As an increasing amount of families decide to adopt pets, the word “pet” expands. Until the late 1900s, having a pet meant that a single small dog or cat resided in your house. Now, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, hamsters, iguanas, and birds are all considered pets and welcomed into homes around the world.

For example, pets don’t even particularly need to be domesticated. Those who enjoy the feathered over the furry would argue that exotic birds are some of the best pets. The downside to having a unique type of pet is that feeding time, handling, and health aspects can get questionable. Birds like parrots, cockatiels, budgies, African Greys, cockatoos, and macaws can all be kept in cages and indoors, but only with caution and preparation.

There is a significant link between parrot behavioral problems, like stress, and the size of the enclosure. They need to have the ability to fly throughout the day, so the cage can never be too large. There are a couple types of birds, such as cockatiels, which require a covered cage at night. Placing the cage next to an open, but screened in, window allows the bird to get fresh air, yet not escape. When supervision is possible, allow the bird to explore freely. Taking the bird out of the cage and bird-proofing a room or two of the house for the bird to walk and fly around is crucial. The caveat is that any smells like cleaning supplies or kitchen odors can make the bird ill.

Smaller birds need what is considered “environmental enrichment”. Ledges, handles, hanging toys, and even such things as leaving the television on when the bird is left alone in the house can all stimulate the bird’s mind and improve its demeanor. Rotate and clean the toys periodically and diversify the types of toys presented. Depending on what breed of bird it is, foraging toys may take precedent over puzzle or box toys, but easy household items like phonebooks works just as well.

In terms of food, each breed is unique. Across the board, bird pellets from pet stores reign supreme, but specialized food like insects, worms, nuts and seeds are nutritious and correct nutritional imbalances. Bird pellet bags will specify what breeds of birds the mix is for. Most wild birds that end up being kept as pets are either omnivorous or herbivorous, so nuts and seeds are crucial implements. A mix of seeds is great for picky birds, but an all-seed diet is difficult to correct once the bird has come to expect it. Including human food scraps is a good way to switch up the monotony of seeds, nuts, plants, and berries, but there is a fine line between proper nutrition and killing your bird. Food scraps like chocolate, apple seeds, salt, avocado, mushrooms, tomatoes and tomato leaves, onions, dried beans, and celery strings are all known causes of dietary issues, and even death.

Feeding times are ordinarily regulated to twice a day: morning and evening; the birds mimic what the schedule would have been in the wild. Bottled and distilled water works just as well as tap water for birds.

Keeping birds healthy is akin to keeping dog breeds like Golden Retrievers healthy. Birds are masters of hiding diseases and sickness, so procedures like periodical weighing and bird dropping monitoring is imperative. Droppings that are yellow, rusty brown, or black are linked to internal bleeding, along with a whole host of other serious issues. 

Birds with consistently ruffled feathers may be suffering from respiratory issues and utilize the feathers to conceal weight loss. Over two days of ruffled feathers is cause for concern and should be solved by a visit to the vet. Respiratory issues plague birds more than any other illness or injury, so watch for issues like open-mouth breathing, inflamed eyes and cere, and repetitive bobbing of the tail, all symptoms of serious respiratory issues.

Picking up on avian injury may simply be as easy as reading body language. Songbirds that quit singing and talkative birds that cease to communicate are important cues to notice, and can lead to the detection of underlying issues. Consult your veterinarian immediately with any inconsistencies.

Exotic birds add color and personality to homes, but certainly take more upkeep than dogs and cats. Not only maintaining its area, but also keeping tabs on its actions can be the difference between the bird living five and 25 years.

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