I urge you not to buy through mail-order firms. In my opinion it is an act of cruelty to mail a bird in a tiny box where it will be frightened half to death and perhaps subjected to rough handling.
Tips for Buying a Bird: If you do not have much experience with birds, take along someone who is more knowledgeable. Allow yourself plenty of time so that you can watch the available birds at your leisure. Watch out for possible signs of distress or disease. If you suspect that a bird may be sick because it is sitting still with its head tucked into its feathers, take a second look a little later. Perhaps it was just sleeping. Purchase a cage and accessories and set them up before you buy the canary so that the bird will find everything in its new home ready for use. To ease the transition for your new little friend, ask to be given some of the birdseed mixture the bird is used to. Ask the seller whether the bird is accustomed to having people around. If it has been living in a big aviary and has had little contact with its keeper, you'll have to treat it with special consideration at first.
The Right Canary Cage:
The average Canary cage should be about 20 inches wide and 20 inches tall.
The cage bars should run vertically on at least 2 sides.
The bar spacing should be 3/8 to ½ inch.
The bottom pan should be made of plastic and slide in and out like a drawer.
The perches should be made of wood from ½ to 5/8 inch diameter.
Should have 3 food dishes, One for seed, one for water and one for fruit.
A Cage That Feels Comfortable: Even though cage canaries don't know what life in nature is like because they have been bred in captivity for so many generations, they, like all birds, still need plenty of physical exercise. Therefore a canary's cage can never be too big. Proper flying will, of course, be possible only when the bird is let loose in the room or if it has access to a large aviary or flight, but even in its cage a canary should at least be able to hop from one perch to another. Choose a large, rectangular cage for your canary. In addition to the usual metal cages with plastic bottoms there are also box cages made of wood with grating on only one side. These box cages are useful for birds that are still very shy and for sick birds. They provide peace and quiet and make birds feel less exposed and therefore safer. Pet stores sell many kinds of cage stands, These can be very practical for moving a bird to another spot temporarily (as during house cleaning or while airing its room). Since the cage is generally attached to the stand with a screw and screws can work themselves loose, there is a danger that the cage may crash to the floor. Check periodically, therefore, to make sure the screw is still tight. It is also possible for the bottom of a hanging cage to fall off if the clamps attaching it to the upper part don't hold tightly enough. Add an extra clamp to be on the safe side.
Not suitable for birds are cages with unnecessary, fancy decorations (hard to clean) and round cages. Experienced aviarists have been advising against buying them for years. I think that the so-called song cages sometimes used to train male canaries to sing are too small (about 11 x 11 x 7 inches or 28 x 28 x 18 cm). Such a tiny space is inadequate to permit a proper life for a bird.
Other Items the Bird Needs:
A birdseed mixture, preferably the one the bird is used to so that no digestive problems will be caused by the changeover to different food. Spray millet. This is important for providing welcome variety in the menu. A calcium stone or cuttlebone for beak whetting. A bathhouse that can be hung in the cage door opening. The bottom of the tub should be rough textured to provide a good grip for the bird's feet. An upside-down water bottle. Water stays cleaner in a bottle than in a dish. Fine bird sand. It is sprinkled on the bottom of the cage, where it absorbs the liquid part of the droppings. A thin, light cloth for covering the cage. Additional lighting if your house or apartment is very dark (ask for advice at a pet store or a store that sells light fixtures). Canaries like a bright room; too little light has a negative effect on their liveliness, appetite, and willingness to sing. Do not buy mirrors, swings, or plastic canaries meant to serve as bird companions. These things tend to interfere more with a bird's activities than to be a source of pleasure.
Luxury Homes or Aviaries:
Spacious cages big enough for birds to fly around in them are called aviaries or flights. Depending on how large an aviary you have, you can keep several canaries in it or combine canaries with other seed eaters. The pet supply trade offers quite a large variety of aviaries. Ask your pet dealer to show you the catalogues of different manufacturers of indoor and outdoor flights. If you want to build an outdoor aviary, you can buy prefabricated parts that even people without much building experience can assemble. Before setting out to build an outdoor flight, however, you should study some of the literature on the subject and be sure that the climate in your area is suitable. The accessories for an aviary are essentially the same as for a cage, but you can introduce more perches. Also, in order to prevent or reduce competition for food, you should always provide several food dishes.
Make sure the plumage is smooth & clean looking and there are no bald spots.
Legs should be clean, horny scales form a smooth surface, 3 toes pointing forward and one back.
The bird should be alert and does frequent preening.
The droppings should be produced at regular intervals and be mushy in consistency.
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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.