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Birds as pets: how to care for them

Birds as pets: how to care for them

Birds as pets make great companions but they do have specific needs so it is important to do your research before adopting one into your home.

In fact, birds need just as much care and attention as puppies or kittens; and they can cost money. Here are some ideas of what you’ll need to bring a bird into your home.

Birds: their diet

Although a bird’s diet depends on the species, life history and how they’re housed, it is probably best to steer clear of seed, which is high in fat but low in other nutrients. Use for a treat occasionally but be careful,  once a bird has seeds, it may protest its proper diet. Rather opt for high-quality, age-appropriate pellets or crumble and vegetables. EberVet Vetshops stock a wide variety of bird foods and supplies. If they don’t have what you need, they’ll order in.

Companion birds should be offered dark leafy greens, cooked sweet potatoes, yams, squash, pumpkin, and the tops and bottoms of fresh carrots. Some fruit can be offered but it is of low nutritional value and should be considered a treat. Human-grade grains can also be offered sparingly and a minimal amount of legumes, sprouts and other high-protein plant material can be offered. Since most birds are herbivores or granivores, animal proteins such as meat, eggs and fish can be harmful.

A bird’s digestive system is very efficient at extracting amino acids and proteins from plant material. Overloading with protein, especially animal protein, will lead to severe kidney dysfunction, gout, calcium/phosphorus imbalance, reproductive disorders, feather-picking and death.

Nature’s Nest is a dry food specially formulated by a South African avian veterinarian. It comes in pellet form and in finer consistences for small birds like finches and canaries. Packed with naturally healthy ingredients like rooibos, green tea and soya, it’s available at EberVet Vetshops.

Pet owners must avoid giving their bird access to grit, gravel sandpaper or cement perches, as a bird will eat them to excess when it is not feeling well or if there is a nutritional deficiency, leading to serious health consequences. Birds that have previously been fed an unhealthy diet should undergo a “conversion diet” to transition to healthy eating. Ask your vet for advice.

Birds and bathing

Bathing one’s bird is essential to maintaining feather quality. Misters, sprayers and kitchen taps are bird favourites, although a gentle mist that simulates rain works well (some birds even like taking showers with their owners!).

A shallow bowl of water may also be offered for bathing but make sure it is heavy enough to not tip over when the bird perches on it. Small birds often enjoy bathing in pools of water collected by spraying large leafy greens and then they eat the leaf. Kale, romaine lettuce and collard greens work will for this.

It’s important for owners to ensure that their bird only comes in contact with water and not soaps, shampoos or sharp objects. And that the tools used for washing and bathing be carefully cleaned.

Sprayers, squirters, bath tubs and bowls should be disassembled, washed with detergent and hot water, thoroughly rinsed and dried before and after bathing. Sinks, showers and human bathing areas need to be scrubbed free of toxic cleaners.

It’s also important that the bird is kept away from heat, cold or drafts after bathing so it can dry properly.

The healthy happy bird

• Veterinary care: It’s essential to establish a relationship with an experienced bird veterinarian as bird medicine is entirely different from cat and dog medicine.

Pet owners should also do their part to monitor the health of their companion bird by checking for droppings that appear abnormal, discharge from the nose, eyes and beak, changes in the amount of food and water consumed and any changes to the rate, rhythm and depth of respiration. The bottom of the feet should also be monitored for stress points and sores.

• Socialisation: Birds are intelligent and social creatures.  They need human interaction and things to do in addition to staying physically healthy. They don’t want to be caged all the time, so having free time outside the cage is essential to proper socialisation and health. Make sure that the room they are allowed free time in is bird proofed and that there are no open windows or doors.

Toys and enrichment are important to the mental health, welfare, and wellbeing of your bird. If they have to be housed in cages, there should be ample play time outside. This may include climbing stands/trees, play gyms, obstacle courses and playing with you.

As birds tend to chew things, like wires, furniture and paint, they should be closely supervised whenever they’re outside of their cages.

Housing your bird

Your bird’s cage should be large enough that your bird can walk around and flap its wings vigorously without hitting them on anything (taking into account your bird’s toys, food bowls and perches). Bar spacing of the cage is also important, and small birds should be caged in habitats with no more than half an inch of space between bars.

extracted from an article by Julie Doherty, Petmd

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