Pet Bird Happy and Healthy
by Kashmir Csaky
Establishing a Good
Relationship with an Avian Veterinarian-
courtesy of Sue Owens
As a bird
owner, you will find that an avian veterinarian can be an invaluable ally
in helping you maintain the good health and happiness of a pet bird. Since
this will be a shared responsibility, it is very important that you find a
qualified avian veterinarian with whom you can communicate freely and
The search for an avian veterinarian is often a
difficult task, especially in rural areas. Referrals are usually your
easiest and most effective avenues. Many different people should be
consulted. These include other birds owners, pet shops and veterinarians
that treat other pets.
You may find that one or two veterinarians
will receive the most recommendations. Calling these veterinarians and
asking about their qualifications and interest in birds should be the next
step. The veterinarian you choose should be a member of the Association of
Avian Veterinarians. Members of AAV are kept abreast the latest
developments in avian medicine by reports in the Journal published by the
As previously stated it is important that good communications
be established. If this cannot be accomplished then another veterinarian
should be consulted. You should feel free to ask any questions you may
have. The veterinarian may speak in terms that you are unfamiliar with.
Ask the veterinarian to clarify anything that you do not understand. If
you do not ask any questions then the veterinarian may assume that you
have some medical or avicultural background and understand everything that
has been said. Most veterinarians are pleased to answer questions and are
happy that the owners care enough about their birds to ask questions. When
owners show concern for their birds then veterinarians will take more time
with them. Do not insult the veterinarian by suggesting that a pet store
employee or a breeder knows more about avian medicine than the
veterinarian. If a breeder, for example, has made a recommendation, it is
proper to ask the veterinarian if there is some validity to that
suggestion. At this time the veterinarian should discuss all possibilities
with you, including the suggestions that were made.
also appreciate people who take time to learn about their birds. Consult
them about good reading material concerning your pet bird's
Every Pet Bird Should Have-
When you purchase a bird as a pet there are a few things that you must
provide for a happy and healthy environment:
Large and safe cage
Gym or play
Parrots can be offered the
best possible diet and yet they will not benefit from it if they will not
eat the food. Most birds will eat good food if they are not overfed or
cage-bound. Many cage-bound birds are picky eaters, choosing to eat one
favorite food and discarding the rest. Often times the loving owner spoils
the bird or simply offers it to much food. Dr. Hawley put it very well in
a recent issue of Caged Bird Hobbyist. He said, "Giving a parrot half an
apple is equivalent to a person being given a 10-pound head of lettuce to
eat." Pet owners often confuse variety with abundance. In an effort to
offer a great variety of food they ultimately offer too much
I suggest the following method for getting your pet bird to
eat the right foods:
Make an appointment with your
On the morning before going to the appointment you
should weigh your bird -- it is best to take the weight before any food is
consumed, but after the morning "movement." At the veterinarian's office
the weight can be compared to the norm for the species. The veterinarian
can weigh the bird again and a comparison of the weight obtained with your
scale should be made at this time. Now the veterinarian can determine the
ideal weight and the maximum weight your bird may lose.
Slightly reduce the amount of each type of food offered. If
your parrot persists in leaving food in it's bowl, this process of
reduction should continue until the bird is eating all the
Now increase - slightly - the portions of
the healthiest foods. Check the bottom of the cage and surrounding areas
for discarded food, to insure that your pet is actually eating the food.
Continue this process until your bird begins to leave food uneaten. When
you reach this stage, cut back the food to the quantity the bird received
the last time it ate well. While trying to establish the right quantities
of food to offer your bird, monitor it's weight on a daily basis. If at
any time the weight should drop too low, you may indulge the bird with
it's favorite junk food until the weight returns to a safe
species has different dietary requirements. It is your responsibility to
learn the dietary needs of your species of bird and to feed a diet that
will satisfy those requirements. Dumping a hand-full of seeds in a food
bowl may be the easy way to feed a bird, but it is not a loving and
responsible way to help fulfill the bird's nutritional needs.
also important to wash the food and water bowls twice a day. If the bird
dunks food or otherwise contaminates the water, it will be necessary to
wash the water bowl more frequently. Just as a human should not eat off a
dirty plate, a bird should not be made to eat or drink out of a dirty
As a rule, most foods that are good for people are also good
for birds, and most foods that are not healthy for people are bad for
birds. This should be remembered when offering table scraps to your bird.
If the people-food is high in cholesterol, salt, sugar, artificial
sweeteners, caffeine or MSG , then it is certainly not good for your bird.
Bird should never be offered chocolate, coffee, alcohol, and
should always be as large as possible. Many pet owners scrimp and save to
buy the desired pet and then they forget -- or choose to ignore -- the
needs to the bird. Cages are expensive and new bird owners often suffer
from "sticker shock". They will then buy a small, less expensive, cage and
justify their decision by reasoning that, the bird will spend little time
in it's cage anyhow. However good the intentions may be, nobody can
predict the future. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the new pet may be
forced to spend many long hours in it's small cage.
So, I have
formulated the Hokey-Pokey rule. For the cage to be large enough the bird
must be able to dance the Hokey-Pokey inside the cage. It should be able
to spread both wings out, up and turn around without touching the sides of
the cage. There are, unfortunately, practical limitations to this rule
when the parrot is one of the larger macaws.
The cage must have a
good door latch and be of sturdy construction so that the bird cannot
escape, this is for the bird's safety. Should the bird escape from it's
cage, while the owners are away, it may accidentally injure itself or be
killed. Since, large powerful parrots can sometimes rip welded bars off, I
recommend that, for this type of bird, the bars on the cage should be
drilled and not welded.
