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The following is a compilation of information we've received from various sources over the years, things we've learned through experience, and probably some mythology. We make no claims to absolute accuracy or authority but we believe it to be a good starting point for a new bird caretaker.

Basic Bird Care Index : Nutrition | Environment | Activity | Body Care | Security | Recognizing Signs of Illness

Nutrition


Your bird's diet is one of the most important considerations in it's overall care. Parrots eat a wide variety of foods in the wild and will thrive on many of the same foods in a healthy human diet. They can be fed the same grains, vegetables, fruit and meats that your family enjoys.

Grains, Breads, and Cereals - These foods can make up approximately 50% of daily food intake. Foods in this group include:

  • Whole wheat bread (Not White Bread)
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Commercial monkey biscuit
  • Pasta
  • Corn
  • Millet
  • Other whole grain products


Fresh Vegetables - Vegetables can account for 45% of your birds daily diet. Fresh vegetables are best for vitamin content but may be supplemented with cooked vegetables from the family table if these are not seasoned too highly. Frozen vegetables (thawed in the microwave) are acceptable when fresh vegetables are not in season. Vegetables that may be offered include:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Sweet Potato
  • Green Peas
  • Green Beans


Fruit - Fruit should be offered in limited amounts. Fruit in combination with the protein and calcium foods that follow can make up the remaining 5% of your birds daily intake. Typical fruit can include the following:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Apricots

Protein Foods - Protein foods include meats, peanuts or other mature legumes (cooked navy beans, kidney beans, etc.) The following foods are acceptable:

  • Beef
  • *Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Other cooked fish
  • Peanuts
  • Cooked Beans


* Caution

Chicken can become a source for fatal Salmonella poisoning if left in the cage too long. Use extreme caution when feeding these items. Never feed uncooked chicken or eggs.


Calcium Foods - Dairy products should not be fed in excessive amounts. Although small amounts of cottage cheese or hard cheeses are enjoyed by many birds. Calcium is essential, however, and must be supplied by supplements in the form of:

  • Cuttlebone
  • Oyster Shell
  • Mineral Block
  • Crushed tablets, liquid, or powder added to other foods.


Seed - Your bird doesn't need seed for a complete diet and probably won't like them too well unless taught. Sunflower seed is fattening and has low nutritional value. Seed can be offered as an occasional activity food but should not be made the main portion of your birds diet.

Pellets - Commercial pellets designed for parrot feeding will supply most of the essential nutrients found in the above foods and may be substituted as a time saver. Modern pellet formulations are believed to supply the complete needs of parrots and some can be fed to the exclusion of other foods but be sure to supplement with vegetables and fruit for activity, variety and extra nutrition. Follow the directions provided by the manufacturer.

Pelleted foods are particularly valuable to busy families who do not have time to prepare fresh foods daily or for birds who will not eat a balanced diet. Pellets have the additional advantage of being dust and hull free and are available in medicated forms should your bird ever get sick.

OFFER FRESH WATER EVERY DAY

Feeding Tips

  • Thawed frozen mixed vegetables are a time saver.
  • Carefully monitor TOTAL food consumption during a diet change.
  • Introduce small pieces of a single new food at a time.
  • Offer cups of fresh food at twice daily 15-20 minute time periods rather than leaving food in the cage all day. (Pellets will not spoil if dry and may be left in the cage for extended periods)
  • If a complete and balanced diet is consumed by your bird, vitamin supplements will not be required. However, many birds will eat favorite foods to exclusion of others and thus may need vitamin supplement. If commercial vitamins are needed, use dry formulations sprinkled on soft food dry water-soluble vitamins mixed into the drinking water. Oil-based vitamins are not recommended for adding to drinking water as these may quickly become rancid and lose all potency, especially during hot weather.
  • Remove ALL food and water cups and clean daily. Remove all spilled food from the cage daily.
  • Offer some foods that provide sources of activity such as:

Whole nuts
Berries
Buds and leaves
Corn on the cob
Pine cones
Coconuts
Millet Sprays

Environment

Temperature - A healthy bird can tolerate temperatures that are comfortable to its owner. Sudden changes in temperature (e.g. drafts) may be a potential threat to a sick bird. In temperatures above 90 degrees, your bird may show signs of overheating by panting and holding the wings away from the body. A water spray with a plant mister will remedy this situation in most cases.

