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Keys to Keeping a Bird Healthy

By: Dr. Don Harris

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Pet birds are often characterized as easy to care for when well but almost impossible to deal with when sick. The reason is simply that birds properly cared for to begin with rarely get sick. When they do, well-kept birds usually fare quite well while neglected birds...don't.

Providing optimal care for a pet bird is really quite simple. The key is education. Responsible pet bird owners educate themselves on the appropriate care of their particular pets. Diets, caging requirements, even social obligations of birds differ tremendously among those species commonly found in the pet trade. Potential owners should learn those particulars long before they ever bring the bird home. A few factors can make a great difference in the life of a pet bird:

  • Feed correctly. Providing the proper diet is probably the single most important aspect of keeping your pet bird healthy. Countless illnesses are the direct result of unbalanced diets. Illnesses not specifically caused by poor diets are worsened by them.

  • Maintain the bird's cage. A clean cage is a healthy cage. Change the bedding daily to deter the growth of mold and fungus, and scrub perches and toys weekly. Any old organic material such as food, feces, etc. that remains in the cage for more than a day can become heavily contaminated with harmful organisms.

  • Keep the bird in the proper environment. Tropical birds shouldn't be housed in Arctic temperatures. Birds that like seclusion shouldn't be housed in high-traffic areas. Naturally social birds, on the other hand, shouldn't be isolated.

  • Avoid risky situations. Hanging a birdcage outdoors in a neighborhood full of cats is asking for trouble. Where wild animals are a threat, be sure the cage is secure. Don't place a cage in an area of your house where it's likely to be bumped or knocked over. Also, don't allow the bird to roam freely in an area where harmful objects like electric wires or pesticides are kept. And don't allow flight in a room with a running ceiling fan.

  • Know the bird's natural habits. For example, a bird that bathes in puddles should be provided with a shallow pan of water; one that prefers bathing in rain should be showered. When in doubt, offer both options. Likewise, try to discover and provide favorite natural foods. Do everything possible to duplicate those things characteristic of your bird's natural environment.

  • Get regular veterinary check-ups. Birds often mask signs of illness. Regular exams with standard lab tests reveal things about the bird that cannot be detected otherwise. A routine screen may reveal latent or impending illness. Normal findings help establish baselines for comparing future results. A good relationship with a knowledgeable veterinarian opens the door to a wealth of information on bird care.

    While none of these tasks are overwhelmingly difficult, all are critical to a bird's well being. Attending to these needs will maximize the likelihood of a comfortable, healthy life.

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