All About Pets

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How to create a healthy, safe environment for pet birds

Although birds may not be as popular as other companion animals, avian pets still make wonderful additions to many families. Pet birds can run the gamut from larger parrots to small lovebirds and finches.

Birds may be more compact pets, suitable for smaller living spaces like apartments, but they're not self-sufficient. Birds may need less daily attention than cats or dogs, but birds have specific needs to be met to keep them healthy and happy.

Household dangers

Captive birds that will be allowed out of their cages from time to time are susceptible to potential dangers around the house. Numerous things can be dangerous to birds. Their small stature makes birds especially vulnerable to household cleaners, even small amounts of which can result in illness. Avoid the use of aerosol sprays or other chemicals around the bird.

Other pets can also be potentially harmful to birds, who cannot defend themselves against cats, dogs and even ferrets.

Something seemingly innocent, such as a source of open water, also can be dangerous. Birds easily can drown in water bowls, buckets or open toilets. In addition, any hot surface  can be threatening to active birds, as fireplaces, boiling water, hot light bulbs, radiators, and candles can cause serious burns.

Birds that are allowed free run of the house should be carefully monitored, and every effort should be made to remove potential hazards from the home. Keep doors closed so that the bird cannot escape to another room where windows may be open or safety measures to protect the bird were not taken.

Cages

The cage will be the bird's primary home and the place he or she will spend the most amount of time. Provide the bird with the largest cage your home can accommodate. Pet professionals recommend stainless steel and powder-coated cages for their safety. Avoid galvanized wire cages that can be coated with zinc and make the bird sick.

Outfit the cage with natural branches or perches of varying diameter to prevent painful worn spots from forming on the bird's feet. Keep the cage as clean as possible, removing papers daily and rinsing the bottom of the cage with soap as necessary. A weekly disinfecting with a mild bleach-and-water solution can keep bacteria from taking root and prevent odor in the cage.

Controlled light

Beyond providing food, shelter, exercise, and water, bird owners also should consider the physical and psychological benefits of giving caged birds access to full-spectrum lighting. Wild birds are accustomed to many hours of sunlight, and indoor birds may not be privy to such conditions.

According to Everything Birds, bird owners should provide a full-spectrum of light, including UVA and UVB light,  to caged birds for 15 to 40 minutes per day, up to three days a week. Exposure to UVA is important for the bird' vision, while UVB rays aid in the production of vitamin D. Too much UV exposure can be harmful, so exercise caution. Adjusting exposure to light can help birds develop healthy sleep-wake cycles that mimic their behaviors in nature. When the weather is warm, bird cages can be rolled outdoors or birds with properly clipped wings can be given outdoor exercise.

Temperature

Birds easily get cold and cannot sufficiently warm themselves, so keep bird cages located in a room with a stable temperature and away from drafts. Do not locate cages close to windows or in the bathroom where temperatures can fluctuate.

Kitchen

When heated, nonstick pans may produce fumes that can be toxic to birds. Coffee pots and toasters also can give off fumes, especially when they are new, so keep birds away from these appliances. Birds also have a much lower tolerance to the toxins in cigarette smoke, so avoid smoking near a bird after a meal.

Pet birds are seemingly an easy pet to have, and one that requires much less work than a dog or cat. However, birds have unique needs, and they require specialized care not everyone is capable of providing.