We are thrilled to provide our fourth free guide. This time we are looking at owning your first pet caged bird. This document outlines how to select the right bird for you, diet, housing, exercise, socializing, healthcare and more besides. Please enjoy………
1. Caring For Your Cage Bird
2. Equipment and Supplies
3. A Sufficient Home
4. Cage and Equipment Maintenance
5. Socialising and Handling
6. Introducing Children to Your Cage Bird
7. Integration with other Birds
8. Registering with a Vet
10. Infections and Symptoms
11. Food and Diet
14. Final Thought
15. Social Details
16. Image Credits
As the owner of your very first pet bird, you need to provide your feathered friend with three important things – love, care, and attention.
As with any pet, you must prepare to take on new responsibilities and ensure that your cage bird lives a happy, rewarding, and fulfilling life.
Remember to consider your bird’s needs at all times and in doing so your relationship will be one to cherish for a long time to come.
Before you bring your cage bird back to their new surroundings, make sure you’ve purchased the following items:
- Bird cage
- Food dishes
- Mineral blocks
- Water bowl or bottle
- Cage liners
- Bathing bowl
- Cage cover
- Grooming supplies – nail clippers, scissors, spray bottle
- Disinfectant and cleaning products
Having these items in place beforehand will allow your cage bird to quickly adapt to their new home. Furthermore, you won’t need to panic about not having the right equipment in place – making it more relaxing for both you and your new member of the family.
Like all animals, cage birds need enough space to thrive in. As a result, purchase the largest cage possible that your home will accommodate and that’s suitable for the species you own.
Remember that your bird will need plenty of room to spread their wings whilst space is taken up inside by perches, dishes, toys, and other equipment.
Any cage that’s too small will cause your pet distress and impact their ability to live a happy life.
When it comes to your birds cage, consider the following:
Place your cage in a suitable and sociable area of your home to encourage your pet’s natural development.
Avoid placing it in an area where it could be prone to falling over, such as your hallway for example. Also, make sure that it’s located away from any windows and drafts.
Small birds need to be housed in cages where the bars are no more than half an inch apart. If the gaps are larger, it’s possible for your pet to become stuck or even escape completely – leaving you with a bit of a shock the next time you pay your feathered friend a visit.
If you own a larger bird and a bigger cage, then the bars should be horizontal, so that your pet can climb up on the inside and exercise at the same time.
Making your cage homely
Similar to us humans, every animal likes to feel comfortable in their own home. With this in mind, make sure you add toys, dishes, and perches in their cage.
Cages require regular cleaning to prevent the growth of bacteria and to keep your bird happy and healthy. Light cleaning can be done easily and quickly on a daily basis, and a more thorough clean should be provided once a week.
Always make sure you have toxic-free and odorless cleaning products at hand to clean the cage so that your pet doesn’t become ill from any fumes.
Your bird cage liner should be replaced on a daily basis. If you are using a stack of these inside the cage and taking one off at a time each day, make sure that the new one underneath is fresh and no water or droppings have soaked through.
You may wish to use newspaper, but again this will need to be replaced on a daily basis. Avoid using coloured newspaper as the ink could potentially cause harm to your pet.
Food and water dishes:
Clean all dishes in hot soapy water to remove bacteria and make sure they are completely dry before putting them back in the cage.
If you place a damp or wet dish back into the cage and fill it with food, it’s more likely to develop mould – giving you more work to do and resulting in a soggy meal for your pet.
It’s a wise move to have a few more dishes available to use when you are cleaning them, so that your bird is never short of food or water.
If your pet has a water bottle instead, use a small brush to clean it thoroughly and always make sure that the ball at the end is working properly.
It is possible to remove droppings on perches, so long as you clean them on a regular basis.
If you haven’t cleaned their perches for a while and they become covered in a large amount of droppings, then they should always be replaced.
Look out for any signs of splinters and cracking on their perches as these could be causing problems for your bird’s feet, such as pododermatitis – a bacterial infection and inflammation of the foot. (Ref *2)
When cleaning the cage floor, remove seeds and feathers by sweeping the surface. It’s important to keep the floor surface free from droppings, markings, and other debris. If there’s an excessive build-up of dirt and germs then the base of your cage or the whole structure may need to be replaced.
