All You Need To Know About Keeping Birds As Pets 🐤
STORY: Amanda Lee
19 December 2020
Thinking of an avian addition to the family? Get the low-down on cage size, bird food, toys and more to make your new feathered friend’s forever home a place of fun, good health and comfort.
When choosing the right cage for your pet bird:
1. Ensure that the cage is rectangular
Choose one that is wide and not narrow and high. Why not a circular cage? Circular cages:
• are generally smaller.
• do not provide birds with safe corners to hide in. You ought to put your pet bird’s cage against a wall or cover it up so they can feel safer and sleep better.
• are poorly constructed. Stainless steel cages are the best kind to have.
• are not easy to clean because of the tight bar spacing on the top part of the cage which will collect dust and other particles.
• are bad for their feathers because they are constantly touching the cage bars.
• are not designed to fit accessories such as perches and toys.
2. Ensure that the cage length is twice the length of the wingspan of your adult pet bird
The bigger the better! Honestly, my advice to you is to just buy the biggest size cage that you can fit into your home. If it’s the price tag that you are worried about, please rethink whether you are financially ready to be looking after another being because vet bills, food, toys etc. all these things will add up. A good quality of life for your pet bird will come at a cost.
3. Ensure that the spacing between the cage bars is appropriate
If the bar spacing is too small, birds might get their heads stuck in them. But if they’re too big, birds might be able to escape.
Here's a rough guide:
• Finches and canaries: bar spacing between 0.635cm and 1.27cm
• Budgies, love birds and parrotlets: bar spacing of 1.27cm
• African greys: bar spacing between 1.91cm and 2.54cm
4. More birds mean bigger cage
This one's pretty self-explanatory. 😜
FOOD THAT IS TOXIC FOR BIRDS
The following foods either contain toxins, and are high in fat, sugar and salt (which is bad even for humans!), or are simply not digestible:
☠️ Tobacco and alcohol
☠️ Beans and peanuts
☠️ Avocado, tomatoes, and olives
☠️ Asparagus, eggplant and mushrooms
☠️ Garlic and onions
☠️ Meat and dairy products like chocolate, milk
☠️ Most human food
☠️ Raw honey and seeds of fruits
1. Cigarette smoke
Just as second-hand smoke is bad for humans, it is especially harmful for your pet birds. Smoking should be done outside and away from your pet birds. Change into new clothes and always disinfect your hands before handling your pet birds.
2. Ceiling fans
Birds cannot see the spinning blades and may get seriously injured if they fly into one.
3. Mirrors and glass windows/doors/panels
Birds cannot perceive mirrors and glass the way we do, which may result in them having a head concussion from flying into such things.
4. Carpets, stringy curtains, and other small miscellaneous items
Fabric, yarn, wool, wires, batteries, small plastic parts lying around, and human medication - birds love chewing on things like that and cannot decipher what is good or bad for them. Consuming such items can result in intestinal blockages.
5. Perfumes and cleaning products, including scented candles, bathroom sprays, and air fresheners
These products release fumes into the air which could be toxic to your pet birds.
6. Certain types of cookware
Non-stick and Teflon-coated cookware will release toxic fumes into the air when overheated, which is highly toxic to birds. This same coating can be found on the inside of ovens, irons, and ironing covers.
Consider using bird-safe cookware made of materials such as:
✅ Stainless steel
✅ Cast iron
7. Caffeinated drinks
You may love your coffee and tea but please do not let your pet birds have a sip! It can cause increased heart rate and hyperactivity that could lead to cardiac arrest.
8. Toxic plants
Lilies, parsley, morning glory and hollies are toxic to birds and can have fatal consequences. Avoid sending these flowers or plants to your loved ones who have pet birds.
9. Leaving the toilet seat up
Fact: Birds may drown if they get startled and drop into the bowl.
Here are some safe bird liners that are budget-friendly, easily obtainable, and great for you to spot changes in your bird’s poop (and thus, your bird's health):
👍 Copier paper
👍 Paper towels (the sort you use in the kitchen)
👍 Mahjong paper
Anything else that is not stated here is probably not good for your bird despite what pet shops may tell you. Always check with your Avian specialist if you are unsure. A good life lesson: When in doubt, avoid.
Toys (avoid cotton ones) are an essential part of a bird’s life because they provide enrichment, and help them stay happy and mentally stimulated. We don’t want a depressed bird now, do we?
Other reasons why toys are important to a bird:
✅ They mimic natural activities that birds would do in the wild: foraging through things, shredding, chewing, preening and climbing.
✅ Chewing and tearing things apart help birds maintain alertness and mental stability.
✅ Birds naturally chew and if they don’t have other things to chew on while trying to manage their anxiety, they will end up self-mutilating.
✅ The act of shredding and chewing helps birds maintain their beaks and nails.
✅ Toys can help prevent birds from developing behavioural problems like scratching and chronic egg laying.
✅ Toys and enrichment can help prevent the chewing of wires and other items that may be hazardous to their health and safety.