April 25, 2023

Questions and Answers #3 -- I don't want to breed, just have a group of colorful birds to watch!

"I don't want to breed canaries;  I just want a colorful group to watch!"
When I hear this comment, it sends chills up my spine. 

Most often people who start out by saying these words end up coming back for more birds in a year or two!  "I don't know what happened.. they just seemed to die one at a time.  Oh, it was heartbreaking!  It will be so much fun to have a cage full again!  I want to buy another dozen!"

There go the chills again!  I am learning to say NO to these people. 

One local lady had a very pretty corner acrylic-enclosed aviary, medium to small sized.  She owned larger birds such as Amazons and cockatiels, each in their own cages with lots of space and play tops.  But she put 8 canaries, one hen and seven males, in her 'small' acrylic 'aviary'.... and watched them chase that poor hen mercilessly, continuously.  One by one the males were found dead or fatally injured.  Finally, the lone survivor at the end of a year's time died too.

When she came back for more canaries, the first time, I dropped some very obvious pointers that maybe a bachelor's-only house would be best suited.  Nope, she wanted that little hen too. 

A year passed, and when she came looking to buy again, I told her no.  And I didn't sugar coat it with half truths about not being ready to sell.  I told her I was not sending my birds home with her to their certain death.

LET ME TELL YOU THIS TRUTH:  Even if YOU have made the decision not to raise young canaries, your birds will not understand!  Instinct, as Nature intended, tells them to nest, lay eggs and all of the other behaviors of reproduction, including territorial fighting!

These behaviors include building nests, laying eggs, and mating with the opposite sex.  These behaviors are perfectly harmless... even laying eggs.  A hen is so happy and content building a nest, and then incubating eggs.  She won't mind at all if you replace her real eggs with any type of small fake egg or marble. You can leave the nest and fake eggs under her for two or three weeks or until she decides the eggs won't hatch.  She will be a little thin after sitting on the nest with no activity.  But, that is just the cycle of nature and she will gain weight soon enough.  If she wants to nest a second time, put the nest back in and swap the fake eggs for her eggs.  She will be happy, doing what she was born to do.  :)

However, some behaviors of birds in a group are destructive!

Canaries, both males and females, are territorial by nature, in the wild.  Wild song birds are also.  We see wild birds flock together for migration, but nesting adults are separated by yards, often miles in some species.  We've all seen robins dive bombing cats, dogs and other birds that get too close to their chosen nesting space.

So, multiple males together in a flight will fight!  Even hens will tear into each other over a favorite nesting spot or perch.  And no cage or flight, no matter how large, can duplicate the wide outdoors in allowing space to get away from competing birds.

Because they are COMPETING!  Nature provides an instinct for survival, for defense, and for aggressive behavior to scare away other birds that would compete for a mate, for food, for that quiet hidden perch on which to relax and sleep.

These instincts, natural urges, will vary with the seasons.  A group of mixed sex canaries may co-exist calmly during the winter, when they are in their natural rest period.  But, as soon as the longer days of spring come, their hormones will switch to breeding mode.  Males will begin chasing the hens and fighting with each other.  Hens will fight with each other over nesting spots or to be first at the seed dish.

Canaries chasing each other all around the cage or flight are NOT playing tag!

The answer?  Rather than debate and wonder about how to build the flight larger, it is WISE to BUY a colony species, such as finches that prefer the comfort of a group all together. If you must have canaries, a group of all hens or all males MAY (?) get along  better if they are the same sex.  A pair MAY (?) get along most of the year, but not necessarily always. Be prepared to remove any aggressive bird, male or female into a separate cage.

Temporary solutions include: put in MANY perches, at different levels, so competing birds do not have to look at one another.  Put in fake greenery to subdivide the space, allowing one male to be quietly eating out of sight of any bird looking for a fight.  Use multiple feed dishes, also at different heights or out of sight.  Use multiple water dishes and bath dishes.  

I repeat:  Birds of the same sex may co-exist peacefully together during the winter and during the molt.  But keep an eye on their behavior:  as soon as their hormones say it is Spring and time for breeding, there will be fighting, serious fighting!

April 15, 2022

Softfood and Birdie Bread Recipes

 I was recently asked what I fed for soft food during breeding season.  I like my homemade mix and birdie bread, but also feed a commercial egg food mix for saving time.  I have found the commercial mixes are similar, but after testing three readily available brands, I prefer the Higgins brand.  The birds seemed to like it, the chicks did well, and it's price was in the middle.

Here is a pdf of my Soft Food and Birdie Bread Recipes!

January 5, 2022

My Record-Keeping Forms, with working links!

 If you are looking for my RECORD-KEEPING forms, and found broken links, here is a list of the forms, with proper links!  

December 15, 2021

Questions and Answers #2 --- What color will the chicks be?

Q )  This is a very common question:    If I put this pair of canaries together, what color will the chicks be?

This is a question posted online many times:  what to expect (variegation) from pairing two birds... such as clear, self or variegated.  This is a fairly basic subject.... without definite answers if the birds are not of your own breeding.  The grandparent birds' appearances do influence future generations.  So, these basic guidelines are simply a starting point in guessing what the offspring will look like.

