Keeping a caged bird in your home can provide enjoyment and companionship. However, it is your duty of care to ensure that the bird is correctly and well cared for in an environment that is enriching and free of stress and disease.
Basic Needs of Caged Birds
A caged bird requires the following:
- Access to a constant clean water supply
- An appropriate diet for the species to maintain health and vigor
- Accommodation (cage) of an appropriate size to allow natural behavior and movement, but which also provides appropriate protection from the weather, pests and predators
- Prevention and treatment of disease and unwanted behaviors (e.g. feather plucking)
- Freedom to display normal behaviors and movement in a safe environment
- Careful and proper handling
Water must be available to your bird at all times. It should be in a suitable container and of an appropriate temperature for the bird (many birds will not drink overly warm water).
Water containers should be cleaned daily to keep them free of faeces and other contaminants (food, algae, bacteria). A low toxicity disinfectant should be used.
Water containers should not be moved between cages as this is a way that disease can be passed on.
The appropriate food for the species of bird you are keeping should be available in appropriate amounts to the bird at all times. If you are unsure of the correct diet for your bird ask an experienced person or veterinarian. We recommend the Harrison bird feeds. Feeding an incorrect diet can cause illness and often death in your pet bird.
Food should be fresh and clean and changed daily. Food should be stored in appropriate containers to prevent deterioration and spoilage. Fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables and seeding grasses make good additions to diet, although avocado and banana should always be avoided.
Make sure feed containers are safe for your bird to use and are thoroughly cleaned regularly with a low toxicity disinfectant. Try not to place feeders below perches.
Mixed grit and a source of calcium (e.g. dried cuttlefish) should also be provided.
Sunflower seeds (black seeds) are an inappropriate food source except as a very special treat. They are high in fat and low in nutrients and can cause severe illness and obesity in birds.
All birds need to be housed in an appropriately sized cage, which allows them to move about and exhibit normal behaviors. It is important also to have the appropriate number of birds per cage. It is essential that the cage is kept clean at all times. Ensure that species are compatible if they are to share a cage. Cages should NEVER be stacked as this reduces ventilation and makes waste collection an issue. Stacked cages also mean that disease spreads rapidly.
Cages should have a variety of perches. Natural perches (tree branches) are better then normal rounded dowel perches as they can help prevent overgrowth of toe nails. Birds also benefit form toys to enrich their environment (especially parrots). Make sure that toys and perches are made of non-toxic substances and are not easily broken into small pieces that may be ingested. Toys and perches should be regularly cleaned or replaced. Some species enjoy bathing and so a water bath should be provided. This needs to be cleaned daily.
The cage should be positioned in an area where the bird has protection from draughts and extremes in weather, but can also enjoy sunlight. It should also have protection from predators and pests. If there is more than one bird in the cage you should ensure there are safe places for the birds to hide. If the birds are to be used for breeding appropriate nesting areas/boxes should be provided.
The floor of the cage should always be kept dry through use of suitable drains. If floors are covered in absorbent litter or sand, this should be changed completely at regular intervals to prevent bacterial and fungal build-up.
Poor hygiene is a primary cause of disease in caged birds. Cages should be made of solid materials that can be cleaned and dried thoroughly. Wood cages are usually inappropriate. If cages are metal monitor for the birds chewing at the cage as some metals (for example, Galvanized wire cages contain zinc and lead) when ingested can cause severe illness. The interior of the cage should be free of sharp points, edges and dangerous obstructions. To allow adequate ventilation, at least half of the two largest sides of the cage should be mesh.
The minimum recommended size of the cage for keeping birds is outlined below:
|Increase in Floor Area
for Each Extra Bird
Regularly evaluating a bird’s health is important. Signs of illness include:
- Discharge from nostrils or beak
- Misshapen, soiled or lost feathers
- Abnormal appearance of faeces
- Lost appetite and weight loss
- Soiling around vent (where bird defecates from)
- Swellings, lumps or changes in body shape
- Vomiting or regurgitation
- Injury or bleeding
- Dull or closed eyes
- Lameness, wounded or swollen feet
- Overgrowth of the beak or nails
- Staining or scabs around the eyes or nostrils
If any of these signs are noted, your bird should be isolated to prevent disease transfer and take to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Birds like other animals are able to be infected with internal (e.g. worms) and external (e.g. lice and mites) parasites. For internal parasites, treatment can be administered via the water. For external parasite prevention good hygiene in the cage is imperative. if external parasites are noted these can be treated with sprays, dustings and oral medication.
This is always stressful for birds. Do not pull, hold or restrain the bird by its wings or legs as this will damage the bird. Appropriate capture nets or light clothes are the safest, fastest way to capture birds.
The bird should be held for as little time as possible. The whole body should be gently held with the wings closed against the body. take care to not apply too much pressure as this can prevent adequate breathing or damage the birds internal organs.
Bird wings should only be clipped by a very experienced person or a veterinarian. Over clipping feathers or clipping incorrect feathers can cause damage to the bird.
Beak and Toe Nail Trimming
Trimming should be done by a veterinarian as over trimming can lead to severe hemorrhage and death.
Transporting your Bird
Transportation of birds is very stressful. Birds should not be transported unless absolutely necessary. Transport cages should be small, with only enough space for the bird to move around. Adequate ventilation is important, although cages should be darkened to cause less stress. Metal cages should be covered with a dark cloth when use for transport.
Birds should not be left unattended in cars and transport is best done in the mornings or evenings to avoid the heat of the day.