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Pet Birds General Health Care


Healthy Diets for Pet Birds

General health care for pet birds | Vet tips on caring for your pet bird | Hilton Vet Hospital Fremantle

Birds in the parrot family are foragers in the wild. They will eat whatever happens to be in season or is available. Their diet includes fruits, seeds, insects and whatever else they can find. Feeding pet birds an all-seed diet is neither natural nor nutritious.

The tradition of feeding seed-only diets to pet birds began years ago when wild birds were first caught and imported to our country. This was largely because of a profound lack of information and knowledge at that time about the nutritional requirements of birds and the content of seeds. Birds are particularly sensitive to nutritional deficiencies because they have a high metabolic rate. (An animal’s metabolic rate indicates how many calories it burns to maintain itself.) Birds are calorie furnaces, and on an inadequate diet they will quickly develop malnutrition and a compromised health status.

Seeds are very high in fat (especially sunflower, safflower and peanuts), low in calcium, low in protein and almost devoid of any vitamins. The alternative to seed diets is offering a good quality pellet diet like Nutriblend from Vetafarm. A balanced diet provides some of each of the four major food groups. You can still offer seeds, but they should make up no more than 50 percent of your bird’s total diet. you can offer whole grains, along with fruit, vegetables, nuts, beansprouts, alpha-alpha sprouts and pasta

Fruits and vegetables are a must for a balanced diet; they provide many essential vitamins. Avoid feeding your bird any foods high in fat. Avocados are toxic to pet birds.

Many owners object to changing their birds’ diets because they have offered a variety of foods only to have them ignored or refused by their pets. Birds are creatures of habit and are highly suspicious of new foods. Count on taking a few months to get your bird use to a new diet..

The trick to changing eating habits is in how you offer the new diet. Best is to add new food first thing in the morning while your bird is hungry. Offer your bird fresh foods twice a day for about one hour at each feeding (fresh food will spoil quickly and if left in the cage for a length of time could develop harmful bacteria and toxins).

Birds are equipped with a natural “storage tank” for food — the crop. Located in the breast area, the crop is an enlargement of the esophagus. The crop enables birds to “tank up” on food and have a steady supply for their digestive system for many hours. Birds in the wild use this storage system daily. They forage for food in the early hours of the morning and again late in the afternoon to avoid the heat of day. Owners can take advantage of the crop by twice-a-day feedings to produce healthier, more active and affectionate pets.

Feeding birds twice a day has many benefits. The primary benefit is that it creates a healthy appetite. A healthy appetite will stimulate your bird to try new, more nutritious foods. Birds that eat twice a day are also more active. Bird and owner will share the benefits of a closer bond because the bird will associate its owner with something positive—mealtime. Feeding twice a day will also help you monitor how much your pet is eating. A drop in food consumption can be a sign of illness.

In some situations, feeding a bird twice daily is not desirable. Sick birds, those laying eggs, nesting or caring for young should always have food in their dishes.


Training Birds

A good way to enrich your animals is through training. Now this may not seem very natural, but in fact training helps keep our animals active and mentally stimulated.

Training can help reduce stress because the animal knows what to expect and they actually enjoy participating because of positive reinforcement, usually in the form of a really great food treat! It is a good idea to scale train your bird and this is done through constant repetition and positive reinforcement. It is important to monitor weights because many times an animal will start to lose weight when it is sick before it stops eating or starts acting differently. Getting accurate weights consistently offers an advantage to detecting illnesses early on.

In the wild most birds spend a large amount of their time foraging, or searching for food. Provide a variety of food types and make it interesting by hiding it in objects like a log with holes in it.

Other examples of enrichment include: paper towel rolls, mirrors, sounds of other birds, branches with leaves, flowers like banksias or bottlebrush and bird toys, of course! Parrots prefer yellow, red and orange coloured toys. Soft wood toys are usually their favourite.

Wing & Nail Clipping

Be sure to have your bird’s wings clipped.

The decision to deny a caged bird free, unrestricted flight was unconsciously made by each bird owner at the time the bird was made a captive pet in the home. Wing clipping is merely a procedure that makes this confinement safer for the bird. We prefer that both wings be clipped so that the bird’s descent to the floor will be balanced and relatively controlled.

Beak and toenail trimming is extremely important. Since caged birds live in a human engineered environment, there is little if no irregularity in the surfaces with which they come in contact. Therefore, their beaks and claws have a tendency of overgrowing and becoming rough. This can create eating and perching problems in the long run. Most caged birds need their beaks and claws trimmed periodically depending on the species and the time of the season.

We DO NOT recommend using sandpaper covered perches. They do not prevent claw overgrowth, but instead cause irritation and excessive wear to the soles of the feet.

Toxic Foods for Birds

  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Unions
  • Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Dried raw beans (cooked beans are fine)
  • Tomato stems and leaves
  • Salt
  • Fat