Thoughts on veterinarians, bird nutrition, cage setup, grooming of wings, toe nails and beaks, bird safety, sick and injured birds.You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that!' - Dave Barry
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Pet Bird Hints

Choosing a Veterinarian.

It is best to take your pet bird to a veterinarian which specializes in birds. These may be difficult to find. And you may need to travel a distance for visits. Check the Yellow Pages of online for an avian veterinarian. If you cannot find one, contact your local Veterinary Medical Association for a referral.

What's the Best Bird Food? Thoughts on Bird Nutrition.

A diet of only seeds is not healthy for a bird. Seeds should be limited to no more than 50% of their diet. In the wild they would eat a variety of foods. It may seem unusual, but if a food is good for humans, it is good for birds, too. Birds will eat fruits and vegetables, nuts, small pieces of cooked meat, even cheese, yogurt, hard boiled eggs and spaghetti.

If your bird is hesitant to try new foods, remember, as Benjamin Franklin said, "Hunger is the best pickle!" So if your bird is hungry, he may be more willing to try something new. You can give him seeds in the morning and evening for an hour or so, then have other foods available for the rest of the day.

You may also try cutting the food into little pieces so it won't seem so different and strange. If that doesn't work, try mixing the pieces in with the seeds.

For their calcium need, c uttlebone and mineral blocks are good. There are bird vitamins available in pet stores which come in liquid or powered forms. For birds that don't drink much like cockatiels and budgies, sprinkling powered vitamins on some moist food.

Be sure your pet bird always has a supply of fresh water.

If you have any questions about what to feed your bird, ask your veterinarian.

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Setting Up a Bird Cage.

Get the largest cage that you can fit in your home. The more room your bird has the happier he will be. Be sure there is enough room for your pet bird to stretch its wings. If your bird has a long tail, be sure there is room for that, too. And be careful that the bars are close enough together so that he cannot get his head between them.

The material should be strong enough that your bird cannot damage it and made of non-toxic material. Ease of cleaning is another consideration. Also, pick a cage which allows easy access to the food and water.


Include perches of various sizes. These can be purchased at a pet store or collected from the outdoors. Wash them before placing in the cage. Never use treated or painted wood or wood from trees that have been sprayed.

Avoid sandpaper perches.

Perch Placement.

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Pet Bird Care

For climbers, one perch which is located high up is adequate. For birds that fly or jump from perch to perch, put one on either side of the cage.

Locate the perches away from the food and water supply to avoid contamination from droppings. Also be sure their tail will not be in the food or water when they sit on their perch.


Walnut shell bedding should be avoided because it can carry a fungal infection. Safe materials are paper towels, newspaper or other plain paper. These materials will allow you to monitor the droppings easily.

Other bedding materials are chopped corn cobs, wood chips, sand and kitty litter. If you use these, they should be underneath a wire floor so your bird cannot get at them.

Bedding should be changed daily with a thorough cleaning weekly.

Food and Water Bowls.

Wider, shallow bowls are better as the bird can get at and see the food and water more easily. Clean the food and water bowls every day to avoid food spoilage and contaminated water.

Sense of Security.

Birds will often appreciate a place where they retreat, a place where they can have a sense of privacy and security. This can be a nest box, towel or even just a paper bag.

Pet Bird Cleaning Problems

Keeping a bird cage and the area around it clean can be astoundingly difficult.

The first line of defense is a good mat. The office chair mats that are usually put under those rolling swivel chairs are available at any office store are normally great for most medium sized cages.

Unfortunately, a mat usually isn't enough for the Lorys... it is usually better to just keep them in a room with tile flooring if possible.

Investing in your own steam cleaner can be worthwhile. You may also want to invest in a little hand held model.

Skirts for bird cages are available. They work fairly well in containing the mess created by pet birds.

Finally, that "Poop Off" cleaning solution can seem miraculous with just about any bird mess.

Introducing a New Bird.

Because of the possibility of a new bird harboring some contagious organism which will cause disease, it should be isolated at first if you already have other birds. Your avian veterinarian will be able to advise you if the bird is safe to bring out when he or she examines it.

