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Basic Bird Care Handout

Basic Bird Care


The absolute smallest cage for a bird is one in which the bird can outstretch and flap its wings without hitting the cage sides. This is usually at least twice the distance of its wingspan. However, the best sized cage is the largest one that can be accommodated in the home. For parrots, the cage should not be constructed of wire but rather of iron. Galvanized wires should be avoided at all costs due to the lead and zinc toxicity of this type of coating. Powder coated and vinyl coated cages may hide toxic metals underneath; your cage supplier can tell you what your cage is constructed of.


Natural wood branches, not dowels, are preferred for most all cage birds. Avoid plastic, rope, cement, plaster, and sandpaper perches. Though the intent of these perching substrates is understood, they rarely are better than natural branches. The perches should be far enough away from the cage walls to prevent tail feather damage. One perch should be placed higher than all the others since most species seek the highest spot in the cage. This will give the bird some security. Finches and canaries enjoy jumping between perches; two perches placed at opposite ends of the cage will allow this behavior. Avoid positioning food and water containers beneath perches to prevent soiling.


Ideally, the cage should be cleaned daily. If not, the feces and food debris should be separated from the bird by means of a grill or grate placed on the bottom of the cage. All organic debris such as food waste and feces should be cleaned off the bars and perches at least weekly. Litter material is usually best for outdoor aviaries and generally should be avoided for indoor cage birds. Newspaper, brown and white papers are best to line the cage floor. Changes in fecal consistency and color are more easily recognized on paper substrates. Some litter materials such as walnut shells, corn cob crumbles and pelleted hays will grow harmful fungus and bacteria if allowed to become moist from fecal contamination.


Please see the handout on nutrition for your particular species.

Environment and Activity

Birds acclimated to indoor temperatures cannot adjust to high and low temperature fluctuations without being stressed. Birds housed outdoors and under varying temperatures are accustomed to these daily changes and easily cope with highs and lows. Temperatures comfortable to humans are appropriate for indoor birds.

Humidity is important for the respiratory health of your pet bird. Constant high humidity without air changes and ventilation promotes fungal infections. Persistently low humidity often leads to allergies due to excess dust and pollens in the air.

Bathing is a must for most pet parrots. Daily to weekly baths can be provided by misting, showers, shallow water pans (pie tins) and large bowls. Only fresh, clean water should be applied to bird plumage. Do not use soaps, disinfectants, anti-picking tonics or cleansing agents on your bird.

Outdoor exposure, indirect sunlight, fresh air, natural lighting, and exercise are all beneficial. Schedule a daily time(s) for your bird to be out of its cage. Out of cage time is essential for the mental and physical health of your bird. Provide the three types of toys psittacine birds require: climbing toys, chewing toys, and mentally stimulating toys. Wing trimming prevents escape and injury for those birds allowed outdoor activity.

Leg bands are placed on birds for identification purposes. Leg bands may be left on or removed. Preferably, open and split bands should be removed on pet birds.

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