Welcoming Your Pet Bird Home
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, pet birds rank third behind dogs and cats as the most popular companion pet in the United States. If you’re ready to join the ranks of these happy pet parents, here are some tips to help you roll out the red carpet for your new pet bird:
Home sweet habitat
Your bird’s habitat is an important factor in her health and happiness, so you’ll want to choose a setup that is appropriate for her size, species and unique requirements. Each bird has her own needs when it comes to her sanctuary—including habitat size and style, bar spacing and orientation and perch diameters.
As a general rule, you should provide your bird with the largest habitat you can afford. She will be spending the better part of her life in her home, so the more room she has to move around and exercise, the better. Some birds, like finches and canaries, enjoy space for flying in their habitat, while others, like cockatiels, like vertical height for climbing. At the very least, your bird should be able to fully extend her wings, and the crest on her head, if applicable, without touching the habitat.
Habitats come in a variety of styles—including square, rectangular, octangular and those that fit in corners. If you have a bird that needs space to fly around, you will need to get a flight habitat with plenty of space. Make sure any habitat you choose is manufactured with non-toxic paint. A metal grate that is placed over the paper-lined droppings tray will keep your bird away from her waste.
Proper bar spacing ensures that your bird can’t escape or get her head caught. The habitat should have doors that make it easy for you to change food and water daily, and to get your bird in and out easily. The habitat should have a variety of perches and perch heights with different diameters to help exercise your bird’s feet and prevent arthritis.
Place your bird’s habitat in an area of your house that is environmentally stable. In other words, free of extreme changes in temperature or humidity and relatively free of loud noises and strong odors. Your bird will thrive best in a place where she won’t be subjected to doors opening and closing, drafts or other stressful situations—although once settled, your bird will appreciate the quality time observing and interacting with her family. In most cases, a popular room with a lot of family activity is ideal.
Situate your bird’s habitat far away from your kitchen, as fumes from cleaning agents and nonstick cookware like Teflon or Silverstone can be dangerous. Scented candles, potpourri and tobacco smoke are also harmful to birds. Most birds feel a sense of security by having one side of their habitat up against a wall or being in a corner. Be sensitive to your bird’s view from her habitat—she may get overwhelmed watching neighborhood dogs and cats passing by all day or anything else she may interpret as a predator.
Outfit your bird’s habitat with the basic accessories appropriate for her size and species— including feeders, water dishes, perches, mineral block or cuttlebone and holder, habitat liners and a habitat cover. Vary the perch diameters and placement within your bird’s habitat and make sure her food and water are easily accessible.
Stock up on bird care essentials such as nail trimmers and styptic powder, a squirt bottle for spritzing, aviary cleaners, habitat disinfectants and first aid supplies.
Offer your pet a variety of toys that are appropriate for her species and that will provide exercise, entertainment and mental stimulation—including ladders, swings, rings, ropes and balls in a variety of colors and shapes. Interactive toys, chew toys, foraging toys and treat-dispensing toys also help to keep your bird occupied and prevent boredom. Providing a variety and frequently rotating toys will help enrich your bird’s life. Toys do not replace much-needed playtime with you though, as this is one of the best ways to build a bond with your pet and help her develop trust in you.
Some birds may be scared of new toys, so you might need to place them in view, but outside of her habitat, for up to a week before giving them to her. For your bird’s safety, clips that attach toys to the habitat should always be closed and securely attached. Provide toys that are safe for your bird and regularly monitor their condition. Toys that aren’t appropriate for your bird’s size and species, old or worn-out toys and damaged toys can pose serious dangers—such as choking or injury.
Give her Space—and peace
When you initially welcome your new bird home, do not to overwhelm her. Provide plenty of time and space for her to become adjusted to her new surroundings and lifestyle. Limit the noise in the rooms near your bird’s habitat; this will ensure that her environment is calm and peaceful, which helps minimize stress.
While your bird may initially require plenty of quiet time you’ll want to gradually involve her in your daily activities and welcome her into your family life. A good first step is to gently engage your bird in a quiet activity. Introduce pleasant noise—singing, talking, soft laughter, music and even TV—in the room that houses her habitat. Let your bird become accustomed to the gentle din of everyday family life and help her to slowly adjust to the hustle and bustle of activity in the social hub of your home.
Avoid introducing abrupt dietary changes during this time. Instead, maintain her previous diet, including amounts, types and frequency, to provide stability and continuity as she adjusts. Once she’s comfortably settled in her new home and used to her routine, you can gradually incorporate new foods and/or change her diet.
Set up an initial visit with a board-certified avian veterinarian for a complete checkup, so your bird can be examined for overall health. Establishing a relationship early on makes it easier for her when she needs nail or wing trimmings or if she becomes sick. Your veterinarian can also offer diet, care and training tips.
Provide your bird with plenty of love and companionship while respecting her need for peace and quiet, and you’ll be well on your way to developing a picture-perfect relationship with your new pet bird.