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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Information courtesy www.marltons.co.za
KEEPING A CAGED BIRD
Choosing a bird
Cockatiels, budgerigars, canaries and finches are fairly easy to keep. Parrots and parakeets require larger cages and are more difficult to handle. Preferably try and buy a hand reared parrot and continue to feed it by hand. This helps the bonding process between you and your pet.
Choosing a cage
Buy the biggest cage you can afford or have space for. Your bird must have room to stretch his wings and fly form perch to perch, or climb and play. The cage should have several good perches of different thicknesses to allow your bird to exercise his feet. Select a cage with bars close enough together to prevent him putting his head through. Climbers like cages with horizontal bars while flyers like vertical bars. Detachable tops and bottoms make the cage easier to clean.
Place the cage well out of the way of cats and dogs, where there is plenty of light, preferably up high by a wall. Fresh air is important, but not draughts and direct sunlight is all right provided there is some shade. Birds are social animals, so if you are keeping one bird on his own, place the cage in a room where you or the family regularly come and go.
A quality, prepared seed mix fortified with vitamins and minerals will provide a balanced diet for your bird and give it the best chance of a long, healthy life. A poorly balanced diet may cause obesity and a shortened lifespan.
Feed just enough seed mix for your bird to consume entirely in one day. The seed mix can be supplemented by small amounts of cooked maize, peas and beans. Orange, Apple, honey seed-bars and millet spray make good treats. Never feed treats containing caffeine or chocolate. Cuttlebones are popular and provide a good source of calcium and help keep your birdís beak worn down.
When introducing your bird to new foods, do so gradually over 7-14 days as sudden changes of diet can cause stomach upsets. It is important to be sure the bird is eating the new food and not just pushing it around looking for the old food. If he is not eating he may become listless or hyperactive, he may sit with fluffed up feathers on the cage bottom and may have loose droppings. If these signs persist, reintroduce the old food and if he does not start eating again, consult your vet.
There must always be a supply of clean fresh water from a container and a supply of grit which birds require to digest their food.
Keeping your bird healthy
Get to know your birds normal appearances and physical build. Feel his breastbone and feathers regularly. Watch his daily routine so you will notice if he is unusually still, excessively active, drinking too much water, not eating, breathing abnormally or if his feathers are ruffles. His droppings should not be watery.
Droppings on the cage floor should be removed daily and the cage should be completely cleaned with a pet safe disinfectant once a week.
Cages birds are susceptible to colds and pneumonia particularly in the winter. Symptoms include watery eyes and sneezing. Tail bobbing may be a sign of breathing difficulty as the result of a cold. Keep your bird in a warm place and consult your vet.
Caged birds may feather pick. This can be difficult to treat and may be symptomatic of poor nutrition, lack of exercise, stimulation or activity. Spend time with your bird and provide interesting toys and a large cage.
Birds love bathing and water stimulates them to preen their feathers. A spray bottle, filled with clean, fresh, warm water can be used to squirt your bird. To avoid chilling your bird, use hot water in the spray, which will feel warm when misted. Test on the back of your hand before spraying your bird. Alternatively, you can put a bird bath in the cage filled with fresh, clean, warm water to which you can add plume spray.
You should provide a variety of durable toys to allow your bird to exercise and play. Toys should be small enough for the bird to play with, but not small enough to swallow. Larger birds, such as parrots, need toys made of strong wood, metal or leather as they will destroy small plastic toys. There are a wide range of toys available for caged birds, including swings, ladders, bells, lava rocks, cuttlebones, mirrors and perches. Wood, acrylic, rope, leather and rawhide toys are good for chewing on. Toys can be put directly into the cage or you an set up a playpen I a separate, adjacent cage. Toys should not be a substitute for human company and you should talk to, and play with, your bird every day.