BIRD Pet Care
"Tweet, tweety, tweet!" ...BIRD
General Care Information
- Birds, like all pets, require care, attention and companionship. When bringing a bird home make sure you are prepared for a little noise, an occasional mess, and a long term relationship.
- Birds don’t just sing beautiful songs, they also screech and holler at what can seem like random intervals.
- Expect to clean up after your birds as they toss thing from their cage and scatter food and seeds around their cage.
- Regular cleaning of the cage should also be expected.
- Some types of birds can become extremely attached to their owners and lose all zest for life if abandoned or sold.
Sunlight – Ultraviolet W
Caged birds need sunlight and rarely get enough ultraviolet radiation from the windows in the home. Birds require ultraviolet (UV-W) light through their skin to facilitate the absorption of calcium as food passes through the intestinal tract. Without enough calcium, birds will develop weak bones and lose muscle tone.
Be sure to get your bird outside as often as possible, especially on sunny days. Place the bird in its cage in a well ventilated sunny spot that is well out of the reach of neighborhood cats and other predators. On hot summer days, be sure to partially cover the cage with some shade so that the bird can move in and out of the sun to stay cool.
In areas of the world or in certain owner situations where direct sunlight is not always available, artificial light sources can be used to create the needed ultraviolet light birds need.
Keeping birds clean and healthy requires a daily effort. Because birds are confined to a small cage with limited mobility, they are continually exposed to bacteria that is created by their own mess, saliva, and feces. Bird cage floors, perches, food dishes and watering containers should be cleaned daily.
To clean a bird cage, remove the newspaper at the bottom of the cage and wipe the bottom surface down with hot soapy water and then a common household disinfectant. Perches should also be treated with a disinfectant and, if they are wood, should be touched up with some sandpaper. Keep several food bowls on hand so that the bowls can be rotated in and out of the cage each day – bowls taken out of the cage should be soaked in a disinfectant and then washed in a hot dishwasher for further disinfection. Uneaten food should be discarded as it is highly likely that the food has been contaminated with droppings or saliva. Water bottles should also be changed daily and soaked with disinfectant and rinsed before being refilled. The safest water to give your bird will be filtered water. If you decide to give your bird tap water, be sure to let the water run for a few minutes before filling the water bottle – this will allow unwanted contaminants to flush through the system and not end up in your bird’s water supply. Water borne pathogens that typically do not affect the human digestive system can cause devastating results to birds.
Keeping your birds cage and food supply free from contaminants requires a constant vigilant effort. By following these cleanliness requirements, you can reduce the chance that your bird will contract a disease and increase the chance of having a healthy bird to brighten your home for many years.
BIRD Feeding Information
Birds require a well balance diet with plenty of variety of the right kinds of foods that contain essential vitamins and minerals. When feeding birds, be sure to offer foods that are high in nutritional value, and not mixed with nuts or seeds. Birds are picky eaters and will consume the nuts and seeds and ignore the nutritional foods. The following details specific things to pay attention to when feeding your bird.
Vitamin A is critical to your pet bird’s health. This vitamin helps maintain healthy feathers, skin, eyes, intestinal tract, respiratory system, and reproduction organs and tracts. To ensure your bird gets an amply supply of Vitamin A, be sure to provide a variety of vitamin A rich foods such as sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, spinach, corn, apricots, eggs and fish oils. Seeds do not contain sufficient Vitamin A - birds that prefer to eat nothing but seeds (called “seed junkies”) eventually become sickly due to the lack of Vitamin A and shorten the bird’s overall life span.
Nuts and Seeds
Seed Junkies refuse to eat anything but sunflower seeds, pinenuts, peanuts and other types of bird seed. Seeds and nuts contain addictive fats that can create an energy boost, similar to a “sugar rush” that humans feels when consuming sugary products. This boost from fats creates a preference for high-fat foods. When birds become hooked and then are deprived of the fatty nuts and seeds that they prefer, they become lethargic and depressed. Recent research shows that not only are sunflower seeds common in pet bird’s diets, but also can be particularly addictive.
Birds should be fed a regular diet of nutritious fruits and vegetables, supplemented with common bird feed. A with most pets, birds are creatures of habit and like to see familiar, common foods at regular intervals. It is common for birds to shy away from new or unfamiliar foods and will take some time observing the new food before they will give it a try. As new foods can cause the bird stress, it is important to keep the bird’s diet consistent and familiar when they are ill – introducing new foods during times of sickness will cause the bird to eat less and not recover as quickly. It should be noted that during sicknesses, any change from the normal routine (feeding times, cage location, etc.) will cause the bird additional stress
Bird cages and food dispensers should be cleaned regularly to prevent bacterial diseases from causing sickness. Birds are highly sensitive to bacteria that is not considered harmful to humans. To prevent contamination, wash your hands each time you prepare the bird’s food and wash all fresh fruits and vegetables before feeding them to the bird. Bird feed can be placed in the oven and baked (350 degrees for 10 minutes) to “sterilize” the food. Foods given to birds should not be placed on the floor of the cage so as to not become contaminated with bird feces and saliva. Place the food in the cage in a clean, sterile bowl.
Water dispensers should be cleaned regularly with a disinfectant soap and rinsed thoroughly with hot water. Because dishwashers ran at hot temperatures, they are a great place to further sterilize food bowls and water dispensers. When filling up your bird’s water dispenser use clean bottled water, or, if you use tap water, let the tap water run for 3 – 5 minutes before filling the water container to allow for impurities to pass through the pipes.
