Advances in the domestic breeding and rearing of birds has led to an improved availability of healthy, tame, young birds. This increased availability has dramatically increased the popularity of birds as pets. For many people, the company of beautiful, unique, and possible talking pets can make keeping birds an attractive alternative to other pets.
The personalities, housing, and dietary needs of the different types of birds must be considered by the prospective bird owner. To select a healthy bird, look for these characteristics:
- Bright, smooth feathers
- Full breast muscles
- Clear, alert eyes
- Playful activity
Shivering, ruffled feathers, shut eyes, and inactivity often mean a health problem. All new pet birds should be checked by your veterinarian, if possible, before the sale is final.
Cages: The type and size of the cage should be carefully matched for each bird. If a cage is too small or the bars too widely spaced, the bird’s wings may be injured or the pet may escape. The cage must be made of nontoxic materials that can withstand the abuse of heavy chewing. It also must be secured so that it is not easily knocked over.
Food dishes: Within the cage, food and water cups must be anchored. Dishes also should be kept clean and free of any droppings.
Perches: Perches of the proper size, material, and position are essential. Using a variety of perch diameters keeps the feet and legs in good condition. Sand paper perch covers can cause sores and are best avoided.
Bedding: Newspapers (not colored), paper towels, or brown paper are the preferred bedding materials. These materials are inexpensive and allow droppings to be easily observed for problems. To minimize the bird’s exposure to bacteria and fungi, the bedding should be changed daily.
Cleaning: The cage and all of its contents should be cleaned regularly with mild soap followed by thorough rinsing. Stronger disinfectants approved by your veterinarian may be used periodically.
Temperatures: Healthy birds can adapt to any comfortable room temperature. However, sudden, dramatic changes in temperature can cause chilling.
Poisons: Many common household items can be poisonous to birds. Some of these items include fumes from overheated Teflon cookware, tobacco smoke, paints that contain lead, chemical cleaners, insecticides, many aerosol products, and certain houseplants.
Veterinary care: Birds hide illness quite well. Often, owners don’t even realize that a bird is sick until it’s almost too late. By the time a bird shows symptoms, it may have been sick for a long time. Owners should be aware of any subtle change in the bird’s behavior. Slight decreases in appetite or activity may signal an illness requiring medical care. It is always best to catch problems early, and as with most pets, bird benefit from an annual physical examination by your veterinarian.