The Parrot Perch
I believe that birds are the most underrated of pets. They are incredibly intelligent, affectionate, loyal, and entertaining. This is true from parakeet to macaw, and I believe probably true of even our backyard birds...
Any pet is a responsibility, but with birds, this is especially true. Birds require attention, interaction, and love. They are not happy to sit idle in a cage all day. If you choose to acquire a pet bird, you'll need to know the following:
Regardless of popular belief, seed is NOT the best diet for a pet bird. Seeds to a bird is what chocolate is to a child...candy. Feeding a bird nothing but seeds is the equivalent of feeding nothing but candy to a child....its unhealthy. Pellets have been specially formulated to be a balanced diet for birds. Pellets should be the main diet. Fresh fruit & veggies should be given as a supplement, as well as cooked soft foods (not fried) and occasionally a few seeds. There are a some dangers. Chocolate, Alcohol, Caffine, and Avacados are TOXIC to birds and should never be given. If your pet bird is currently on a seed diet, start working on converting it to pellets. This may take months. If your bird refuses fruits and veggies, keep trying. It should eventually realize that these taste great. Provide fresh water daily.
Cage size requirements depend on the size of the bird. As a rule of thumb, the cage should be wide and deep enough so the bird can completely outstretch his wings in any direction in the cage. If you are housing more than one bird in the cage, it must be bigger. Buy as large a cage as you can afford. My yellow nape amazon is in a 32"x 24"x48" cage, and my sun conure's cage is 24"x20"x36". Bar spacing should be small enough so that the bird's head can't fit between the bars, and feet can easily grasp two bars to climb. Try and find a cage with verticle bars on two sides and horizontal bars on the other two. If you are going to use a cage made from galvanized wire, it must be treated before use. It has a zinc coating which is poisonous to birds. Use vinegar and a wire brush to scrub off the zinc coating, and dry it. If using a painted cage, make sure the paint is not lead based...many old paints are. Also make sure the cage is not rusty....rust contains toxins also. Perches should be of varying width to exercise your birds feet. At least one perch should be wide enough in diameter so that the bird's toes don't go completely around the perch and overlap.
Your pet bird will need a variety of destructable and indestructable toys. Toys should be rotated every few days so the bird does not become bored with them. You can buy or build your toys, but make sure they are safe and designed for birds, and your size of bird. Take care when giving toys containing rope...toes can become caught, so the bird will need supervision when playing with rope toys. Toes can also become caught in chains if the links are too small. Leather must be bird safe...veggie tanned. Use woods that are not toxic to birds to build your own toys. A play gym should also be provided for your bird to play on outside of the cage. Many are available for purchase, or you can build your own.
Birds can easily become hurt or sick from many things. Wings should be clipped to prevent escape & injury. If you are inexperienced at wing clipping, get your avian vet to do it for you. An improper clip can injure the bird if the clip is too severe, and clipping too few feathers will not prevent flight. A proper clip will alow the bird to glide to the floor but not have any lift. Many birds are injured by ceiling fans, getting slammed in doors, crashing into windows, and falling into bathtubs, sinks, and toilets and drowning. This can be avoided with a proper wing clip. Other dangers...allowing a bird out of his cage unsupervised. Birds chew and are quite curious. They can injure themselves by chewing through electrical cords, ingesting poisonous house plants and household poisons, not to mention they might chew up your furniture, books, and valuables. Teflon & other non-stick coated cookware emits deadly fumes when heated to certain levels. Many areosols also have toxic fumes and should be sprayed outside away from birds.
Your new pet bird will need a complete checkup by an avian vet soon after being brought home. Birds hide sickness very well, and you would not be able to detect there is a problem until it has become quite serious. Avian vets are not cheap. A thorough checkup could cost much more than your bird, especially if your bird is a budgie or other relatively inexpensive bird. But even your $10 budgie deserves the same care as the $6000 hyacinth macaw. If you can not or are not willing to provide that type of care, perhaps you should stick to another kind of pet.
If you've decided to aquire a pet bird, the next decision is whether to get a hand-fed or parent-fed baby, or a mature adult who's had other homes. All of these can make great pets, however, a parent raised baby will not be tame. You will have to spend a great deal of time working with the bird to tame it. If this will be your first bird experience, I recommend a hand fed baby. Their are lots of mature birds out there needing homes too, and can usually be aquired for less than a baby. You must remember that if you are going to get a mature adult who has lived in other homes, it will have habits it learned at those homes, and they may not all be pleasant.
You should READ, READ, READ before deciding which species is best for you. There are many beautiful, intelligent birds that are quite a hand full and would not be suitable for most first time bird owners. Making a responsible, well informed choice will get you off to a great start as a new bird owner.
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