There are a huge variety of birds available as pets in Australia. Each variety has unique characteristics, temperaments, colours, sizes, and special needs so it is important that you gather as much information as possible. This will help you choose the right bird for your circumstances and allow you to meet your bird's needs.
Some birds like handling while others do not. All birds are enjoyable to watch, listen to, and to have around. Some birds are great talkers, others have a beautiful song and some bring great companionship and endless fun antics to each day.
Learn all that you can about the type of bird you intend to get. Equipped with knowledge and understanding, you will have a better idea of what to expect and you will be better able to provide the pet bird with the care that it needs to live a long, healthy, and happy life.
Buying a bird is a serious commitment of at least five years, however, 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. Parents must still supervise the day-to-day care so that the bird is not neglected through ignorance or loss of interest.
- Which bird? A canary or budgerigar is a particularly good pet for a family with very limited space or modest means. They are suitable for people living alone, especially flat dwellers. The care of these caged birds could hardly be more simple or undemanding, but the individuality they show depends on the degree of freedom they are allowed and on the stimulation provided in their surroundings and by their companions.
- Male or female: Only the male canary sings and whistles and the male budgerigar is usually easier to teach to talk. There are important differences to be aware of between the genders of each species and these should be thoroughly researched before you make your decision.
- Healthcare routine: This will depend on the species of bird you decide upon. An initial veterinary check-up will help you to develop a healthcare routine for your bird, as well as address certain necessary parasite control treatments (e.g. worming).
- Housing: A well-designed 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 of metal with wire mesh screening. The minimum size of a cage to house one bird will depend on the breed of bird. Queries regarding cage sizes should be directed to the RSPCA. The cage should be positioned in a well lit, sunny area where the birds will have frequent human contact. If safe and possible to do so, your bird should be released from the cage regularly for exercise if possible. Be mindful of windows/glass surfaces and ceiling fans. Prevent your bird flying into these as it can cause severe injury. 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.
- Activities: Ladders, bells, ropes, swings, mirrors, and suitable toys provide some stimulation for a caged bird, but avoid over-furnishing as this will crowd the cage and may result in injury.
- Protection: At night the cage should be covered (e.g. with a towel) to allow 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 (e.g. cats and wild birds) that may scare or directly attack and injure the bird. Birds should not be left in the sun without shade and they should be protected from overheating on hot days. Most birds love a gentle "mist" from a spray bottle of water on a hot day, however, do not drench your bird as it can prevent them from flying and result in a chill.
- 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 clean while water and food troughs and perches should be easily removable for cleaning purposes.
- Handling: It is important to train your bird to be handled, especially to enable physical examinations for signs of ill-health. Begin by letting them become accustomed to being handled in the cage. Soon they will become tame enough to sit on your finger, 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 canaries.
- Talking: Some birds that have constant close contact with their owner will learn to talk. These birds can start to talk at about six weeks of age. If they are not talking by six-months-old, they are generally unlikely to learn after this time. 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 achieved.
- Feeding: The caged bird's basic diet should consist of the specially prepared seed mixtures. This diet should be supplemented with green foods and fruit. Cuttlefish bone should be available in every cage to provide many trace minerals required by birds. Fresh water is essential to a bird’s life and must be replenished frequently in hot weather or if it becomes fouled.