Bird Care

Bird Care

There are a huge variety of birds available as pets in Australia. Each type has unique characteristics, colours, sizes, temperaments and needs so it’s important that you learn and gather as much information as possible. This will help you choose the right bird for you, and also cater adequately for the bird.

Some birds enjoy handling whilst others don’t. Many birds are enjoyable to watch, listen to and have around. Some birds are great talkers, others have a beautiful song and some bring endless fun antics to each day.

Learn all you can about the type of bird you are getting. Equipped with knowledge and understanding, you will have a better idea of what to expect. You'll then be able to provide the pet bird care it needs and the result will be maximum enjoyment for both of you!

Buying a bird is a serious commitment for at least 10 years, but some birds can even live as long as you! Keep in mind the following helpful checklist when making your decision:

Children caring for birds:

Owning a pet bird provides a child with companionship and teaches the child responsibility and care. However, parent's purchasing a bird for a child should be prepared to take on full responsibility for it's care should the child lose interest and supervise closely to ensure that day-to-day care is undertaken.

Which bird? 

There is no "starter bird". Even the humble budgie has complex dietarty, housing and enrichment requirements. When chosing a bird take into consideration:
- the lifespan of the species. Budgies and cockatiels can live for 15-20 years if cared for well, cockatoos and macaws can live for over 100 years!
- the size of the beak! Big birds with big beaks can be intimidating and do serious damage if with a bite. Taking on a size you are comfortable with will help you to work through teething issues and behavioural changes during hormonal times (spring particularly!).
-When considering the size of the bird take into consideration housing. The best cage for your bird is as big as you can afford! Large cages provide space for enrichment (toys and foraging opportunities) and room to spread their wings.
-Diet. Some species, such as Eclectus and Rainbow lorikets have specific dietary requirements which differ greatly from most other species. This means their fecal consistency is also different. It sets like concrete. Are you prepared to have that around your house?
- Enrichment. The best bird toys are those made of natural product and designed to be shredded. A busy beak is a happy beak. Factor in regular toy purchases into your budget. The bigger the bird, the more expensive the toys!

Male or female:

While no bird is guaranteed to learn to speak in many speices the male is the mroe vocal. 
Females may lay eggs, even if housed alone, and need to be monitored for signs of becoming egg bound. 
Annecdotally, some trainers find that female birds bond quicker to male owners and vice versa however it really comes down to the individual bird. 

Health care routine:

 Birds are masters at hiding illness. Their weights, the volume of food they consume a day (majority of which should be 'chop' made from fresh vegetables, legumes and greens), activity levels, posture and faecal consistency all need to be monitored daily to pick up potential problems. It is recommended to have your parrot checked over by a avian vet annually and have a full blood panel and faecal analysis performed. 

Housing:

A well-designed and built aviary is the most satisfactory housing for birds, enabling them to live with freedom of movement and adequate opportunity for flight. Circumstances often dictate that birds are kept in cages, usually manufactured from metal with wire mesh screening. The minimum size of cage to house one bird will depend on the breed of bird. Queries regarding cage sizes can be referred to the RSPCA. The cage should be positioned in a well-lit, sunny area where the birds will have frequent human contact, and in which it will be safe to be released for exercise if possible. A portable cage stand permits the birds to be repositioned for their comfort. Appropriate perches of varying size must be provided as well as well-secured food and water troughs. The food and water receptacles should not be positioned beneath bird perches and any accidental contamination of the food and water by bird droppings must be removed immediately.

Unfortunately the cages, food and perches sold in many pet shops are unsuitable for maintaining a healthy bird. When selecting an indoor cage a 'flight cage' size or larger will be much more appreciated by your bird. 

We are lucky that in Australia many of our native trees are bird safe and new perches can be found in abundance!

Activities:

Numerous bird safe toys that can be rotated regularly can be found online. Natural materials with no rope or metal parts are a must as birds use their beaks like a hand- everything goes in their mouth! Fabric and metal ingestion are two common causes of illness and injury in pet birds.

In the wild birds would spend much of their day in search of food (flying and foraging). Replicating this in the home will keep your parrot happy and healthy.

Online stores for bird toys and accessories include: Chipper Parrots , Beaky Things and Parrot Society of Australia

Protection:

Birds need 12 hours of light and dark. It keeps them well rested and during breeding season reduces the frustration from hormones. At night the cage should be placed in a quiet, dark room to permit the bird to rest and to protect it from draughts. Should the cage be placed outside the house at any time, it must be in a position that is safe from predators – cats, rats, snakes and wild birds – that could scare or directly injure the bird. Birds should not be left in the sun without shade and should be protected from overheating on hot days.

Cleaning:

A tray on the floor of the cage will collect excreta and should be removed each day and thoroughly cleaned. The cage itself should be easy to scrub out, while water and food troughs and perches should be easily removable for cleaning purposes.

Water and chop dishes should be washed and topped up daily.

Handling:

It is important to train your bird to be handled, especially to permit examination for signs of ill-health. Begin by letting them become accustomed to being handled in the cage. Soon they will become finger-tame, and then they may be able to be handled outside the cage. It requires a good deal of patience and gentleness when handling birds, especially small species like canaries.

There are many excellent resources available for help training your bird. We recommend BirdTricks who have online courses, YouTube videos and offer consultations via the web. 
If interested in more local asstance Mel at Works for birds is based in Melbourne.

Training your bird is essential for bond building, desensatising and socialising. They are incrediby intelligent creatures and love to learn. They can also be taught to perform very cute tricks!

Talking:

Some birds that have constant close contact with their owner will learn to talk. These birds can start to talk from about six weeks of age, however if they have not succeeded by six months, they probably never will. Teaching a bird to talk starts by using the same word over and over. Once the bird has learnt one word, new words or complete phrases may be added.

Feeding:

Specific diet recommendations may vary depending upon the species you chose. For the majority of parrots fresh 'chop' should make up the majority of the bird's diet. 
A commercially prepared, balanced pellet should suppliment this diet while seeds and nuts should be fed sparingly or as training treats. 
Traditiona high seed diets are high in fat and low in vitamins and minerals. They lead to health problems such as fatty liver disease and vitamin A deficiency. 

Great chop contains legumes/beans/pulses (2 varieties), grains ( 2-3 varieties) and vegetables ( at least 1 of which is orange, at least 1 leafy). Ideally feeding all vegies raw (except for sweet potato!) so that no nutrients are lost in the cooking process.
Bird safe fresh foods include: spinach, silverbeet, pumpkin, okra, brussel sprouts, bok choy, broccoli, capsicum, chili, carrot, cauliflour, cucumber, zuccini, kale, green beans, snow peas, peas, corn, squash, sprouts, sugar snap peas, parsnip, carrot, sweet potato.
Fruits should be fed sparingly (except for toucans and eclectus parrots). Bird safe fruits include: apple, banana, pawpaw, blueberries, kiwi fruit, mango, nectarine, peach, raspberry, strawberry, rock mello and watermellon.

Boiled egg may be fed in small volumes as an occasional treat

Birds should never be fed: avocado, chocolate, alcohol, caffine, salt and processed sugar.

TOP TIP
When feeding chop your parrot may appreciate different textures and varying sizes of vegetables. 
If you blend up your chop in a food processor they can't pick out the 'good' bits and leave the healthy stuff behind. With every bite they get the good stuff and the taste stuff in every mouthful!

If you need tips on coverting your bird to chop see BirdTricks videos on Youtube or speak to an avian vet.