Caring for Pet Birds: An Avian Adventure

Published on December 5, 2018 by

Pet Bird Owner

Birds are very popular pets today. According to the American Pet Products Association, there are over 20.3 million pet birds in the USA. The most popular pet birds include parakeets, cockatiels and parrots. Choosing to embark upon an avian adventure is a great choice for the informed bird owner. It is important that bird owners take the time to learn about the potential risks as well as the many rewards of bird ownership.

Caring for Pet Birds

Understanding the potential costs to keep a pet bird happy and healthy is important. Researching what pet parakeets, parrots and cockatiels may need before investing in a pet can keep stress low and enjoyment of the new pet high. The main costs of caring for a bird include avian vet visits, bird cages, bird food, bird water, bird treats, vitamins and supplements, toys and enrichment.

Avian Vet Visits

Pet bird owners can expect to spend the most on cages and veterinarian visits over their pet’s lifetime. The average veterinarian visit for routine avian preventative care is around $100. For surgical care, expect to spend about twice that amount per visit. Luckily, unlike vet visits, many avian needs require only one purchase. Staples like food, treats, supplements and toys are generally quite affordable, as the remaining sections on caring for a pet bird are explored.

Bird Cages

A suitable bird cage will be sized sufficiently for its avian occupant. Most manufacturers provide guidance regarding which cage models are designed for which avian species. Expect to spend less than $100 for a parakeet’s cage, $100 and up for a cockatiel cage and about that same amount for a small parrot cage. Larger parrots like cockatoos and macaws will require larger cages. Many avian veterinarians recommend that a parakeet cage should be at least 2 feet by 1.5 feet by 1.5 feet. A cockatiel cage should be at least 2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet. A parrot cage should be a minimum of 2 feet by 2.5 feet by 4 feet or larger depending on the species.

Bird cage features many owners appreciate include extra under-cage storage shelving, stands with rolling lockable casters for moving the cage and seed guards to prevent mealtime messes.

Bird Food

Today’s veterinary science indicates pelleted foods are typically far superior to that traditional pet bird staple, birdseed.  It is true that birdseed is typically received with great enthusiasm so many owners assume this is the right diet, but avian experts say that this enthusiasm is because feeding birdseed is akin to feeding a treat food such as potato chips.

Pelleted foods, which can be plain or colorful, uniform or different shapes, small or larger pellets, are considered the healthiest and most balanced avian diet today. Feeding pellets ensures the pet bird will take in a full and complete diet daily without preferential feeding (eating only the choicest morsels or favorite seeds). In addition to pellets, a pet bird of any species can benefit from small amounts of avian-safe produce daily. This not only adds valuable nutrients to the bird’s diet but also provides enrichment by simulating wild foraging behaviors.

Bird Water

Fresh water should always be available day or night to any pet bird. Maintaining proper hydration is critical for balanced nutrient absorption, use and healthy elimination. Many bird owners today use rodent water bottles or hooded water cups rather than the stock cups that come with most bird cages. This is for sanitation reasons as well as for ease of cleaning and monitoring hydration.

Birds need and enjoy bathing. A separate shallow bathing dish, cup or bowl should be provided regularly (daily or every other day) for this purpose. Some parrot species prefer being misted with a hand mister. Also, the cage should be cleaned daily with bird-safe cleaning agents (plain water and vinegar is a good choice).

Bird Treats

Like all pets, pet birds typically love treats. Since birdseed today is more of a treat, it is a good idea to offer some favorite seeds in a daily treat rotation. Other popular treat foods include dried millet on stalks, fruits (fresh or dried), sprouts and leafy greens, shelled or unshelled nuts, fresh veggies (cooked or raw), cooked beans, cooked plain pasta or rice, birdie bread and similar options.

Vitamins and Supplements

Feeding a pelleted diet is the best way to ensure a pet bird takes in balanced whole and complete daily nutrition. However, there are certain additional vitamins and/or supplements that offer important benefits to a pet bird. All pet birds should have free access to a cuttlebone. This calcium-rich supplement typically comes in a block of some sort and also helps keep the beak filed down.

Other supplements that avian veterinarians sometimes recommend include vitamin drops (to add to the water), probiotics, fertility and egg-bearing supplements for breeding parrots and other birds. It is always wise to consult an avian veterinarian before adding these supplements to a healthy bird’s diet.

Toys and Enrichment

Thanks in great part to the work of Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her Amazon Grey parrot, Alex, today’s avian experts know that the term “bird brain” is wildly outdated. Parakeets, cockatiels and other parrots are very smart! The typical pet cockatiel has the intelligence of a two-year-old child. The typical pet parrot has the intelligence of a four to five-year-old child.

This makes avian enrichment a vital part of caring for any pet bird. The best avian toys and activities will mimic activities that species of bird would seek out in the wild. Foraging, nest building, chewing, bathing, communicating with flock mates, flying, preening, resting and other activities all add stimulation and enrichment to a pet bird’s daily life.

More toys for enrichment include natural wood perches, in-cage treat and greens holders, mirrors, nest boxes, plain paper or cardboard for shredding and chewing, bird-safe foliage, ladders and swings and similar toys. Providing ample safe space for flight is also a vital part of keeping a parrot, cockatiel or parakeets healthy, trim and happy. But the most important need a pet parrot or cockatiel has is for their owner’s companionship.

Did learning about how to care for pet birds interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.



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