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All About Breeding Canaries

Updated on February 18, 2013

Breeding advice,tips and suggestions.

Canaries are among the most popular pet birds. They have been kept by people in cages for several centuries because of their melodic singing and joyful character. This small bodied finch from the Canary Islands, despite it's popularity it is still considered by many beginners as a difficult bird to breed, at least when compared to some popular breeds of parrots and finches. I have been breeding canaries successfully since I was 10 years old and this lens is my guide on how to succeed in breeding canaries. I hope you will enjoy reading it ! Thank you for visiting !

Image Credit:

User erix! on

The Basics - General Information about Canaries

The canary is a small finch originating from the Canary and Azores Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Contrary to popular belief, wild canaries are NOT yellow. In fact their appearance is very modest-looking with mostly brown and earthy tones., You can see how wild canaries look in the picture below. After years of breeding and experimenting with genetics, canaries now come in a great variety of colours and types like various shades of yellow (the most widespread), red,orange,white e.t.c. In addition, there are many different breeds of canaries according to their type,like crested canaries and frilled canaries.However,they are most famous for their singing abilities and this is the main reason behind their popularity as pet birds.

The wild canary (serinus canaria)

Image Credit:

By Eduardo Martínez (originally posted to Flickr as Canario) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Read the list below before moving on !

A few things you need to have - -OR- Learn

You will need:

  • A pair of canary birds,male and female.(duh !)
  • A cage of adequate size, I recommend one that is at least 50cm x 30cm x 25cm.
  • Proper lighting (if you are keeping your pair indoors).
  • A nest and nesting material
  • A variety of canary/finch foods like a mixture of seeds,fresh greens,fruits and occasionally boiled eggs.
  • Patience and persistence, especially if you are trying this for the first time.
  • A reference book, or even better, a super-cool Squidoo Lens dedicated to Breeding Canaries - like this one ! You are so lucky that you found this :)

The Canary Handbook
The Canary Handbook

A great illustrated guide to our beloved songbird.This is really a great book with very useful information, beautiful pictures and it's worth buying it if you have or are planning to get some canaries.The customer's reviews on amazon are representative of it's quality.This was in fact one of the first books I purchased on the topic and I highly recommend it.


Please keep mind that this guide is mainly intended for beginners. All the advice contained here is my personal opinion and experience from breeding canaries for 20 years. I am not however a professional breeder.

First things first

How do you know that you have a pair of canaries? How do you tell male birds from females?

The short answer is that you can't tell them apart !

At least not by just looking at them. Unfortunately canaries are not dimorphic - the male and female bird look exactly the same and you cannot tell them apart by spotting any differences in the morphology or colour. However you can easily detect male birds by keeping this in mind:

Male canaries sing. Female canaries do not !

Watch out though that this applies only to adult birds, as juveniles will not sing regardless of gender.

Image Credit:

User rkramer62 on

When is the best time to breed your canaries?

and how to tell when they are ready to do so

Canaries like other types of finches and birds are photosensitive. That means that they come in breeding condition when there is enough daylight available - this is the springtime. In the North hemisphere the best time to start breeding your birds is mid February-early March when the days get longer and the weather warmer. If you are keeping your birds indoors,make sure that you keep their cage in a place that gets plenty of sunlight (but not directly).

One important thing that needs to be said here is that unlike other pet birds you might know, canaries must be kept apart prior and after the breeding season - males should be kept in separate cages (one bird in each cage) while females can be kept in cages in groups depending on the size of the cages you have available.

The pair is put together only when the time is ready (plenty of daylight) and better yet, when the birds exhibit the following behaviour:

Female birds will start tearing paper - and/or moving nesting material in the nest (if there is one available)

Male birds will sing for longer periods of time and their song will become louder.They will also be more active than usual by moving around their cage.

Sexing Canaries

If you are not sure about your birds sex ask for help ! Find an expert breeder or pet shop and ask them to help you.

A list of things to avoid doing !

The DO NOT List - This is important

  • Do NOT keep more than one pair of canaries in the same cage.
  • Do NOT keep the pair together in the same cage throughout the year.
  • Do NOT keep your birds in tiny cages. Especially females need a lot of flying space in order to stretch their muscles and prepare their bodies for the breeding season.
  • Do NOT keep canaries with other birds. If you have aviary-type cages it’s generally OK to keep them together with other types of small finches but again, this only applies during the non-breeding season.
  • Do NOT keep the pair together if they start fighting each other. Instead separate them and try putting them together again in a few days-or weeks.


