Birds are housed in aviaries or smaller cages. Aviaries are great for colony housing and are generally considered better for the health of birds, as they allow them to get more exercise. Smaller cages are acceptable but you should aim to buy the biggest cage you can afford and have room for. The cage should be big enough for the bird to fully extend and stretch its wings.
Get advice on the cage you buy - avoid cheap, galvanized metal cages as birds may chew them and contract zinc poisoning. Your bird shouldn't be able to fit their head through the bars of the cage and it should be strong enough so your bird can't bend them (a cocky will easily chew through the bars of a budgie cage!).
Cover the floor of the cage with sand grit, newspaper, or anything that is solid and can be removed for regular cleaning. You should clean the cage once a week with a pet safe disinfectant.
Most cages come with wooden or plastic dowel perches. These are generally too smooth and predispose your bird to overgrown nails and skin lesions of the feet. Ensure you add large diameter sticks and that they're rough! Branches from fruit trees make great perches.
TIP: Don't place perches above food or water containers as they will get contaminated with droppings.
We all need to bathe and birds are no exception! Provide a bird bath with fresh, clean water or keep a water spray bottle handy and spray your bird down regularly. This will reduce feather dust and keep your bird's plumage healthy.
Air quality and drafts
Aviaries and cages should not be placed in areas that are prone to dust or excessive tobacco smoke. Cages should be kept away from drafts, such as open windows or doorways, as your bird can catch a cold that may develop into life threatening pneumonia.
Aviaries should have a protected area where birds can escape cold, harsh conditions.
TIP: Keep cages out of the kitchen and away from fumes created by cooking.
Exercise & toys
Tamed cage birds should be let out regularly, to maintain fitness and avoid becoming overweight. Toys (zinc free) are very important to alleviate boredom. Toys provide entertainment and mirrors are particularly good as your bird will think it has a mate. Shiny toys really capture the imagination of birds so include some of these, too.
TIP: Only add one or two toys at a time as your bird will grow tired and bored of the same ones. Change toys regularly.
Feeding can be very easy, as there's a variety of bird seed mixes readily available. PETstock offers a great range of quality seed. Simply ensure you get the right seed for the right breed of bird. This should be clearly displayed on the bags. Change the seed daily.
Ensure you provide fresh water daily, too.
All birds should be offered fresh fruit and vegetables like grated carrot, apples, broccoli and sprouts. Many more choices are available and it is best to consult a specific breed book to find the best greens for your bird.
Cuttlefish should be constantly available as this is a great source of calcium and trace elements for your bird and important for beak health and shape.
Grit is also essential for aiding the breakdown of seed in the gut. It is also important in breeding birds, to help form egg shell.
Avian vitamin supplements are important and these are available in block or spray form.
TIP: Millet is a great treat for finches and canaries.
TIP: Some birds don't react well to lettuce and be aware that avocado is toxic to many birds.
Birds stress very easily, so let yours get used to you over several days. Sit by the cage without doing anything before building up to putting food through the bars and talking to your bird. Gradually open the cage door and put your hand in with food. Eventually your bird should step onto your finger.
If your bird is not tame and you must catch it, throw a towel (for large parrots) or a handkerchief (for small parrots, finches and canaries) over it and move it quickly to where it needs to go.
TIP: Dim lights calm birds and makes catching them easier.
Should they have a friend?
Birds enjoy the company of other birds. In general, it's a good idea to keep the same beak types in confined cages, i.e. parrots with parrots, and finches with canaries are fine together.
In aviaries where space is not a problem, this is not so crucial and so most species will co-exist. Be careful though when putting large parrots with small parrots or passerines (e.g. finches, canaries etc.).
Bird check list
- Bird cage
- Seed mix
- Other treats
- Floor covering
- Vitamin & mineral supplement
- Water and seed bowls