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Canary Ailments & Illnesses 



Fifes are hardy and accommodating little birds and rarely fall ill if certain rules are applied.

There is no doubt in my mind that a stud of Fife canaries kept in a shed outdoors will have more illnesses than a single Fife kept in a warm house.

Most illnesses in young and old Fifes are caused by poor husbandry or general maintenance and are digestive or respiratory. It is far easier to adopt a prevention policy than to effect a cure. Sadly in a stud of Fifes, particularly where the owner is out at work for most of the day, by the a sick bird is identified the symptoms have usually gone too far. Even if the bird then responds to treatment it will probably be of no further use in the breeding programme, particularly  if it is a hen, as hens have to carry out most of the work.


The Most Common Complaints


Baldness False Moult
Broken Leg Rearing Hens' Disorders
Diarrhoea/Constipation Ring Damage
Enteritis Strokes
Eye Troubles/Blindness Sweating Hens



This is often referred to as ‘going light’ in young birds as they tend to waste away despite appearing to eat off the floor all the time. Any bird on which I have had a post mortem carried out over the past 30 years has been identified as dying from this.


Both should be rare if the bird is given a good diet. If the droppings are watery administer a little light Kaolin Powder. For constipation offer greenfood and place the bird in a warm environment.

Broken Leg

An extra pair of hands is required to apply a splint, use a matchstick, which can be held in place with strong sellotape. Be careful when removing the splint.

Eye Troubles/Blindness

Some birds appear to have a problem with one eye and continuously rub the eye on the perch and lose feathers around it. Keep perch clean, isolate bird, apply diluted TCP to the infected eye and offer antibiotics for 6 days.


Old birds are more liable to have strokes. They appear to be paralysed on one side and are unable to perch. Like humans they vary in intensity.


Usually this due to a vitamin deficiency.

Ring Damage

Occasionally a bird will get its ring caught on a branch if kept in an outdoor aviary, or an old bird’s leg scales will grow so that they grow over the ring.

Long nails have a habit of getting caught if not checked, so cut them back each year.

False Moult

Occasionally some Fifes, usually the clear birds, will go into a false moult. Each time this has been due to a change in temperature such as a show hall been too warm.

Rearing Hens' Disorders

The amount of work they carry out will affect a hen that is not fully fit. This was a mystery for some time but was eventually diagnosed as E coli peritonitis. If many hens die at this stage then consult your Vet. (You will always lose the odd one)

Sweating Hens

This is a condition from which hens with chicks suffer very occasionally when the chicks have not been reared correctly.


Medicine Cupboard

Sooner or later a Fife will become sick and I would advise you to buy the following for such emergencies and also for prevention

  • Antibiotics from the Vet

  • Bottle of TCP

  • 5ml Syringe

  • Syrup of Buckthorn

  • Kaolin Powder

  • Iron and Vitamin Tonic (Liquid)

  • Anti Mite spray

  • Vapona Block

  • Aloe Vera gel

Please do not use Epsom Salts, these can be too strong for a Fife.


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(c) Terry Kelly & SL