Steve Dominey

Yorkshire & Fife Fancy Canaries



5th JAN 2013


Breeding exhibition canaries with the aim of creating a stud



Within the following article I state my chosen method of breeding exhibition canaries with the aim of building a successful strain . These are methods that I have endorsed to breed my Yorkshire canaries over many years and that I look to employ while developing my Fife fancy canaries.


I have always stated that it is easy to simplify this method by dividing it into three segments. These are namely foundation, pedigree and selection. I believe if you can achieve all three then you will have a very good chance of success but fail on anyone and your chances will be limited.


Before discussing these factors it is important to realise that these methods are for breeders who are trying to create a strain of birds that are true to the chosen breed in type and quality and are not just capable of reproducing this quality but when correctly paired can produce birds better than themselves.


This is not an overnight procedure but the process can be shortened with a proper breeding plan ahead of you.


You will need to develop an eye for your chosen breed and the sooner that you can achieve this the better. I would suggest that you need to study the ideal requirements of the breed both in written form and in the pictorial excellence of the breed as well as studying the best birds on the show bench. Once I selected the breeder that I favoured I would study every bird within their show team so as to confirm consistency of type and quality in the stud.


I was perhaps fortunate in my younger years to be taught the importance establishing a strain of birds having spent many hours in the bird room of Yorkshire canary legend Percy James. I made many trips down to Minehead Somerset over many years to learn everything I could from this great breeder. I also studied what I could about line and inbreeding from books and many years ago was supplied two excellent books from Cornish breeder Wentworth Tressider who I was good friends with. Although the topic covered was written for racing pigeons and not all of the chapters were applicable to breeding canaries many of the chapters gave you all the knowledge you would need on the subject. They were printed and were part of the Old Hand publisher.




This is where it all begins and where initial success or failure can occur very quickly. The initial stock that you obtain is crucial to the overall breeding plan. You need to make a decision as to who you approach for birds and to do so in good time. Do not try to purchase too many birds initially and depending upon how much you are willing to pay simply try to obtain the best quality that you can. The quality ideally needs to be both the best obtainable and the best affordable. Top quality birds, if available, are not cheap but if bred with successfully take years off the process.

From good quality stock you would expect to breed some good birds the first year providing that the birds you have purchased are well bred.


If you purchase birds from several breeders then you will have great difficulty in controlling the genes that are passed on to your stock over the following years. The results are chance matings that could throw up anything, good or bad Producing a line of birds while obtaining birds from different sources would prove near impossible to lay a foundation for the years to come without resorting to chance.


If successful then keep with that breeder and look to add additional birds in future years until you are satisfied that you have the breeding team to move forward.

You will need a degree of patience and look to improve the birds each season but also be prepared to be ruthless, if the birds are not producing what you thought they would and you feel that you have been pairing them right then be prepared to begin the process with another breeder rather than waste further time trying correct something that wont work for you. You are looking to lay the foundation of a stud that will last you many years so it is important to get it right at the start.




This implies that a particular bird has a descent of ancestry and breeding background. It is a thoroughbred and has a proven line of decent.

It would be hoped that the initial stock that you are working with have been pedigree bred at least to some degree if you have started with the right breeder. But moving forward you will need to further develop and indeed create your own pedigree within your stud. The aim is to reproduce the quality of the best adult birds and then to be able to make pairings that produce birds better than themselves.

In many top studs of canaries the best birds within that stud may be traced back to say a particular bird that initially  produced the best birds.


Outcrosses when needed can be added later, generally to improve certain features, nut you will be able to control these much better once your strain has been created.

When bringing in an outcross it should be paired to one of your best birds so as to give it every chance.

Along with my Partner Bob Pepper, our strain of Yorkshires go back to 1994 with little additions until we brought some birds into our strain from a top Italian breeder. This breeder had obtained birds from Bob in the past but some of the birds we brought in where different to ours particularly in their feather quality. They had a longer, broader feather so looked larger than some of our birds. When we started breeding with them the resulting youngsters immediately all looked liked our birds, in shape and feather quality. Our genes proved dominant within the first season.


I look to produce a male strain where the best hens are paired back into the best cock birds so that the genes carrying the qualities of the best cock birds are fixed. Cock birds can of course be bred with more than one hen, which again helps to control the genes.


Needless to say that any cock bird run with several hens in a season needs to be of top quality.


You will also need to keep a record book so that all of your stock can be traced and recorded for future reference.




This is where an eye for the breed is essential. If you are unsure then ask an experienced breeder to assist you in the selection process.

Each season the breeder will hopefully have a good number of birds in which to choose from. Only the best should be retained for the following year along with the adult birds that have bred the best quality birds. If the pairings have been correct then the result should be an even quality of bird throughout the room.


If you have a producer cock bird who breeds the best birds then be prepared to run him with a few hens the following year. This is a proven short cut to success. Its harder work in the breeding room and a little time consuming but this can quickly improve the quality of the stud.

If this method proves successful then the formation of your line has begun and this cock bird has become your line cock.


In future generations you are looking for his sons or grandsons to either replace him or to work alongside him to help retain the strong genes that he has passed on.

This selection process really begins when the youngsters start to leave the nest right through to after they have completed the moult.


Selection pays a key part having eliminated unwanted traits and retaining birds that are pleasing to the eye.

The health of our stock is also an essential part of the selection process. Any birds that show illness should not be used within the breeding plan.


You must also be ruthless when selecting your birds. Each bird retained should be kept for a purpose and not just to make the numbers up.


I have always been an ardent champion of feather quality. Feather helps make the winning show bird special.


Understanding feather qualities is a great asset when choosing each years pairings. Differing feather qualities are required for successful pairing and this can really only be learnt with experience.


Although breeding closely, once the genes of your foundation stock run throughout the stud you will have many more options of pairing as the stud developes.


Only the individual fancier can then decide when an outcross can be introduced, generally to improve a feature on ones birds. The outcross will however also carry faults which are alien to the strain so again selection is a key here with the youngsters produced.


Ideally I would look to retain hens from these pairings to then pair back to my own cock birds the following season.


Exhibition canaries have many features that come together to make up a good quality show bird. If you purchase birds from several sources you will have little chance of controlling the faults. Look to produce a set of birds that you can initially create a small strain of select birds and then develop it in time. That  would always be my advise to anyone serious about breeding show birds.