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Proper Caging and Environment For Pet Birds
by Dr. Don Swerida Written with the aid of "Pinque" A Moluccan Cockatoo Advisor.

This is some of the most basic, common sense information that is too often overlooked or ignored for the prevention of illness and injuries in our feathered companions. Let's consider the cage for the home it's kept in. Whether you have one bird or a dozen, a cage or an aviary; this is the birds home!!! Like our homes, is should provide security, relaxation, promote physical and mental well-being, enjoyment, and (hopefully) is easy to keep clean. When you are not physically with the bird it should be in it's cage. Birds should not have free run of the house due to their great inquisitive nature and the various ever present dangers. Consider them as an unsupervised toddler with wire cutters. Some dangers include: ceiling fans, open doors and windows, dog/cat bites, accidental trampling, burns from the kitchen stoves/ovens, toxins (beware of the sneaky lead curtain weights), poisonous house plants, and drowning (toilets, beverage glasses, aquariums, pools, and buckets).

I routinely see these tragedies, LEARN FROM THE MISTAKES OF OTHERS, PLEASE. Back to the cage, it should be roomy and safe from places legs and wings could be caught. It should be spacious enough to flap wings around, and stand without hunching over or dragging tail feathers through the bottom mess. I tend to go large. The cage should be made of non-toxic and easily cleaned materials, like stainless steel (best), or powder coated metal. Avoid chipping paint, rusty used cages. HARDWARE CLOTH IS UNSAFE AND CANNOT BE MADE SAFE by acid washing or any other method. It is soft, poorly soldered wire, very high in heavy metals, and I frequently find blood zinc levels ten times higher in apparently normal birds housed in homemade hardware cloth cages. The bars should be close enough to prevent the birds head from poking through. None of the bars or decorative scrollwork should end in "v" or any shape that can trap a foot, wing or neck. I see this type of injury ten times a year. Avoid the transparent plastic bird cages, they lack proper airflow, which promotes bacterial and fungal growth readily.

The cage should have at least two perches of varying sizes. Natural citrus branches that have not yet been sprayed with pesticides are O.K. Avoid sandpaper perch covers, they do not trim toenails, they only create sore feet. The perches should not be positioned so the bird can poop in it's food/water bowls. Food/water bowls should be made of stainless steel, ceramic crocks, or plastic. Lead test kits are available from paint department of hardware stores to double check ceramic bowls made in third world countries. Avoid the blue painted bowls that are sold under a big brand name bird cage manufacturer. When the paint peels in a few months, the underlaying metal is extremely high in zinc. Yes, the company has been notified, and replacement bowls are available (for a price).

Food/water bowls should be disinfected daily (I use the dishwasher, its good enough for me). The bottom of the cage should be cleaned as needed (more birds = more mess = more often). Do not use crushed dried corn cobs, wood chips or shavings, or sand. They promote fungal and bacterial growth, and do not allow the caretaker to see what the bird's droppings look like (a valuable tool - see last issue of Pet Pages). Newspaper or paper towels are by far the best choice.

Toys make life worthwhile, but avoid the long, dangling/frizzy cloth rope toys. I'm used to seeing at least one broken leg per month from a rope toy. Last month I had seen five in one week, an unfortunate personal record. Birds snag a toenail, spin, and OUCH!!!

Lastly, pet birds like your company, but also need eight to ten hours sleep per day. They will always wake at dawn, so don't leave the T.V. on until eleven p. m. You can always buy another cage for night time use in a quiet room for sleeping and a day time cage in the middle of your home. Make sure your bird can get out of the direct sunlight if it wishes, and birds feel more secure higher off the ground. There is a lot more to add, and no room! Join a bird club, read a magazine, don't stop learning!!

Complements of Dr. Don Swerida D.V.M. (941) 408-9779.


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