Keeping and caring for canaries

Along with budgerigars, canaries are among the most popular pet birds. If you want to offer them a good home, you first need to get well informed about their needs.

Their social behaviour

Canaries are very sociable birds and are happiest in a group with lots of their own kind. As a result, they need to be kept with at least one other canary, or even better, a whole flock. If they can live with their own species, they will demonstrate a broad range of social behaviours and complex communication with their peers. Canaries show their feelings with a variety of sounds and vocalisations, but also with clear body language. The males, for example, try to impress their favoured females by “dancing”. As canaries are very peaceful little fellows, it is sometimes possible to co-habitat them with other bird species. That said, only real bird experts should attempt this.

Their accommodation
The German Veterinary Association for the Protection of Animals (TVT) recommends an aviary measuring at least 1.5 m long, 60 cm deep and 100 cm high for one pair of canaries. As with all other species of birds, the more space the better. In addition, these birds need to fly freely around the room for at least an hour a day. If this isn’t possible, your aviary should have a floor area of 2 m² for each pair of canaries with at least 2 m³ flight space. Alongside standard items such as perches, food bowls and water dispensers, your basic equipment should also include a swing and, above all else, a bathing area. These yellow songbirds are extremely clean and like to take a daily bath.

Their menu

As a good basic food source, canaries should have a mix of grains from specialty stores that is tailored to their individual needs. However, they should only have one teaspoon per bird per day. These little birds also love to nibble on fresh twigs, young grasses, chickweed and dandelion leaves. As a delicacy, they like a variety of fruit such as apples, tangerines or bananas. Canaries can eat most kinds of vegetables too. Be careful though: damsons, avocado, plums and grapefruit must be strictly avoided as they can cause serious digestive disorders.

Their activity programme
Full of spirits and very curious, canaries will stay playful their whole lives long. As a result, they need plenty of variety in their environment. Offer your pet birds ladders, perches and ropes made from natural materials. As with swings and seat rings, you can put these outside the cage for more “action”. Your birds need to be able to fly freely for a minimum of one hour a day. If possible, you should let your pets fly around even longer than that. Canaries are very active, so even a large aviary isn’t big enough to satisfy their needs.

Winning their trust

If your canaries are allowed to fly freely, it’s safer to entice them back into the cage on your hand or with a treat. You will need plenty of patience if you want to tame your canaries to sit on your hand. These colourful songbirds are shy birds that need time to develop real trust. They are also extremely skittish, and will never become as trusting as budgerigars. To win your birds’ trust and arouse their sense of curiosity, you should avoid making jerky movements or loud noises near them. Speak to your pets quietly and tempt them to come to the cage bars with treats. Next, put a piece of foxtail millet or fruit on your hand so that your bird has to climb on to it in order to get the treat. It probably won’t work the first time, and it could take a while till these little birds dare to take this big step. But once they find the courage to stand on your hand, the ice will have been broken and you’ll have laid the foundation for many years of wonderful friendship.

Online tip

You can find further information about keeping, caring for, feeding and entertaining canaries at

Call into your local store today to discuss your birds’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts