Keeping your bird safe

Colourful and cheerful in song, pet birds can no doubt make nest in our hearts and be close companions. But being more delicate than dogs and cats, they need special care to keep them safe. Animaltalk is here to help, and in an effort to prevent potential heartbreak we bring you advice on keeping your bird safe and sound.

A safe home

In order to stay physically and mentally healthy, your bird needs to move. Buy the largest birdcage you can afford. Small birds need to be able to fly around in the cage, while larger birds need to be able to flap their wings and play with their toys. Remember to also accommodate birds with long tails. Another important factor to keep in mind when you choose your bird’s cage is the bar spacing. Your bird should be able to comfortably hold on to the bars with his feet, but they should not be so wide apart that your bird can get his head through the bars and possibly get stuck. The bars should also be strong – some birds will chew their way through! And talking about escape artist birds, many are very capable of figuring out how to open the cage door. Make sure that there is no way that can happen, or lock your bird’s cage.

Winter woes

Many pet bird species originated in areas with warm, tropical climates, which is why it’s easy to understand that they might not do well in cold temperatures. A bird who is feeling cold will often puff up his feathers in an attempt to trap pockets of warm air against his skin. A cold bird will also tuck his beak into his chest feathers, or even shiver. Certain species like the cockatiel and budgie also puff themselves up when they go to sleep, but if they do this during the day in a draught-free area, chances are they are cold. Covering your bird’s cage with a towel or other cage covering can help to make his home a bit more toasty and cosy, but you have to be vigilant. Make sure that the material you use doesn’t have any holes in it or any loose threads hanging from it, and check regularly as your bird can bite holes into it. Their toes may get tangled in holes and threads, or they may even strangle themselves on loose-hanging threads.

Lastly, many birds have suffered because of human error. If he has been enjoying a bit of winter sun outside (always making sure that he has access to shade), remember to bring him inside for the night. A good idea is to set a reminder on your cellphone.

Your bird vs your other pets

It is entirely possible to have harmony in your home between your pet bird and your other pets. The golden rule is to only allow them together under close and careful supervision. If the bird is safely in his cage, he and the dog or cat can get used to each other’s presence, but keep in mind that accidents can still happen. Cats are curious by nature and could paw at the bird, or a dog could jump up against the birdcage, severely scaring the bird. If the bird becomes overexcited, flapping his wings and making a noise when the cat or dog is in the room, it might be that he is finding it too stressful.

Training your other pets to get along with your bird is best done with the help of an animal behaviour specialist, but even with the best training it is important to keep a watchful eye.

Getting lost

Any pet getting lost can be a devastating experience. Birds move fast and can get away in the blink of an eye. This can be avoided by taking a few precautions. Pet birds don’t intentionally fly away, but usually get a fright and the adrenaline rush causes them to panic and take flight. They often fly out of a window or door left open by accident, and get lost. Many times the owner forgets the he has the bird on his shoulder and opens a door or a window, only to be left with regret when the bird flies away. Most pet birds are not used to flying around, and once they have flown away they don’t know how to get back. They don’t know the surroundings, especially from a great height, and are often confused, scared and have no idea which direction they came from.

Wing clipping is the most reliable way to prevent birds from flying away and getting lost. A bilateral wing clip (with both wings clipped) is best. But just clipping your bird’s wings once is not enough. Feathers can grow back surprisingly quickly, and with just one feather grown back your bird will have sufficient lift to fly away, especially if frightened or panicked. Wings need to be checked every month and, if new feathers grow in, they need to be clipped back. In addition to clipping wings, it is also a good idea to install screens on your windows and doors to prevent your bird from taking flight and escaping. Never leave your bird unattended outside, not even inside a cage. A bird could figure out how to open his cage door and escape or somebody could come into your garden and steal him.

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