What Can We Do to Keep Our Pet Birds Happy?
Bringing a bird into your family is a huge responsibility, and it’s something that should not be taken lightly. As with any pet, you need to do your research before adopting your bird. Different species of birds have different needs, but in general:
- Make sure your bird’s cage is large enough to give him plenty of room to fly, jump, and/or climb.
- Provide toys. Most parrot-type birds enjoy puzzle toys and chew toys. Try different types of toys to see what kind your bird prefers, and make sure he has some available at all times. Inspect the toys regularly to check for damage or hazards (sharp bits of metal, frayed strings in which toes could be tangled, etc).
- Let your bird out of the cage every day. The amount of time required varies from bird to bird, but plan on a minimum of a couple hours (several hours if you have a larger or more active parrot such as an African Grey or macaw). My cockatiel’s cage door is open whenever I’m home and awake so he can come out if he chooses (I close the door when I’m not home for his own safety). Some people let their birds roam free through the house at all times and cages are primarily used for sleeping. If you choose to go this route, you must make sure your entire house is free of hazards, and you must always watch where you step, and look before you sit down. This method is also dangerous if you have dogs or cats, unless you can keep your pets in separate areas of the house.
- Keep the cage clean. Change the papers and spot clean every day. Give the cage and perches a good wipe down with unscented soap and water every week, and take everything out for a complete cleaning and disinfecting at least once a month (more often if your bird is particularly messy).
- Interact with your bird. Finches and canaries don’t require human interaction, but it’s important for doves, and vital for any type of parrot. Talk to your bird, whistle with him, play games with him, let him cuddle under your chin while you watch TV, etc. If your bird is new to the household and is still learning to trust you, just hang out near him while you read or use the computer. If your schedule doesn’t allow for much interaction time, you may wish to consider getting a second bird so he doesn’t get lonely.
- Watch out for any signs of stress or anxiety, such as plucking or screaming. Sometimes the cause is obvious (your schedule changes, a family member moved out, your new neighbors are noisy, etc), and sometimes the cause may be a mystery. In any case, a consultation with your avian veterinarian may be in order to rule out any medical causes and to help your bird adjust.
- Provide a balanced diet. A bird seed mix from the pet store usually isn’t enough. Include formulated pellets, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
There are bad bird owners out there who keep their birds caged 24/7 and don’t take the time to interact with them (my own cockatiel was rescued from such a situation). I suspect this is the image many people who are against keeping pet birds have in mind. However, there are also plenty of GOOD, responsible bird owners who provide lots of interaction, love, and exercise. These bird owners shouldn’t be judged based on the behavior of the bad ones