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Belgian Fancy Canary

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Is the Belgian Fancy Canary right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Belgische Bult Canary; Belgian Canary; Belgian Humpback; Belgian Bull Canary

Scientific name: Serinus canaria domesticus

The basics:
Although a rare breed today, the Belgian Fancy Canary holds a key place in the history of the canary. It was one of the early “type” canaries that were bred for looks rather than song. In the case of the Belgian, it was especially developed to exhibit a certain posture, and these longish, rather thin birds can be trained to perch a hunched-over, somewhat hunchbacked stance. This unusual look strongly influenced the development of later “frilled” and “position” type canaries. Belgian Canaries do require a good bit of training to show properly, and it is considered a more nervous showbird better suited to the advanced canary fancier.

One of the oldest of the true canary breeds, the Belgian Fancy Canary was carefuly developed by Flemish breeders from the Old Dutch Canary that was popular in the 1700s. Because it was so unusual, being absolutely distinct in its unusual body shape and posture, the Belgian Fancy became a wildly popular exhibition bird in the 1800s. Unfortunately, this variety suffered terribly during the two world wars and was close to being wiped out, before a few breeders could be found to re-establish the type. It has never again regained its former popularity.

Appearance:
This "posture" canary looks like nothing so much as a bent-over hunchback.

Weight:
15 - 20 grams (0.5 - 0.7 oz)

Average size:
17 - 18 centimeters (6.7 - 7 in.)

Lifespan:
8 - 10 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Belgian Fancy Canary may be a bit of a diva, with a tendency toward nerves. They are mostly recommended to the experienced canary exhibitor, who is willing to take the time to patiently train the bird to properly perch and hold its position to best show off its unusual conformation. Assume that your Belgian Canary can be more timid than some other canaries, and protect it from any frights, like cats, bossy parrots, or other pets that might try to intimidate this thin, delicate showbird. As a single pet, it should be fine if treated with respect, care, and attention. As with any canary, play your male pet good quality canary recordings from a very early age, to give your bird the best chance of learning to sing well.

Housing:
As a special posture bird with an unusual stance, the Belgian Fancy Canary may require special housing. Keep it apart from other birds, even small finches, that might startle the canary. It probably isn't wise to ask this variety to fly around a large aviary. Instead, keep it in a cage big enough to allow it to perch, play, and exercise, but small enough to allow it to feel secure. Try a cage size of about 24”w x 18”d x 24”h with a variety of natural perches of different widths that allow your canary to perch comfortably, without always putting pressure on the same places on its feet. Provide a swing and foraging food toys like millet sprays (recently sprouted sprays are especially healthy) but do not pack the cage areas with toys that might annoy or startle your pet. Mirrors are sometimes sold as canary cage accessories, but you should probably avoid them.

Diet:
The Belgian Fancy Canary, as an old variety developed before modern knowledge of nutrition, is a reasonably hardy canary that can thrive on a relatively easy-to-provide seed-based diet. The backbone of most Canary diets is a high quality canary seed mix formulated especially for canaries, with a high proportion of canary, rape, flax, linseed, sterilized hemp, thistle, and not too much millet. Some high end seed mixes also contain freeze-dried fruits and vegetable bits, and anise may give the mix a wonderful aroma.

You should regularly test the Belgian Fancy Canary's seed for freshness by soaking and sprouting the seed. If the seed doesn't sprout, it's too old and stale for your canary. You can also buy special seeds that are easy to sprout in the home. These so-called soaking seed blends may include sunflower, safflower, and wheat that would otherwise be too large or too difficult for a Canary to crack by itself, yet once sprouted, they will gain in vitamins and become soft, delicious treats that your bird will love.

However, seed alone just isn't enough for the Belgian Fancy Canary. Chopped fresh greens like unsprayed chickweed, dandelion greens, and oregano are highly recommended, but any healthy greens such as the flowering heads of broccoli or chopped fruit like apples, apricots, and so on, will add vitamins and flavor to the diet. You should also be able to find some pellets formulated especially for Canaries. Some people report that their Canaries first learned to eat their pellets after they sprinkled them with a little apple juice.

For protein, many people make a classic eggfood which consists of a hard-boiled egg chopped up well, with about 1 teaspoon of brewer's yeast (NEVER baking yeast) stirred into the mix. Don't leave eggfood sitting around. Remove what's left in the bowl after a couple of hours. It's especially important to provide the eggfood to molting or breeding birds.

Written by Elaine Radford

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