Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Whether they are hand or parent-reared, young Canaries usually need some encouragement to switch from the nestling to adult diet. This change-over period can be quite stressful, but there are a number of steps you can take to ease the transition.
The Transition Period
Pet Canaries feed their chicks largely upon sprouts, soaked seeds and Egg Food or hard boiled eggs. Once the young fledge, which usually occurs at age 16-20 days, they will be fed by their parents for an additional 2 -3 weeks. During this time, they will also begin to pick at food and eventually learn to eat on their own. Fledglings benefit from watching their parents and siblings…chicks that are hand-reared are at a disadvantage in this respect, but will also respond to the ideas and foods mentioned below.
Hard seeds are a novel food for young Canaries, and acquiring the skill needed to open them takes practice. A high protein diet remains important right through the first molt (which usually begins within 2 months of fledging), but eventually seeds should replace egg-based foods as their staple.
Caution: Stress and Weight Loss
While it is important to encourage youngsters to accept hard seeds, bear in mind that dietary switches, and the loss of parental care, are very stressful events. Stress can depress the immune system…if the birds are also losing weight, serious health problems can quickly take hold. So it’s important to keep them feeding, even if this means that the transition to adult foods will be slow. Continue to supply young birds with their favorites, such as egg food and sprouts, especially if they appear to be losing weight and slowing down. Canaries have little in the way of food reserves, so be sure to seek veterinary advice quickly if your birds decline in condition.
Make all introductions gradually…even healthy foods may cause digestive upset if suddenly taken in large quantities. And, as most parents will tell you, mixing with favorite foods, and other trickery, is critical if any young “creature” is to accept a new diet!
Useful Weaning Foods and Techniques
Couscous soaked in hot water is used by many breeders as a transition food. I use soaked, crushed seeds in place of couscous, but several of my former coworkers at the Bronx Zoo report that Canaries eat it readily, and remain in good weight while adjusting to a seed-based diet. If you opt for couscous, I suggest that you offer soaked, ground seeds as well.
Crushed softbill pellets (i.e. Softbill Select) can be mixed into the foods that the youngsters are accustomed to (typically Egg Food or a similar product). This will provide additional nutrients and introduce new tastes.
Seeds that are just beginning to sprout (please see photo, and article below for sprouting info) are one of the best foods to introduce. Most young Canaries relish sprouts; while pecking at the sprout the birds invariably hit the seed itself, and in time will begin to consume it as well.
Mix some soaked seeds from your adult canary diet in among the sprouts to encourage further experimentation. Once your birds are eating softened seeds, add crushed or ground hard seeds. Coffee grinders or pestles can be used to break up seeds and render them easier to consume.
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Canary Nesting image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Fir0002
Juvenile Canary image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Juan Emilio
Mixed Bean Sprouts image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Atelier Joly