Birds can be wonderful pets, but like all exotic, non-domestic animals, they require knowlege and commitment to keep them looking and feeling their best. Below are several areas that address the unique nature and needs of these pets.
Housing: Birds require safe cages to keep them from getting loose and hurting themselves. A safe cage should have the proper distance between the bars to prevent a bird from getting caught (a bird should not be able to get its head in between bars) and to provide easy climbing on the bars. Bird safe paints and materials should be used (no galvanized metal or lead based paints). A bird needs at least enough room in a cage to spread its wings and turn around without tail damage. When it comes to space, the more the merrier, as there is more room for toys and for play!
Food: Our most commonly kept species have distinctly different food needs. Parrots do best with complete pelleted diets supplimented with seeds, fruit, vegitables, and occassional protein based treats such as cooked chicken. Finches and canaries can also be kept on pelleted diets with fruit and vegitable treats. There are some parrots who are nectar eaters, and require a specialized diet mimicing their natural diet. Vitamines and minerals can be added to the food and water to complete the diet. The best words of advice we can give is to provide a healthy, varied diet - don't just stick to a seed mix.
Location: Birds should be located in an area where they can get plenty of attention. Most behavior problems occur when pet birds, especially large parrots, don't get enough personal time. Steer clear of places that may be drafty (like under vents), or that may get too hot or cold due to placement too close to a window. If your bird is in a location that will be brightly lit late at night, you can use a sheet or cage cover to provide privacy and dark to sleep by. Be careful when changing the location of your pet's cage, as this will sometimes tigger stress activities such as feather plucking.
Grooming: Most owners don't think of grooming for birds, but there are benifits to keeping your pet looking top notch. Keeping a beak trimmed can avoid painful puctures for you, and avoid some cracks and breakage of the tip. Nails that are too long can cause stress on the toes, as well as on the skin of the owner. And most importantly, a well trimmed set of wings won't allow a pet bird to fly into ceiling fans, fireplaces, or out the window or door.
So...What about wellness? Actually, some of the best wellness work you can do with exotics of all types is providing the best and most appropriate housing, husbandry, and food that you can. Then the pet, who is not stressed, will maintain within its own healthy parameters. You can then add regular check-ups with us to catch any problem early, before it gets to difficult to treat. All exotics, and birds in particular, tend to hide illness from owners or the animals who prey on them. So, when your pet bird shows illness, it has generally been going on for at least a bit of time. Because of this, do not hesitate to seek assistance once a problem is noted.
Symptoms can include puffy feathers, eye or nose discharge, lack of appetite, loose stools, discolored stools ("greens" that are too bright or too brown, white sections that are too watery or too yellow) and weight loss. One of the best aids you can have in monitoring your pet's condition is a scale. A scale will pick up weight loss before an owner can typically tell by feel.
Birds are especially sensitive to toxicites, especially airborn toxins due to the way their lungs function. Be especially aware of a newer form of an old bird toxin, teflon. Teflon coated cookware, if left empty and heating on a stove, can overheat and start producing an airborn toxin that is quickly fatal to birds. Many owners are aware of this cookware issue, but a newer oven shield product is now available. The problem is that it is never with food in it, so it is more likely to overheat and produce toxins during the preheat or broil stages in the oven. This product is to help keep the bottom of an oven clean, as it can be easily taken out, cleaned, then replaced. Unfortunately, it is a possible toxic exposure to your pet bird, so we do not recommend their use.
Vaccinations: Many pet birds such as finches and canaries do not require vaccinations. Parrot species are succeptable to Polyoma virus, and a vaccine is available. It is mostly used by breeders on their adult breeding pairs and on the hand-reared young to prevent loss of babies. The average pet who is not exposed to new birds may not need to be kept current on this vaccine, but it is available if you frequent bird shows, breed, or do bird rescue work.