Things People Don’t Tell You about Pet Birds
Here’s a list of things nobody told me before I got my bird. You’re welcome to fact check and add your own experiences! I hope this helps someone!
Possibly disturbing images of animal neglect below.
NEVER get a pet bird who lives alone a mirror for their cage. They can choose their own reflection as a mate, which needless to say isn’t healthy and can be extremely sexually frustrating. It’s much healthier to get even small birds foraging toys to entertain them.
ALL birds need lots of social interaction if they’re going to remain mentally healthy! This is especially important for birds that live in large groups in the wild like cockatoos, finches, and parakeets, but also true for “loner” birds like Senegals and African Greys. Without the proper social interactions (hours a day with people or other birds) birds can get bored and pick up destructive habits like feather pulling, biting, and screaming, and even develop mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Yes, even parakeets.
Feather pulling removes a bird’s main way of staying warm, which can lead to life threatening things like hypothermia.
Parrot’s body temperatures are around 103 degrees Fahrenheit, much higher than humans, and largely thermoregulate through their feet. Because of that and their small body size, they can get hyper or hypothermia fairly easily when compared to humans. In hot months it’s important to provide them with a shallow dish of water they can cool off in, and in cold months, a heating pad or perch they can sit on to keep warm. Parrots do best in a stable, relatively warm environment; while they can take slight changes, drastic changes in temperature can be very detrimental. Non-tropical/arid birds are a bit different from what I hear, so can’t really talk about them.
Parrot beaks constantly grow, so it’s important to provide lots of chewing fodder (I like to call them sacrifices) for your parrot to chew on or get their beaks trimmed by a professional.
These can be hard calcium treats, wood, and other natural materials. Some can be plastic but I wouldn’t recommend those as they can be swallowed and impede digestion or become a choking hazard.
Birds are prey animals! They’re typically very nervous because they’ve been hardwired for centuries to be on the lookout for things that want to eat them. They’ll get nervous around new things, strange noises, and new people. They can learn to overcome some fears by careful desensitization, lots of social interaction, and a calm, careful owner. It’s VERY important to keep them away from predatory animals (dogs, cats, etc.), as it can cause unnecessary stress on the animals. If they absolutely have to interact, do so in a controlled environment and with one or both in separate carriers, cages, or pens. Know your animals, pay careful attention to their body language, and be prepared to step in if either looks stressed or aggressive.
My parrot Apollo meeting my friend’s cat, the right way.
Just like humans, birds have dietary needs that must be met if they’re to remain healthy. A few of the most important are Vitamin D (sunlight!), calcium (especially important in hens), and protein (required to grow healthy beaks, claws, and feathers). The easiest ways to take care of the first two is to provide your bird with lots of sunlight (direct or indirect depends on the bird) and a constant supply of cuttlebones or calcium treats. There are several different diet plans out there for all kinds of birds, but all agree that birds CANNOT live off nothing but seeds. This can cause fatty liver disease and early death, even in otherwise healthy birds. All parrots are usually fed a diet of pellets, fruits, and vegetables, but the ratios really depend on who you ask.
Here’s a few food pyramids for parrots:
Birds absolutely CANNOT be fed:
- Any greasy, salty chips/popcorn or any processed “human food”
- Alcohol (I shouldn’t have to say this)
- Apple seeds
- Feel free to add on