- All birds have some general needs that must be met.Cockatiel Karma image by Kit from Fotolia.com
Though small, most birds have very big personalities and often require very specific care. Owners should always take into account issues such as bird play times, entertainment, cage size and placement as well as dietary and health needs. These needs differ depending on the type of bird, but there are consistent guidelines to keeping a pet bird happy and healthy.
- Birds can be sensitive and they require a great deal of personal attention. Some birds, such as African grays, become so attached to their owners that they require a set amount of time every day. For African grays, three hours out of the cage every day is a standard guideline for bird health. Most birds require at least 45 minutes of personal attention each day. Without enough attention, birds may grow unhappy and antisocial.
- All birds love toys, so provide a range of equipment in their cages. Windy City Parrots recommends at least three toys in a cage at any given time, with a recommendation of 10 toys for parrots, in addition to several perches. Popular bird toys include colorful blocks, mirrors, bells, ladders, swings and jungle gyms, and make to get an array of colors and textures to stimulate the bird. Toys are sold at most pet shops and are designed to be hung from the bars of a cage or set on the floor. These additions help entertain birds, give them something on which to chew and provide exercise and a chance for movement within the cage. Birds should only be given approved toys, with additional restrictions in regard to bird size. Large birds, such as parrots, need large, hardy toys, as they may chew up and swallow smaller toys. Windy City Parrots recommends the addition of shredded paper for tearing, as the material rips easily but won't harm birds that swallow it.
Cage Size and Setup
- A bird's cage should be big enough for the bird to stretch his wings and fly. The cage should be appropriate to the bird in setup: small birds such as cockatiels can have fully enclosed cages, while parrots need cages that have a roof perch for out-of-cage time. Owners should place cages in busy areas, where the bird can observe a lot of action and be part of the household. Cages should not be put near drafts or in isolated rooms, as birds are sensitive to changes of temperature and need the stimulation of company and action. Don't place cages in the kitchen, where fumes might disturb the bird, or in rooms where late-night action takes places, as birds like a regular schedule of sleep. Cages should never be placed in insecure positions, such as at the top of stairs or in a doorway.
- Birds eat bird food, but they have unique dietary needs based on their species. Some birds, such as African grays, require supplements for vitamins and minerals (calcium and Vitamin A). Bird owners are advised to research bird types to prepare for any specific dietary needs or restrictions. Dietary needs are founded on what a bird's natural diet would be, and can range from extra protein to the presence of additional fruit. These dietary needs also include favorite foods, as some birds are partial to certain types of food. African grays tend to like grapes and other fruits, while some birds become attached to seeds, nuts and even vegetables. People feed their birds people food such as fruit, cheese and nuts to increase the variety in their diets and to give the birds additional entertainment. Most bird foods include nuts and seeds in their shells, to give birds something to chew on and open.
- It's important to keep a bird's environment clean and tidy, to keep the bird healthy. Cages come with trays in their floors for quick cleaning. Empty this tray at least once a week to clean out litter, dropped food and any waste. You should also clean off perches, toys and bars of the cage, as these areas are exposed to dirt and food. Use warm water and a rag to clean these areas, as cleaners may contain toxic chemicals that will harm birds.
Small birds such as cockatiels can share a cage if the cage is large enough. Large parrots should be kept in individual cages, as they are highly independent and can be territorial. Some types of bird, such as love birds, are social and prefer being kept in pairs. When keeping multiple birds in a cage, increase the frequency of cleanings; multiple birds inevitably cause more litter, and a slightly more crowded environment.