Humidity - Most birds have the ability to adapt to a wide range of humidity. Most birds native to tropical climates will benefit from localized increase in humidity (e.g. in bathroom with running water or frequent spraying of feathers with water. Keep the bird warm until the feathers have dried. Most birds of the parrot family will enjoy and benefit from a daily misting of warm water from a plant mister.

Light And Fresh Air - Give your bird frequent opportunity for supervised access to fresh air and direct sunlight (not filtered through a window) . If the bird and cage are placed outdoors in comfortable weather, always provide a retreat for shade. Never Leave Your Bird in Direct Sunlight.

Avoid the following items in your bird's environment:

  • Air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, insecticides, and toxic fumes from overheated Teflon coated utensils. Be very careful with, or eliminate use of, Teflon-coated irons, ironing board covers, pots and pans. If Teflon (or similar coatings) are overheated for just a short period, fumes will be produced that can quickly kill birds.
  • Mite boxes and mite sprays
  • Easily dismantled or ingested toys such as balsa wood, small link chain items, toys with metal clips or skewers, or lead-weighted penguins for larger species.
  • Access to toxic house plants, fans, cats, dogs, young children.
  • Access to cedar, redwood, or pressure treated pine chips used as cage litter.

Cage

Perches - The most natural perch material is wood. Use clean, pesticide-free wood branches from non-toxic trees (e.g. northern hardwoods, citrus, eucalyptus, Australian pine, manzanita. Make sure the perch is easily removeable for replacement and cleaning but sturdily mounted and vibration-free under the bird's weight.

The perch should be sized to allow comfortable and confident standing, walking and sleeping. A perch of too large a diameter will not allow the bird to easily lock his claws around for sleep and rest, while too small a diameter may cause discomfort if the birds nails wrap around and contact the back of the feet. Variation in diameter and shape is natural and can provide interest for the bird.

The perch should be located to avoid contaminating food or water with the birds droppings and high enough to prevent the bird's tail from contacting food, water or the floor of the cage. Birds of the parrot family love to climb and will usually pick the highest perch. Make sure the highest perch in the cage will not force the bird to bend his head to avoid contacting the top of the cage.

Water and Food Bowls - Use wide food bowls rather than deep cups. Birds enjoy viewing a variety of food and may try more new foods if they are attractively displayed. Deep cups may also encourage digging and food waste. It is not necessary to place food and water bowls near the perch for birds of the parrot family. They climb well and enjoy "searching" for their food.

Hygiene - The cage bottom and food/water dishes should cleaned daily to avoid diseases and pests associated with spoiled food and droppings. Daily notice of droppings during clean up will help alert to potential signs of illness.

Cage Liners - Liners of newspaper, paper towels, or plain liner paper are recommended. Litter such as wood chips, chopped corn cobs, or sand will not allow monitoring the appearance of the bird's droppings. Remember to replace liner paper daily.

Activity

Most parrots in the wild spend all day searching for food and participating in flock social activities. They fly relatively long distances, climb, open fruit, nuts and seeds, build nests, hunt for insects, avoid predators. The cage environment alone may not fulfill the instinctive need for activity in these intelligent animals. A bird kept in a cage without stimuli may develop behavior abnormalities such as feather picking, screaming, or throwing food. Most birds are flock oriented and you and your family are your bird's flock. Locate the bird cage near family activity to allow this interaction.

Freedom - As appropriate to the species and degree of training, birds benefit from occasional freedom from the cage. Wing clipping is recommended for the safety of any bird allowed freedom! Parrots enjoy a comfortable perch outside the cage for interaction with the family and exercise. Hand fed birds gravitate toward humans and particularly enjoy handling and interaction.

Toys - Toys are very useful and necessary to provide mental diversion and encourage exercise and beak use. Select toys, however, with the bird's safety in mind. Pick chewable items such as branches, pine cones, rawhide dog chews, natural fiber rope and soft white pine. Birds love variety in color and shape. Toys that are safe for human babies are generally ok for birds. Avoid any toy that can be swallowed (in whole or part). Young birds raised to expect a variety of foods will try to eat most anything! Most parrots are expert mechanics and can dismantle the most firmly constructed toys. Be sure that no parts of the toy are small enough to be swallowed.

