Full-spectrum lighting is especially important if natural light is not available.
Often our birds are completely housed indoors and never see the sunlight. Even those by a window will not benefit from the sun because the window acts as a filter preventing the bird from absorbing the benefits of the sun such as Vitamin D3. Birds need exposure to UVA and UVB rays from direct sunlight (windows block necessary UV rays) or full-spectrum lighting to synthesize vitamin D necessary for bone health. Birds use sunlight by preening their feathers. The substance on the feathers will undergo a chemical reaction from the sunlight producing Vitamin D3 which the bird ingests with further preening of the feathers. The indoor bird does not have the benefit of this reaction.
Vitamin D3 is crucial for overall health, but particularly important for egg laying, strong babies and vitality in the young birds and breeding flock
The most common health problems associated with vitamin D deficiency are:
- Breeding / Reproduction-related problems:
- Egg binding and soft shell eggs
- Chick death -- usually occuring at about 18 or 19 days of incubation. Malpositions, soft bones, and with a defective upper beak prominent.
- Physical Abnormalities:
- Conure Bleeding Syndrome
- Cancer: Dr. William Grant, Ph.D. lead a study that found that about 30 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented each year with higher levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D protects against cancer in several ways: it increases the self-destruction of mutated cells it reduces the spread and reproduction of cancer cells it reduces the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous.
Natural food sources that are rich in Vitamin D are superior. However, you may want to consider discuss supplementation with your vet. Supplementation needs to be carefully screened and supervised by a vet since an excess of vitamin D (in the form of a supplement) causes kidney damage and retards growth.
I would suggest starting out with the light in the same room but not lighted or next to the cage and gradually moving it closer to the cage over several days. When the bird appears comfortable with the light is can be placed within 18 inches of the cage and turned on. Ensure that the bird is unable to access the light or cord because most will chew given the opportunity. Also, the light should not be left on around the clock. Night time and darkness is also important to the bird's health and I recommend 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night. Some of the better light will simulate dawn and dusk with a slow brightening and dimming and can be placed on a timer for consistency.
Birds enjoy natural sunlight and if you can provide that on a daily basis - that would be best and most inexpensive way to go. Many bird owners relocate their birds to an outside flight or they move the cage out every day for half an hour or so. However, when weather conditions prohibit this, full-spectrum lighting is a viable alternative ...
WARNING: Shatter Resistant or Safety-coated Light Bulbs are a potential source for toxic fumes that can be dangerous to birds. These bulbs have or may have a coating made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) - commonly known as Teflon coating -- which makes them shatter resistant. A veterinarian researched the death of a customer's birds and found out that the coating heated up during the use of the bulb, and in the enclosed coop produced high enough concentrations of toxic fumes to kill the chickens.