Bird keeping is a popular pastime in Australia, with many native parrots, domestic poultry, pigeons and perching birds being kept in homes all over the country. Whether you keep birds to enjoy the wonderful colors and singing of aviary birds, the intelligent interaction of parrots, the synchronized and speedy flying of pigeons or collecting eggs or raising chicks from a flock of poultry, caring properly for your pet birds will help to ensure years of enjoyment from your avian companions.
Different species have different housing requirements, but in all species, generally the larger the enclosure, the more the space available for the animal to move around. Materials used in the manufacturing of cages must be strong enough to withstand climbing and impact from the occupant, as well as preventing potential predators from entering or opening the cage. Cage wires should ideally be steel painted with non - toxic paints in chewing and climbing species (such as parrots), and if galvanized material must be used, it must be out of reach of the animal, as galvanized metal is coated with zinc and can cause toxicity if consumed. If these materials are used, washing with vinegar and rinsing well before use can help to reduce the amount of zinc coating the metal.
Perches should be made available for animals to rest upon, and different sizes and shapes of branches employed. Natural branches from native eucalyptus trees are ideal for this purpose, as the differences in shape and texture help to exercise the feet and prevent pressure sores. Gravel or sandpaper perch covers should not be used, as these products can abrade the bottoms of the feet, leading to pressure sores.
Flooring should be smooth, easily cleaned and set up in such a way as to prevent predators and pests from digging under and into the enclosure. For poultry, it is important that provision be made for scratching, as this is a normal behavior for these birds. Bedding such as straw, clean wood shavings or clean sand can assist in filling this need. Nesting boxes must be available for breeding and laying birds, and should be easily cleaned and accessible.
The height and width of the enclosure is dictated by the living habits of the animal. In perching birds, sufficient height, width and depth must be available for flying - aviaries often work well for this purpose. Parrots are accomplished climbers, and enjoy tall enclosures with various perches from which to survey their surroundings. In parrots which can fly, a sufficiently large aviary or access to safe portions of the house must be made available for exercise. With poultry, a large amount of ground space within the coop or in a safe, predator-proof adjacent yard. With pigeons, large groups are often kept depending on sex, breeding status and phase of training, and a well-ventilated, large area with sufficient perches and next boxes must be provided. Discussing your needs with a specialty bird suppliers, and consulting books and avian veterinarians can be helpful in choosing bird housing.
Birds eat bird seed, don't they? Well actually, no. There are a select group of species, such as the soft bills (finches, canaries) which evolved eating a seed - based diet made up of a large variety of wild seeds, shoots, berries and the occasional insect. Commercial seed mixes contain few, if any, of the seeds which would have been found in these animal's natural diet. Seed mixes are generally deficient in major minerals and vitamins, such as calcium and vitamin A, and may even contain seeds that are unsuitable for the bird's bill shape and metabolic needs. Large parrot mixes often contain sunflower seeds, which are too high in fat and too low in essential vitamins, resulting in severe deficiencies where these seeds are eaten in excess or to the exclusion of other varieties. Seeds, if used, should preferably used as a treat and training aid, and if used as greater then 10% of the diet, supplemental vitamins and minerals will be required.
In modern bird feeding, it is preferable to utilize a balanced pellet or crumble specifically designed for each species. These diets have been developed to meet the nutritional needs of each particular species, in shapes and sizes varying from tiny crumbles to large kibbles to suit the feeding habits of each species. Complete pelleted diets also have the advantages of improved freshness, guaranteed nutrient profiles, and reduced waste, as there are no messy seed hulls. For nectar - feeding birds, such as lorikeets, complete and balanced nectar mixes, designed for long- term feeding and available as wet (to be mixed with water) and dry (to be eaten as a powder) should form the foundation of a balanced and entertaining diet.
In addition to the base feed, vegetables, fruits and flowers need to be freshly provided on a daily basis. As a minimum, the same volume of fresh vegetables should be available as pellets, fed as a meal twice daily. In parrots and poultry, supplemental vegetables high in vitamin A and calcium should be fed in the highest quantities - dark green, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, sweet potato, pumpkin, capsicum, etc) should form approximately 75% of the birds 'salad' with the balance composed of fresh fruits and the occasional nuts or seeds. Non-toxic native plants, such as gum nuts and gum flowers, gum leaves and grasses, can also be added to provide variety and entertainment to keep busy bird mines engaged. Vegetation can be offered in a bowl, clipped yo the side of a cage, skewered on special bird kebab sticks and treat balls to add variety to the normal foraging routine. Foods to avoid include avocado (including leaves), onions, garlic, leeks and chives, as well,as any known toxic garden and wild plants. For nectar - eating species, such as When converting a bird from a seed-based diet, or changing brands of pellet, make changes slowly, over a week to 10 days, to allow your pet to adapt to the new diet.
Fresh water should be available at all times, in the form of a clean, difficult to tip dish. Change water daily, and make provision for birds to bathe (in the case of parrots and perching birds) or swim (in the case of water fowl). In hot weather, some birds enjoy a light missing or in the case of large parrots, even a shower! For outdoor birds, separate water sources in an area not used by domestic birds should be made available and efforts made to prevent access to pet bird's dishes, as these animals may transmit serious disease and parasites to your pets.
Different species of birds seek enjoyment from different activities. Providing a range of bird - safe toys, climbing apparatus, creative food dispensers and training/ interaction with humans, appropriate to each species can help to alleviate border and reduce the incidence of self - harming behaviors, such as feather chewing, skin and hair plucking and aggression.
The level of veterinary input each species requires varies depending on the number and concentration kept, previous medical problems and the appropriateness of management used in keeping the birds. Generally, pet birds benefit from conscientious sanitation and regular deworming. Yearly health checks, particularly in large species kept in solitary situations, can help to detect early - onset disease, allowing more time for appropriate treatment. Veterinary advice from a veterinarian familiar and comfortable with the specialized diseases and treatment needs should be sought if any changes in energy level, eating pattern, drinking pattern, dropping, breathing, bodyweight, plumage, or other visible changes are noted. As transporting an aviary to the veterinary hospital is impractical, a small transport cage may be used. It is important that any fresh droppings be left in the cage, and samples of the normal diet be provided, as well as details of the bird's usual living situation - these clues can be vital in diagnosing illness and implementing management changes to assist your pet in recovery and long term health.