Cages must be carefully inspected prior to
purchase. The construction should provide the bird with a safe
environment. Safety is not merely mechanical. A cage that is difficult to
clean is an unsafe cage. When cages are hard to clean, people tend to
procrastinate. Cleaning is postponed until the cages are filthy. This
increases the likelihood of bacterial and fungal contamination -- not to
mention it is ugly and messy.
The loving bird owner should look for
places where the bird's nails, toes, feet, leg band and head might get
caught. These potential traps include converging bars, scroll work and
incorrect bar spacing. Be aware of tight bar spacing in corners. If the
bar spacing is too wide the bird can push it's head between the bars and
in a moment of panic could break it's neck.
Any feces or food
should be wiped off of the grates, bars and apron daily. Stubborn dried-on
organic material can be sprayed with hot water from a plant mister,
allowed to soak for a few minutes and then will wipe off easily. These
areas may be wiped down with a mild disinfectant and rinsed off. However,
this must be done daily or it will be come more difficult with each
passing day and soon a major clean up and strong disinfectants become
necessary. Papers used to line the bottom of the cage should be picked up
every day. The best time to clean the cage is just before the bird is put
to bed, so that the cage stays clean as long as possible. Dust cage
surfaces weekly and do a thorough cleaning once every three months. These
cleaning methods apply when the bird is healthy. If a sick bird is
involved then a much more aggressive cleaning and disinfecting regime must
Cages should have aprons to help contain any mess
inside the cage. Stainless steel cages or cages with powder coat finish
are the easiest to clean. A large sheet of Plexiglas can be purchased for
as little as $18.00 and attached to the wall near the cage. It is
attractive and easy to clean. Blueberry and grape will normally stains
most finishes, yet will wipe right off the Plexiglas.
points to consider:
Cages with horizontal bars are difficult to
clean. They are nice for clumsy baby birds. Yet, if the bar spacing is
correct it is not necessary to have horizontal bars on the cage of a
healthy adult bird.
Play pen tops are not recommended from a
psychological point of view. They make a bird more territorial, dominant
and difficult to handle.
Avoid stackable cages since they are dirty
and depressing for the bird in the bottom cage.
Doors should be
very large so the owner can easily put the bird in the cage or take it
Every bird should have
a variety of toys with which to play. These toys should be rotated about
every ten days, so that the bird will not become bored with them. Three
sets of toys should prove ample.
When choosing the right toy for
your bird take into consideration the bird's size and destructive
capabilities. The right toy for a Blue and Gold Macaw may not be the right
toy for a Hyacinth Macaw. Safety factors must also be considered when
buying a toy for any bird. Look for sharp edges or points that could
injure the bird. You should determine if there are any places where the
bird might catch a toe nail or get tangled in the toy.
The safest way to attach the toy to a cage or a gym is with quick
links. If the toy comes with any other type of attaching device such as
dog leash clips or key rings, they should be replaced with a quick link.
If you are well acquainted with your bird's habits you will know if a toy
is relatively safe for your bird. Any time a new toy is introduced it is
prudent to carefully monitor your bird for an extended period of time
while it plays with the toy. Any toy can be dangerous, it is up to you to
try to limit the possibility of a tragic accident.
Toys need not be
expensive. Home-made toys that a bird can destroy quickly are often their
favorites. The cardboard center from a roll of paper towels can be an
entertaining toy for your bird. However, I do not recommended that you
consider the cardboard from a roll of toilet paper as a toy -- the
probability of bacterial contamination is unacceptably high. Used bathroom
products do not make appropriate bird toys.
The T-stand is a training tool.
It is not intended to be a place where a bird will spend long periods of
unsupervised time. Birds are very intelligent, so you should spend some
time every day training your bird. Two five-minute sessions per day is
adequate. If the up and down commands are not re-enforced or if no tricks
are taught, the bird -- like a precocious child -- will find other ways to
entertain itself. We may consider these activities -- screaming, biting,
destroying furniture and feather-picking -- to be unacceptable. The
T-stand should not have food, water bowls or toys on it. It should not be
easy for the bird to climb down. The T-stand is like a classroom and you
are the teacher.
The Gym or Play
The gym or play stand is the place where the bird
goes to have fun. It can be simple or elaborate. It should have a place
for toys and depending on how much time the bird spends on the gym, it may
need a place for food and water . The gym should be placed in an area
where there is a fair amount of family activity so that the bird is
supervised and socialized.
This is an often overlooked,
yet critical piece of equipment that every bird owner should have. For
birds under 1000 grams you can purchase an inexpensive food sc
This will make it easier to weigh your bird, since the perch provides a
stable surface on which the bird can stand. Look for a digital scale with
a one or two gram resolution as pounds and ounces are too coarse a
measurement for most birds.
Weighing your bird at least once a
month is one of the best ways to detect the onset of an illness. Since
birds will attempt to hide signs of illness, a drop in weight is sometimes
the only indication of a disease.
Commercial carriers -- the type used
to transport dogs and cats -- can be used for birds. A very low perch to
help the bird balance can be placed near the door. Always keep a carrier
close by, so that you can quickly transport your bird out of danger in
case of an emergency, such as a fire or earthquake.
A pet parrot can live for many
years and the happiness of that very long life starts with the people who
have accepted the responsibility for their bird's well being. With the
proper care and attention, you and your bird can bring much joy and
happiness into each other's life.
Enchanted Emerald Forest Macaws