Owning a parrot or better said, having a parrot own you, can be a highly rewarding but also highly demanding relationship. The following tips will help you make sure your bird is happy and well cared for.
1. A Proper Diet: Feeding a nutritionally balanced diet may be the most important way to keep your bird healthy. Seeds are not a com-plete diet; they are high in fat and low in vitamins and minerals. A pelleted diet plus vegetables, fruit and healthy people food are best. Avoid alcohol, avocado, caffeine, chocolate and foods high in sugar and salt. Just remember, never switch your bird over ‘cold turkey’ as your bird could starve and always ask your veterinarian if there are any ques-tions or concerns.
2. A Proper Cage and Cage Accessories: Purchase the biggest cage you can pos-sibly afford. A cage with more length than height is good, as birds need room to exer-cise and stretch their wings. Make sure it is easy to clean. A variety of perches such as natu-ral wood, rope and grooming perches in the proper size are essential. Do not use sand paper perches. Use newspaper, butcher paper or paper toweling instead of corncob or wood chips. The latter can cause illnesses in your bird and do not allow you to observe the bird’s droppings. Make sure the cage is in a location where your bird will feel safe and will allow your bird to sleep 10-12 hours/night. A separate play gym or T-stand is needed so your bird can be taught to come out of its cage and be a member of the ‘?ock’.
3. Healthy Air: Birds breathe differently than we do and are much more sensitive to poor air quality. Never smoke or allow smoking around your bird. Avoid air fresheners, candles, incense and other products that contaminate the air. Be careful of fumes from the kitchen and overheated non-stick Te? on pans can release fumes that could kill your bird. A good quality air ? lter such as HEPA ? lter is recommended to keep near your birds cage.
4. Proper Toys: Birds are very intelligent and in the wild their beaks are always active. It is important to provide activities for your bird. Birds love to chew so give them safe toys and branches from trees such as apple, dogwood, and citrus. Make sure the branches are free of organic debris and no pesticides have been used.Toys, such as chewing toys, puzzle toys and foot toys should also be used. Frequently rotate them in the cage. If your bird destroys a toy that is what he is suppose to do, so provide new ones. Al-ways make sure the toy is the proper size for your bird and if there are any hanging ? bers, etc., remove it immediately. Attach all toys by stainless steel clamps, not old fashioned rings or twist ties.
5. Water: Birds need fresh clean water daily or even several times a day, as they can be quite messy. Birds also need showers or baths frequently. Some birds may be fearful of water so slowly introduce showering. Try a gentle spray of warm water from a bottle or provide a large bowl of water. Some birds like running water from a faucet or even like shower-ing with their owner. Birds can be bathed several times a week, even in the winter, just make sure they have plenty of time to dry off before bed time or being taken somewhere.
.6. Proper Socialization Skills: Everyone knows that dogs should sit, stay and come and it is just as important to teach your bird proper skills that will help them become better members of the family. A bird should learn step up, step down, stay and be used to being handled both with a perch and hands. Ask your veterinarian for information regarding these techniques and what good magazines and books are available on the subject.
7. Learn Signs that your Bird is Ill: Birds are very good at hiding signs that they are sick. Knowing what is normal for your bird is very important. Signs such as being at the bottom of the cage, sit-ting ? uffed up, not talking, not eating or obvious signs such as vomiting, diarrhea or bleeding are all potential emergencies and your bird should be seen by an avian veterinarian immediately.
8. Have an Avian Veterinarian: Birds are not just feathered dogs or cats. They are unique animals and have different anatomy, diseases and veterinary needs. Establish a relationship with a veterinarian before you need one. Locate a veterinarian that is board certi? ed in avian medicine or who has a great deal of experience with birds.
Written by Carol J. Gamble, D.V.M.of Brookeville Animal Hospital301-774-9698.