Pet birds are a collection of unique species from all over the world. Each inherently has a unique set of dietary and environmental requirements that we try to approximate in our home settings. Most birds can enjoy a long life in our homes if we provide them with these two basic needs:
- Nutritious food and
- A clean enclosure
Most avian illness stem from a breakdown in one of these 2 categories. In the wild, birds would never have repeated contact with their droppings. This is why daily paper changes are so important. Do not use water tubes as these grow bacteria, instead use open cups or bowls. The water bowls must be disinfected daily and the food must contain a wide variety of nutrients.
Most birds can thrive in a temperature range of 60 to 85 degrees and Santa Barbara provides this ideal environment most of the year. Your bird should get outside in indirect sunlight for at least 15 min 3 times a week to ensure proper vitamin D3 maintenance. A full-spectrum light bulb can be used if outdoor light is not an option. Birds do best with 12-14 hours of dark/sleep time per night. Covering your pet’s cage with a towel or sheet ensures that the sleep will be less interrupted and heat loss will be minimal. Never use any cage bedding on the cage floor. Instead use paper towels or newspaper which allows the droppings to dry during the day and discourages bacteria and mold growth.
Use a variety of perches in the cage to allow different grip diameters. Natural branches are best.
Because birds are at the bottom of the food chain, they hide their illnesses until often they are too ill to survive. Signs of illness include:
- Sitting on the cage floor for long periods of time
- Sitting fluffed for long periods of time
- Loose droppings or droppings that contain only urine
- Weight loss
- Discharge from nose or eyes
- Regurgitation or vomiting
- Labored breathing
- Excessive feather grooming/picking
If you see any of these signs it is best to bring your bird to an avian veterinary as soon as possible.