Nutrition is commonly neglected with pet birds. You should discuss your bird’s nutrition with your veterinarian. Too often owners assume they are feeding a proper diet to their canary when in fact they are not. This is a common reason for many health problems. It is important to continually strive to improve your bird’s diet. This involves constantly educating yourself as well as a certain degree of common sense. It is not sufficient to feed a canary just to maintain life; instead, your goal should be to help it thrive and flourish. Your bird’s health depends on how well it is fed.
Wild canaries would eat a great variety of seed types in the wild as different plants come into season. Commercial seed mixes may contain from 2 – 5 different kinds of seeds. However, they tend to be high in fat and carbohydrates and provide a deficient or imbalanced source of many nutrients, which could lead to ill health and potentially shorten the life of your canary. The problem is, canaries tend to selectively eat only 1 or 2 of their favorite types of seed. Millet seed is often chosen preferentially. Owners will often also offer a millet spray or branch. This, of course, is more of the same seed and leads to further malnutrition. HoneySticks are also often offered, but once again, these contain more seeds that are stuck together with sugar and honey. Molting foods, song foods and conditioning foods are also available. These products are simply different combinations of more seeds that really have no particular bearing on the condition that they claim to treat. Healthy molts, vibrant song and strong condition is achieved with a balanced diet all of the time.
As a guideline, most canaries can be maintained on 1 – 2 level measure teaspoons of seeds per bird, per day in a shallow dish depending on the size of the bird. If there is more than one canary in the cage, separate dishes should be used for each bird to ensure those birds at the bottom of the pecking order have a chance to eat. This may not be possible in a flock situation. If there are any seeds left over in the dish at the end of the day, it suggests that too many seeds were offered originally.
Converting seed eating birds (seed-aholics) onto a formulated diet is not always easy. Initially, pellets are not likely even identified as food. Slowly wean the bird off seeds over a period of 4-8 weeks while having pellets constantly available in a separate dish. Some people mix the pellets in a reduced amount of seed to aid its acceptance in the cage, but you should be aware that the bird will not accidentally eat a pellet. It may take days, weeks or months to modify a bird’s diet. NEVER withdraw seeds entirely without first being certain the bird is eating the pellets plus some fruits and vegetables. Birds are stubborn, but can be trained. This can be a stressful time for you and your canary.
- Consult your veterinarian if encountering any problems with this transition or with the health of your bird.
- Remember that you train the bird; do not let it train you.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits, vegetables and greens should account for approximately 20 – 25% of the daily diet. Pale vegetables, with a high water composition (i.e. Iceberg or Head lettuce, celery) offer very little nutritional value. Avocado is reported to be potentially toxic.
Fruits and vegetables must be washed thoroughly to remove chemicals. Cut them into manageable pieces depending on the size of the bird. It is not necessary to take the skin off. Offer fruits and vegetables in a separate dish. If your bird appears to develop a particular fancy for one food item, reduce the volume or stop feeding it temporarily to promote the eating of other foods.
Treat your bird like a small child; offer a small piece of a variety of food items daily and never stop trying.
- A well balanced diet must be maintained at all times.
Fresh clean water must be available at all times. Depending on the quality of your tap water, you might consider the use of bottled water. Dishes must be cleaned thoroughly every day with soap and water.