Basic bird care

Whether we are talking about Budgies or Macaws, the basic needs for all these parrots are the same. I will be talking about basic care here. Within the individual species there will be differences in some nutritional needs and emotional needs.


I highly recommend anyone that is interested in sharing their life with a bird to study the individual species you are interested in. Unfortunately, breeders don't give you the whole story. Why would they? Their main interest is to sell you a bird. Should they tell you everything you would need to know, you would probably change your mind.


So please before taking a parrot into your home, learn all you can.  Your bird will also need basic vet care. Find an Avian Vet in your area.


Basic Food Needs


Seed should make up 30% or less of your birds diet. I also have available at all times pelleted food. Change and wash food and water bowls daily. Bacteria can grow quickly if their bowls are allowed to be dirty (which can cause a multitude of illnesses).  They need organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other healthy foods (yes. people foods). I begin breakfast everyday with fresh broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, apples, grapes and assorted other veggies, and sometimes add some scrambled eggs.


The only exceptions are avocados, caffeine, chocolate and of course alcohol these are toxic to birds. Please watch their intake of salt and sugar and keep that out of their diet. Well, so much for the old ideas of here is the bird and here is the seed.


The other things that should NOT be fed in huge amounts are sunflower seeds and peanuts. Sunflower seed is high in fat and low in nutrition, birds will become addicted to them and not want anything else, which will cause an overweight and malnourished bird that leads to liver disease and eventually death.


Peanuts are not actually a nut, they are a legume and they can carry a fungus that can cause aspergillus. Which can be deadly.  So the proper ratio of food for your parrot is, 30% good quality seed, 40% Fortified foods - quality organic pellets/eggfood 30% fresh fruits, and fresh veggies. 


Housing - Quite simply...


Buy the biggest cage you can afford! (Buy a second hand cage in good condition)


Your bird should be able to flap his wings without hitting the sides, but the bars must be close enough together so he can't get his head through. There should be room for PLENTY of toys and at least two perches of varying diameters to let the bird climb around. The cage should be easy to clean, have smooth welds, must close securely and allow for a lock.


Powder-coated finishes are easier to clean and resist corrosion. This is important because parrots are chewers and certain paints, rust or wrought iron can be very dangerous. Place the cage in an area of bright (but not direct) sunlight and avoid drafts. Cages must be kept clean.


Birds should have a separate play area away from the cage, such as a playpen or a perch.


Birds are not domestic animals, they were meant to fly free and forage in the forest and be with their flock, but we have taken all that away from them by buying them from breeders and pet stores.


The demand goes up and the breeding continues without educating the new owners. The bird gets stuck in a cage in the corner of the living room, that is until they find out how messy and loud the bird is and then they are banished to the basement or worse.


To me, there is no cage that would be too large. Buy the largest one you can afford and even then make sure the birdies have as much time out of that cage that you can give them (a minimum would be 4 hours a day). Use newspaper on the bottom of the cage, that way you can keep an eye on droppings (one of the first signs of illness) and the print retards bacteria growth. Change it every 2-3 days.


Don't use the cob or the shavings in the bottom, it promotes bacteria growth within hours if it gets wet (which it will). I guess I keep putting myself in the place of the bird, we clip their wings and put them in a cage in the corner and just feed the same old seeds everyday, I would say that the quality of life would not be there. These birds have the intelligence level of a 5 to 6 year old child.


Would you do these things to your children? The thought nowadays is to build flight cages to add non toxic plants to their areas, to try to give them a more natural area. There is a wonderful group that now teaches how to build flight cages for you homes, www.naturalbird.com.  


Go visit and see the wonderful housing they are doing now. The point I am trying to make is, these birds were not born into this lifestyle, they did not ask to be here, but here they are, and now it is our responsibility to give them the best possible life we can give them. We make ourselves responsible for their lives by having one as a companion.


MINIMUM cage recommended requirements:

Parakeets, Budgies, Cockatiels, Lovebirds, Quakers, Ringnecks, Conures, Pionus, Lories, Meyers, Senegals: 30”w X 24”d


African Greys, Small Cockatoos, Eclectus, Amazons, Small Macaws: 36”w x 24”d


Larger Cockatoos and Macaws: 48”w x 36”d

We recommend 64”w x 32”d or 80”w x 40”d cages for the larger birds (Moluccans and Greenwing Macaws).


