I get quite a few e-mail from people with pet canaries who are concerned and wonder "Why my canary doesn't sing"?
Importance of lighting and total hours of light exposure each day
It is critical that when someone gets a canary that they understand that the birds health is dependent on getting regular hours and that the number of hours of light changes with the season and triggers the seasonal changes in the bird from breeding to molting (many do not sing during the annual molt).
Using a simple wall timer with a table lamp can be used and set to get them up and put them to bed and changed to current sunrise and sunset monthly or the bird can be moved to a dark room at sunset and not covered so that light coming through the window will get it up and put it to bed at the right time or the bird can be covered at sunset with a very heavy cloth so that any light after dark will not keep the bird up and then uncovered when they go to bed so that the morning sun will get it up at the right time.
Unfortunately, many cover the bird at night but uncover at different times depending on their work schedule or decision to sleep in on a day off. A few months of this and the bird first stops singing and if continued eventually leads to illness and an early death.
Once a bird is on longer hours than sunrise and sunset, it is important not to decrease the day length as this will precipitate a molt. Advancing the number of daylight hours will encourage coming into breeding song for smaller varieties that can be as little as 12 hours.
Is the bird healthy?
It is important to observe a bird from a distance so that they don't fool you into thinking they are well when they are just trying to look healthy to protect themselves from predators. Are the feathers tight or puffed out. Puffing out the feathers helps keep the bird warm. They open their beaks when they are too hot. Is there any clicking sounds at night, like air sac mites? Are they too thin?
Stimulating singing with sound and foods
Do not feed the bird immediately upon rising or when you are wanting to hear him sing. Singing varieties are either singing or eating most of the day. So I like to wait until after I have finished listening and then feed them. Of course basic food and water is always available but any new food or topping off seed will be stimulating encouraging them to eat instead of sing.
Sound is stimulating even a sweeper. I like to keep classical music playing all day for the bird. Mine especially love cello music. I have not found recorder bird song to be helpful.
Is this the only canary? A hen in the cage or even seeing one can cause some to sing the breeding song and others not to sing at all. The hen should be in a different cage that is below the male cage so he can not see her.
Some foods stimulate singing. It is good to add toasted wheat germ fortified with extra vitamin E like is available at the grocer or health food store and bee pollen pebbles to the regular diet to improve singing frequency.
My first canary did not sing and I did everything I have mentioned and still no song. Then one day it laid an egg! LOL