Birds are not your typical cute and cuddly house pet, but they can provide a sense of camaraderie in the same way that dogs and cats can. Mammals are usually social in nature and enjoy the company of their owners. But caring for birds is unlike caring for any other pet.
In 2016, the American Pet Products Association found that only seven percent of U.S. households owned a bird. Birds require special care, equipment and food to live a long and healthy life.
If you are considering adding a bird to your family, then here is what you need to know about responsibly caring for your new pet.
Caring for the Health of Your Bird
Birds are unique animals that require specific care. Before you bring one home, make an appointment with a qualified veterinarian. Birds require individualized care, so finding the right medical professional to take on your bird’s health needs is vital to its well-being. Like most house pets, birds will need to see a veterinarian once a year for a check-up. If you notice your bird is not eating or drinking or does not seem to be acting like themselves, then bring the bird in for immediate medical attention. This could be a sign of something serious.
You should only clip your bird’s wings if recommended by your vet. In some instances, it may be necessary to keep them safe. If your bird is not prepared for flight, then they can fall and injure themselves. Trimming your bird’s wings limits its flying ability but does not restrict it entirely. Talk to your vet before making any permanent decisions about your bird’s wings.
You will also need to have your bird’s toenails trimmed. You can bring your bird to a professional or perform this grooming option yourself. Do not cut the bird’s nails too short, as it needs them to hold on to perches.
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Your bird also requires socialization in order to stay healthy. You should let your bird safely explore your home. However, do not allow your bird to roam your home unattended or while in the company of other animals. You can also use a screened-in porch to let your bird soar. Just make sure to keep all doors and windows closed so that your bird does not escape.
You must frequently monitor your bird’s temperature. Birds can easily get too hot or too cold. If you suspect your bird is overheating, then you may notice your feathered friend is panting, has hot breath or a red nose.
A cold bird will fluff out their feathers and attempt to cover its entire body, including its feet, to stay warm. If you notice your bird is overheating or is cool to the touch, then call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Keeping this in mind, it is important to place your bird’s cage in a climate-friendly spot in your home. Do not place the birdcage in the direct path of an air vent, underneath a fan or nearby a heater, which means you may need to reorganize your living space to accommodate your bird’s cage. You should aim to keep your home’s indoor temperature around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the most comfortable temperature for birds.
What to Feed Your Bird
Your feathered friend needs more than just birdseed to stay healthy. In order for your bird to grow big and strong, you should feed it a mix of pellets, vegetables, fruits and fiber. Birdseed tends to be high in fat, so bird pellets or a blend of pellets and seeds are more nutritious options. Feed bags can be found in your local pet store or may be purchased from a verified online retailer.
Vegetables are another staple nutrient group that must be incorporated into a bird’s diet. Produce should make up about 20 percent of your bird’s daily intake. Birds love to eat leafy greens, zucchini, broccoli, squash, shredded carrots and other vegetables. Most vegetables are safe, but avocados contain a toxin that can poison birds.
To round out their daily diet, birds need fruit and fiber. You can feed your bird food straight from your garden, including fruits like papayas, bananas, melons, mangoes, oranges, kiwis and apples. Just be sure to remove the seeds before serving, as your bird may choke. Only five percent of your bird’s diet should contain fruits. Another five percent should come from cooked grains like pasta, brown rice and oats. Grains should be served once a week.
Birds like to graze on their food throughout the day. Make sure that your bird always has access to a full bowl of food. If your bird has not finished their grains after several hours, then remove them from the crate and store them for another time. When feeding your bird, always make sure that fresh water is available.
Top Five Pieces of Equipment for Bird Ownership
Before you and your bird take flight into a new relationship, you will need to provide a few essential items for the feathered creature. Outfitting your home with a cage, toys, proper feeding dishes and other indispensable products will make your bird feel right at home. You can get your bird some basic items or go all out and splurge on an extravagant cage and toys. Whatever you do, make sure to get these items to ensure your bird is happy, content and comfortable in its new home.
|$30 – $500
|There any many different options when it comes to bird cages. The typical birdcage is made of metal wire and is fairly large. Since your pet bird will spend most of its time in the cage, make sure to buy a big enough crate that the animal can easily move around in. Tiny birds like finches and canaries will do just fine in smaller crates, while larger birds like parrots need a bigger living space. If your bird feels cramped in its cage, then it can lead to screaming, biting and mental illness. Always check the spacing of the cage bars, too. For smaller birds, the bars should be about a half-inch apart at maximum to keep them from slipping through. The larger the cage, the more expensive it will be.
