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Bird Health

New Bird Information
by Judie Anne Sigdel
This originally appeared in SQUAWK, the newsletter of the Big Apple Bird Association, then was printed as a brochure to be used by pet stores as a customer handout. It is reprinted with permission.

Congratulations on your new pet bird! Today you're beginning a long-term relationship with a complex animal that may be as intelligent as a monkey, chimpanzee or even a small child! If you provide a warm, nurturing environment with the proper nutrition and veterinary care, your new fine feathered friend will give you many years of love and entertainment in return.

Home, tweet home...
You should buy the largest cage your budget and home can accommodate. Just make sure the bar spacing and positioning are appropriate for your bird. Most parrot-type birds (such as parakeets, cockatiels, lovebirds, conures, amazons and macaws) need to climb around in their cages for exercise, so horizontal as well as vertical bars are essential. Also, be certain that your bird cannot get its head stuck between the bars. (Old-fashioned, ornate, decorative cages are not appropriate for this very reason and also because these antique cages were often constructed of toxic metals.)

A "hand-fed" bird, which was separated from its parents at an early age and raised by human surrogates, will quickly become a member of your family. (Young budgies and cockatiels tame easily, so many breeders don't hand-feed them.) Place its cage in a draft-free area of a room which receives plenty of indirect sunshine. (Make sure part of the cage is always in the shade.) Your den or family room is usually a good choice because birds love to watch the comings and goings of their human "flock members." However, if your family room is unusually noisy, or if you have small children who frequent the room without adult supervision, select another room for your bird's home.

Do not put the cage in your kitchen, because smoke and cooking fumes are extremely harmful -- birds' tiny respiratory systems are very delicate, and much different from our own.

Oh, my aching feet!
Birds are on their feet 24 hours a day -- they even sleep standing up. So provide perches of different thicknesses for good foot health. A good choice is natural branches of hard, safe woods like manzanita and ribbonwood, which are available from many pet shops. Never use sand-paper covered perches, because they can severely damage birds' feet.

Good cage keeping
One of the keys to a healthy bird is good cage keeping. Keep your bird's cage clean by lining the slide-out bottom of its cage with newspaper (black and white only; colored ink can be toxic). Replace this lining every day. Then, also on a daily basis, wash your bird's food and water bowls in hot, sudsy water and rinse them thoroughly in hot water. Dry the food dish completely before you place new food in it, because damp food quickly breeds life-threatening molds and bacteria. It is a convenience to have two sets of food and water bowls; it it easier to be sure the new, clean bowls are completely dry.

Once a week, disinfect your bird's home by washing the slide-out tray in a chlorine solution (follow bottle directions carefully) and rinsing thoroughly with warm water. (Make sure your bird is in another room of the house and supervised by another person -- or in another cage -- while you do this. Your bird should never be exposed to any chemicals.) Then you need to clean the rest of the cage. If it's relatively small, you may want to place the whole thing in the bath tub and wash the plastic parts in the chlorine solution, then rinse thoroughly in warm water. Chlorine can pit or discolor brass and other metals, so you'll probably want to wash these metal parts with hot soapy water instead, then rinse until the water runs clear.