Birds

See also: Dr. Hess’ bird care series

Bird Housing

Birds should be housed in the largest cage possible. Cages should be made of non-toxic material, and the cage bars should be spaced appropriately to the size of the bird to prevent escape. Ideally, perches should be made of natural wood (manzanita, northern hardwood, Australian pine, eucalyptus, etc.) that is pesticide-free. Branches found outside should not be made into perches, as they can carry fungus, bacteria, parasites, and pesticides. Soft braided rope perches are another great choice. At least one perch should be placed near the food and water bowls. The depth and size of the bowls depends on the species.

Spoiled food should be removed every day from the cage, and the cage should be cleaned out completely at least once a week. Newspaper, paper towel, and other plain paper are ideal on the bottom of the cage to enable visualization of bird’s droppings. Wood shavings, corncob, cat litter, or other particle matter bedding is not recommended, because it tends to be dusty and grow bacteria and fungus.

Bird Activity

Birds are very social and generally live in large flocks in the wild. As the bird’s owner, you are essentially his or her flock mate, so the bird’s cage should be placed in an area of your home where there is a lot of activity. Cages should not be placed in the kitchen because of potential risk to the bird from cooking fumes and flames on the stove. Teflon pans should never be used around birds, because the toxic chemicals they release into the air when they are heated to high temperatures can be instantly fatal to birds.

Birds should never be exposed to cigarette smoke or other aerosolized toxins to which they are very sensitive. Caution should also be taken with birds around open doors and windows, near mirrors and ceiling fans, and around other potentially predatory pets such as cats and dogs.
While birds should be taken out of the cage as much as possible to socialize them and provide exercise, they should never be left unsupervised. To provide mental stimulation and physical exercise, birds should be provided with safe toys that are good to chew on such as items made from soft wood, cardboard, paper, or chewable items such as coconut husks and corncobs.

Nutrition For Birds

Your bird’s diet is critical to its overall health. Several commercially-prepared, formulated diets (pellets) are available, depending on your bird’s species, that should make up a good portion (generally at least two-thirds) of the diet. Supplementation with small amounts of vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables also may provide nutrients essential in your bird’s diet and may make eating more fun for your bird. However, avocados are toxic. For most birds, seeds should only make up a small portion of their diet. An avian veterinarian can better provide you with information on the specific dietary needs of your bird.

Your Bird's Environment

Most temperatures that are comfortable for you are okay for your bird. Sudden radical changes in temperature may be difficult for birds to tolerate. Most birds, especially those from tropical climates, require added humidity (from bathing or misting with water from a spray bottle) for healthy feathers and skin.

Birds also need fresh air and sunlight (not filtered through glass) to make vitamin D in their skin. This is essential to the bird’s calcium and phosphorus balance. If unfiltered sunlight is not available, a bird can be provided with an indoor ultraviolet light available from the Veterinary Center.

Healthcare For Your Bird

Birds should be examined annually by an avian veterinarian to detect health problems early and prevent potential problems from developing. Nail trims and wing trims (to prevent escape or injury) are also recommended. Owners can learn to groom their birds at home or have these procedures performed by a veterinarian or other individual trained in bird grooming.

Leg bands should be left in place unless they are constricting the leg or causing injury. Removal of a leg band from a struggling bird can lead to a fractured leg. Good preventive medical care for birds can help them live long healthy lives.

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