Peri has worked in pet retail for over ten years. She has owned betta fish, dogs, fancy mice, fancy rats, geckos, hamsters, and more.
Getting a new pet bird can be an exciting experience. Many breeds of birds can be personable, kind, and can learn songs, words or tricks. However, there is more to caring for a pet bird than filling its food and water dish. Pet birds of all sizes require a proper cage, perches, food and toys and keep them occupied. Breed-specific foods contain the proper nutrition and vitamins to keep your bird healthy, along with additional supplements. Read on to learn about what to buy for your pet bird, as well as how to keep it healthy and happy.
Bird Cages and Accessories
When it comes to bird cages, there should be enough space for your pet bird to relax, eat, sleep and get some exercise. Most pet birds spend the majority of their lives living in their cages, making free space essential to your bird’s well-being. Some necessary qualities of a bird cage include:
- enough room for your bird to stretch and flap its wings
- space around three times their wingspan to exercise in
- horizontal-facing bars to climb the side of the cage
- close enough bars so the bird’s head or body cannot fit through
- metal bars that can stand up to chewing and wear-and-tear
Exercise inside the cage is important, especially for birds who spend most of their lives in a cage; having enough space to hop from perch to perch and flap its wings is essential. Having horizontal bars will allow the bird to climb along the sides of the cage as well, providing another form of exercise and more movement around the cage. If the bars are made of metal, the pet bird will be less able to destroy the cage, and the bars will stand up to scrubbing and cleaning.
Some bird owners prefer to have an aviary dedicated to their birds, especially if they plan on breeding birds. There are both indoor and outdoor aviaries, though outdoor structures are more exposed to the elements and do not make good permanent bird homes. Elements of an indoor aviary include:
- the ability to control lighting, temperature and overall noise
- an entire room devoted to the pet bird(s) with accessories
- windows covered in wire and screened doors to contain the birds
Indoor aviaries can also just be rooms with larger bird cages than normal; they are still rooms devoted to the birds, but the room itself isn’t a bird cage. An outdoor aviary would need to be enclosed with wiring to contain the pet birds, as well as have a form of shelter from the elements.
To complete your bird cage, you will need to include a few items for your pet bird’s health and well being. Your bird will need a way to eat food, drink water and relieve boredom and stress on a daily basis. Furthermore, bird perches five your bird a place to sit and rest. Basic cage essentials include:
- bird feeders, waterers and bowls
- bird perches of different sizes
- bird toys and accessories
Bird feeders and waterers can be simple dishes placed on the bottom of the cage, plastic dishes that hang on the side of the cage or plastic seed and water silos that prevent waste and feathers from contaminating the food and water. Larger breeds of birds have a higher tendency to chew up smaller, less durable plastic bowls and feeders; if you own a larger bird, such as a parrot, a ceramic or metal bowl might be better for you. furthermore, larger birds have the strength to pick up and toss lighter food and water bowls.
Secondly, bird perches should be the proper size for your pet bird’s feet; a parakeet will need a much smaller, skinnier perch than a cockatiel or conure. Perches provide birds with a place to rest and also help your bird to keep its beak and nails trim. Perches of different shape and size help to exercise your bird’s feet as well. Wooden bird perches allow your bird to chew as well as grind its nails. Finally, bird toys are necessary to alleviate your bird’s stress and boredom when inside the cage. Toys come in a variety of ropes, leathers, wood, bells and more. Having a good mixture of toys will keep your pet bird occupied when you’re away.
Bird Food and Vitamins
A balanced diet is very important for pet birds; birds of different sizes and breeds have different nutritional needs. There are many varieties of bird food mixes, as well as supplemental vitamins and minerals. The three general types of bird foods available for your pet bird include:
- feed mixes: includes bird seed, formulated foods, nuts and dried fruits. Include some supplements and vitamins. Good when provided with additional supplements.
- seed diets: mixtures of bird seeds. Require additional vitamins and calcium supplements.
- formulated: manufactured, pelleted foods containing the necessary vitamins and minerals. Do not include antioxidants found in vegetables, fruits and grains. Should be combined with supplements and antioxidants for nutrition and less boredom.
Of the three categories, formulated diets contain the highest amount of vitamins and minerals but the least amount of variety in the food. Seed diets have a wide variety of seeds, but less vitamin content. Feed mixes contain a combination of diets, the best choice to combat food boredom and provide a healthy food at the same time. All of these food types can be found in stores, with specialty pet food stores having the largest variety.
No matter the food chosen, vitamin supplements are highly suggested when owning a pet bird of any breed. Providing vitamins ensures that your pet is receiving the proper nutrition that it needs and remains healthy. Supplements can be in the form of manufactured vitamin liquids or natural vegetables and fruits. Supplement options include:
- vegetables and fruits: vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers and others are healthy. Fruits such as apples, plums, grapes and more are safe. Avocado can be toxic to birds, and should not be fed.
- protein supplements: other foods such as cheese or hard boiled eggs every week or so provide extra protein. Be sure to do your research before feeding your bird a new food.
- mineral supplements: cuttlebone is a common mineral supplement sold in grocery and pet stores that birds can consume.
- edible bird grit: grit helps pet birds digest their food properly, as well as provides extra minerals. Birds that eat seeds unshelled need grit to aid in digestion.
Birds that do not eat seed primarily, such as soft bill birds, do not need grit as a supplement to their diet. Adding fruits, vegetables and other proteins is always a good way to keep your pet bird happy and healthy. Take care, however - foods like avocado, chocolate or anything with caffeine can be toxic to your pet bird’s health. Always check your sources before giving your bird a new food.
Bird Toys and Exercise
Exercise is vital to your pet bird’s health and well-being. Aside from having enough space in their cage to flap their wings, birds need exercise outside of the cage whenever possible. Interaction outside of the cage will help keep your bird in shape, as well as relieve boredom and help you bond with each other. Some examples of activities for your pet bird include:
- short flights, either inside or outside of the cage
- climbing on ladders or the bars on the side of the cage
- bird toys, such as swings and ladders, provide exercise
- play pens with ladders and perches are fun and healthy
Smaller birds, such as canaries, are often hard to catch once outside of the cage, and can have enough room inside their cages to fly around as oppose to bigger birds. Perches and swings provide exercise inside the cage, as well as outside if part of an activity pen. Many bird toys in general help your bird to exercise as well as remain occupied.
Bird Health and Safety
Keeping your pet bird safe and sound is important; there are many poisons in the household that could make your bird dangerously ill. If your bird is flying around the house, be sure to close the doors to other rooms, such as the bathroom; falling in the toilet and becoming stuck is a terrifying possibility. Also, closing the windows will keep your bird from accidentally escaping and becoming injured outside. If your bird has access to the kitchen, make sure that stove isn’t on (especially with an open pot of boiling water). Finally, be sure all of your ceiling fans are turned off. Taking steps like this will prevent yourself from unintentionally harming your pet bird while it’s free of its cage.
Above all, be sure to give your pet bird as much love and attention as you would want for yourself. Paying attention to your bird can alert you to when it is ill, unhappy, tired of its food or bored of its toys. Sometimes a little variety is all your bird needs to keep it healthy and happy.