“The only way you can tame a bird is to let him fly free; it is the only way you can tame anything.” If I were to take the meaning of this quote literally, my response to it would be “not really”. Yes, taming a canary or any bird for that matter isn’t an easy process but it isn’t impossible. If you possess the knowledge and put the effort you can in fact tame anything. You don’t believe me? watch this video our channel before you proceed:
In this article, I discuss two ways to tame canary birds in particular and other songbirds in general: taming before fledging and taming after fledging. Let me show you both methods according to my personal experience.
Taming your canary after fledging and adulthood
Canaries normally fledge at 15 days of age. After they fledge or become juvenile or adults, taming becomes more difficult and challenging. But it is still possible, and the progress depends on you and the individual bird and how stressed he feels around you.
With that said, the wise thing to do is to pick a bird that his stress level is relatively low around you. However, taming fledged or adult canaries requires more patience, time, persistence, consistency, and stricter rules to follow than taming before fledging. Therefore, I do not prefer this approach. But let me show you how this can be achieved:
Canary chicks begin to fear humans when they reach 12 days of age. At this age and older, it becomes more difficult to make the bird feel safe around us again. canaries are cautious and vigilant in front of their enemies, and this includes humans, so much so that when a canary gets sick, he pretends to be healthy because he doesn’t want to make us feel that he is easy prey. The first thing to do is to choose the least fearful bird of you.
You should build trust with your bird. For example, you should refrain from chasing, gripping, or catching him by hand unnecessarily. When you go after your bird, he thinks you want to prey on him, and in this way, you breach the trust you are trying to establish with him. Never grip on the bird you want to tame in your hand unless you have to, such as examining him when he gets sick. Experts recommend covering your face and avoiding talking to the bird in the process. This way, the bird doesn’t recognize your face or voice.
The first step is to create a familiar environment for your canary bird in which you are at the center of it. Your canary cage should always be around you where possible. Don’t let your bird engage with other untamed birds or see or hear them. Your canary should also get used to hearing your voice and get comfortable with you being a step away from his cage. So, you should call his name when you enter the room, and you should sit next to the cage, talk to him (avoid political subjects!). You should do this at least twice a day for at least a week before starting hand training later.
After a week, place your hand on the cage for some time without moving it. If the bird protests, don’t give up. He should first feel comfortable with the presence of your hand on the cage. After you succeed, try this time to place your hand inside the cage without moving it. You should do this every day until your bird feels safe with the presence of your hand inside the cage. Avoid gazing at your canary if he is not tamed yet.
After you make progress, grab your favorite bird’s food and hold it with your fingertips. Then extend the tip of the fingers carefully and slowly, and speak to your canary gently and softly. But you must first remove all food trays from the cage and starve the bird for a short period (for an hour).
You should place your hand in an area where your canary can comfortably stand and pick the food from your hand. Keep your hand steady, and if he doesn’t come close, don’t give up easily. This is the patience and persistence that I am talking about. This process should be repeated daily for a week. I recommend you do this while watching your favorite show; just stick your hand inside the cage, get it comfortable, and leave it for as long as you can without even paying attention to the bird.
Little by little your canary will adjust to this routine and new familiar environment that you’ve created daily for him, and will no longer view your hand or your presence as a threat, and will also stop fearing you, and as time goes will begin to trust you.
After you succeed in making your canary stand comfortably on your hand while he is inside the cage, try feeding him this time on your hand outside the cage. But don’t hold him when you take him out or put him back into the cage (use a stick for this purpose), and don’t force the bird to stand on your hand or stay on it, and don’t chase after him if he flies away; always let the bird settle before attempting to catch him or extend a stick for him to stand on it.
Taming your canary before fledging
This is my favorite method because the results are somewhat guaranteed. However, using this method requires hand-feeding, and a lot of responsibility until the chick or chicks fledge and wean. Also, keep in mind that hand-feeding alone doesn’t guarantee that your birds will grow to be tamed. If you neglect your hand-fed canaries, they will start fearing you after they wean. So, don’t expect a tamed bird by just simply hand-feeding. In the following section, I will teach you how to make sure your canary will grow tamed with 100% success.
Canary chicks begin to reliability distinguish between their parents and humans when they reach 12 days. Therefore, I recommend you start hand feeding a canary clutch away from its parents before the chicks reach this age. Then, you can start hand-feeding them on the syringe without returning them to their parents.
But it is a better idea to take the chicks away before they reach 7 days old, that if you know how to handle featherless chicks (e.g providing warmth). At this age, the chicks open their eyes and see those around them for the first time, and they see you instead of their parents.
By taking the chicks at a very young age, you decrease the possibility that they fear you when they wean. But again if you neglect them they will fear you regardless, and let me tell you that I have taken canaries at 12 days of age, and I have succeeded in taming them, so taking a canary at the age of 7 or 8 or less or more for that matter is not necessary.
But I would not recommend you take your canary chicks to hand raise and feed them after they reach 12 days old because there is a chance that they stop opening their mouth for food before weaning even if they feel hungry, and this happened to me in the past with some canary birds.
If you hand feed a clutch of canary birds, it is a must that you separate each in a cage and tames each individually if you have the time. If you don’t have the time, I suggest you focus on one bird only. The canaries that you want to tame should never return to their parent’s cage. You should place them in a room that is far from the hearing and seeing other birds.
A hand-fed canary usually weans at the age of 30 days. After weaning, you should continue feeding your bird some fruits or vegetables or other treats while he is standing on your hand. You should also continue playing with him at least one hour every day until he becomes fearless of you.
The key to tame any hand-fed bird is to play with him and is to never neglect him. Because my time is limited, I send any bird I want to tame to my nieces and nephews. Kids have all the patience and time in the world to play with a new friend, especially if he can fly, so why not take advantage. After all, it is a win-win arrangement. Just make sure they are 7 years of age or older, and put the oldest in charge. You ought to also train them on how to handle and play with the birds. For example, never chase the bird when he flies away; let him settle first!!
You can see my tamed canary Taymoor singing on my hand in the following video:
Reference: Omar Abusalem (2020), how to tame canaries and goldfinches, birdbud.com.