8 quick bird-care tips

Getting a pet bird is not a 'soft option' as far as pets are concerned. Many people think a caged bird will be less trouble than a puppy or a kitten. Maybe so, but there are essentials you have to remember about caring for your bird.

Here are eight quick bird-care tips for prospective owners:

  • Clip the wings of your bird. While this may seem logical, there are some bird owners who don't do this. This is how birds fly away and either starve, or become prey. There are also many dangers in the house, such as fans, poisonous plants, electrical appliances and household toxins, which can pose a real danger to them if they fly around unsupervised in your home. And by the way, if you take them outside, watch them all the time. They need fresh air, but there are lots of dangers out there.
  • Detox your house. Anything that gives off fumes could be dangerous to your bird. Remember that they used canaries in the mines to warn them of toxic fumes. So don't spray detergents or insecticides when your bird is in the room. If your bird wanders about the house, make sure that it cannot get into cabinets where cleaning agents are kept. Also check that you don't have poisonous plants about.
  • Clean that cage. Your bird is not in the wild – it is confined to a small space, where all of its bodily functions take place. Don't wait until the cage starts to smell before doing something about it. Have a regular cleaning routine in which you do a spot cleanup of the day's poop, and also change the paper in the bottom of the cage at least once a day. Ask your vet how regularly you should wash and disinfect cages. Make sure you have removed all traces of the disinfectant before you put the bird back into its cage.
  • Is your bird ill? You know the habits of your bird. If it is suddenly listless, or it loses its appetite, or becomes quieter than usual, there is probably something wrong. If it is sitting fluffed up, or has a discharge from the nose, mouth, nose or eyes, don't waste time – get it to a vet as soon as possible.
  • Choose the right cage. Make sure the cage has no sharp edges and that all the doors are escape-proof. Many bird-owners know the devastating feeling of finding the cage door open and the bird gone. The bird should not be able to fit its head through the bars and there should also be no bars that don't run parallel. Buy a big cage – the bird needs room to move around.
  • Don't light up. Just as you shouldn't smoke around your children, you also shouldn't smoke around your bird. Smoke is bad for their lungs, and remember, you put them inside a cage. You can leave the room, but they can't.
  • Be toy-safe. Many people put toys inside their bird's cage. That is fine, but remember that safety comes first. Many a bird has become entangled in bell strings. Toys should also not have any sharp edges or wires, as they can really hurt a bird. All leather and wood toys should be untreated or dyed with vegetable dye.
  • Feed your bird correctly. Don't just rip something off the supermarket shelf that has a picture of a bird on it – ask your vet what you should be feeding your bird and how much of it should be given. Always make sure that your bird has access to clean water.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, September 2005)

(Last updated: June 2010)

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