We all love the fun and entertainment that pet birds give us and hope to have many years with our feathered friends. So here are some tips to help you keep your pet bird happy and healthy.
First, make sure that you choose a healthy bird as a pet. A bargain may not turn out to be so in the long run so avoid any birds that look tired, ruffled, droopy or keeps hiding its head under its wing.
In addition, make sure that it isn’t just sitting hunched at the bottom of its cage or sneezing excessively and check also that it does not have discharge from its nostrils or droppings clinging to its tail feathers.
Familiarise yourself with the signs of good health in a bird, which are: bright eyes, good appetite, clean, shiny feathers and an energetic and active demeanour.
Find an experienced avian veterinarian and establish a good relationship, starting with the initial check-up as soon as you bring your pet bird home. Be sure to bring your bird back for routine check-ups every year, even if it seems to be in good health. Unfortunately, for most birds, by the time it is showing symptoms of illness, it is often too late.
Invest in the largest cage you can afford, made of the best quality materials. In particular, make sure that your bird cannot get his head stuck between the bars and check also that it is easy to clean, with easily accessible food and water containers.
Be particular about the perches you provide for your bird – ideally, they should be made of natural branches and be of varying sizes, to help exercise the foot muscles and trim the claws. If you are collecting your own, make sure that the wood is safe for your bird to chew and always wash them thoroughly before placing them in the cage.
When introducing a new bird to an existing group or individual, make sure you perform a “mini-quarantine” by keeping your new bird in a separate room for a length of time before placing him in the same cage. Consult your vet for his advice on how to introduce the new avian member.
The Importance of a Good Diet
Research the necessary diet for your bird species and make sure you provide lots of variety and fresh material. In general, no more than 50% of the diet should be made up of seed and nuts and the remaining half should consist of leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, a small amount of cheese, boiled egg and even certain “people foods”.
Yoghurt is also popular with many birds and you may also wish to give your bird vitamin supplements, whilst cuttlebone and mineral blocks can provide a good source of calcium. Ask your vet for advice.
If you have a bird that is reluctant to have variation in his diet, encourage him to try new foods by cutting the vegetables and fruits into small, seed-size pieces and even mixing them with seed initially. It is also fine to just give him access to seed for an hour twice a day (e.g. morning and night) and thereby encouraging him to try the other types of food during the day, when he is hungry.
Make sure that you always provide your bird with fresh water, changed daily at the very least. Similarly, make sure that you clean or replace the bedding material for the cage bottom daily and choose safe, non-toxic materials, like paper towels or corn cob bedding.
If you decide to let your bird out of the cage, be very careful. Make sure all windows and doors are shut beforehand or protected by a screen if left open. Even if shut, birds can easily fly into mirrors or windows and injure themselves badly. Be wary of things like ceiling fans and other mechanical appliances. Even if your bird has its wings clipped, it can still get itself into trouble. Always supervise your bird when it is out of its cage and never leave it unattended.
Don’t forget that birds have heightened sensitivity to airborne toxins so be careful what you use in cleaners and sprays around the house. Even small amounts of a toxic contaminant can be fatal to birds, such as the fumes from overheated non-stick cookware – but not just non-stick. Basically, anything that has a strong fragrance or odour (such as marker pens and nail polish remover) can be poisonous to birds.
Another danger to watch out of is water – birds can drown in surprisingly small amounts, such as that left in a glass and the toilet bowl left uncovered is especially dangerous.
Birds can also chew on things – in fact, most birds will have an exploratory chew of everything they can get in their beaks. This is a natural activity and should be directed towards safe woods and chew toys especially designed for this purpose. Supervise your bird when it is out of its cage, so that it is does not try to chew an electric cord or similar!
Lastly, don’t forget your other pets, particularly the predatory cat or over-enthusiastic dog – never leave them alone with your bird and make sure that your bird’s cage is in a safe, inaccessible place.
Prevention really is better than cure and with these tips, you can ensure that your bird remains healthy and happy for many years to come.