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Canary pair problems

hymeria

Checking out the neighborhood
Joined
12/18/18
Messages
3
Real Name
Hymeria
I was given two canaries (one female and one male) by my cousin who could not care for them anymore and I've had them for about a year and a half. In April, the female canary had to be taken to the vet to have her leg band removed because it was constricting her. I had kept her in a separate cage from the male during that period and when everything was done and I put her back, she immediately laid eggs. Since then, she's laid many eggs and in most cases the eggs wouldn't hatch and in some cases, the eggs would hatch but the babies would die soon after. So far only three hatched. So I read online somewhere that laying too many eggs is not good for her and usually if the same pair keeps mating the babies would be weak so I decided to take the nest away after her last batch failed and she abandoned the nest. But she's constantly crying, tearing newspapers and flying to the area the nest used to be back and forth. I don't mind if she continues to try but I don't want that to lead to her dying or getting sick. Can someone tell me what I can do? I don't particularly want to breed them, I just want them to be happy and healthy.

Also, one other thing is that they are constantly fighting since she laid her first batch of eggs in April. The boy doesn't allow her to move freely in the cage and it seems like he wants to control the perches and pushes her to go down to the bottom of the cage. He also keeps plucking her feathers when she's not paying attention. I wanted to separate them but they both become upset when I do so and I always end up putting them back together. They used to argue before over food but never like this. I would be so grateful if someone could explain these things to me. They are yellow canaries. I don't know their age as I did not buy them.
 

Serin

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3/18/18
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459
Location
Indiana
@hymeria

I'm sorry you are having issues. Canaries are unfortunately not that easy to care for if you keep them indoors with electric lighting, and there is a great lack of information on their proper care. The issue behind all your problems is how much light they're getting each day. Canaries come from Spain, where the day length changes seasonally, and unlike the more tropical birds kept as pets, canaries have adapted to need these changes throughout the year to know when to molt feathers, breed, and rest. They are incredibly photosensitive, and I can tell you right now, your birds are being kept up past sunset by lights in the house. This will actually kill them. It killed one of my first canaries and made the second very ill because years ago because nobody told me any of this, and it killed my neighbor's canary in only 10 months because she didn't believe me about how important it is to manage their day length and didn't do it.

Unfortunately, it's not an if, but a when if conditions aren't corrected. To stay healthy, canaries need to be kept on a strict dawn to dusk schedule and be kept in the dark from sunset to sunrise, no exceptions except a small night light if necessary in the room at night. That day length needs to change according to the outside, from very short winter days to long summer days of 13 - 16 hours. At this time of year, canaries should only be awake for between nine and ten hours a day and should be in darkness the rest. This is their rest season, when there should be no breeding behavior at all and their sex hormones are very low. Naturally they begin to come into breeding season when day length approaches eleven to twelve hours. They breed until summer, and once day length is over 14 hours they are supposed to do their molt. Over six weeks they lose and replace ever feather on their body - it is a very energy expensive time, and the canaries become quiet and lazy until it finishes, and need a high energy, high protein diet to build their new feathers: hard boiled egg offered every day along with their seed or pellets, and lots of dark green veggies.

Because your birds probably have not been on that natural day length schedule, their hormones are, for lack of a better term, a total mess. Canaries should never be laying eggs in December. If they did so in the wild, the eggs would freeze. Your girl thinks it's still spring. It can be difficult to stop a female who gets into this breeding mood when she does it at the wrong time of year, namely because you don't just need her to stop laying her eggs, but because if she has been in breeding season constantly since April, she is greatly overdue to molt, and if she doesn't do so her feathers will wear out and she will be unable to fly. However, the following routine has worked for me to stop the cycle and get them back on track.

First, separate your canaries now. Two separate cages, but right next to each other. In general, they like company, but if the cage is too small or if the male and the female are not synchronized in their breeding cycles, he can actually kill her either directly by pecking her to death, or by stressing her so much she stops eating. Seeing any chasing is too much. Don't let it continue or she will die.

Now, to get your birds back to how they should be, you need to follow the directions below:

Put the birds in a room where you can control the daylight. Keep the lights on in their room on for 16 hours a day for a week. This mimics summer, the end of the breeding season. On the eighth day - and this is a step that you might not be comfortable with but it's really necessary - catch the female, and with a swift tug, pull her tail feathers out, every one. It sounds very mean, but it works, and I learned it from a very seasoned canary breeder. What it does is it starts the molt and initiates the hormonal changes that will stop her from laying eggs. When her body registers her missing tail, she will begin replacing those feathers, and usually will then continue to molt the rest of her feathers over the next two months. On the same day, move both birds to a room where they only get natural daylight and can be in the dark as long as it is dark outside (assuming you're not in the tropics, day length should be under ten hours in the northern hemisphere this time of year.) This very sudden change of daylength, almost in half, tells the birds it's now fall and they need to molt before winter, and usually they will. If you don't have that space, cover them with a thick black sheet or blanket at sunset and uncover them at sunrise or as soon as you get up.

