Bird Husbandry

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Mulberry Lane Vet Hospital
294 Lords Place
NSW 2800

02 6360 3071

Most bird illnesses have an underlying bird husbandry problem.



It is important that your bird has a balanced diet. Most pet birds have too much seed in their diet. Seed is high in fat and so is tasty to birds. Seeds can be deficient in vitamins and minerals. Birds that eat seed only can be prone to obesity, egg binding and vitamin A deficiency.

To provide a balanced diet many other fresh foods need to be added to the seed daily. Discover what your bird eats in the wild and try to supplement his diet with these things. Eg Cockatiels in the wild are seen eating fresh grass seeds, shrubs, fruits, berries and insects and their larvae.Galahs eat fresh grass seeds, herbaceous plants, fruit, berries, nuts, roots, green shoots, leaf buds, blossoms and insects and their larvae.

Commercial pellets and crumbles are recommended as a replacement to seed and are recommended in conjunction with a varied diet. Some commonly available brands include Vetfarm, Roudybush, Pretty Bird and Harrisons. Pellets are an attempt to fulfill the nutritional needs of parrots. Fresh food must also be supplied daily. Birds may need to be gradually weaned from seed to pellets. For hand reared bonded pet parrots sprinkle some pellets onto the table and play with them whilst pretending to eat them and at the same time offer the pellets to the bird. Some birds take one to two weeks to change over.

Fresh foods should be offered daily. Vegetables, especially green vegetables, are very important. Some examples include spinach, silverbeet, endives, parsley, celery, peas, carrots and cabbage.

Fresh seeding grasses include winter grass, kikuyu, couch, thistles, dandelion, chickweed nuts and the seed of fruits. Meat including lamb, beef and chicken bones should be offered. Many birds will eat these at varying times of the year.

Most tame birds enjoy eating food that we eat. Some examples are toast, mashed potato, pasta & rice. The most common POISONOUS household foods are avocado, chocolate and green potatos. These food should never be fed to birds.



Birds need some access to direct sunlight. Light through a window is not adequate for vitamin D synthesis. Birds have gland called the uropygial gland that secretes Vitamin D precursors. These are spread on the feathers, activated by UV light then ingested during preening activities.

Birds need 10-12 hours of total darkness every night. If a bird is kept in a room that is used at night then a blackout cover must be used every night from 6-7pm. The period of darkness needs to be varied during the year to mimic the natural photoperiod. Without these variations breeding, moulting and general health may be affected.



Passive smoke is extremely hazardous to birds. Passive smoking can damage bird's air saks, lungs and skin. Never smoke in the same room as your pet bird. Nicotine stain on owner's fingers can cause foot dermatitis on the bird's feet. Nicotine in cigarettes is highly toxic to birds if ingested.



Cages should be rectangular with at least enough depth for two birds to extend their wings fully. A bird needs a large amount of supervised time outside it's cage for healthy exercise and enjoyment of life. Without this birds can become overweight and depressed. Keeping a bird in a small cage without exercise is no longer acceptable. To catch the bird after it's flight dim the lights and the bird wil be easy to catch.

Sandpaper should not be used on perches or on the floor. Perches should be made from natural eucalyptus branches and not of dowelling or plastic. Food and water bowels need to be positioned so that the bird cannot defecate in them. Do not put any material on the ground that encourages the bird to eat off the floor. Place them on an elevated grill that allows faecas to fall through. Avoid using any metal objects in the cage. These may lead to heavy metal poisoning.



This condition is extremely common. Lead, zinc and copper are the metals involved. These are found in galvanised wire, paint, copper wires, metal ties, rusty metal toys, costume jewellery, solder, rusty cages, the backs of mirrors, etc. Cages and aviaries should be made of stainless steel, powder baked or the new BHP polymer covered wires. Scrubbing galvanised wire with vinegar or weathering the wire has recently been shown to be ineffective at removing all the heavy metals.



Parrots are very social birds and in the wild live in flocks. Birds need a mate to be socially adjusted. Birds that live by themselves and are very noisy are actually calling for a mate. It is now considered cruel to force a bird to live alone. Lack of companionship can cause your bird to become stressed and sick.



Psittacosis is a respiratory disease of parrots that can cause serious respiratory symptoms in humans and can even be fatal.

Symptoms in humans are initially flu like, including fever, chills, muscle aches and a dry cough. In it's early stages the disease responds to antibiotics. If you experience any of these symptoms mention to the doctor that you own a bird. Never kiss your bird and always wear a mask when cleaning out cages to avoid breathing in any particles. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling birds or cleaning the cage.


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