However, these guidelines are a good place to start!  They are quotes from several of the best books there are!  The photos below are from The Practical Canary Handbook:  A Guide To Breeding & Keeping Canaries  by Marie Miley-Russell and Canaries and Related Birds by Horst Bielfeld.  These books also cover other aspects of pairing two birds, such as color, feather type/quality, and other traits.

types of variegation ➞
predicted variegation
in chicks ➞
predicted variegation
and color
in chicks ➟
I cannot stress strongly enough:
Please LEARN all you can about canaries!
Please purchase and read at least one really good canary book.

If you are serious about breeding canaries, these are the best of the best!
All can be found on Amazon or Ebay.
  •  Canaries and Related Birds
    By Horst Bielfeld

    Feeding and housing of canaries in the European tradition, but is good, solid information.
    Good, detailed descriptions and breeding tips of a complete list of breeds, colors, and types!  Includes many helpful photos of good examples of breed/color standards... photos as simple as comparing hard/soft feather birds, and as advanced as comparing subtle differences in breed standards!
  • Coloured, Type and Song Canaries:
    A Complete Guide to Keeping, Breeding and Showing
    by G.B.R. Walker and Dennis Avon

    Descriptions of the various breeds, types and colors of canaries, as well as notes on standards for showing, guidelines for breeding and examples of care/feeding of canaries.  You will find answers to most of your questions in this book. The practical aspects of the genetics of breeding explained. Contains only basic explanations of showing. Some new color mutations are not included.
  •  The Practical Canary Handbook:  A Guide To Breeding & Keeping Canaries
    by Marie Miley-Russell

    Covering many subjects, this book describes the methods and the practices of an experienced breeder. Read this from cover to cover, and you will learn the important principles of successfully breeding canaries! One of the best! 
    NO PHOTOS!! No discussion of color breeding.
A list of all my favorite canary books can be found here:
Good Canary Books.

Questions & Answers #1 --- Letter to an American Singer buyer

Topics in this post:

  • Hens laying few or no eggs.

  • Chicks dying at week of age.

  • Increasing egg laying and fertility.

  • Color Intensity really is Feather Type.

  • American Singer song varies with individual bird.

A customer searching for American Singer canaries had a few questions and I am sharing my thoughts with my blog readers.  I reference articles and show results found on the American Singer Club website.

Dear M---,

Q  #1)  When I asked WHY you wanted American Singers, you said you wanted yellow birds.  And you were disappointed when a breeder sold you dark birds including heavily variegates and a green self.

First, American Singers are not predominately yellow.  The American Singer canary is a cross between a German Roller and an English Border Fancy.  The American Singer canary comes in all colors and melanin, including clears, variegates, and self birds in yellow and white grounds.  There are provisions for red factor colored American Singers and I have seen cinnamon birds on winners lists in the past 20 years.

The point show score system points does not give points for color, and there is to be no preference by judges for color.  If you look over the list of recent show winners, you will see a few clear birds, but many more self or variegated birds.  You may be interested in looking over the current year's list of winners at the ASC song contests in 2021.

Second,  there is the term of 'yellow' being used for hard feather type, or it may be called intensive. 'Buff' is the term for the soft feather type.  Traditionally, most canary breeds and types are bred with a yellow (or hard feather) bird paired with a buff (or soft feather) bird.  

The purpose of breeding 'hard/intensive' to 'soft/buff' is to produce the best possible feather qualities.  A hard feather bird carries color to the very edge of the feather, and produces a tight smooth line.  A soft feather bird will have a paler edge to the feathers, and produces a more fluffy, rounded outline.  Pairing one of each type does keep a very nice feather and carries good bright color in both feather types.

I think this is one important aspect of breeding that is most often ignored by novices and more experienced breeders alike, of all canary breeds!

An article on the American Singer Club website is quoted as "Some breeders claim we have bred the yellow out of our American Singers..." and goes on to describe a buff - rich description of feather.  I agree with this, and have seen the buff - rich effect in my own American Singers.  For a good, short article on this topic, see Yellow Ground Color in Canaries.

Buff/Soft Feather

Intensive/Hard Feather

All breeders have personal preferences for different song notes... AND for birds with certain appearances or color.  Of course , that is as it should be.  But to say:  'American Singers should be yellow' is not a part of the American Singer Club constitution.  At the very beginning in the 1950's, song contests were divided into color classifications, but within a few years, the classes in song contests became Old and Young.

Yellow Variegated Buff

October 5, 2021

Photos of Extra Birds are ONLINE!


*** Photos of Birds For Sale ***

Please read :  TERMS of SALE

Don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions!

August 21, 2021

It is time to begin thinking of NEXT YEAR! 😍

Now is a GREAT TIME in the bird room, as I am watching the youngsters and will soon begin to make my plans for next year's breeding season!  I am also receiving messages from people looking for a singing companion or new birds for their breeding plans next year.  All inquiries about new birds are welcome.  Stay updated about available birds by following my Facebook page or visiting Montana Canaries where I will post photos of all individual birds beginning the first week in September!