Along with other companion animals, the UK’s population of indoor birds grew quite a bit during lockdown, going from 1.1 million in 2019 to over 1.3 million in 2021. It’s no wonder the number of kept birds is high and rising as there is so much to love about them. They are attractive to look at, intelligent and trainable, they can live a long time, and most don’t require much space.
Here are a few basic tips on the six areas that new owners should be thinking about when caring for housed birds.
Get their diet right
You’ll need more than a simple bowl of seed. A balanced diet of seed, fresh fruits and vegetables, along with supplemental foods like pellets and crumbles where applicable, will provide good nutrition and behavioural stimulation. Safe and common fruit and vegetables include grapes, strawberries, tomato, broccoli, carrot, and beans. Ideal diets vary by species be sure to do your research online.
Keep their claws in shape
The nails on a bird’s foot can be quite scratchy so the odd trim can make handling them more comfortable. That said, many birds naturally file their claws when they walk.
Look out for parasites
Whilst internal parasites are less common in birds that were bred and live indoors, external parasites are common on most birds. Mites and Lice can lead to itchiness, feather loss, and skin problems, so keep an eye out for these.
Keep it social
Like other pets, birds are fundamentally social creatures so can really enjoy being handled. Ask family members to handle them too, otherwise your pet can form favourites over time and be less happy to be handled by strangers.
Cage choice and care
Ideally, your bird’s cage will be stainless steel and big enough for them to spread their wings and fly 3-4 wingbeats from perch to perch. Perches need to be wide enough for your bird’s front and back claws to meet underneath but not overlap too much. Also, having an aviary for occasional use will let them spread their wings even more than in the cage, but always make sure they have somewhere to retreat to.
Place the cage in a well-ventilated but draught-free area that is well away from the kitchen. It will also need to be in an area with some natural sunlight to ensure they get their daily dose of vitamin D.
Make sure they have a ready supply of fresh water and food, and keep the cage clean to avoid nasty smells and reduce the risk of infection. A cage cover can be a calming (and warming) addition if you have a particularly cold house.
Last but not least, ensure your bird has plenty of enrichment in their cage. Puzzles, swings, foraging, and hanging toys can keep them busy and entertained. Some species will need a bird bath too. Remember to rotate enrichment toys regularly to avoid your bird getting bored.
So, there you have it - basic guide to bird care. Diet, claws, pests, socialisation, accommodation, and enrichment all need a little care and attention to keep your housed bird in great condition for years to come.
Whether you’re new to keeping indoor birds or have had one for a while, remember to book an occasional check-up with a Vet who is experienced with your species of pet. A vet check is important to help keep your bird in good condition and to spot early signs of any developing issues so they can be treated promptly.