A cage is a bird's sanctuary. It keeps him/her safe and secure, but only if it is the right kind of cage. So what are some the most important things to consider when buying a cage for your beloved bird? Here are our top five...
A well-designed cage should be enjoyable for the bird and convenient for you. This can take all sorts of shapes and sizes. Cages can be fashioned into a square, rectangle, even a triangle. But whichever shape and design you choose, make sure the bird has enough space to move around. Unusual shapes may be difficult to maneuver and clean.
The dimensions of a cage are vital to keeping your bird happy. He or she must have enough room to roam around and maybe even fly around (especially for flight oriented birds such as parakeets, canaries, and finches). A good rule of thumb is that the cage should be large enough for your bird to fully extend his or her wings in all directions.
3. Cage Material
When it comes to bird cages, there are many materials to choose from. Metal (wrought iron, stainless steel, etc.) is the most common cage material used. They may or may not be sprayed with paint; unfortunately, the paint may rub off and/or chip with use. If this is the case, you may want to sandblast the cage and powder coat it to make it more durable. Wood cages are also available at some stores, though they may be more difficult to clean and disinfect.
The larger the door, the easier it will be to clean the cage - but it will also increase the chances of an escape. Other factors to consider include the door's location on the cage and the type of latch. If your bird seems to be more a "flight risk," choose a latch or lock that is "birdproof."
Let's face it, few of us enjoy cleaning. However, if you choose a bird cage with a pull-out floor, it will be much easier to keep it tidy and change the newspaper, computer paper or whatever other floor liner you decide to use. It's also important that the cage you choose has grates along the bottom which will allow food and droppings to fall to the pan below, while preventing the bird from tracking through the droppings or eating spoiled and/or contaminated food.
Truth be told, there is no such thing as a "perfect diet." In fact, until fairly recently, many experts classified birds into two basic groups - seed eaters and meat eaters. Today, however, some of the happiest and healthiest birds eat a combination of commercially made pellets and seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, and maybe even a little home cooking. Let's take a look at these common food sources...
Commercially Formulated Diets
The food we buy for our pet birds is more similar to what we buy for dogs and cats than you would think. Nutrition experts have formulated these diets so that they provide your bird a combination of nutrients from all the food groups, thus eliminating the need for you to guess how much of this or how much of that you should feed your bird. These formulated diets are manufactured in a variety of forms, including pellets, crumbles, and cakes. Switching your bird to a commercially formulated diet, however, may be problematic for some animals; consult your veterinarian how to best approach the situation and which formula brands are best for your bird.
It's hard to think of a bird and not think of seeds. The problem is that seeds are high in fat (some as much as 50 percent!) and deficient in vital nutrients. Seeds may also lead to the ever-problematic "picky eater" - though this is not to say that seeds cannot be at least part of your bird's diet. Try to make seeds no more than 25 percent of your bird's diet and provide only the freshest of seeds, as they are higher in nutritional value.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Despite this, they should only be introduced slowly; this allows your bird to adjust to the change in diet. For vegetables, try to stick to the dark yellow and leafy green kind (just no avocados, which are poisonous to birds!), such as parsley, sugar snaps, snow peas, and cucumbers. Favorite fruits among birds include kiwi, mango, papaya, oranges, and grapefruit. It's important to remember to remove the pits of fruits prior to feeding. Vegetables can form up to 50 percent of your bird's diet; fruits should only be about 10 percent of the diet.
You probably cook beans, rice, corn, pasta and whole grains for yourself already, why not cook them for your bird too. When combined with the right amount of fruits, vegetables and seeds, an assortment of home cooked items can be a healthy alternative for bird owners who prefer variety. Consult your veterinarian which foods are best for your bird - and remember, cooked foods spoil quickly. So it is best to remove them from your bird's cage after 20 minutes or so.
When a bird's nails become too long it is not only unsightly, it can be downright painful. Fortunately, if you plan ahead and use the right tools for the task, it is relatively easy to remedy.
Prepare for Success
When it comes to nail clipping, the towel will be your best friend and your first line of defense. However, it may also be your worst enemy. A bright colored towel or unusual grasp may frighten your bird. Instead, it is best to use a light colored towel and lay it on your hand. Then entice the bird to come to you with treats and "good bird" affirmations. After doing this a few times, your bird will associate the towel with good times.
Tools of the Trade
In addition to the clippers, it is best if you have an assistant (friend or family member) with you. The size of the clipper will depend on the size of the bird. For a small bird, a pair of nail scissors may work out well enough, but for a big bird, a clipper that can cut through the thicker nail quickly and cleanly will be essential. Also, if you should happen to cut a little too close to the quick when clipping the nail, use styptic powder, an antihemorrhagic that stops excessive bleeding.
Begin by draping the towel over your bird's back, leaving its head uncovered. As you wrap the towel around your bird's body and take the bird into your hands, be sure that you are holding it firmly at its sides, taking care not to press against its chest. This is important because birds do not have a diaphragm, so putting too much pressure on the chest may cause them to suffocate. Even the most domesticated birds can get a little upset by being wrapped up, so you will need to take control of your bird's head to keep from being bitten. While holding the body with one hand, use your other hand to hold the bird's head. Place your thumb on one side of the bird's head and your middle finger on the other, holding firmly enough to keep the bird from turning its head freely. Maintain the bird's head still from the top with your index finger and reassure your bird with kind words to keep it calm.
Clipping the Nails
Place one finger within reach of your bird's feet so that it can grasp onto the finger. Use your thumb to lift each nail off of your finger, clipping just a small amount of the nail. This is important, as clipping too close to the quick may cause serious bleeding. To avoid this scenario, first identify where the edge of the nail meets the quick (you can usually see this with light colored nails, as the nail is white and the quick is pink). If your bird's nails are dark, use extra care and trim just a little at a time.
Signs of Distress
Watch your bird closely as you are trimming its nails. You can expect your bird to be vocal about the indignity of the situation, often attempting to escape from your grasp. But if your bird appears to be having trouble breathing, is panting, is moving too much to keep a firm hold, or seems to have lost motor coordination -- like its eyes rolling back in its head -- stop immediately and place your bird back on its perch or in its cage and allow it to calm down, while speaking in a soothing tone. You can try to trim its nails again later, but if you encounter the same problems, have a skilled veterinarian or bird groomer do it for you.