After a few hundred years of domestication in our European climate our canaries will now survive conditions much the same as our native resident finches and their annual life cycle and natural behaviour will be very similar. Any differences may usually be put down to residual traits or those of the individual established through selective breeding and genetic make-up to achieve any of the various forms sought by the breeders. This could be the same reason that canaries are frequently thought to be more reticent to breed in captivity.
In attempting to produce a calendar of significant events that mark the ‘canary’ year we need to consider that there can be a wide variation in the local natural conditions of the British Isles that trigger such events and a precise annual schedule is impossible to chart accurately. Even the micro-climate of a birdroom may be significantly different from that outside so past experience and close observation of natural bird behaviour outside in the wild may be the best guides we have. All we can do here is to give a general guide as to when to expect events to occur in our bird’s natural biological cycle and give our suggestions to help achieve success. As you would expect, the major aspect of canary keeping that affects our bird’s condition and behaviour is how we feed them and this is therefore reflected in the calendar. With over 70 years experience on providing the best and most suitable canary foods based on the recommendations of generations of Champion breeders, Haiths continues to offer a range of products second-to-none.
We start at a time when our birds are ‘at rest’ having undergone their annual moult and should be in pristine plumage. The weather is now cooler and the winter season is approaching. Coincidentally, this is the ‘Show Season’ for those who participate in the competitive side of the hobby. Resting and Show Season
December - January
At this time of the year daylight is invariably poor and we can expect cold and damp weather. While birds require a high-energy winter feed we must ensure that they maintain a lean form and do not put on fat, exercise is therefore most important and aviary accommodation desirable. Haiths produces a Conditioning Seed that includes Rape Seed as well as essential vitamins and minerals and is most suitable for aviary-housed birds especially during the colder weather.
While some keepers prefer to control their bird’s diet in detail to ensure the very basic necessities, others will stick to the well-proven basic mixtures like Haith’s No.2 Canary Mixture. Basic mixtures usually consist of various proportions of plain canary, hemp, linseed, niger and rape according to the partiality of the birds and experience of the owner. Haiths also produces more exotic mixes that provide additional seeds in the mix as well as a greater variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals. Haith’s Super Canary and Haith’s De Luxe Canary Mixes have been specially developed and well-proven with the aid of Champion breeders.
Additionally and throughout the year birds need calcium and this can be provided by scraping Cuttlefish Bone over the seed or adding liquid calcium supplements like Calciform to the drinking water.
January - February
While the weather remains inclement we need to manage our birds in much the same manner as last month but as the end of February approaches it is a good time to introduce small morsels of greenfoods and fruit and even the softfood that is to be used throughout the breeding season. We suggest small pieces of apple and orange with the odd thawed-out and chopped frozen garden pea but just once a week at this stage and Haith’s Rearing & Conditioning Softfood is eminently suitable. For those who prefer something different Haiths also produce Egg Biscuit Softfood and Nectarblend Rearing Softfood and can also supply the well-known EMP Softfood and CeDe Egg food.
February - March
As the dim winter light begins to brighten so the behaviour of our birds should begin to change. While cock birds may be going through the motions of feeding the cage bars and perch ends, the hens may seen squatting or hovering over the perches and calling as if to demand attention of the cocks. It is a good sign that they are interested in breeding but hold back for a couple of weeks before introducing any nesting paraphernalia. Experience tells us that early clutches are less successful than those that are held back until April arrives. During this time the softfood, fruit and vegetable routine introduced last month can be increased to once every two or three days.
As the weather warms up and daylight increases in April we should be seeing wild birds feeding on young plant shoots and buds; a combination of factors that triggers their breeding cycle. We have already begun to mirror this behaviour and introduced softfoods to our captive birds but now we must increase the softfood and cut back on the high-energy winter Conditioning Seed. For those who did not pair up their birds in late March, now is the time to do it and we can introduce the nestpans or bowls and ensure the linings fit snugly to prevent mishaps.
April - July
The wild common greenfoods normally offered like chickweed and dandelions are ready to be picked as further supplements to their diet and softfood can also be offered daily. Frequently sitting hens will not take softfood preferring their basic seed but as soon as the eggs are due to hatch, softfood should be available to enable it to be fed to the youngsters.
On hatching, a three-times daily routine for softfood feeding is customary with regular removal of any surplus to prevent it becoming rancid. At five days old soaked and sprouted seed can also be given with some birdkeepers also adding chopped greenstuff to the softfood. Haith's Easisoak is a blend of seeds chosen for their ease of germination and suitability for both soaking and sprouting. Continue with this diet until the young are five or six weeks old which is usually just into July. By that time the first signs of moult may be evident and it is time for weaning youngsters onto hard seed.
July - August
July is when we should be admiring our young birds on the perch as they are weaned onto hard seed. Persuading them to change from softfood to seed can be helped greatly by offering a few seeds of Perilla spread over the basic seed or with the softfood. Once they get the idea of taking seed, the softfood may be slowly withdrawn over about six or seven days from young bird’s diets.
After the strain of breeding, parent birds may be close to exhaustion and also have commenced their moult. This is certainly the most stressful time for them, particularly in the wild as they are inhibited by loss of feathers and their flying ability. Fortunately captive birds have fewer threats from predation but nevertheless they still maintain their natural territorial space around them and can still be stressed by their caged colleagues. They will be helped through their moult by offering softfood a couple of times a week.
September - November
Some birds will still not have completed their moult and will continue to benefit from the higher levels of protein found in the softfood; so until moulting appears complete, it is advised to continue feeding it once a week. Resting and Show Season
November and December
By this time most birds should have recovered from the rigours of the breeding season and been through their annual moult. They should now be on their basic seed diet but some breeders advocate continuing with the once or twice weekly feed of softfood to maintain condition.