(Ref *3 and *4)
The most important thing to remember when it comes to socializing your cage bird is the more time you spend with them, the tamer they will become.
You may need to be patient at first as they adapt to both you and life outside of their cage, although this phase won’t last long.
Initially, make sure you spend at least 10-15 minutes three times a day with them so that they can begin to feel comfortable around you.
Once you have repeated this for a couple of days, you’re ready to hold them. Always be gentle with your cage bird, you don’t want to cause any damage or pain by using too much force.
When holding them for the first few times, follow these simple steps:
- Move your hand in slowly to the cage – doing this too quickly could cause them to view your hand as a predator and react
- Always approach them with a clenched hand and avoid trying to reach them from above
- Once your bird is relaxed with your hand next to them, extend your finger alongside their perch
- If they don’t grasp onto your finger initially, tap their toe lightly, so that they move onto it
- When they seem relaxed perched on your finger, bring them out of the cage slowly, avoiding any fast or swift action
- If they seem distressed at any time, then don’t bring them out, as you may have a job on your hands getting them back into the cage!
- Once they are out of the cage, you can hold them by gently wrapping your fingers around them
- Avoid putting any pressure on their neck as this could result in breathing difficulties
As any species requires time to settle into their new home, you need to lay down a few ground rules if children are in the same premises as your pet.
- First of all, tell your own and visiting children that they must not raise their voice or be too loud when they are close to the birdcage
- They should also never make the bird jump as this could cause them to flap their wings in distress and may lead to injury
- Stress the importance of not putting any sweets, toys, or other items through the bars and into the cage, as this could also cause distress, injury, and even death
- If your children wish to approach your bird, explain that they must walk slowly up to the cage and avoid waving their arms
Older birds may find it difficult to mix with other birds if they are invading their space. However, there is more of a chance of integration if the bird you are bringing into their environment is younger.
Remember that you should only ever keep the same species of bird within the same cage. So for example, only keep canaries with canaries.
Integration between two species that are the same isn’t always guaranteed to work. You need to remember that birds have their own personal preferences and in some instances, they won’t be compatible. However, if you allow them time, integration is certainly achievable.
Initially, it’s best for birds to get to know each other within their own separate cages. After a few days, begin to move the cages closer together so that they can adapt to the situation.
The first encounter between two birds should always be outside of their cage. This gives your pet’s space and also means that you can observe their behavior and be on standby if they react negatively towards one another.
During this scenario, make sure that you give equal attention to both of your birds so that neither of them becomes jealous.
After a number of encounters in this manner and once you are happy that the birds are comfortable in each other’s company, you can place them together in the same cage.
Make sure you observe if they are comfortable within the same space. If all is well after watching them for a short period of time, then the chances are that that successful integration has been achieved.
Continue to monitor their behavior on a regular basis after they are enclosed within the same space to spot any potential issues.
Remember that birds within close confinement can transmit diseases to one another. As a result, monitor their weight, droppings and amount of food they eat too. If you observe a noticeable difference, seek veterinary advice straight away.
In times of need and to help you if your bird falls ill, it’s advised that you register with a vet. In this instance, a qualified avian vet may be your preferred choice as they will be more experienced in handling and working specifically with birds.
If your bird does become unwell, it can be difficult to determine the cause of illness. Therefore, a vet can pass on accurate advice, provide vaccinations, as well as determine a diagnosis to help your bird recover quicker.
A simple search online or a recommendation from another bird owner will allow you to find a vet who is worth choosing and who is local too.
If you don’t register with a vet now, you’ll regret it later on if your bird suddenly displays signs of illness or virus. In addition, without vet care, you will need to spend a lot more money to resolve an emergency situation.
Insurance is important for your feathered friend.
Depending on your circumstances and setup, insurance will help with and protect you against:
- Vets bills
- Public liability
- Bird-rooms and equipment
Whenever you are purchasing insurance, always make sure that you know exactly what you are covered for by clarifying the details with your provider.
During an emergency, you don’t want to end up in a situation where you thought you were covered when in actual fact you weren’t – so always check first.
If at any stage you believe that your pet bird is suffering from illness, then address the problem straight away. In doing so, your pet can continue to live a healthy and happy life.
