The Three Major Elements Needed for a Companion Bird's Happiness:
Keep them healthy:
Good nutrition is the key for a happy and healthy pet bird. Seed-only diets are the most common cause of premature death in companion birds. These one-sided diets result in nutrient deficiencies and cause diseases such as fatty liver disease. A sick or weak bird is not going to be happy.
- For information on proper bird nutrition, please visit this website
Provide daily access to unfiltered sunlight and/or full-spectrum lighting. Birds need exposure to UVA and UVB rays from direct sunlight or full-spectrum lighting to synthesize vitamin D necessary for bone health. Window glass blocks necessary UV rays.
- If you can provide an outside enclosure that would be optimal for the bird - not only as part of an enriched environment but also to enjoy fresh outside air and unbroken sunrays.
- If you can't provide an outside area for your pet, here are some "lighting options " that will provide the same health benefits to your bird as natural sunlight would.
- Grooming: Your pet should be given opportunities to bathe, as a regular grooming routine will promote feather and skin health. There are different ways to achieve it. I provide a shallow dish for my birds to bathe in. Other birds like to "shower" underneath the faucet while others prefer to be misted with a clean spray bottle of water.
- More information on "grooming".)
Protect them from the sun in the summer and the cold in the winter.
Keep them warm:
- Get a heater! Ceramic heaters produce a constant flow of heat without any light that might disturb your pet's sleep. Do make sure to keep the heater away from the cage and your pet as these heaters can get very hot.
- Another option is a warming perch. Birds lose a lot of heat through their feet, therefore, a heating perch is really a great way to keep your pet warm. Put the perch in a place that our bird likes to sleep at night - oftentimes that is near the top of the cage.
- Birds like to huddle together to keep warm; however, a lone pet bird doesn't have that benefit. Providing a soft fabric for our bird to snuggle up against is a great way to make your pet more comfortable. If your pet likes to sleep in tents, then provide one with a thick lining.
Keep them cool:
- Make sure that your birds have a shady area to escape to when it gets too hot.
- Offering water dishes with fresh cool water to bathe in will also help birds regulate their own heat. A misting system may work well in an aviary.
- Extreme Heat: naveed@ExhibitionBudgie.com - Naveed Ijaz from Budgerigar Society of Pakistan suggested showering mud floors with water. This method dramatically lowers the temperature in aviaries in areas where heat can go up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degree fahrenheit).
- Indoor rooms may require a fan (if you are using a ceiling fan, do make sure that the birds are not out when the fan is on, as the can fly into the fan).
- Other options are an air conditioning system or a stand alone / window or box fan with a protective cover over it.
Provide appropriate living space for your pet:
Spacious accommodation: I can't think of a worse faith than being crammed into a tiny cage that doesn't offer any entertainment. This truly makes for a miserable life. The cage should be big enough to accommodate perches, bird toys and several food dishes; as well as allowing for exercise - maybe even short flights from one perch to another. There is no limit on cage size. If you can make them at least twice as big as is normally recommended that would be excellent - if you can provide an even larger cage the better -- the only limit is on the space and resources that you have.
For tips and information on housing options, please visit this website.)
Make it a FUN place to be: Giving your birds a desirable living space is no different that you wanting to live in a clean, well decorated home. Offer your pet a variety of toys and enrichment activities.
"Foraging" has become a popular term amongst professional animal caretakers and extending now to the educated pet owners. The good news is that you don't need to buy expensive toys to keep your pet happy. Many of the best toys and entertainments are free, or very inexpensive. Please visit the Foraging web pages for easy and inexpensive 'tricks and tips."
Natural perches are best. For larger birds you can buy suitable lengths of hardwood perch materials at most pet supply shops. If you have the benefit of a garden with non-toxic trees, all the better as you will have an unlimited supply of fresh branches for nutrition and perching. Do make sure to clean the branches carefully before providing them to your bird. For the smaller birds, tree limbs work best. Position the perches in a way that they might be used in the wild. The smaller birds enjoy a tree-like setup where as the larger birds prefer horizontal perches.
Bring Nature Inside: Birds are part of nature. They enjoy trees, plants and wildlife as much as we do. Even if they are kept indoors, we can still provide them with living plants and branches with leaves still on them. You will find that not only your pet will enjoy it, but this can be a very pleasing "decorator touch" for your home. Do make sure to only use safe, edible plants. / non-toxic wood. If your bird is going to chew the plants up right away, you will want to choose something that is inexpensive to replace on a regular basis. I find that for small birds herb plants work well. If you are not a gardener yourself, buy potted parsley or other herbs at your local nursery and place them in your bird's cage or on your pet's playground.
Allow for plenty of out-of-cage time and social interaction with the "flock":
Provide daily exercise and plenty of out-of-cage time: Even the largest cage will not allow for sufficient physical and mental stimulation. In addition to a large cage, a play gym or two in areas that the family usually hangs out in would make a huge difference in your pet's quality of life. Free flight is a great way to exercise your pet bird.
Social Interaction: Birds are social creatures by nature. They enjoy the company of other living beings around them. If it is an only bird, do make sure that your pet is kept in the family room, or any other room the family usually hangs out in. Do make sure to spend quality time with your pet. If you find you are too busy, get another bird as a companion. You may not be able to place them in the same cage right away. It will take time for them to get to know each other. But even if they never really bond, they will still enjoy watching each other and interacting. Although, most of the time, they will "buddy up" eventually.
Place multiple perches/stands throughout the house in areas that your family likes to hang out in.
Take your pet out with you! I can't think of anything more enjoyable for pet birds than being "part of nature" and seeing what is going on "beyond the walls" of its home. Just think about it. Birds are meant to fly high above canopies; they are part of nature -- yes, there are safety considerations and pet birds will inevitably lose some freedoms that their wild cousins enjoy. However, we can immensely enhance their life experiences and connection to nature by taking them out at times. As a special bonus, you will be able to spend quality time together. There are several options:
A secure outside enclosure as discussed above.
A carrier that you can place your pet in when you go out (one that provides a clear view to the outside).
Bird Harness / Flight Leash: It's best when young birds are harness-trained, as it is more challenging with the older birds.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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