CARING FOR YOUR BIRD
Birds of all kinds make wonderful pets, from small birds like parakeets and cockatiels to larger more exotic birds like parrots and macaws that make beautiful calls and mimicry. Taking care of a bird in your home adds some extra responsibilities outside of that of a normal pet like a cat or dog would have. Being outside of their natural environment means you have to supply them with everything they would normally have in the wild or you put your precious pet at risk for illness, injury or worse. Keeping up with and keeping track of your bird’s needs may seem somewhat daunting at first, but the proper information and research can help you prepare for your bird’s long, happy and healthy life.
The first and most important thing about caring for a bird is preparing a space for them in your home. If you have other rambunctious pets, try to keep your bird’s area in a place out of the way, especially away from cats. The last thing you want is your bird to suffer a heart attack from stress or even worse become a snack for one of your other pets. Some birds are okay with other pets, but their comfort should weigh heavily in your mind. Children that may poke or prod at your birds is also important to keep in mind, both for the safety of the birds and for the safety of small, sensitive fingers.
Having the right size cage is also important. Smaller cages are okay for smaller birds, but you should make sure to have large cages for parrots and other larger birds. Having large cages for parrots, at least enough room for them to fly a little bit, gives them some room to stretch and exercise in their space while caged. Large cages for parrots, however, are not suitable for smaller birds unless the bars are spaced closely enough that they will not escape or injure themselves by getting stuck between them. If you plan on keeping multiple birds, always make sure your cage or space for cages is large enough to accommodate each bird having their own personal space.
Nutrition is also a key factor in your bird’s health as they are unable to hunt or forage for their food on their own. Maintaining the right balance of nutrients for your bird is one of the most important factors to protect against illness. Whether you have a bird that eats seeds, nectars, or other kinds of foods there are often pre-made formulated diets available and tailored to the breed of bird you own. That’s the easiest way to feed your bird, but you can always make your own diets for your birds, basing their nutrition off of what you see that they like and need. Try to feed them only what they would normally eat in a day, about twice a day. Once just after sunrise in the morning and the other at around five or six in the afternoon are natural feeding times for most birds. If you notice your bird is not eating as much as they normally do, it could be a sign they are sick. Avoid feeding them foods high in fats or sugars (most of our human foods) as well as chocolate, caffeine, alcohol as well as fruit pits. These can also make your birds sick. It should seem common sense, but also make sure fresh water is available daily either in a dish or through a water bottle.
Some specific breeds of birds have more particular nutritional needs, for example budgies are known to be very particular even going so far as to sample” their ford before eating it. They prefer fresh fruits and vegetables over the standard store-bought grain mixtures that lack the variety of vitamins and nutrients they need. However, feeding them seeds high in fats like hemp and sesame can lead to them becoming overweight which can end up becoming a gateway to a host of health problems like fatty tumors and increased strain on their organs.
Cockatiels were originally fed a seed diet due to its low cost, but it was discovered that not only was the seed died ineffective for their nutrition but seeds with too much oil cause them to gain a lot of weight, which like I said before is very unhealthy. Seeds also lack vitamins A and D which are essential to a cockatiel’s health. Some studies show that as much as 80% of illness in birds is due to nutritional deficiencies which are the cause of weakened immune systems, a lack of energy, kidney problems, stroke, skin and feather conditions and in extreme cases even death. Now diets based on pellets and other supplemental foods like fresh fruits are being suggested as the best course for cockatiel nutrition.
As should be obvious by now, there is no one catch-all diet for birds and parrots are no exception. Rather than sticking to one tried and true meal plan, variety really is the spice of life. Giving your parrots a variety of choices from fresh fruits and vegetables to choices in seeds and pellets will give them the best chance to maintain their health. Parrots are also very aware of what their bodies are lacking and will often eat human food they know has the vitamins and minerals they need. Without the proper balance of nutrition, your parrot is not only extremely susceptible to disease, but malnutrition causes them to become tired and unwilling to move or get the exercise they need to get back on track.
There are hidden dangers in foods for your birds as there are some foods that don’t just disagree with birds, they will downright make them sick. Human foods like chocolate, alcohol and salt are obvious things to avoid as well as foods that are high in fat. Other not so obvious offenders are uncooked potatoes, avocado and pears as well as any fruit that contains a pit.
Not having the right diet can result in a host of nutritional problems, one common one being iodine deficiency. This can cause a gland in their neck to swell and cause difficulty eating or breathing. If you notice the swelling or increased stress in your bird, contact your vet who may advise you to add small amounts of iodine to their water to help combat this deficiency.
If you are worried about your bird escaping its cage or getting outside, you may consider wing clipping. By clipping the feathers n your bird’s wings, you remove their ability to accurately fly and therefore potentially get loose and endanger themselves or others. It is a controversial process that some believe to be cruel, but it’s a matter left to the opinion of the owner and their veterinarian as to whether or not to perform the procedure. Since birds do need plenty of time to exercise and stretch, often outside of their cage, if you don’t have a reliable means of securing the room your bird is in it may be something you should consider. More than anything, look at your bird’s health and happiness as you make any decisions regarding their home, nutrition or care and never hesitate to consult your vet if you have any questions.
Birds also need tons of mental stimulation. You can’t just get a bird and expect it to be happy in a cage without spending at least an hour with the bird every day or letting it out of its cage to interact with the family. An unhappy, unstimulated bird will bite people and develop bad habits like feather plucking.
With proper care and love, your bird will live a long, happy and healthy life with you and your family for many, many years to come.