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Home > Cage & Aviary Bird-Keepers Blog > Colour feeding canaries by Fred Wright

Colour feeding canaries by Fred Wright

Tuesday, 20th December 2016

Colour-feeding is a difficult concept to fully understand. It used to be much more difficult to colour-feed than it is now and it’s comparatively easy these days due to modern products.

Coloured Canary

Some canary varieties need to be colour-fed when they are shown, so if you keep Yorkshires, Norwich and Coloured canaries – there is no escaping! Most fanciers colour-feed their Mules and Hybrids for the shows too. If you want to show them, they have to be colour-fed!

So, what is this colour-feeding all about?

We need to get this “colour-concentrate” into the birds before they moult, and then when the new feathers grow, they come through with the colour of the concentrate. The concentrate is added to the food or the drinking water and gets into the bird’s system. In fact it’s taken or absorbed into the blood of the bird and as the new feathers grow, which are actually fed by the blood, they pick up the colour.
Carophyll Red 

  Some commercially available softfood or eggfood contains this “colour-concentrate” but most fanciers these days purchase Carophyll Red or Orange which can be added to any preferred softfood or eggfood and even added to the drinking water in some birdrooms. Carophyll Red is just a more concentrated version of the Carophyll Orange.

Ready mixed colour food
Novices are recommended to use Haith's Ready-mixed Colour Food as it is timesaving, trouble and risk-free but these are the very reasons why many champions use it as their standard mix.

Young Canaries, Mules and Hybrids start to moult at about 10 weeks old, so it’s vital to start colour-feeding well before the moult begins. Many fanciers start colour-feeding when youngsters are being weaned to be absolutely sure the colour concentrate is into that blood before the young birds start to moult. At about 10 weeks the feathers start to drop and new feathers come down to replace them. It’s fascinating to see the colour-fed birds grow their new feathers.

Adult birds that have been breeding will start to moult at various times but usually by July, their new feathers start to come down so adults need to be started on their colour-food in June.

The first new feathers to come will be the wing butts, and then it’s the side of the breast and chest, then the main body and finally the head.

When the birds have completed their moult we would believe that there is no need to continue feeding that colour-food, but stop feeding with great caution. Birds will drop an odd feather and if the colour-food is not there in the blood, it will come though as its natural colour. That will wreck a bird for the shows, so it’s best to keep feeding that colour-food until the shows are finished. Most of those shows come to an end in December but there will always be the odd show in January and if you are to show – keep feeding until the shows are finished for you.

Feeding that Colour-food

We can still buy commercially produced softfood/eggfood and if you are happy with this, there is no need to change your methods.

Most fanciers will use Carophyll (available now from Haith’s) and this used to be added to the drinking water because it dissolves easily and it was considered as the easiest way to colour-feed birds. However, the birds do make a mess with it, and it stains the cages which many fanciers don’t like. Some fanciers don’t like feeding in the water as much of it is wasted and it can be more economical to feed in the softfood. These days its more frequently added to the softfood and the birds are familiar with this food so there are no problems getting the birds to take it – and it makes little mess!

Some fanciers even add the Carophyll to the seed mix and it is said to stick to the seed and the birds take it in this way, but by far feeding in the softfood or the water is the most popular.
Carophyll Orange

The amount of Carophyll that’s added to the softfood is always a matter of personal preference. Different fanciers will tell you a different concentration, so if you find it gives you a colour that’s too hot, cut it back the following year. If it’s not giving you enough colour, increase it the following year.

What is consistent with most fanciers is that they will tell you it’s the head that moults through last and many of those fanciers think about cutting back on the Carophyll at this stage as sometimes the head can come through too hot and they describe it as “burning” Just cut the concentration back a bit at the last stage is the advice from many successful fanciers.

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  • Comments

"Red Agates" by
24 Jul 2019

Quick question - do red agate canaries also require color feeding? (Probably an obvious answer to a fancier, but I, the novice, hear largely of the infamous red factors needing this.)

Haith's customer services:

Yes, definitely colour feed them, hope this helps.
All the best,

"Colour Feeding" by
22 Mar 2019

Hi all
I have feed white canary with red colour, now he have a bit red colour on is feathers.
I want to pair with white female, the colour will affect the baby’s?
I appreciate if somebody can help.

Haith's customer services:

Thank you for your comments on our blog piece. In regards to your question we have a response for you. 'The colouring agent is taken into the bird, usually through the food or drinking water, and finds its way into the blood of the bird. As new feathers grow, the new feather is fed through the blood and the colouring enters the feather through that blood. The colouring agent is eventually filtered out of the blood. This is why it’s so important to start colour-feeding before the moult starts – continued through the moult until all the new feathers have opened up and are in place. Most canary fanciers will continue to feed colour-food in case any odd feathers drop and any new or replacement feather will still be coloured. If this does not happen, a white or yellow bird would grow a new feather of its initial colour and not be “coloured” So – it’s the special feeding that brings about the colour change.

When the bird is used for breeding – it’s easy to understand that nothing has changed of the genetics (the inheritance bit of the bird) so the bird will breed true to its natural colour. If the birds was originally white – it will breed as a white bird!'
All the best,

"Ms" by
17 Mar 2019

I am about to purchase a red canary. This is my first ever bird and I want to do it correctly and ensure the bird has all it needs for a happy and full life. Can you advise me please on an everyday feed? I’m getting so confused with so many different suggestions of what is the best food to give! He will be 8 weeks old when I get him and need help with what is the best for him.

Haith's customer services:

Thank you for leaving a comment on our blog piece. We would recommend our De Luxe Canary seed, as this includes many of the vitamins and minerals. As well as the edition of Niger Seed that helps prevent egg-binding and has tonic properties. For young canaries we would also recommend a soft food to ensure they stay in top condition.

"Mr" by
21 Oct 2018

I've a small canary mule was singing OK.till it went into moult. its been out of moult a few weeks now very lively fit any advice please.

Haith's customer services:

Dear Edward,
Many thanks for your comments on this blog piece, I can direct you to another blog here: (Copy and paste this URL into your web browser to view the blog). This blog should be able to help you. We're pleased to hear that your canary is doing well.
All the best,

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