THE BRITISH COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS
Our mission: To protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

Birds



 

This web page contains basic information for the care of birds. For more detailed information, please consult other professional resources such as your veterinarian or one of the many books available about bird care.

Pet birds usually belong to one of two avian families: Psittacines or Passerines.  

Psittacines are the most common type of pet bird and are characterized by having a sturdy curved beak. Examples of this group include budgies, cockatiels and parrots. Psittacines can become very tame and many are good talkers, however, their care requirement far exceed Passerines and there are humane and environmental issues associated with parrots captured in the wild. Learn more about Parrots.

Passerine birds are usually small and have straight, short pointed beaks; examples include canaries and finches. Many Passerine birds sing or chirp attractively. They do not talk, they are bred in captivity and have moderate care requirements.

Below, we have outlines guidelines for providing the best care for your bird

Housing

Bird cages are preferably made of wire (not bamboo) and with no sharp protruding objects. Cages should not be soldered with lead-based solder as lead is toxic if ingested. Cages should be as large as you have room for. Preferably they should be wide enough for the birds to move freely to different perch levels. Tall narrow cages are not recommended because birds tend to move laterally and not vertically. Your cage should be large enough for your bird to express its natural inclinations to move around, to flap its wings and to preen without touching the sides of the cage.

A paper-lined metal tray below a grid allows for easier cleaning of droppings and discarded food. Scrub perches regularly. Be sure your natural perch is the right size, has no pesticides in or on the wood, is a non-toxic type of tree, and is clean (scrub the branches with vinegar, then put them in the oven for half an hour at 125° C or 250° F).

The best perches can be made from natural tree branches such as fruit and citrus trees. Natural perches offer proper footing and exercise as compared to smooth round poles or plastic perches. Sandpaper perches should be removed as they irritate the bird's feet and fail to trim the nails as advertised. Nails should be trimmed by a veterinarian or someone with experience in performing this task.

Place perches in such a way that the birds' droppings won't contaminate food or water.

Cover the cage at night as this provides a feeling of security and prevents drafts.

Environment

Cages should be placed in a room with a window. In the warmer months and under supervision the cage may be taken outside but be sure there is shade available.

Give your bird a bowl of water for bathing several times a week, or use a water mister to spray your bird's feathers. Keep your pet warm and out of drafts until completely dry.

Normal house temperatures of 21-27° C (70-80° F) are tolerated well by pet birds. Sick birds should be kept slightly warmer. Avoid sudden changes in temperature.

Be sure your bird has a safe environment to explore if you let him out of his cage. Give your bird safe toys such as rawhide dog chews and pine cones to play with.

Feeding

Seed mixtures alone are not a balanced and complete diet as birds require nutrients from five food groups.


1. Grains, cereals, seeds:
Up to 50% of the total diet should consist of whole wheat bread, pasta, cooked brown rice, whole nuts, etc. Note: Sunflower seeds should be avoided or at least strictly limited because of their high fat content.


2. Fresh vegetables: Feed up to 45% of the total diet. Examples include spinach, carrots, parsley, squash (include the seeds!) and corn.


3. Fresh fruit: Fruits, along with meat and dairy, should comprise only about 5% of the total diet but are important and must not be overlooked. Fresh fruits include cantaloupe, apricots, apples, grapes, berries. Warning: Avocados are poisonous to birds.

4. Protein: These include tofu products, beef, chicken, fish, cooked eggs, peanuts, lima or kidney beans.

5. Dairy: Birds on mostly seed diets require more of this group including cottage cheese, hard cheeses, cuttlebone, oyster shell, mineral block. Note: If a bird refuses foods from this group then calcium supplements in crushed tablet or liquid form may be mixed with other foods.


Supply your bird with separate containers for seeds, fresh food and water. Always present fresh foods in bite-sized pieces, not large chunks. Fresh food should be removed after a maximum of eight hours. Clean food and water containers daily and sanitize once a week in a dishwasher or scrub with soapy hot water then rinse well.

However, if you do not have the time to always prepare fresh food for your bird there are various pellet diets, ranging from complete and balanced to supplementary feeds, for your bird. Ask your veterinarian which is right for your pet. These pellets contain all the necessary vitamins for your bird. Supplying vitamins through pelleted food can be a better method than using powdered or liquid vitamins. Powder vitamins often filter down to the bottom of the bird feed cup and liquid vitamins placed in drinking water promote bacterial growth and should not be used. However, if you care to continue using vitamin powder, place a light sprinkling of a vitamin powder (such as Super-Preen) and a heavier sprinkling of a ground-up high quality dry dog food over the top of the seed each time you fill your bird's seed container.

Most avian veterinarians and aviculturalists no longer recommend feeding grit to birds, because of the diet most pet birds eat. Feeding your bird grit may cause grit crop impaction, which is a potentially serious medical problem. Check with your veterinarian.

Preventative Health Care

Normal care involves nail and beak trimming, and wing clipping.

Avoid:

  • Sandpaper perches as they increase foot problems
  • Mite sprays or containers placed on the cage

  • Unsafe toys such as small chain links, objects containing lead, balsa wood, sharp objects

  • Air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, overheated Teflon utensils, insecticide sprays, access to treated or painted wood, cedar.

  • Poisonous house plants.

When introducing a bird into a home already housing another bird, first, take the bird to an avian veterinarian for a thorough checkup prior to taking your pet home; second, keep the new bird in a separate room for four weeks as a form of quarantine; and finally, if all is well, cages may be placed in the same room.

Medical Care

You can avoid many health problems by ensuring you get a healthy bird in the beginning. Birds and other exotic animals are masters at hiding sickness. The first signs of a sick bird are usually subtle and easily missed. Consult your veterinarian immediately if you notice any of the following:

  • Appearance - fluffed up feathers, weakness, sitting on cage floor, swellings on body, bleeding, discharges.
  • Breathing - wheezing or clicks, tail bobbing, laboured respiration.

  • Droppings - overly wet, no white colour, change of the dark part.

  • Food consumption - increased or decreased.

  • Behaviour - stops singing, inactive, sleeping longer.

For more complete information on your particular bird consult a pet care manual, your veterinarian and/or contact a local bird club.

 

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