How to breed canary birds

The breeding cage should have plenty of fine gravel or sea-sand at the bottom, and a lump of old mortar, for the birds to pick. Goats' hair must be supplied for the nest. The birds when put up should be fed on bread, the yolk of boiled eggs and a little sugar. Let them have fresh greens in moderation. The birds should not be allowed to breed more than twice or thrice a year. The period of incubation is 14 days: in very warm weather, 13. The last of March is early enough to put the birds in the breeding-cage.

If the hen desert her eggs, they are probably bad, and should be thrown out.

If the hen eat her eggs, feed her well very early in the morning, or late at night. If the male break the eggs, let him have two hens; these must not be allowed in the same cage, or they will fight.

If the hen neglect to feed her young, stir her out of the nest and supply her with an abundance of delicate food. As soon as the young are hatched, place beside the usual feeding-trough a cup containing finely grated hard-boiled egg and stale bread rubbed fine and soaked in milk; also, one containing crushed rape-seed, boiled and afterwards washed with fresh water.

The young may be placed in separate cages in about 4 weeks.


Canary-seed alone is sufficient, but usually a mixture of canary, hemp, millet and rape, known as bird-seed, is used. Each cage should have a piece of cuttle-fish bone. Food is best supplied in the evening, and all stale food and refuse of every kind should be removed daily. The bottom of the cage should be strewn with fine gravel or sand, fresh water supplied daily, and a saucer of water for bathing twice a week. Greens should be cautiously supplied.

_To Distinguish the Sex._

The throat of the male vibrates while singing; this never happens with the hen. The males are larger, more yellow above the bill, under the throat and in the pinion of the wings. The body of the male is longer and more tapering.


Birds with long, straight and tapering bodies are the best singers. By putting 2 or 3 birds together they will vie with each other.


Surfeit from improper or excessive food is shown by swelling of the belly, which, on blowing up the feathers, appears transparent and covered with little bloodvessels. In birds from 1 to 3 years old it shows itself in scabs and humors about the head. Take away canary-seed, and add some grits, which will purge; put a little saffron in water. Anoint the affected parts with almond-oil.

Husk, from cold. It produces a dry, husky cough, and is difficult to cure. Give them some flax-seed mixed with the bird-seed and a little rock-candy in the water, and for a few mornings a little boiled bread and milk.

Excessive perspiration from a warm season, confined locality, or sitting too closely on the nest. The feathers are ruffled and damp, and the bird feeble. Wash with salt and water for several mornings, or sprinkle a few drops of sherry over the bird, and put it in the sun to dry.

Egg-bound, from cold. Give the bird a little moist sugar, or anoint the abdomen with warm sweet oil; if these fail, give a drop of castor-oil.

Moulting.--Avoid cold, give sunshine, some bread and egg, with saffron in the water.

Sneezing is caused by obstruction of the nostril, which may be removed by a small quill.

Fits.--Plunge the bird suddenly into cold water, and cut two of its claws short enough for the blood to run.

Lice.--Allow the birds to bathe frequently; keep the cage very clean, with plenty of dry sand in the bottom. Put some hollow sticks in the cage; the lice will collect in them, and may be removed.

Drooping.--When a bird continues sickly without apparent cause, give a little powdered charcoal mixed with bread and egg.

Accidents.--For a broken leg or wing, put the bird in a cage without perches, and covered at the bottom with soft hay. Let its food be within easy reach, and keep the cage covered.

Return to The Household Cyclopedia of General Information