Seek veterinary advice if you think that your bird is displaying any of the following common infections and symptoms:
|Aspergillosis (respiratory tract diseases)||Lack of appetite, breathing difficulties, depression, weakness, loss of coordination|
|Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD)||Weight loss, vomiting, changes in the bird’s droppings, a swollen crop (where bird’s store and soften their food)|
|Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)||Feather loss, growths, abnormalities of the beak, unusual feather development|
|Candida (overgrowth of yeasts in the birds digestive system)||White lesions around and in the mouth and throat, vomiting, loss of appetite|
|Polyomavirus (unusual development or lack of feathers)||Appetite loss, enlarged abdomen, diarrhea|
|Psittacosis||Lethargic, breathing difficulties, eye infection, runny droppings|
(Ref *5, *6 and *7)
The majority of birds will not thrive on a diet which incorporates one single food item. Although seeds are a common choice and are good for their natural development, there are plenty of other foods on offer to feed your bird.
Your feathered friend requires a range of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and water. Therefore, a seed-based only diet could lead to health problems further down the line. You don’t have to eliminate seeds completely, but it’s best if they are fed these as part of a wider, varied, and balanced diet.
Here’s a list of foods to feed your bird:
|Species-specific pellet food (75% of birds diet)||N/A|
|Fruit||Banana, papaya, apple, blueberries|
|Vegetables||Carrots, cooked sweet potatoes, spinach|
|Nuts and grains||Almonds, cooked brown rice|
|Beans||Kidney beans, garbanzo beans|
|Table food (treats)||Whole-wheat pasta, cooked squash, scrambled eggs|
(Ref * 8 and *9)
Make sure you avoid the following foods:
Birds require fresh and clean water at all times, so be sure to change their water bowls at least twice a day.
Where possible, use bottled water, as bacteria can’t grow as easily within a bottle. You may also wish to place a drop of grapefruit seed extract in the water to help reduce bacteria growth.
Using two water bowls in your birds cage is a good idea as one can be used to drink from and the other can be used to wash in.
Water is just as paramount to birds as it is to any other pet, so always make sure that there is plenty available and that their bowls aren’t empty or dry.
Birds need physical exercise on a regular basis to help with their mental stimulation and natural development.
Keeping them in a cage 24 hours a day won’t allow them to get the exercise they need, so you must let them outside for a minimum of two hours a day.
When outside the cage, make sure that doors and windows within the room they are playing in are shut to avoid them escaping. During this time, you must also supervise them to make sure they are safe in their surroundings.
Looking after a cage bird is a big commitment, so make sure you’re ready to provide the care and attention that they deserve before you bring them back home.
As an owner you are responsible for providing them with sufficient living conditions and alongside the love and care you offer, you’ll both share many great moments in each other’s company.
Visit our Little Peckers website for great prices on bird food and supplies.
- About.com, Choosing a Cage Bird, Rules To Remember: http://birds.about.com/od/birdcages/a/choosingacage.htm
- Bumblefoot, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumblefoot_(infection)
- Pet Education, Bird Cage Cleaning: Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Bird Cage Maintenance: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=15+1794&aid=2837
- Bird Channel, 5 Things You Need To Know About Bird Cages: http://www.birdchannel.com/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-bird-cages.aspx
- About.com, Common Diseases in Pet Birds: http://birds.about.com/od/birdhealth/tp/commondiseases.htm
- Pet MD, Respiratory Tract Infection in Birds: http://www.petmd.com/bird/conditions/respiratory/c_bd_Aspergillosis#.UoEDvvnIbIZ
- Psittacosis, About.com: http://birds.about.com/od/p/g/psittadef.htm
- Bird Channel.com, What to Feed Your Pet Bird: http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-magazines/bird-talk/2010-january/what-to-feed-pet-birds.aspx
- Bird Channel.com, Bird Food Components: http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-diet-and-health/bird-nutrition/bird-diet-components.aspx
- Abbey Vets, Birds: http://www.abbeyvetsdurham.co.uk/birds.asp
- About.com, Exercise and Pet Birds: http://birds.about.com/od/birdhealth/a/Exercise-And-Pet-Birds.htm