Make sure bar spacing is appropriate for your bird.

Read, Read, Read..


Bathing


Yes, birds need baths. In fact, most birds love being bathed.


There are three basic ways to introduce your bird to water:

Fill a clean spray bottle with tepid water and set the nozzle to mist. Hold the bottle about 18 inches from the bird and let the fun begin!


Set up a "bird bath" in the sink or with a shallow bowl and an inch or two of water.


How often ...


One or two times a week should be enough and if at first the bird seems afraid, be gentle and be persistent. Soon he will be begging for more.


After a bath, gently towel off the excess water and avoid drafts. Remember, parrots are tropical birds. Always supervise all bathing carefully, as parrots cannot swim. After a bath, many birds love to be blown dry. Set the dryer to warm, not hot, and keep at least 12" to 18" away.


Medical Care


All birds should have a thorough medical exam no more than 72 hours after they come home with you. This is for your protection as well as the bird's; most health guarantees expire within 3 to 7 days. Remember, not all vets are avian specialists. Use an avian vet exclusively. Ask your vet for 3 sample bottles and collect fecal samples for 3 days. Your vet will then send them to the lab to test for diseases.


In the wild, birds mask symptoms of illness so as not to be perceived as weak and easily subject to predation. An illness may be quite advanced at the onset of any perceivable symptoms. Do not hesitate to contact your avian vet at the first signs of Illness (loss of appetite, any discharge from eyes, nares and beak, runny or irregular droppings, sitting fluffed, wheezing, sneezing, listlessness, or a decrease in body weight of more than 10%.


It is a good idea to purchase a small digital bird scale and weigh your bird every few days). Any bleeding or vomiting should be treated immediately, as these are usually related to serious conditions. Animal styptic powders are available at most pet stores and should be kept for use in an emergency. A common source of bleeding is an injury to a blood-feather--one that is still growing in and has a supply of blood. While this can be dangerous, the bleeding usually stops when the feather is pulled out. An avian vet can show you how.


Safety


Use Common Sense.


Keep birds away from anything that should not be chewed because if your bird gets near it, it will be. Knives, electrical cords, small glass and plastic items and the like can be fatal. Make certain that any staples or perfume samples are removed from magazines that are given as toys. Be aware that some house plants are toxic to birds. Click here for a list of toxic plants, or ask your avian veterinarian.


Also, birds are easily poisoned by lead. Keep birds away from all household chemicals, such as hairspray, bleach, cleansers, etc. If any amount of lead is ingested, the bird must be treated immediately.


(Be sure to read our article on heavy metal poisoning and view our chart of toxic items.)


Toys


Toys are imperative to the happiness of your parrot


Parrots are highly intelligent, curious, playful and tactile. Give your bird a variety of toys and change them every few days. Avoid toys on open link chains, bent wires or other devices that could injure your bird's beak. Many household items such as paper towel rolls, cardboard boxes, paperback books, magazines (remove the staples) and cardboard beer six-packs (remove the beer) can occupy your bird for hours. If your bird is afraid of a new toy, leave it in the room within his line of sight and gradually move it closer to the cage. Once the bird shows interest in it, put it in the cage.


Interaction


You must spend time with your parrot.


It is essential both for his happiness and for the formation of a trusting, peaceful relationship between the two of you. Exotic birds are not decorations for your home. They are emotionally sensitive and highly Intelligent creatures; recent studies have placed them on the level of primates and marine mammals.


Small parrots can live 25 years; large ones up to 75 years and may well outlive you. Many of the species are endangered, so the decision to buy an exotic bird is not one to be taken lightly. While an Amazon may not require as much scratching and cuddling as a cockatoo, they are all genetically social animals and need to be played with and talked to every day. To fail to do so is nothing less than cruel, and may turn your sweet, interactive little pet into an unpleasant house partner.


But it is precisely this social aspect of exotic birds that makes them so special. If you invest time and love in one of these intelligent, entertaining, social and beautiful creatures, you will be rewarded with a relationship unequaled between man and animal.


Check out these video care guides, offering useful advice and tips for bird owners to help ensure their pet stays happy and healthy.