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 five 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. 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 can be a good choice of pet for a family with 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 by their surroundings and 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.

Health care routine:

In the wild, sick birds are easy prey for a predator, so birds have evolved with an instinct to hide signs of illness in order to survive. This instinct, known as the masking phenomenon, is just as strong in pet birds as it is in wild birds.

This has led to a belief that as soon as sick birds die quickly. In fact, birds are very tough, and are often ill for 1 to 2 weeks before their owner even realizes it.

Warning signs to look out for:

The key to successful treatment of sick birds is the early recognition of warning signs that a bird is actually ill. Observing a bird’s droppings is one of the easiest ways to monitor a change in a birds health and can give valuable information as to where a problem stems from. Normal droppings are composed of three fractions. The dark green and brown fraction is the faeces, coming from the intestines. The white fraction is urates, the end product of protein metabolism. Urates come from the liver and are excreted by the kidneys. The liquid in the droppings, usually around the edge, is urine from the kidneys.

Bird owners should familiarise themselves with what normal droppings look like, and monitor droppings daily for any changes as listed below:

  • increase or decrease in the frequency of defecation;
  • change in consistency of the faecal portion, especially if it becomes unformed or very black;
  • the white urates or the urine becoming green, red or orange;
  • increase in the urine portion; or
  • gas bubbles in the droppings;
  • presence of blood.

If you see a change in your bird’s droppings, it is important that you have your bird examined by a vet as soon as possible. Make sure you bring in a fresh sample of droppings – placing a piece of aluminium foil under the perch overnight can allow the collection of a good sample for your vet to test.

Being observant is a skill that can save a sick bird’s life.

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.

Activities:

Birds bright sparks that need a lot of stimulation. Ladders, bells, ropes, swings, mirrors, and suitable toys provide some stimulation for a caged bird, but you should avoid over-furnishing as this crowds the cage and may result in injury. They love toys and we recommend rotating their toys to avoid boredom. Toys that can be shredded are great for them.

  • Perches and swings – Your playful pet needs different zones in their cage to keep them entertained. Your cage should come with a perch, but it’s good to include additional perches or swings so they can play. Note: Don’t place their food or water bowls under a perch or swing as they could get messy.
  • A ladder – Let your pet climb up the sides of their cage and have fun with a ladder.
  • Chews – Those active beaks need things that will keep them busy. Your cockatiel is likely to chew everything, so make sure they have things in their cage that they can chew.

Protection:

At night the cage should be covered with a cloth or towel 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 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, whilst 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 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.

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:

The caged bird's basic diet should consist of the specially prepared seed mixtures. This diet should be supplemented with green foods and fruit. A cuttlebone (the internal shell of a cuttlefish) can be added to a pet bird’s cage to provide trace minerals such as calcium, act as a source of entertainment and help to clean your bird’s beak. Fresh water is essential to a bird’s life and must be replenished frequently, particularly in hot weather or if it becomes fouled.

Food and water dishes – Depending on the height of your cage, it can be a good idea to have dishes at the top and bottom to ensure your pet is able to access their food and water at all times. You might consider a water feeder rather than a bowl.

Seed or pelleted food – Find a high-quality food specifically formulated for your bird to give them a good start in life and keep them healthy.

Cuttlefish or mineral block – Make sure your pet is getting all the nutrients they need and keeping their beak in top shape with a mineral block or cuttlefish for them to gnaw on.

Grit – Shell grit will help your pet’s digestion, so they should be able to access it at the bottom of their cage.

Treats – You can find all sorts of treats, including millet sprays, but just be sure that treats only make up 10 per cent of their diet.