Canary Feeding

12 November 20187 min reading

Feed requirements of poultry farm animals are generally taken as a guide for domestic birds and requirements are determined accordingly. But rations for canaries are very different from rations for poultry farm animals such as chickens, ducks, turkeys or quails.


  Prof. Dr. Murat Görgülü Ruminant Feeding Retired Lecturer


Most domestic birds eat grains. Therefore, grain-eating birds are called garnivorous. There are little to no studies about feed requirements of domestic birds. As a result, feed requirements of poultry farm animals (NRC, 1994) are generally taken as a guide for domestic birds and requirements are determined accordingly. But rations for canaries are very different from rations for poultry farm animals such as chickens, ducks, turkeys or quails. Birds usually eat grains after husking them. And they have a diet containing 15-22% starch and 24-56% oil (Kamphues et al. 1997). In addition to grains, birds eat insects, fruits and green grasses. The canaries can be fed by only grains. Birds’ grain preferences are determined by the size and nutritional value of grains and the size of their bills. Young birds prefer grains of higher quality. (Diaz, 1990). The main reason behind is that their feed consumption is low and they prefer grains with higher nutritional values.

As stated above, grains have significant amounts of starch and oils. The canary has lipase and amylase activities in its intestines in order to efficiently digest both oil and starch (Wolf et al. 1998). Grains differ from each other in terms of protein content and quality as well as macro and micro mineral content. Their proteins are rich in lysine (Kamphues et al. 1997). The canaries generally eat grains. Insect-eating birds have smaller stomachs than grain and fruit-eating ones. This stomach has a thick pocket. Their intestines are short and have a thick mucosa layer (Ricklefs, 1996). The ratio of canaries’ small intestine length to their large intestine is 30.2/1. This rate is 10.7/1 for grain consuming parrots. Those figures show that digestion of canaries occurs mostly inside small intestines as expected. (Harper and Turner, 2000).

ENERGY REQUIREMENTS Like all animals, birds’ primary aim for consuming feed is to meet their energy needs. Therefore, other nutrients should also be well balanced in terms of energy needs. Canaries’ energy needs vary by the energy content of the ratio, environmental conditions, weight of the creature, its physiological situation and level of activity. Birds’ husking skills give them a vital advantage to meet their energy needs by consuming grains. The canaries consume dry feed of 14% of their live weights every day (Taylor et al. 1994). That is to say, a canary of 25 grams weight can consume 3.5 grams of dry feed in a day. Therefore, daily needed energy, protein, amino-acids, minerals, and vitamins should be included in this amount of feed.

Taylor et al. (1994) report that daily metabolic energy need of an adult canary is between 12.3 and 16.3 Kcal. ME requirement for poultry animals is 360 CA(kg)0.75 (Kcal) according to McDonal et al. (1998) and 0.851 CA(g)0.75 (Kcal) according to Nagy et al. (1999). In addition to those, according to Harper et al. (1998), ME requirement for parakeets is 2.07 CA(g)1.1. According to these figures, a canary with a live weight of 25 grams may have a daily ME need of 23 Kcal, 19 Kcal or 17 Kcal. So we can say that a canary needs approximately 19.67 Kcal/day.

Grains contain an average ME of 400 Kcal/10 gram. As stated above, other nutrients should be balanced with the energy content of the ratio. As a result; a balanced ration can be created if protein, oil, mineral and vitamin needs are determined for 400 Kcal energy intake.


Researchers take protein intake or protein consumption according to 400 Kcal energy intake of adult canaries into consideration when determining protein requirements. Taylor et al. (1994) calculated raw protein consumption of an adult canary as 0.55 g/day. This amount corresponds to 13.35 g/400 Kcal or namely 0.033 g HP/Kcal. Therefore, protein need of a 25 g canary is calculated as 0.66 g/day. On the other hand, protein intake in proportion to live weight is determined as 0.025 HP/g CA (Harper and Turner, 2000). As a result, protein requirement can be calculated as 0.63 g HP/day. According to Taylor et al. (1994), daily protein intake is calculated as 0.02 g HP/g, when adjusted considering uric acid production.

