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Issue # 10 July 4 2005

This Months Pet of The Month Article is: The Canary

Canaries are popular indoor pet that are easy to care for and beautiful to look at. We are going to cover some very basic tips and ideas on how to care for your new canary. If you are new to the  breed then I hope this article is helpful to you and if you are an experienced canary keeper feel free to email us any additional information so that we may pass it on to other readers.

A Little History

The Canary is native to Maderia and the Canary Islands for which it is named after. Its natural habitat  is semi-open areas such as orchards, where it can nest and find refuge from preditors. It prefers to nest in bushes and trees.

The wild bird is yellow-green, with streaking on its back and at 13cm in length, it is larger, longer and less contrasted than its relative the Serin. It also has more grey and brown in its plumage. These birds are considered songbirds as they "sing" delightful tunes. They sound much like the Goldfinch. They are a member of the finch family.

Canaries were first bred in the 1600's. They were brought over by Spanish sailors to Europe. Monks started breeding them and only sold the males (which sing). This kept the birds in short supply and drove the price up. Eventually Italians obtained hens and were able to breed the birds themselves. This made them very popular and resulted in many breeds arising and the birds being bred all over Europe.

In England, much the same happened. First the birds were only owned by the rich but eventually the local citizens started to breed them and, again, they became very popular. Many breeds arose through selective breeding.

Feeding Your Canary

There are a variety of foods available for Canaries. If you are looking into breeding Canaries, be sure to contact a breeder for more specific feeding guidelines. Most Canary Keepers only keep their birds for personal enjoyment so a traditional feed found at discount and pet stores that are made for Canaries suffice just fine. There are many added treats that you can purchase along with suet blocks that you can hang from the cage. You should place the feed hopper towards the bottom of the cage so the bird will fly down from the perch to get the seeds and then back up again. It gives great excercise for their wings.
 
Other foods that you can feed your Canary are: Hulled Oats, Corn, Grass seed, Linseed, Sunflower, Safflower, Fennel along with sprouted seeds, corn-on-the-cob, fresh fruit and fresh green vegies, such as Broccoli, Silver beet, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrot Tops and a variety of most other green vegies. Make sure that any fresh foods you feed them have not been treated with chemicals.

Housing

Have you visited the Pet Store to purchase your cage? Well you will be amazed at how many there are to chose from. Last visit I chanced on asking one of the sales persons what cage would be ideal for a variety of different birds. Their reply was "Which ever one best suits your budget." Good answer for a salesperson but not so good for some of the birds I did the research on.

Canaries should be housed in a square cage and not a round one. Tall also is a factor as birds normally fly up and down, not side to side.  The ideal size of a cage for your canary is rectangular, 30-40 in. long, fifteen to twenty inches wide and twenty-five or thirty inches tall or more, with bar spacing of no greater than one half an inch.  You should also provide him with a "bath" at least three times a week in the morning hours to make sure he is thouroughly dry before it is time to roost. Several hoppers are needed to give him a variety of foods and of course water.
 
Make sure you clean the cage on a regular schedule to prevent diseases. You should change it daily and replace with clean papers. Don't use sandpapered flooring or perches to avoid sores on his feet. Clean the perches weekly when you do the thourough cleaning of his cage.

Ailments

Please keep in mind that Canaries are very suseptible to illness caused by drafts, dirty cages, and improperly feeding your bird. If he becomes ill you should contact a veteranarian for professional advice. It is better to prevent an illness than to treat one so keep in mind that the more research you do the better prepared you are. You must be dedicated to preventing drafts and cleaning the cage. Once you have kept your bird for a time and have gotten to know him you will know when he is truely ill. You should also avoid leaving your bird outside to avoid contracting Canary Pox. Here are some other illnesses to watch for.
 
Scaly legs normally  found in older birds. Washing his legs in warm soapy water and applying an ointment for this disease for a few days will clear it up. You can purchase this ointment at a pet store.
 
Confinement Cramps  hence the name, excercise is the best preventitive. Keeping your bird in damp cages can cause this as well. Two to three drops of olive oil will help this as well as other cramps the bird developes.
 
Feather Pulling is usually a sign of dryness. It can also indicate lice or mites. This is when the feathers are continuously being pulled out, not just an occasional pulling out of feathers.
 
Lice and MItes To get rid of these canary parasites from your canary and his cage, you will have to wait till evening. This is when the parasites come out.  In the evening, remove the canary, the perches, the seed dishes and the water dish, then give every part of the cage a good spraying with a bird spray. Let the cage and the perches dry, in the meantime, wash the seed feeder, the water dish and anything else that came out of your canaries cage in a warm wash with disinfection or strong bleach added. When the cage, perches and other items are completely dry you can put everything back together but don't put the bird back just yet! You now have to spray your canary with the bird spray, then return him to his home.

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