Caring For Avians

Husbandry Essentials for Your Birds

Macaw on a perch

Birds are popular household pets. Both apartment dwellers and those with large homes can care for a pet bird equally well. Birds are a vibrant, vocal, jubilant addition to the home and can lead happy, healthy lives in captivity, some even living to age 70. As with any pet, there are specific care guidelines to take into account when you welcome a bird into your home.

Making a Cage a Home

A bird cage is an important part of keeping your bird at his best. It is, after all, the bird’s home and the place where he will spend most of his time. Where cages are concerned, bigger is always better, according to Mueller Medical Center. At the very least, your bird should be able to spread both wings without touching the sides of his cage. Be mindful however, of bar spacing – your bird should not be able to fit his full head through the bars.  Perches in the cage are also key. They should be of varying thickness and preferably made of natural branches.

Birds need interaction within the home environment. Placing your bird’s cage in a room where there is a lot of activity, such as a living room, will help keep him entertained. If your bird’s cage is located in a more isolated area it will take extra effort on the part of the owner to be sure he gets necessary mental stimulation and interaction.  Evaluate your bird’s proximity to the kitchen and the homes ventilation so the bird is not exposed to harmful cleaning and cooking fumes.

Daily inspection of your bird’s cage can also help keep him healthy.  This will allow you to observe droppings (very important sign of your pets’ digestive health), remove or repair demolished toys and interact with your bird.  Regular cleanings also help to maintain optimal health of your bird and your family, bird dander and dried droppings can cause irritation for those with sensitive respiratory systems.

Working Out Is For the Birds

Daily exercise is as important for birds as it is for humans, says Dr. Paul Skellenger. One way to exercise your bird in his cage is by placing a variety of foods at different locations in the cage. This will encourage your bird to move, and will also help keep his mind stimulated through foraging.


Daily exercise is as important for birds as it is for humans.

Providing toys for the bird is another way to incorporate exercise and prevent boredom. Some recommended toys include:

  • Rawhide shapes
  • Natural branches
  • Keys
  • Metal mirrors (monitor interaction with mirrors – some birds become aggressive and protective of the “other bird” during mating season)

Though exercise outside the cage is possible, it must be done carefully. Do not let your bird out of his cage in a kitchen, where he could burn himself on an appliance and always keep you bird supervised during playtime.

Unfiltered UVA and UVB sunlight can be very beneficial for your birds overall health.  On warm days many birds enjoy being outside it the natural sunlight.  This can be accomplished safely with a few precautions.  A smaller, outdoor cage or large flight cages can be used to keep your bird safe.  You can also find retail leash and harness combinations to make your outdoor time enjoyable for you both.

Warning for Bird Owners

It is very important to note that all Teflon products (including kitchen pans and accessories, and beauty tools) must be removed from the house before a parrot takes up residence. Teflon is deadly toxic to parrots, which includes cockatiels. Once you use a Teflon product, the particles become airborne and then deadly to your pet parrot. Please seek your veterinarian's advice about which kitchen and/or beauty tools you can purchase to replace those with Teflon.

Birds sit together

A Bird Can’t Live On Seeds Alone

Technically, a bird could live on a seed and water diet, but his longevity would suffer. Your bird would be deficient in amino acids, vitamins and minerals, which can lead to serious illness. “Improper feeding is the chief cause of death and disease in birds,” says T.J. LaFeber, DVM. “There are several pellet diets on the market, but pelleted foods should only make up about 30-50 percent of the bird’s diet. Supplement the pelleted food with fruits, vegetables, grains and sprouts.”

A Clean Bird is a Happy Bird

Grooming is very important for the health of your bird.  Birds should be offered opportunities to bathe regularly.  Bathing can be extremely entertaining for both you and your bird.  Different types of bathing can be enjoyed.  Most pet stores offer shower perches so they can join you in the shower, shallow bowls of fresh water can be rolled in, some birds enjoy splashing in the sink under lightly running water and some enjoy being spritzed with fresh water from spray bottles.  The important part of bathing is to find what your bird enjoys. 

Also, it is important to monitor the length and condition of your birds’ wings, nails, and beak.  Many owners enjoy a fully flighted bird, these birds should be supervised closely so they do not injury themselves while flying in the house.  Feathers should appear smooth and shiny.  Nails and beak should be monitored and trimmed by a professional when needed.  Abnormal beak growth on alignment should be monitored by your avian veterinarian.

Find a Knowledgeable Veterinarian

A very important factor for your birds’ well being is locating a veterinarian who is experienced and comfortable treating avian pets.  It is recommended that your new bird be examined by your avian veterinarian prior to be introduced to other birds in your household.  This allows the new bird to be screened for any potential diseases and given a clean bill of health.

Also, knowing your pet bird is key.  Familiarize yourself with the normal activities and behaviors of your bird so that you are able to identify if there is a health problem sooner rather than later.  These two aspects of care are very important for your birds’ health and happiness.

Flying High

Birds have brightened the lives of many owners. With proper housing, diet and exercise, your bird can live a long, happy life.


If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoying reading about Amazon parrots and African Grey parrots.


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