|$5 – $100
|Like they would in nature, birds need perches on which to sit atop. You can buy perches online, from a pet store or at a bird shop. Provide your bird with three to four perches. Each perch should have a different texture, such as wooden with ridges or naturally smooth. Perches can also help to file your bird’s nails, so buy a sturdy perch. Clean the perch with mild dish soap and warm water before placing it in your bird’s cage. Perches also come in a swing format on which your bird that your bird will enjoy swaying. The size and complexity of the perch will dictate the cost. If you are creative, then you may be able to repurpose home items.
|$4 – $30
|Like all pets, birds need toys to keep themselves entertained and their minds engaged. To start, provide your bird with four toys in their crate to figure out what it likes. Bird toys include hanging mirrors and bells, which both provide endless pleasure and amusement. Just make sure that the toys are as indestructible as possible. This will help keep your bird safe. Avoid toys with frayed ropes, wire or jingle bell balls. These can all cause potential harm.
|$5 – $25
|Birds require a water dish from which to drink. The dish should be heavy enough that the bird cannot flip it over or pick it up, so it’s best to go with ceramic or stainless steel. The food and water bowls should be large and shallow so that the bird can easily drink and eat from them. Birds can become dehydrated very quickly. You should refresh your bird’s water at least once a day and always refill it when the bowl is empty. You can also use a hanging water bottle instead of a dish. The food bowl should be placed out of the way of perches since birds tend to use the bathroom while sitting on them. You may also consider buying hooks for the bowls so that you can latch it on to the side of the cage for your bird.
|$2 – $30
|Birds need to be able to take a bath. A large plastic bowl or basin will do the trick. Birds can bathe themselves, so fill the bowl with water and place it in the cage, shower or other enclosed location.
Pros and Cons of Owning a Bird
Owning a pet adds a new element to your life, but it is not all fun and games. Your bird will rely on you for a bevy of things, such as food, water and cage cleanliness. It is important that you consider all aspects of owning a bird before bringing home your feathered friend.
While a bird brings an exotic feel and companionship into your home, it also requires a certain level of responsibility. If you are considering bringing home a bird, then here are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.
- Birds can live for decades, some even up to 60 years of age. If you are looking for a lifelong companion, then a bird could be just the pet for you.
- Birds love attention from their owners. It can be a rewarding experience to feel needed and wanted by your pet.
- Because of their small footprint, birds are great pets for those who live in small apartments or shared living spaces.
- Birds understand human feelings. For this reason, they can be great for small children to talk to and teach empathy.
- Playing with pets like birds can lead to lower stress levels and reduce blood pressure.
- Birds can exhibit erratic behavior and throw temper tantrums.
- Birds may bite and cause injuries to their owners.
- Birds can also be messy animals. They tend to throw their food and use the bathroom all over the cage.
- You must clean the cage once a day or at least several times a week to remove fecal matter, food and other droppings.
- Birds do not like to be left alone for extended periods of time. If you work long hours or travel frequently, then your bird may become upset with you.
Economic Factors That Come With Bird Ownership
With pet ownership comes a large financial responsibility. The cost of owning a bird can add up quickly if you are not careful. To cut back on costs, do not splurge on an expensive cage or fancy toys for your bird. As long as your bird has the essentials, it will be happy.
A study found that a bird owner will spend roughly $300 during the first year of ownership. Over the course of a bird’s lifetime, this cost could become thousands of dollars. Make sure you and your budget are committed to caring for the bird for the long term.
Smaller birds like canaries, finches, parakeets and parrotlets will cost less than medium-sized birds like doves and cockatiels or larger birds like African greys, cockatoos and macaws. Smaller birds consume less food and need smaller cages, whereas medium to large birds require more food, more toys and larger cages. Extremely large birds like macaws can cost anywhere from $900 to $5,000 or more. Evaluate your budget to make sure that you can take on the cost of owning a bird.
You should also budget for any expenses outside of the daily living costs, like food, toys and routine vet care. Birds may have unexpected medical costs or require multiple cages down the road. Develop a budget and create an emergency fund so that you are prepared to handle all the expenses that come with bird ownership.
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