Pet Bird Basics
It is important for anyone who is going to adopt a bird to take the time necessary to understand birds in general and the particular species under consideration in particular. There are many fine books, DVDs and training courses available to acquaint the would-be bird owner with the characteristics and habits of particular types of birds. Understanding what will provide the safest, healthiest and most enjoyable environment for the pet bird will make the experience of the owning a bird more pleasurable for all concerned. Most pet birds are intelligent and social and will form a close bond with the person who cares for them.
What people admire most about birds is their ability to fly, so, if at all possible, a pet bird should be allowed some time to exercise its wings. The bird's wings should not be clipped and its cage should be as roomy as possible, one with several perches of varying heights and textures.
Most importantly, there should always be time for a bird to be free in a safe, supervised, bird-proof area. Perhaps a room, or part of a room, can be designated as a fly zone in which necessary furniture can be covered so the bird can experience the joy of flight for which its body was designed. An area safe for a pet bird should be free of:
- Open, unscreened windows or doors
- Hazardous materials, like room fresheners, scented candles, Teflon
- Other intrusive pets like dogs and cats
- Wires and cords that can be chewed on
It is necessary for the owner of a pet bird to find a board-certified avian veterinarian, since most cat and dog vets do not treat birds. An avian veterinarian can be located through the Association of Avian Veterinarians' website. The pet bird should have an annual physical examination. In addition, because birds tend to hide their infirmities, any shift in behavior should be cause for concern and may require an extra visit to the vet.
For most pet birds, seed does not provide the best nutrition. The healthiest bird diet should contain grains, fruits and vegetables and organic pellets that are pet-recommended.
It is important for the bird's health to keep its cage clean. Every day paper should be replaced and water and food containers should be cleared of droppings. Once a month, the bird should be removed while the cage is given a thorough cleaning with an unscented cleaner.
Although birds do some self-grooming, and can benefit from a piece of material in their cage on which to file their beaks, the owner should be prepared with small scissors to trim claws, a grinding file to smooth them and styptic powder to stop bleeding arising from small grooming accidents. A bird mister or spray bottle is also helpful.
Birds are flock animals and greatly benefit from the presence of another bird in their life. If possible, adopt two birds who can relate to one another. This is particularly important if the pets are to be left alone in the home for long periods of time. When left alone, a bird provided with radio or television sounds may feel more at ease.
The greatest companionship for the pet bird is interaction with its owner. Apart from talking to, singing or whistling with, petting the bird and letting it perch on your finger or shoulder, you may with patience teach your bird a number of tricks. When teaching a bird to perform a particular action, or, if it is capable, to say a particular word, treats as rewards work best.
Birds, like all creatures, need to be busy. There are plenty of safe bird toys on the market to amuse them (and their owners). Simple household items, like a piece of pasta, can also provide entertainment. Mirrors are often a pleasant distraction.
Birds, like most animals, enjoy sensual stimulation. Since many species of birds love to vocalize, songs and whistles will inspire and please them. Some types of birds will even bob their heads in time to the music. Varying scents, like those provided by a sprig of mint, may also please them.