Basic Bird Care
Pet owners are accustomed to taking the family dog or cat to the veterinarian for an annual check-up. It is even more important for a pet bird to have regular examinations for basic bird care because birds tend to have very subtle symptoms of disease.
Your bird’s diet is one of the most important considerations of its overall care. Adequate feeding plans may be developed from a wide variety of commonly available foods, or formulated diets specially prepared for birds by commercial companies may be offered. South County Animal Hospital highly recommends feeding Harrison’s pelleted diet as an excellent source of nutrition for your bird.
Temperature: A healthy bird can tolerate temperatures that are comfortable to its owner. Sudden changes in temperature may be a potential threat to the sick bird.
Humidity: Pet birds can adapt to a wide range of humidity levels, although birds native to subtropical climates may benefit from localized increased humidity in the home (e.g., in the bathroom with running shower or frequent spraying of the feathers with water).
Light and Fresh Air: Opportunities for supervised access to fresh air and direct sunlight (not filtered through glass or plastic) are beneficial, as long as excesses in temperature are avoided.
The largest cage that can be accommodated in the home is recommended for birds that are expected to be confined most of the time. The cage must be strong enough to resist bending or dismantling by the bird, made of non-toxic material, and designed for safety and ease of cleaning. In most cases, the cage would need to be wider than it is tall to accommodate stretched wings; however, ample height should be provided for long-tailed birds.
Perches:Optimum perches are clean, easily replaceable, appropriately-sized, natural wood branches from pesticide-free and non-toxic trees (e.g., Northern hardwoods, citrus, eucalyptus, Australian pine). A single, well-placed perch may be adequate for agile climbers like psittacines because they tend to prefer the highest perch, even if more are provided. Two perches, one on each end of the cage, should be available for species such as finches, which prefer flying or jumping to climbing. A perch should be placed to prevent droppings from contaminating the bird’s food or water and to prevent the bird’s tail from contacting food, water or the floor of the cage.
Food and Water Bowls:The use of wide bowls rather than deep cups displays food attractively and may encourage the bird to eat new items. Healthy psittacines with normal ambulatory skills can easily approach the food and water bowls; therefore, it is not necessary in these cases to place bowls directly beside the perch. Birds often overeat or chew on food dishes out of boredom. Dr. Block encourages the use of glass water bottles with stainless steel attachments, particularly for larger birds. They can usually be quickly and easily adapted to and are far more hygienic than water bowls.
Hygiene: A daily cleaning of the cage floor and bowls prevents problems with food spoilage and alerts the owner to potential signs of illness. A weekly, thorough cleaning of the cage is suggested.
Cage Liners: Newspapers, paper towels, or other plain cage liners are preferred over wood chips, chopped corn cobs, kitty litter, or sand as cage substrate, so that the appearance and number of the droppings can be monitored on a daily basis. Substrate should be below a wire barrier so the bird does not have direct access.
Security: All birds should be covered with a dark but easily breathable cover at night for adequate rest and a sense of security.
In appropriate species, opportunities may be provided for exercise in the form of supervised freedom from the cage. Pet birds are intelligent, active animals whose psychological needs should be addressed. Locate the cage near family activity in the home. Toys provide diversion as do a variety of foods. Seeds pushed into an apple or an orange present a bird with entertainment, challenge, and food, all at the same time. Use your own imagination, keeping within safe parameters and provide entertainment and enrichment for your pet birds.
Toys: Toys are useful as mental diversions and tend to encourage physical exercise and beak wear; however, they must be selected with safety of the bird in mind. “Chewable” items include branches, pine cones, rawhide dog chews, natural fiber rope, and soft white pine.
General Bird Care
Minimal body care is required for the healthy, well-fed pet bird. Confined indoor pet bird care that resist a varied diet require more attention in the care of the nails, feet and feathers. During the molting of feathers, additional fat, protein and vitamins may be required in the diet. As a new feather develops, the bird may pick at the pin feather cover to open it. This should not be interpreted as “feather picking” or the presence of mites.
Birds should bathe daily and feathers should be kept dry and free of oily substances. South County Animal Hospital recommends the use of AVIx Bird Rain for daily feather care and AVIx Soother Spray for molting and/ or dry feathers and skin. To prevent escape or injury, or for taming and training, Wing clipping may be desired. A trained exotic veterinarian should do Wing clipping or trimming. Call us today to schedule your bird care for an appointment.
South County Animal Hospital recommends removal of an open leg band to prevent injury. If a closed band must remain on the leg for identification purposes, check under the band occasionally for signs of dirt accumulation, swelling, or constriction of the leg.
In order to detect potential problems early, regular visit to an avian veterinarian for a routine health examination is advise.
- Sandpaper-covered perches.
- Air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, insecticides, and toxic fumes from over-heated non-stick-coated utensils.
- Mite boxes or mite sprays.
- Easily dismantled toys such as balsa wood, small link chain items, toys with metal clips or skewers, or those with lead weights.
- Access to toxic houseplants, ceiling fans, cats, dogs, young children.
- Access to cedar, redwood, or pressure-treated pine chips as cage substrate
*Information on this page about Bird Care is adapted from information provided by Association of Avian Veterinarians under the “Fair Use” Act.