Seed diets are inadequate and nutritionally deficient. What to do? Try Pellets! Pellets eaters usually live longer, are healthier, breed better, and look better. A variety of pellet diets are available. Seed-pellet products such as Avi-Cakes or Nutraberries improve diets while introducing pellets. Caution: birds may starve to death if you suddenly replace all seeds with pellets. This must be done gradually!
Most table foods are good for birds. A few rules:
• No Caffeine! This means no tea, coffee, or chocolate. They overdose easily and die.
• No Alcohol! Seems obvious but birds will smell the malts or fruits and will want a taste. They cannot break alcohol down and die.
• No Advocado! It is toxic and cathartic. They dehydrate, go into shock, and die.
• Salty Foods cause salt poisoning and fried or Sugary foods make fat birds!
Provide only high quality drinking water. Filtered and boiled water removes pollutants and kills microbes, i.e. Giardia. Place perches so the bird does not soil its food or water. Use water bottles. Safe bowls are stainless steel, ceramic crocks or plastic. Peeled or foreign made bowls may contain lead or zinc. (Hardware stores have test kits.)
A large roomy cage allows flapping without getting wings caught. The bars should not let the head through and must not end in a “V” shape, which traps toes. No homemade cages. They cause lead and zinc poisoning.
No chemical attachments to “remove lice”. Wood perches are easier on feet than ribbed plastic. Padded perches aid arthritic elderly birds. No sandpaper perch covers. They injure feet, (cement perches are safer and control nail growth.)
Do not use Cuttle bones or mineral blocks. No Grit. It is unnecessary and causes fatal blockages. Avoid corncobs, shavings, wood chips or sandy cage bottoms. They prevent inspection of droppings and may grow bacteria or mold. Newspaper or paper towels are better choices.
Mental stimulation is critical for birds. Use safe toys that will not fragment or trap nails or beaks. Alternated toys remain interesting. Keep the cage near the family, but avoid exposure to non-stick pan fumes, air fresheners, paint fumes and so on. Keep cages out of drafts or direct sunlight. New companion birds need their own cage. Some birds enjoy baths or misting. All birds need 8 to 10 hours of quiet, continuous sleep daily.
Sick birds hide symptoms to avoid attracting predators and being driven from the flock. If your bird is puffed up, quiet, sitting at the bottom, or keeping its eyes closed, it needs immediate vet care. One day sick for a bird is like a week for other animals. Frequently handled birds are less stressed by vet visits or medications. Have a carrier for travel or evacuation reasons.
Finally, do clip wings. Unclipped birds loose at home face many dangers such as fans, windows, mirrors, cats, dogs, toxins, drowning, and burns. Sadly, many die or get outside and are lost forever.
For more information, contact Dr. Victoria Hollifield at Best Friend’s Veterinary Hospital (301) 977-1881.