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How to Choose a Cage for your Pet Canary
by R C McDonald
Copyright 2004

It can be difficult to realize just how thoroughly these little creatures
of the air can use their space in all its dimensions. Even experienced
bird keepers sometimes allow their canaries to be kept in too-small
or incorrectly set-up cages, whether for the sake of convenience
or budget. While there may be short-term savings, such budgeting
may have unforeseen long-term effects, if left in place too long.

It's difficult to qualify exactly how much limiting a canary's ability to
fly and exercise will affect his longer-term life, but a look at data
from studies on humans and other species tells us that inability to
exercise properly is liable to have a rather strong impact on overall
health and eventual lifespan.

Most retailers will tell you to get as large a cage as possible for your
avian companion (s). While this is generally true, larger may not always
be better. For example, a smaller but properly set-up rectangular
cage will almost always offer more useable space to a canary, than
a larger and incorrectly set-up round cage.

Why? It's simple, actually. How useable the cage will actually be to
the canary depends on three factors; the volume of space the cage
encloses, the shape of the cage, and how the perches are
arranged within it.

Because of the way canaries prefer to move (back and forth), it's
nice to have something as wide as possible, that allows for a little
room to fly. Less than thirty inches in width will not do, because most
canaries can easily hop that far without once needing to spread their wings.

Ideally, perches should be placed across the narrow ends of each
side of the cage, roughly parallel to each other, allowing the bird to
travel back and forth between them easily. If the cage is tall enough,
you can hang a swing in the center, making sure that the middle of the
swing's perch hangs at about the same point you would find if you
drew an equilateral triangle between the middles of the two lower
opposing perches and the bottom of the swing.

The perches should be far enough away from the ends of the cage
that the bird's tail won't touch the bars when he turns around.
Unfortunately that perch arrangement may put the perches right
over the food and water dishes, which are so often centered in the
lower right and left hand sides of the cage front.

If that's the case with your cage, I recommend throwing the food
dishes away, and if necessary, wiring over the holes they leave behind.
Get a few easily cleaned feed cups that can be hung anywhere in
the cage, and go ahead and arrange your bird's cage to suit him,
rather than requiring him to adapt to suit a poor cage design.

It's nice if you can also have a little height to a cage, without having
a cage so tall that it requires a bird to enter "helicopter mode" to
reach the top perches. This kind of flight requires a lot of effort, and
is very tiring, so make sure your bird is healthy and strong, before
you try him in a tall cage.

On the other hand, lots of upward flight will help to strengthen a
healthy bird's wings and overall physique, and can be very useful
exercise to be able to offer, especially for a group of hens during
the winter season.

During breeding season, canaries don't share well, and because of
this most people won't try to house a flock in an aviary through
the spring and early summer. But the rest of the year, many canaries
can and do share larger aviaries and flight cages. Attempting this
can receive widely varying results, depending on - you guessed it
- cage set-up.

No matter how large the cage, all the canaries will want to sit at
the top level, and that means that you will need a minimum of six
inches of perch at that level, for every bird in the flight. That figure
is just an average, too - some will require quite a lot more, a few
may require less. You need to have plenty of food dishes and
drinkers in a shared flight, too. They are best spaced around the
area, rather than near each other where one bird can dominate
many dishes or drinkers.

Care and judgment always needs to be exercised when providing
canaries with larger-sized flying areas, because the energy required
to use such a space can be make a critical difference in a big hurry,
should a bird become even the slightest bit ill. Keep a close eye on
canaries kept in larger aviaries or flights, and be prepared to pull
any bird who looks even the slightest bit off.

I always worry on hearing someone say they are looking for a cage
'with some style' - because often this means they have something
highly ornamental in mind. While most of these kinds of cages are
quite lovely, unfortunately very few are actually suitable for canaries
to live in.

When you house your bird in a fancy cage, you will find that it can
be very difficult to see your bird clearly through all the fanciness -
with these cages, the eye is drawn to look at the cage, rather than
the bird inside it.

Worse - most ornamental cages are much more difficult to keep
clean than a simply designed cage.

Yet another factor is that many of these cages are finished in pale,
pastel colors. These look pretty, but in actual fact, lighter-colored
bars tend to 'grab' the eye, and so will wind up detracting some
of your attention from the bird itself - unless you happen to
own a dark-colored canary.

In order to be able to see a lighter colored canary easily, the best
color for the cage bars is black. This may sound dark and dismal
- but in actual fact, the eye tends to ignore the black bars, and
look through them to the bird.

So spend a little time considering all these factors before you get
your next cage, and plan to re-arrange it as necessary, in order to
make it as suitable as possible for your canary. You never know,
you just might find yourself reaping the rewards of your
thoughtfulness for longer than you'd ever expected!

See some birdcages reviewed by Robirda at

by R C McDonald
Copyright 2004
Reprinted with Permission

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