Trimming Pet Bird Wings, Toe Nails and Beaks


If your bird is allowed out of its cage, it should have its wings clipped, enough so that it cannot fly, but can flutter to the floor. Be careful not to cut too much or to cut a blood feather (one that has a visible blood supply which has a cellophane-like cover). If you do cut one, pull it out by the base. This is the only way to stop the bleeding.

Toe Nails

Again, be careful not to trim too much. The nails will bleed. You can apply a powder such as "Quik-Stop" to help with the bleeding.

Sandpaper perches should not be used. They do not help at all with the nails and can cause serious ulcers on the feet.


Do not trim your birds beak yourself. Let your avian vet do it. If your birds beak is overgrown or cracked or misaligned (scissor beak), your vet can trim it.

Pet Bird Safety

Since birds fly, they present a unique set of safety concerns. Mirrors and windows are an obvious problem. Birds will fly into them. You can put decals on mirrors and windows and sheer curtains in front of windows to avoid this problem.

Birds will also fly out of open windows or doors. Always have screens on your windows and be careful of open doors.

Even if your bird's wings are clipped, it can flutter around the house and get into trouble. Do not run your ceiling fan while your bird is out of its cage.

Any other mechanical device can present a potential hazard. Birds have even been known to fall into an electric mixer. They can land on hot surfaces or fall into a pot of boiling water or fly into the oven when you open the door. Expect anything from your pet bird.

Even if your bird is not allowed out of its cage, it can always escape. So plan for the safety of your bird in all your rooms.


Birds are extremely sensitive to toxins, especially airborne ones. That's why canaries were used in mines to watch for gas accumulations. Things you need to be careful of:

  • Oven cleaners - the fumes can be fatal to a pet bird
  • Strong cooking odors and smoke
  • Non-stick cookware - when it is overheated it produces a gas that is fatal to pet birds
  • Perfumes
  • Aerosol sprays of any kind
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Paint fumes
  • Colored ink markers or felt-tip pens
  • Anything that smells strong to us can be dangerous to a pet bird

Water Risks.

A pet bird can drown in a small amount of water. They can fall into a tall glass of water. Hot water is a problem because they don't expect it to be hot.

Toilet bowls with the cover up can be a source of injury or death.

Dangerous Items.

Birds will chew anything. Things to be aware of and eliminate:

  • Lead, as in jewelry, stained glass, fishing weights, etc.
  • Electric cords - hide them
  • Poisonous plants

Other Pets.

Keep other pets, especially cats, away from your pet bird.

Sick Birds

Unless you know what signs to watch for, you may have a sick bird and not even know it. You will want to become familiar with the signs of a sick bird so you are not surprised and grieved to discover your seemingly healthy pet bird has suddenly died.


Your bird's droppings are an important sign. Droppings consist of feces which should be black or dark green, urine which should be clear and urates which should be creamy white.

Danger signs are:

  • Mustard yellow liquid
  • Blood or a rusty brown color in the feces
  • No feces (just white and liquid)
  • Decreased droppings

Change in Drinking or Eatting

  • Excessive drinking
  • Loss of appetite

Change in Behavior or in Attitude

  • Huddled in a corner
  • Sitting low with ruffled feathers
  • Sleepy or lethargic
  • Stopped talking
  • Hiding its head under its wing
  • Dull feathers
  • Stopped preening
  • Weight loss

Respiratory Distress

  • Breathing with an open mouth
  • Noisy breathing
  • Clicking
  • Wheezing

Other Signs

  • Vomiting
  • Discharge from eyes or nostrils
  • Swelling of eyes


If your pet bird suffers any injury, take it to your avian veterinarian immediately.

Broken Blood Feathers

Blood feathers can be recognized be their protective wrap which resembles cellophane and by their visible blood supply. If these are injured and bleed, pull them immediately to stop the bleeding.

What To Do

Take your sick bird to the vet as soon as possible. In the mean time, keep it warm. You can put a heating pad on one side of the cage. That will allow your pet bird to keep warm if it wants to, but also have cooler air available.

Never give your pet bird any medications, yours or ones from the pet store. Your avian vet will prescribe the correct medicines.


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Pet Bird Care
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