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My singing 2009 ASC hen "Spangles". Photo: Author

Can canary hens compete with the boys?

If you’ve ever considered buying a canary, you’ve undoubtedly been warned that you must be careful to select a male because females will not sing and are, by extension, ‘inferior’ as pets. Right?

Not so fast. First of all, as ‘pets’, canary hens are every bit as charming, tame and confiding as the boys.  If you want a cheerful and pretty feathered friend, it doesn’t matter what sex your canary is. Just pick a sleek, bright, active little sprite in good feather and all will be well.

Even so, why do most of us buy a canary in the first place? For the song; and if we want the song, we’ve got to get a male. Right?

Not necessarily!

Here is proof that some canary hens do, in fact, sing!

These are all pedigreed, closed-banded American Singer canary hens that are just completing their annual molts.  Every bird shown in this video is a hen (not a young male practicing his baby-song.)

I know they’re hens because they laid eggs and raised babies for me last year! Usually you can recognize a hen, even if she is singing, because her song is scratchier and shorter than the male’s; but again, not always.

Occasionally, an especially talented songster will win first place at a canary song-trial (yes, they hold such competitions for breeds of song canaries), and then be sold (with the most honorable of intentions) as a premium, breeder male – only to lay eggs for the new owner a few weeks later!

So, even ‘old hands’ in the hobby can be fooled. It reminds us of just how little we humans actually understand when it comes to nature.  While there are many reasons and theories as to why some canary hens sing, all that can be delved into at length in a future post.  For now I just wanted to share this footage of real, honest-to-goodness singing canary females.

In a few weeks, as the days shorten and the nesting urge gets stronger, everybody’s songs should improve quite a bit.   In fact, at least 3 of these hens were originally held back as studs last year because they sang so beautifully I thought they were males!  It wasn’t until I spotted my prized young ‘studs’ cramming into the nests with their mates I realized that these ‘broody’ boys were actually macho girls!

Enjoy this ‘girl-group’ concert!

* More on the canary fancy in future installments.