Optimal canary nutrition can be relatively easy to achieve.In addition to fresh, clean water, quality seed should form the basis of your canary’s diet (60-70%), and can be provided in a dish or in the form of a seed bell or millet spray. The remaining 30-40% of the diet should consist of:
Fresh vegetables and fruit:
You can feed your canary small amounts of thoroughly washed and un-sprayed: silver beet, carrot tops, cooked or raw grated carrot, finely chopped capsicum, cooked kumara/pumpkin/yams, peas, corn, grated zucchini, grated cucumber, mung bean sprouts, bananas, apples (without pips), pears (without pips), apricots (without stones), peaches (without stones), oranges, mandarins, kiwifruit, grape, and raspberries.
When fresh veges are unavailable, frozen mixed vegetables can be thawed and offered.
Vegetables should be offered daily, but fruit is recommended to be offered only 3 times a week (it can cause diarrhoea if fed in excess).
Broccoli and spinach is recommended to be given in only small amounts once or twice a week as they are thought to interfere with calcium uptake. Too much broccoli in the diet may also lead to thyroid problems.
Remember to discard any uneaten fruit/veges after 4 hours as they will become spoiled and can cause gastro-intestinal problems if eaten.
Occasional foods: (twice a week)
Include whole grain or whole wheat bread (can be soaked first), cooked chicken’s egg (scrambled or boiled – remove after 2 hrs), cooked brown rice, a small amount of cooked potato, and mealworms as a source of protein. Soaked/sprouted seeds such as Topflite ‘Soak and Sprout’ can also be offered (follow instructions carefully!) Sprouting seeds must be rinsed with water often during the sprouting process to prevent fungal and bacterial contamination. Only sprout as much seed as you can feed at any one time and thoroughly rinse the sprouts before feeding. (Remember to remove any uneaten sprouts after 4 hours).
Offer your canary some cuttlefish bone, a mineral bell, and a small amount of oyster grit. The cuttle-bone and mineral bell will provide your bird with calcium, and the oyster grit serves a dual purpose: it is both a source of calcium and phosphorous and it is used to aid digestion. Ornithon is a powdered multi-vitamin and mineral supplement that can be mixed into your bird’s water. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and be aware that water that has been supplemented with vitamins must be discarded at the end of each day to prevent bacterial growth. When supplementing – take care not to overdose, an overdose of vitamins could make your bird just as sick as a vitamin deficiency!
Foods to avoid:
Dairy foods (apart from small amounts of cheddar cheese which is low in lactose), sugary foods, salty foods, raw potato, potato skin, red kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, fava beans, grapefruit, lettuce, cabbage, brussel’s sprouts, cauliflower, kale, choy, rutabaga, swede, kohlrabi, turnip, the mustard family, mushrooms, and parsley. Lettuce can cause diarrhoea, and research suggests that cabbage, brussels’ sprouts, cauliflower, kale, choy, rutabaga, swede, kohlrabi, and turnip may contribute to iodine deficiency and that parsley may cause health problems if too much is given. Canned foods are also not recommended due to their high sodium content.
Include mouldy or perished foods, avocado, the onion family, the green parts of the potato (cooked or un-cooked), potato plant leaves and stalks, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, cocoa, rhubarb leaves and stalks, tomato plant leaves and stalks, mushrooms, un-cooked or dried beans, fruit pips/stones, asparagus, tobacco, raw egg, eggplant, also damp, wet, or mouldy nuts. It is also important to avoid cooking with non-stick Teflon cookware in the same room as your canary, as it produces fumes that are highly toxic to birds.
– Lyane Scarlett B.Sc., Dip. Teach., Dip. Lab. Tech., V.N.
- Burgmann, Petra M. Feeding Your Pet Bird. 1993. Barron’s Educational Series Inc., New York, USA.
- Dodwell, G. T. The Complete Book of Canaries. 1986. Lansdowne Press, Sydney, Australia.
- Harrison, Greg J. and Lightfoot, Teresa L. Clinical Avian Medicine. 2006. Spix Publishing Inc., Palm Beach, Florida, USA.
- Hill, Geoffrey E. and McGraw, Kevin J. Bird Coloration: Function and Evolution. 2006. Harvard College, USA.
- Lindner, Linda A. The Guide to Owning a Canary. 1997. T.F.H. Publications Ltd., Neptune City, New Jersey, USA.
- Mcwatters, Alicia. Sprouted Seed (article) – Bird Talk Magazine. October 1996.
- Palika, Liz. RSPCA – What Your Bird Needs. 2000. Dorling Kindersley, Sydney, Australia.
- Von Frisch, Otto. Canaries – A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual. 1983. Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., New York, USA.
- Vriends, Mathew M. and Heming-Vriends, Tanya M. Handbook of Cage and Aviary Birds. 2004. D&S Books Ltd., Devon, England.