Exotic birds are one of our greatest fascinations. These majestic and intelligent creatures have become beloved family members for many and often live to surpass their owners. Some species of birds have lifespans of over 50 years. Exotic birds have not been domesticated as long or as commonly as many other species. We need to ensure we are doing our part to support their primitive needs. Many bird owners acquire incorrect information from pet stores and mainstream media only to find out later that they have not been supporting their bird’s system and lifestyle well enough. One of the most common areas we see this is with diet and husbandry.
Many first time, and often long time, bird owners feed their avian pets a diet solely seed-based. Seeds are very high in fat and nutritionally deficient in much needed vitamins and minerals. Diets composed only of seed can lead to obesity, liver problems, skin and feather issues, and a variety of other medical issues.
Bird pelleted diets are designed specifically with the nutritional necessities of birds in mind. It is important to switch birds over to a pelleted diet, though the process can take time. East Bend Animal Hospital offers several handouts to help with this process and typically recommends starting by measuring the amount of seed you are feeding your bird each day.
This can be done by measuring the seed in a measuring cup or on a scale before offering it, and measuring the seed that is left at the end of the day to see what the bird actually consumed. Use this method daily for a week to get a better idea of what is ultimately eaten.
Once the daily consumption has been calculated, it becomes a slow process of integrating the pelleted diet into the seed and eventually phasing out the seed completely. This process can take time and bird owners may need to experiment with different types of pellets as some birds will prefer one over another, and it is vital that the bird does not stop eating. Anorexia in birds leads to a plethora of potentially deadly issues so make sure to stay in contact with the bird’s veterinarian.
Another important aspect of a domesticated bird’s life is its enclosure. Birds will spend most, if not all, of their time in their aviary so ensuring that it is sized appropriately will have a fundamental impact on the bird’s quality of life. Though many exotic birds can be quite small, they still need enough space to fly and exercise. For smaller species, it is recommended that they have a cage roughly 18”x18”x24”.
Larger birds may require a minimum space of 2’x3’x4’. The cage size varies greatly depending on the species of domesticated bird so it is important to study the exact requirements for your specific bird. Also bear in mind that the spacing of the bars, perches, and toys are very important to ensuring your pet’s safety and happiness.
Birds with longer tails require taller cages so as not to cause damage to their tail feathers. The bird should be able to turn in its cage and not touch the sides of the enclosure. The reasoning behind having a larger and taller cage for birds with long tails is that if damage is caused to the feathers, birds will often start to pluck the feathers, leading to further damage and health issues.
This also means that they need higher perches. Perches are important for all birds and placement is very important. Flightless birds need to have perches close enough to climb to and from, near their water and food bowls, but not directly over so as to avoid contamination from elimination.
Always remember to reach out to your veterinarian if you are needing assistance finding an appropriately sized cage for your bird.
With a lifespan unmatched by nearly every other domesticated species, our support is imperative to a birds success living in domestication. By offering generous space in aviaries with tools and toys for play and life, feeding appropriate diets and supplementing with nutritional whole-food treats, and giving love and affection, we can elongate a healthful and whole life for these wondrous creatures.
Written by: Harriet Burquist