In two weeks on just ten hours of daylight, both birds should begin their molt, you will see small feathers on the cage floor every morning, and within a month the hen should stop ripping cage paperand calm down as her hormones drop. It's much later in the year than they should have molted, but this will be no issue as long as they are kept warm. Continue to cover them at sunset and uncover them in the morning, ensuring they do not experience more than ten hours of daylight (it isn't their eyes which register day length, but a gland on top of their heads called the pineal gland; the gland is very sensitive to day light, almost like a primitive eye, and even if the birds are asleep, their bodies will register any light and this will determine how their hormones are.) Provide boiled egg and greens as well as broccoli and apple slices, sweetcorn and other high energy nutritious foods along with their seed every day for at least two months or until you stop seeing fallen feathers in the cages, then the egg can be reduced to weekly or every ten days;daily greens is still ideal for them though, canaries love vegetables.

Come spring, you should be gradually uncovering them earlier and covering them later in the day until by mid March they are at eleven to twelve hours of daylight. This is their normal breeding season, and you can try to pair them to breed them again if you want around April first. Both will be returned to normal hormone levels by that time if you have followed the above advice, and will likely be much better and more compatible parents. The female will be in breeding condition again and will try to lay eggs until around August, and if you don't want babies, you should still provide a nest but give her plastic eggs or small white marbles to sit on; canaries will sit for months this way, and in doing so will not continue to lay eggs to the harm of their health. When the days begin to get shorter again in August, she will naturally begin to lose interest in nesting again and both birds will molt between then and September. The male will get quiet and both will be less active until the molt is over again. When it finishes, it should be October or November. The days should be around eleven hours, and can be shortened down to ten by December. The birds will rest again until March or April, when the breeding season returns.

In the old days, canaries were super easy to care for because people didn't keep many lights on after dusk and the canaries were usually kept by a window so they stayed on their natural light cycle. Today, when everyone keeps lights on well into the night, canaries suffer greatly because they think it's always spring or summer and never molt or have their rest periods which wears them out quickly - most canaries kept this way live a year. If you pay attention to keep them away from electric lighting after sunset, however, and make sure their diet is good, they can live fifteen years and bring you joy for a long time.

In addition to their most important care need - light - canaries need a good diet. You want a specialized canary seed, not a generic finch or small bird food (or anything from a walmart), because canaries have dietary needs distinct from other birds. I use Volkman's canary seed and recommend it. You can get it online at many retailers. Seed is a complete diet only if you also feed vegetables and boiled egg frequently. If you can't do that, you should be offering a complete pellet diet instead. I feed mine half pellets, half seed on alternate days and give fresh food almost every day and my birds thrive. My pellet brands are Lafeber's canary and Roudybush nibles and my canaries eat both. Most canaries accept pellet food readily, they are rarely picky, but some need to be converted over time by mixing it with seed for a few weeks.Z

Cage size is also important. Long term, canaries should have cages at least 30 inches long and 18 inches wide. It is especially important females have big enough cages to fly, as if they cannot fly, they do not develop the muscles needed to pass their eggs and can easily get an egg stuck and die. If your cages are small, you can work around that by allowing the canaries to fly in the house for an hour or more a day. My cages are very large, but I still let my birds out. It is very beneficial to them, and for as long as I have had canaries, they have all known to go back to their cages to sleep in the evening and to eat and drink.

Also, make sure they can bathe occasionally, at least once a week but more often if you can. Canaries enjoy this very much and it lets them clean their feathers and improves their appearance, especially during the molt.

Keep us updated on your birds. It sounds like a lot, but it really comes down to just making sure the canaries experience a light cycle like in the wild. If you can do that, they should be back to good health in a couple months. My first canaries weren't kept well because nobody had told me any of this and I had to figure it out on my own, but since I started this regimen, I have had happy, healthy birds. I just love canaries. I have raised a few dozen though currently have only two males.
 
Last edited:

TheDiamond

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4/26/22
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2
Im aware that this reply is unfortunately considered spam and you probably never see this but I wanna thank you Serin for the insane amount of information provided in your reply.

I always keep my canaries in the balcony where they get the regular amount of sleep in every season and I still think this article is pretty damn useful.

Although I still have no clue why my female doesn't show interest in her male partner while he is going crazy about her.

And once again thank you so much dude I really learned alot of information that I wish I knew even earlier.
 

Rædwalda

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5/24/21
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103
Canaries are from Spain? That's news to me, I hear they are from the Canary Islands, which I think is a Spanish territory, but it's over 2,000km away, other side of Morocco.
 

Zara

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Canaries are from Spain? That's news to me, I hear they are from the Canary Islands, which I think is a Spanish territory, but it's over 2,000km away, other side of Morocco.
The Canary Islands are Spain.
Yes it´s away from Mainland Spain, yes it´s closer to Africa but it is still Spain - I Live on the Mainland and I´m closer to Africa than I am to Madrid but it´s still Spain. And if we´re going to be pedantic, the Canary Islands are about 1,500km from me, not 2,000.
 
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