Caring for Birds
Many people admire birds for their brilliant colors,
intelligence, ability to communicate, and graceful aerial skills.
Unfortunately, because of this, people end up keeping birds as "pets"
in lonely, boring cages.
Deprived of many of the things that are natural and important to them, such as
flying with their flockmates, exploring, and choosing a mate, many caged birds
become depressed or neurotic, pulling out feathers and mutilating themselves—sometimes
severely, irreversibly, even to the point of death. Other birds are abandoned
after their guardians discover that bird behaviors, such as flock-calling,
biting, chewing, and throwing food don't fit in well with a human home
Please, resist the temptation to buy a bird as a companion.
If you already have a bird, please read on to learn more about these complex
animals and how you can make their lives as healthy, happy, and fulfilling as
No Bird Is an Island
Companionship is crucial for birds' well-being. If you have
a single bird, adopt a companion of the same or similar species. Check
shelters, humane societies, animal rights groups, nursing homes (some birds can
live for more than 100 years and outlive their human companions), avian
veterinarians, or the list of avian rescue organizations at avianprotectors.homestead.com
introducing a new bird, take him or her to an avian veterinarian for a checkup.
If the newcomer is healthy and free of diseases, put his or her cage inside or
next to the larger flight enclosure so that the birds can see each other
without coming into direct contact with one another. Watch to see how the birds
get along for at least one week. If they seem friendly to each other, allow the
birds to visit—supervised—using
separate playstands. Once you are confident that the birds pose no threat to one
another, open the door of the small cage. The newcomer will come out when he or
she feels comfortable enough.
this cage in place, door open, so the newcomer may use it as a safe place—the
resident bird should also have a large flight cage of his or her own to use as
a private room. Until you're absolutely sure that the birds have bonded, do not
leave them alone together. Don't assume that these two birds will definitely
become friends—be prepared to house the birds separately if they do not bond.
Free as a Bird
Let your birds fly free for long periods of time every
day—spending as much time out of the cage as possible. Convert your balcony or
porch into an aviary or build a good-weather aviary in your back yard if
possible. Or provide a bird-proof room or rooms, with no ceiling fans or other
bird hazards. Include a bird "gym" or nonpoisonous tree branches
(such as dogwood, apple, or elm) for exercise. Large "flight cages"
can allow your birds to exercise when you can't be there to supervise them.
numerous bird-safe toys (available from companion-animal supply companies) for
chewing, playing, and intellectual stimulation including clean, nonpoisonous
wood. Birds should get between eight and 12 hours of sleep a night, preferably
from dusk on, in a dark, quiet room, a draped flight enclosure, or a covered
Birds Can't Live on Seeds Alone
Wild birds don't eat just seeds, so keep your bird's diet
varied and nutritious by offering a variety of fruits and vegetables along with
grains, nuts, cooked beans, and seeds. Different species have different
nutritional needs, so it's imperative to research your bird's diet or consult
with an avian veterinarian. Malnutrition accounts for more than 90 percent of
the health problems of companion birds.
need the proper combination of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to stay
healthy. A good pellet-based diet can help, but feeding a variety of the proper
foods should meet all your birds' needs.
food and water containers above perches, so they do not get soiled with
droppings. Soiled containers must be cleaned immediately. Some birds dunk their
food in water, and those water containers should be cleaned at least twice a
day to prevent bacterial growth. Vitamins should never be administered through
give grit to a parrot. Grit has no place in a parrot's diet—it can mineralize
in the gizzard and cause painful crop impactions. Grit is only necessary in the
diet of birds who eat seeds whole, such as canaries and doves.
Time to Preen
Your birds might spend hours every day combing their
feathers with their beaks. This helps keep their feathers in line and
waterproof. To encourage preening, provide shallow containers or a birdbath
filled with water. Some birds like to be misted with water from a spray bottle
set to a fine mist. After your birds bathe, keep them away from drafts until
their feathers are totally dry.
keep your bird's nails short by providing sand-covered swings and perches. Beak
trims should not be needed unless there is an underlying health problem.
Overgrown nails or beaks require a trip to a good avian veterinarian.
Bird-Proofing Your 'Nest'
Before allowing your bird to fly free, eliminate or cover up
hazards like ceiling fans, pots of water, open toilet bowls, electrical wires,
large glass windows and mirrors, and places where birds could become stuck.
Make sure that your plants are not poisonous to birds. Common plants that are
toxic if birds eat them include English ivy, philodendron, azaleas, and holly.
A good avian veterinarian can provide you with an extensive list.
have very fragile respiratory systems. Overheated nonstick cookware and
self-cleaning ovens emit fumes that are deadly to birds—never use them in a
home with birds. Use ecologically safe products—no bleach or strong cleaners,
aerosols, artificial air fresheners, scented candles, incense, or insecticides.
Cigarette smoke should never be allowed around birds. If your apartment complex
demands that you make your apartment available to an exterminator, you can
legally refuse for health reasons.
If you or people you know already have birds and are unable
to meet their needs, please consider the following options:
For more information on keeping birds as companions, please visit the Avian
Welfare Coalition's Web site at AvianWelfare.org.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.