OIL CONSUMPTION Taylor et al. (1994) reported that oil consumption is 0.52 g/day for grain-based feeding. Oil consumption with energy balance is calculated as 0.032 g/Kcal (12.62 g oil/400 Kcal ME) by lipoclastics. Based on this, oil requirement can be calculated as follows: 0.032x19.67=0.63 g/day, 0.022x25 g=0.55 g/day.

NRC (1994) recommends 0.0035 g linoleic acid (LA)/Kcal ME (1.4 g/400 Kcal ME) for chicken. Linoleic acid is one of the essential fatty acids and is essential for normal vital functions and hatchability. LA requirement can be calculated as 0.07g/day.

CARBOHYDRATE REQUIREMENTS Taylor et al. (1994) calculated carbohydrates consumption for grains based feeding of adult canaries as 1.79 g/day. The amount of carbohydrates consumption against energy intake is calculated as 0.108 g/Kcal ME (43 g/400 Kcal), consumption to live weight ratio is calculated as 0.074 g/g CA. Based on this, carbohydrate requirement can be calculated as 2.12 g/day (0.108 g/Kcal MEx19.67 Mcal/day) and 1.85 g/day (0.074 g/g CA x 25 g CA). In normal conditions, there are no recommendations about the amount of carbohydrates in bird rations.

MINERAL AND VITAMIN REQUIREMENTS There are studies on macro and micro elements requirements of birds. Both macro and micro elements should be sufficiently supplied for normal body functions, growth, development and reproduction functions. Birds’ vitamin requirements are also determined. There are some recommendations about vitamin and mineral requirements by taking the NRC for poultry animals (1994) as a reference.

There are some recommendations for parrots’ and parakeets’ rations in Table 2 and Table 3 (Brue, 1999). Those figures can also be a reference for other birds.

RATION PROGRAM FOR CANARIES AND CALCULATION OF NUTRIENT REQUIREMENTS Most domestic birds eat grains. So they are usually fed by grains which contain significant levels of oil, starch, and protein. Birds can meet their energy, protein, amino acid, vitamin and mineral need thanks to varied grains in nature if they are free. But when they are raised in cages as pets or raised in farms, they will not be free to find various grains. So feed preparation should contain all said nutrients at sufficient levels and in needed quality. Table 4 shows nutrient contents of some grains that are used to feed birds. Some grains are poor in vitamin A, D, E, lysine, methionine and Ca/P. As a result, birds should also be fed with feed like cakes, special pellet feed, egg, fruits, vegetables in addition to grains. Reproduction, chick development and molting periods have critical importance in bird raising and nutrient requirements vary in those periods. Needs of cage bird should be met completely in this periods and bird formulas, pellet feed, egg, grit sized feed, fruits and vegetables are given besides grains. Formulas are used to feed cage birds during all critical periods. Those formulas are also called ‘soft feed’ or ‘egg feed’. They are practically used to increase reproduction efficiency. There are various egg-based cakes for birds in the market and their contents differ from each other. Soft feeds (egg feed or formula) contain 16-18% of raw protein. Sometimes they are mixed with grains. Formulas should be acceptable by animals and they also should have a reasonable cost for breeders. When a formula is prepared; raw food like various grain flours, starch, sugar, protein isolates, soy flour, egg, whey powder, milk powder are used.

Determining the content of those materials is crucial in order to make formulas meet needs of birds in a healthy way. If there are no analysis results available, in order to determine nutrient contents of feed, US Department of Agriculture (USDA, 2015) and National Food Analysis Database (TurKomp, 2015) data can be used. Canary ration programs can be prepared in a cost-effective way by using that database and with linear programming models. Metabolic energy content can be calculated according to nutrient analysis of NRC (1994) and other equations aforementioned.

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