Grooming and Feathers
The decision to trim a bird’s wings is clearly a preferential decision made by the pet owner. Owners of free roaming birds may enjoy seeing their birds fly around the home and may not want to trim the bird’s wings. Cage bird’s wings should be trimmed regularly to prevent the bird from injuring itself by trying to fly around in its cage.
When considering whether to trim a bird’s wings or not, consider the following positive and negative results:
Positive • Birds will be protected from themselves – they will be unable to fly into mirrors, windows and ceiling fans • Trimming can cause a bird to be more tame and less aggressive Negative • Trimmed wings can cause a bird to lose its balance both on a perch and while in flight • Unbalance flight can cause the bird to crash and injure itself • The bird will be unable to escape predators like cats • The bird could get caught behind furniture or doors and not be able to get itself out • Incorrect clipping can cause wing damage
Bird owners who choose to clip their birds wings should trim the wings every 6 – 10 weeks after the start of the molt cycle as new feathers grow back. Before trimming your bird for the first time, you may want to find an experienced person or veterinarian to assist you. The first trimming should not take off too much of the feathers giving the bird a chance to adjust to its lifestyle with limited flight capabilities – each time you trim you can take off a bit more. It is important to not cut too deeply so as to not cause the feathers to bleed – never clip the blood feathers or the pin feathers.
Nail and Beak Care
Bird’s nails and beak should not be trimmed using conventional clippers or scissors – clipping the nails can create an emergency situation if the nails begin to bleed. To smooth out the beak or nails of a bird, use an emery board to file down the sharp edges of each nail and the end of the beak.
Birds in the wild bath themselves in the rain and in puddles formed by the rain. Caged birds and indoor birds should be given the same opportunity to bath by providing them a bowl of regular household tap water to splash in. The moisture on their wings will remove dirt and dust and encourage preening. If you prefer not to deal with a water mess that may be caused by a bowl of water, you can use a spray bottle to mist the bird – the spray moisture will also encourage preening.
After a bath, birds should be allowed to dry completely in a warm environment – preferably out in the sun. If you choose to use a hair dryer, hold the hair dryer at least a foot away from the bird and use a low heat setting to prevent burning the bird.
Throughout a bird’s life, its feathers will grow old, fall out and be replaced by new colorful feathers. This natural physiological process of feather replacement is call molting. Molting occurs at regular intervals that vary between different bird types. Environmental conditions, such as climate and location, also will influence the molting cycle.
Feather Preening refers the instinctual process a bird goes through to groom itself. The preening process consists of the bird using its beak and claws to straighten, adjust, and care for its feathers. As feathers are cared for, the bird naturally beautifies its feathers while taking care of the practical needs of waterproofing and conditioning its feathers. Additionally, preening allows for new flight and contour feathers to form and grow out to their natural lengths.
Companion birds that share a bird cage or living space can occasionally be seen preening each other. One bird will sit very still, while the other bird picks at the feathers of its cage mate. Birds will also rub up against objects to aid them in preening their feathers.
Bird cages are the best solution for housing your pet bird. Bird cages should be large enough to allow the bird some free movement and open enough that they can see their surroundings and participate in the action around the home. When choosing a location for your bird cage, find a spot that is in the common area of the home, but out of the way of foot traffic so that the cage doesn’t get bumped. A well ventilated area away from heating and air conditioning vents will provide your bird ample circulation without the extreme temperature changes that come from the air conditioning and heating. While birds are able to use their feathers to insulate themselves from an occasional draft – rapid temperature changes can cause the bird to become ill.
Additionally, birds should be kept away from the cooking area as oils and non-stick cooking sprays can emit deadly gasses if overheated. The heat, smoke, and gasses produced by a common evening dinner may not affect the pet owners, but these gasses can cause extreme harm to the bird.
During the colder seasons of the year, it may be necessary to cover your bird’s cage to keep it warm. While birds do have the ability to adequately insulate themselves through mild temperature changes, a cage cover can help the bird to conserve additional heat. Pay attention to your bird’s communication patterns when the cover is placed on the cage – some birds react adversely and begin to panic when the cage is covered. If your bird becomes stressed because of the cover, you may want to consider not covering the cage so as to not injure or stress out your bird. Covers also limit light into the cage delaying the bird’s active state in the morning until the owner is ready to hear the chirping and screeching.
Some pet owners like to place their birds on open perches in the home and allow their birds to roam the house freely. Free roaming birds should be closely supervised and place in their cage while the pet owner is away. Birds are quite skilled at getting into trouble around the home. They can peck at and ruin clothing, furniture, drapes, electrical chords, and many other things that can damage the home and potentially be life threatening to the bird. In addition to causing harm to your home, birds lack of depth perception often times will cause them to fly into walls, mirrors, windows and doors. Birds that are allowed to roam the house often can become territorial and become aggressive about certain areas of the home that they consider to be theirs. This territorial nature can be dangerous to children and unsuspecting visitors to the home.
Just like any other pet, birds need exercise – especially birds with trimmed wings that cannot fly as they would like to. Birds can get exercise by providing them toys, such as balls, rattles, and bells – things such as ropes and swings allow them to hang and climb, an excellent activity for exercise.
Birds that do not get enough exercise will seem withdrawn, depressed and can get overweight. This reaction will cause birds to pick at their feathers and exhibit other negative behavioral problems.