Cage setup & Positioning

Your breeding cage should measure at least 50cm x 30cm x 20cm. Besides size the cage's position is equally important. Pet birds in general, are happier when kept at a certain height- ideally your cage should not be lower than your eye level. If you position the cage lower, your birds will be under a lot of stress all the time and your breeding efforts are likely to fail. To minimize any stress further, a suitable breeding cage for canaries should only have one side open to view. Finally, you should avoid repositioning the cage often. Find a suitable spot and keep it there, at least until the breeding season is over.

Houses for your breeding pair

It's time !

Ready to breed

So you've been keeping your female and male canaries in different cages, springtime has arrived and the days got longer ! You've even found and positioned a suitable breeding cage.What's next?

It's now time to introduce your birds to each other and let nature takes it's course !

This is the method I use with my canaries and has worked well for me for many years.

First I place a couple of nests in the cage. It's better to give your hen more than one choice,making sure that you position the nests some place high in the breeding cage. After making sure that the cage is ready I release the hen and let her to get to know the place for a day or so before introducing the male canary. The next day I let the male into the cage as well. Ideally, after a few days - or minutes ! - the male will start flirting with the hen by chasing her all around the cage and singing passionately trying to seduce her. Then, mating will take place and the birds - primarily the female- will start building a nest, followed by the laying of the eggs. The eggs will be incubated by the hen for 14 days before hatching. During that time the female canary will rarely leave the nest and if you have a really cool canary-dad, he will feed his partner at times by taking food in the nest for her !

The arrival of the chicks !

When the eggs finally hatch

After about 14 days of incubating the eggs will hatch. Both parents usually take care of the chicks by feeding them while the female will still remain in the nest the first several days in order to keep the youngs warm. The chick canaries grow fast and if everything goes well they will be ready to leave the nest 21 days later. At that time the hen will be ready for a second batch of eggs, so it might be a good idea to separate them from their parents (the best way is to use a divider to split the cage in two so that their parents can still feed them throughout the cage openings but they will be unable to harass their mother.)

After a second successful hatch it is better if you put an end to the breeding season by separating the couple and giving the hen chance to recover and prepare for the next season.


For optimal results and to avoid damaging your birds health, proper preparation must take place prior the breeding season.Females need to have plenty of space available to fly and exercise their muscles. All birds must be fed on a varied died of seeds,greens,fruits and minerals. Additionally their cages must be kept extra clean.

Image Credit:

User godhead22 on

Questions ?

Post them here and I will be happy to help you !

Canary Breeding Videos - on YouTube

Breeding Problems

Sometimes things go wrong...

Possible problems

  • The hen will lay an egg per day, but she will start incubating immediately after egg #1. So, not all eggs will hatch the same time, meaning that the older chicks will be fed better and grow faster. This can prove to be lethal for the younger chicks. To avoid this, some breeders remove the eggs and replace them with dummy ones and reintroduce them when the laying of the eggs finishes. I personally have never tried this but I am very satisfied with the approach I follow.
  • Sometimes the male canary will harass the hen while incubating the eggs. There's an easy solution for this. Remove him from the cage. The female can take care the chicks on her own.
  • After hatch #1 the chicks will usually keep on begging for food and harassing their mother. Similar solution as above applies here. Remove them from the cage.

Canaries Vs Parrots

Which do you prefer as a pet ? Why so ?


I will love to hear your feedback about this lens !


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      3 years ago


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      3 years ago

      Love it! As a Son-Rise Dad, I totally get how imtrnpaot it is to form positive beliefs when we are with our children. It makes such a difference, situations go from darkness' to light' when I all I see is light . For example today, a volunteer in our program changed a belief and it made a huge difference. When she first saw and hear our son crying, she began to feel very bad for him. This belief did not change the crying. In fact, our son seem to stay in pain. Afterwards ,she and I talked about it, and she decided not to have any limiting beliefs about our son when he was crying and in pain, she decided to have fun with him and not feel bad for him. She decided to be as strong and happy and comfortable and still express love that he wasn't feel well. And he did not cry once in the playroom with her.


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