Body Care

A healthy, well fed bird will instinctively take care of his body. Birds kept indoors will require occasional attention in the care of beak, nails, feet and feathers.

Molting - All birds molt to lose old feathers and grow new ones. Some species molt during certain seasons and others molt continuously. Molt is natural and is not a sign of disease unless it is excessive or during the wrong season for your bird. Additional fat, protein, or vitamins may be required during molting as well as additional darkness to encourage rest. When the new feathers begin to appear, the bird may pick at the pin feather covers to remove them. Do not interpret this as "feather picking" or the presence of mites.

Bathing - Many birds enjoy taking a bath and can be occasionally provided with a shallow bowl of warm water for this purpose. Reluctant bathers should be periodically sprayed with warm water. Water will wash off excess feather dust and encourage preening. Soiled feathers can be cleaned with a mild detergent (such as Woolite) followed by a thorough warm-water rinse and towel, sun or gentle blow drying. Keep feathers dry and free of oily substances.


Wing Clipping - Any pet bird who will be allowed freedom from the cage should have a wing clip to prevent injury or escape. Wing clipping will also aid in taming and training. An expertly done wing clip will not cause any discomfort or injury and will not detract from the overall appearance of your bird. Ask your veterinarian for advice regarding wing clipping.

Leg Bands - It may be wise to remove open leg bands to prevent leg injury. If a closed band must remain on for identification purposes, check under the band occasionally for dirt accumulation, signs of swelling or leg constriction.

Beaks and Nails - Your bird may require period nail trimming. Nail trimming must be done expertly to avoid bleeding or injury. Beak trimming is usually not required for healthy birds that enjoy chewing opportunities. Your veterinarian can advise you regarding nail and beak care.

Security

Birds are valuable and thieves know this. Secure your bird as you would any valuable family member. Do not place your bird directly in front of a window that will advertise its presence to strangers.

Don't take your bird outside without a wing clip. Check wings occasionally for regrowth. Even partial regrowth may allow enough flight to escape. No matter how tame or bonded your bird may become, a sudden sight or sound may startle and cause instinctive flight.

Never leave your bird outside unattended. Remember that birds are the natural prey of cats, dogs and birds of prey.

Recognizing Signs of Illness

As a responsible pet owner, you should constantly monitor your bird for signs of illness. A bird will instinctively attempt to hide any appearance of illness as long as possible. This is a survival tactic in the wild. Therefore, by the time symptoms are apparent, the bird may have been sick for some time. Familiarity with the your bird's healthy behavior, feeding habits and droppings may be the key to early detection and treatment of illness.


The following symptoms may indicate a serious problem requiring immediate veterinary assistance:

1. A change in the character of droppings such as:

  • A substantial decrease in the total number or volume of droppings.
  • Change in the color of urates or urine (clear and white portions of droppings).
  • A increase in the water content of droppings (diarrhea).
  • Decrease in volume of droppings with increased urates (white portion).
  • Increase in the urine (clear) portion of the droppings.


2. Decreased or increased consumption of food or water.
3. Marked change in attitude, personality, or behavior, such as:.

  • Decreased Activity.
  • Decreased talking and singing.
  • Increased sleeping.
  • Poor response to stimuli.

4. Change in appearance or posture.

  • Ruffled feathers.
  • Weakness.
  • Inability to stand.
  • Staying on bottom of cage.
  • Sitting low on the perch.
  • Drooping wings.
  • Convulsions.

5. Change in Respiration.

  • Any noticeable breathing movement (such as tail bobbing) while resting.
  • Heavy breathing after exercise.
  • Change in voice quality.
  • Breathing sounds such as sneezing, wheezing or clicking.

6. Change in weight or general body condition.

  • Loss of weight as determined by a scale or by handling.
  • Prominent breast bone due to loss of muscle tissue - Serious Condition !

7. Enlargement or swelling on the body.
8. Injury or bleeding. Birds do not have a large blood supply and can quickly lose a critical amount of blood.
9. Vomiting or excessive regurgitation.
10. Discharge from mouth, nostrils, or eyes.


In general, given the proper environment and nutrition, birds are very hardy pets. With the same attention as any member of your family, a pet bird will be your faithful companion for many years.

Avitech
P.O. Box 329
Frazier Park, CA 93225
(800) 646-BIRD
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