First Time Bird Owners – FAQ

One of the most wonderful things that can happen to you, is the addition of a pet bird to your family. However, there is a lot a new bird owner must know in order to develop a loving and trusting relationship and to keep a bird healthy.

From time to time we will be presenting articles with tips on basic bird care for first time bird owners. We will touch briefly on subjects to make you aware of important topics. But, there is much more to learn about each topic. So join a bird club, talk with breeders, read magazines and avian books. Join a bird mailing list or visit an internet bird chat. And of course, we recommend articles from our magazine Winged Wisdom and from other websites on the NET.

  1. Feeding – An all seed diet is not recommended. But we’d like to point out that birds have starved to death when their owners thought they had a bowl full of seeds. Pet parrots crack seeds and eat the inside portion. The hulls often remain in the feeding dish giving the appearance that the bird has plenty of food when in reality there are no seeds left. Replace your bird’s food daily.
  2. Diet – Nutritionally, seeds are very poor. They lack calcium, protein and many other vitamins and minerals which birds require. Seeds and nuts are also high in fat, which can lead to liver disease. While birds do eat seeds in the wild, they supplement their diet with many other food sources – nuts, berries, fruit, bugs, etc. Like humans, birds require a balanced diet to remain healthy. Birds enjoy veggies, fruits, pasta, sprouts, grains and even cooked meat such as chicken. Pellets are also a good source of nutrients. Many experts recommend pellets should be no more than 50% of the diet, while others feed a higher percentage. Seeds and nuts can be given as treats. Cook for your birds. You can find lots of recipes at the Birds n Ways Recipe Xchange. Below are some articles on diet and foods.
  3. Toxic Foods – Some foods, safe for humans, are lethal to birds. These include such items as avocados, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, raw kidney and lima beans, cigarette smoke and pesticides in fruits and vegetables. More about toxic foods and chemicals can be found in the articles Toxic Foods, Metals and Compounds and Kitchen Physician III – Parrots, Produce & Pesticides.
  4. Grit – Don’t use Grit. Most birds don’t need grit and can even get an impacted crop from it. Grit is only recommended for birds who eat whole seeds – shell and all. Most birds crack their seeds, leaving the hulls and so have no need for the grit.
  5. Cages – Get a cage which gives your bird plenty of room to spread his wings, climb around, jump, swing and play. Be sure bars are not spaced so that a bird can wedge his head between them and get caught. Since birds tend to favor the higher parts of the cage, get one with the largest width and depth you can. Remember, your bird spends many hours in his cage, so the larger the better. Be sure to place cages away from of drafts or near doors to the outside. Temperature should not vary quickly or go below 55 degrees. There are many things to know about cages. You can read more about them in Anne Johnson’s article Home Tweet Home… All About Cages.
  6. Perches – Birds spend a lot of time on their perches. They need perches of varying diameters to prevent foot problems such as arthritis and atrophy. Avoid perches made from dowels, which are uniform and don’t exercise feet. Never use sandpaper perches which harm the skin on a bird’s foot. Tree branches are very good for the feet and also help satisfy the chewing urge. A cement perch can help keep nails trimmed. Put a wooden perch high in the cage, which birds prefer. Make sure perches aren’t over bowls or other perches so droppings don’t hit them. Use multiple perches, but leave room for birds to move about in the cage. Learn more from Anne Johnson’s article Footloose…..Problem Free. All About Perches.
  7. Feathers – Feathers grow back. If your bird accidentally loses some feathers, don’t panic. They’ll grow back. Bird also molt. It is their way of replacing worn feathers. Different species molt at different times and lose different amounts of feathers. Feathers grow back usually in 2-3 weeks. However, if you see bare patches of skin, this may denote a disease or feather plucking. In this case see your vet.
  8. Vets – Birds are very different than cats and dogs. Find an avian vet, one who knows about birds. Take your bird for a new bird exam to ensure it is healthy and to establish a baseline in case of illness. And develop a relationship with your vet. Find a vet or hospital that you can contact at night or weekends in an emergency. Birds should also have an annual exam to ensure they are healthy. Be sure to keep your vet’s phone number handy in case of emergency.
  9. Attention – Birds are very intelligent and social animals who require love and attention. Although the amount of attention varies by species, a bird who is ignored or bored can go insane, pluck his feathers or even mutilate himself. Keep your bird in an area where there is family activity, but be sure he has a quiet area to sleep in at night. Talk to your bird during the day. If you work, leave a radio, CD or TV on when you are gone. Take him out for play and cuddling every day. Be sure he has lots of toys and things to play with while in his cage. Give your bird lots of love and it will be returned tenfold.
  10. Communication – One of the most important aspects in creating and maintaining a successful relationship with your bird is the ability to understand his vocalizations and body language. Birds learn to communicate with us through sounds, behavior and actions. Using their body language and vocalizations they can “tell” us when they are happy, content, frightened, sick, hungry, tired, angry, or ready to be held and cuddled. It is of utmost importance that bird owners learn to interpret the meanings of their birds sounds and behaviors in order to successfully tame, train, and provide them with the very best of care. Theresa Jordan has written an extensive article on the subject entitled Understanding Your Bird’s Body Language.
  11. Potty Training – Birds are extremely intelligent and can be potty trained. There are lots of articles on how to accomplish this. With a little patience you can alleviate a source of frustration in owning a bird..

More tips will be coming in future articles. But in the meantime read and learn all you can and be sure to give your bird lots of love and attention. You will be amply rewarded.

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