For the Birds: Your Guide to Owning a Feathered Friend

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You’ll need to weigh your bird on a gram scale daily. This will help you determine how much to feed him and it will help you monitor whether he’s gaining or losing weight, which can be a sign of your bird’s overall health.

Playing Doctor

Birds can be difficult to medicate. They do not take pills well; they can find and spit out cleverly hidden tablets in food; and they can be quite a challenge to hold while trying to administer medication.

Adding medications to drinking water is controversial but sometimes is the only practical method available, especially in aviaries. The goal is that the bird will self medicate throughout the day as he periodically drinks water.

There are several disadvantages of this method. The first disadvantage is that not all drugs can be placed in drinking water. Some drugs make the water bitter or bad tasting and the bird will not drink. Instead of just a sick bird, you’ll end up with a sick and dehydrated bird. Some birds may even refuse to drink the water if the medication changed the color of the water. Another disadvantage is that the water and medication mixture must be prepared fresh daily.

Adding medication to food is another method. It is more reliable than the water method, especially if you are able to hide the medication in a favorite treat. Usually, liquid mediations, crushed tablets, or the contents of a capsule are mixed in the food. As the bird eats, the medication is ingested.

The disadvantages are that some birds won’t eat the food with medication since the medication can alter the taste of the food. Medication can be difficult to properly mix with the food. You may need to add water to make the medication moist. This will help adhere the medication to the food pieces.

The most reliable method of medicating your bird is through administration of liquid medications directly to the bird. Most oral suspensions are well-liked by birds, especially if flavored.

Another method of medication delivery is through repeated injections. This is not a very common method due to repeated stress on the bird, pain, and other alternatives available.


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Keep them Clean

When it comes to grooming, birds are fussier than a lot of people. A bird likes a regular bath, an occasional manicure, and — if there’s no avian love interest around to provide it — a bit of a haircut from you.

An important rule of thumb: healthy birds groom themselves. A parrot who has been happily preening away and suddenly stops fussing with her feathers or changes her preening routine may be ill and need veterinary attention.

A healthy bird will care for her feathers, beak, and feet pretty much on her own. Birds learn how to groom their feathers early in life. In her daily preening ritual — her version of a comb-out — she’ll preen her feathers, or those of a mate, every day, often just before bedtime.

Your bird may have an oil-secreting gland at the base of her tail, from which she takes oils with her beak to spread over her feathers. Some birds, including cockatoos, may have a powder or dust on their feathers instead. It keeps the feathers in good shape, but some humans are allergic to this dust, so check to see if it bothers you before taking the bird home.

While birds do groom themselves, there are other things you must be aware of, including molting and stress bars (lines that appear on new feathers that are growing in), as well as the need for regular beak and toenail trimmings.

Resources for Owning a Bird

Want more useful advice on how to care for our fine feathered friends? Check out our featured articles:


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