Adding a feathered friend to the family is an exciting time. Having a pet bird can be a very rewarding experience. If you take good care of your bird, you will have a feathery friend for the next 10 to 80 years depending on the type of bird you get. Ensure you do research before getting a pet bird as different species have different dietary, housing and mental stimulation needs. Your pet bird will depend on you for water, food, shelter and care. This means you have to make sure they get a good diet, suitable to their needs, enough stimulation, a large enough space to live in and the safety and security they need to let their personalities shine. Birds that do not get what they need often do not live as long as they should. Birds also need immediate vet care if they show any signs of illness.
Birds spend a lot of time eating and this is an essential part of their care. You need to ensure your pet gets a balanced diet and everything they need for growth and sustained health. Some of the most health common problems found in birds include vitamin A deficiency, egg binding (often due to a lack of calcium) and obesity. While your birds might love a seed only diet, this is like feeding a child chocolate only. They may like it, but it is not healthy for them as a sole source of nutrients. The seeds are often low in vitamins and high in fat. Many prepacked seed mixes also contain pelleted vitamin balls, which are largely ignored by many birds, meaning that they do not get the vitamins they should. Birds that are picky eaters will also only choose one or two of the seeds to eat such as the sunflowers, so they get minimal nutritional value from the seed mix. Some brands offer pelleted food which is healthier than seeds, but may still not provide everything they require. It is important that birds get a variety of foods daily. The diet should be high in vegetables such as spinach, celery, silver beet, parsley, endives and other greenery. You can also add in milk thistle, fresh grasses and dandelion as long as you are sure they are free of contamination. Fruit is also good but should be given at a lower ratio than vegetables. There are also recipes online for birdy bread which gives birds a mix of healthy foods in one. Pellets are better than an all seed diet, but fresh foods are better than pellets. A good mix of the three should provide adequate nutrition for your bird. Research the required diet before bringing home your new bird.
Birds need full spectrum light. This means you need to ensure they get some sunlight, unfiltered through glass or plastic to help them absorb vitamin D. Birds also need dark. They need to sleep for around 10 to 12 hours every day, so ensure they can be covered with a blackout cover or are in an area that can be made dark enough for them to rest well. You can vary sleep hours to match the season if you prefer or just have it as half light and half dark for your birds each day.
The air needs to be relatively clean and there should not be any sprays, deodorizers or so forth in the same room as your birds. Birds can also die from cigarette smoke I the air and will also self-mutilate due to irritation in the lings from the smoke. Don’t smoke anywhere near birds and smoke should not be able to enter the room from the area you smoke in. The nicotine on your fingers and in your mouth can also negatively impact your bird as it is highly toxic. The nicotine on your fingers can cause irritation to the birds skin and if they nibble your fingers, even death. Nibbling on discarded butts can also be fatal to your bird.
Birds also love a bath now and then. If you allow your bird in your shower, you cannot use soap around the bird. Some birds like a mist spray from a bottle or hose. For other birds, they may enjoy a bath in their cage, but remove the dish once they have finished their shower to avoid it being polluted by excrement, bits of food and so forth.
A bird’s cage should be their safe spot. This should be purely a place for them to be safe from predators and other dangers, especially if you are not at home. The cage should be a room for them to be protected in and not a prison. The cage should allow enough space for 2 birds side by side to spread their wings out. Cages do not need to be that high, but should be wide. The bird should be able to be comfortable in the cage and flap their wings if they want to. They should spend as little time in the cage as possible. They should be out of the cage for exercise and to interact with you and the family. Time out of the cage should always be supervised. This will help keep your bird stimulated and healthy. If your bird does not want to go back in the cage to sleep, you can make the room a bit darker and they should settle down enough to allow you to catch them. Cages should be made from stainless steel, BHP polymer covered wire or powder-baked coatings instead of galvanised wire. If you do use galvanised wire, use a wire brush and vinegar to wash off the cage. Repeat the process twice to reduce the change of metal poisoning. Weathering the wire and vinegar treatments will not completely eliminate the risk, but can reduce it somewhat.
Bowls and perches
It is important that food and water bowls are not put in places that allow the birds to defecate in them. The bowls also need to be cleaned regularly and fresh water given daily. Where possible, have a grid to allow food waste and faeces to fall through so that your bird is not encouraged to sort through faeces covered food on the cage floor. Don’t use bag ties that contain metal nor metal toys in the cage to avoid heavy metal poisoning. Heavy metal poisoning can be caused by exposure to copper, lead, zinc and other metals. This is often seen where birds are exposed to galvanised wire, copper wire, paint containing metals, backs of mirrors, rusty metal toys and other products containing metals. The perches should not contain sandpaper as this hurts the bird’s feet with no real change to their nails. The perches should be made of untreated natural woods that allow for chewing and preening without harm to the bird. Try and avoid plastic perches and dowels. If possible use perches of a variety of woods and sizes to engage your bird.
Friends and mates
In nature birds are usually found in flocks. Birds may also choose a specific mate (bird or human), unlike most other pets that enjoy attention from many people. If you have a bird that calls a lot or talks and sings, they are usually trying to get some attention. Most birds are not happy on their own. They need attention from a bird or human “mate” and can become ill and depressed if they are left alone. While it does help to have a TV or radio going when you are not at home, this is not a substitute for your attention. Boredom, frustration and stress can cause a weakened immune and is a factor in “bad” behaviour and various illnesses as well.