I received a question from a young novice to the fancy; the question was about the color of nestlings and the pairing of breeding birds. This question prompted me to write this article.

This article will (I hope) help the novice breeder understand a little about Canary colors and the pairing of birds for breeding.

All Canaries

To begin with, “All” canaries come as “Hard” feather or “Soft” feathered birds. It doesn’t matter what “variety” or “color” we talk about. It could be the Gloster Fancy, Fife Fancy, Border Fancy, Yorkshire Fancy or any variety of Red Factor; they are “all” either soft or hard feathered birds.

To the novice breeder, this becomes more confusing when I point out that the “Hard feather” birds are the “Yellows” and the soft feather birds are the “Buffs” of the species. It doesn’t matter if the bird looks yellow, red, blue or green. They are all either Hard feather or Soft feathered.

Different parts of the world have different terminology.

It can be confusing for the novice, (it was, and still is, with some new varieties, for me:-) So the following small chart will (I hope) help you understand.

To test what you learn here, I have placed two quizzes on the site. One is a picture quiz, and one is a word quiz. When you finish reading this page, why not go to either Canary Quiz and test your knowledge on colors and feather type. It’s a bit of fun:-) and a good way to learn.

If you are an experienced breeder in some of the new mutations\colors, help us help others by sending information to be added to the following list.

“Yellow” = “Hard Feather.”
“Buff” = “Soft Feather.”
“Intensive” = “Hard Feather”
“Non-Intensive” = “Soft Feather.”
“Frosted” = “Soft Feather.”
“Non-Frosted” = “Hard Feather.”
“Red” = “Hard Feather”
“Apricot” = “Soft Feather.”
“Gold” = Can be either “Hard Feather” or “Soft Feather.”
“Silver” = Can be either “Hard Feather” or “Soft Feather.”

If you have been to a pet store, you will undoubtedly have seen what a novice would call “yellow canaries” in a holding cage? To help keep things simple we will look only at the clear canary. (A clear canary is a canary with no other markings)


yellow canarySome of these yellow birds will look a strong bright yellow. This is a shot of one of my “Hard” feathered Fife cocks. In other parts of the world, this bird could be known as an “Intensive” or as a “Yellow” or as a “non-frosted.”
buff canaryOthers “yellow” birds will look a softer yellow. This is a shot of one of my “Soft” feathered Fife hens. Also known as a “Buff.”
Notice the difference in the yellow hue. In other parts of the world, this bird could be known as a “Non-Intensive” or as a “Frosted” or as a “Buff.”


The two birds in the photos above are both Fife Fancy’s and both are what a novice would call, “yellow birds.” The difference being that one is a “Hard feathered” bird, giving it the strong bright yellow look, while the second is a “Soft feathered” bird, giving it the softer yellow, or buff, look, the same goes for the Red Factors.


red-factor canaryThis is a shot of one of my “Hard” feathered Red Factor cocks. In other parts of the world, this bird could be known as an “Intensive” or as a “non-frosted” or a “hard feather” bird.
Apricot canaryAnd here I have two more Red Factors.
(I have not removed the background here, as it’s time-consuming)
In Australia, these are known as “Apricots” The difference between the cock bird above and these two hens? These two hens are both “Soft Feathered” birds, or “Frosted” or “Non-Intensive” while the cock above is a hard feathered bird. All three are Red Factor – Lipochromes.


This can be confusing for the novice, what with Yellows, Buffs, yellow ground, white ground, Silver, Gold, Frosted, Unfrosted, Intensive, Non-Intensive, Hard feathered and Soft feathered but you will soon pick it up, especially if you belong to a canary club.

It is important that you understand this stuff about hard and soft feather types. (that’s what this is all about) Why? Well for one thing, when you enter birds in a show! If you enter a great unbeatable “Yellow” bird BUT! The bird is really a “Buff”! You have entered him\her as a “Yellow” then you might as well have stayed at home, your unbeatable champion bird will not even make it to the bench, he\she will be marked as “wrong class” by the judge in the first viewing and chucked out.

It is also important when pairing birds for best results at the breeding time. You should always pair a hard-feathered bird to a soft-feathered bird.
In the case of red birds, the pairing should be the same, a soft feathered bird to a hard feathered bird, or if you like, A Red Factor to an Apricot. Or a Non Intensive bird to an Intensive bird. Hard feather to Soft feather every time.

Pairing your birds this way will help avoid your birds having most, if not all, feather problems, problems such as Feather Lump!
I will now contradict the above statement about pairing birds for breeding:-) by telling you, the Gloster canary is normally bred — Soft feather to Soft feather “but” about every three years it’s a good idea to introduce a “hard” feathered bird to your line of Gloster canaries. As you do more research on canaries, I am sure you will come across quite a lot of post stating “My canary has lumps” what could these lumps be? The answer, in most cases, the bird has a feather lump!

Feather lump seems to affect the Gloster canary more than any other variety. I personally believe the reason for feather lump being so prevalent in the Gloster canary is that breeders keep breeding buff to buff, year after year, never introducing a hard feather bird to the line. Down the track, this will lead to your Glosters (or any other variety) having a serious feather lump problem.

If you are a serious Gloster show breeder with some years experience, I would like your views on this feather lump matter, either in agreement or disagreement. Send me an email on your views on what causes Feather Lump.

I hope this information helps you understand a little of colors and feather types in canaries. When I get the chance, I will update this page with photos of soft and hard feathered birds from the Fife’s the Red Factor Lipochromes.

I plan to place two photos of each, Heavily Variegated birds, Variegated birds, Lightly Variegated birds, Ticked Birds, and Clear Birds. Why two photos of each? To show the Soft and the Hard Feathered of each:-).

Do you now feel ready to give the first easy quiz a go? Okay! Let’s Go!

Categories: Flock Talk

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