Copyright © 2005 by Margaret Madison All Rights Reserved
The two most important things you can do for your bird’s health is to keep your bird in a clean environment and to ensure your bird receives proper nutrition. You can’t do anything about disease your bird was exposed to before you acquired the bird and you can’t do anything regarding your bird’s genetics and what they may be predisposed to, but you can have some control over what your bird is eating and where your bird is living.
Ideal Cleaning Schedule
Wash water and food dish.
Change food and refill water.
Change the cage paper.
Shake off cage cover outdoors.
Clean cage, cage cover and accessories.
Twice a Month
Thoroughly disinfect cage and accessories.
Cleaning and washing can be done with hot soapy water, as you would clean your own food bowls and cups. Disinfecting is done after cleaning the dishes and cups so that no organic debris is left on the surface. Then you can use any one of a variety of cleaning products out there. Make sure to use a disinfectant that combats many of the common organisms that affect our birds. To safeguard against toxic fumes, disinfect the items away from your bird, rinse them very well and allow the cage, accessories and water/food cups to fully air dry before allowing your bird contact with them again. Having two sets of perches and cups is handy.
Cleaning is important to the health of your pet. They have no choice but to live in the conditions you provide for them. They can suffer respiratory problems from being kept in a dirty environment. Bird droppings become moldy after sitting long enough and that creates unhealthy conditions for your bird as well as the humans. Bird droppings if left long enough turn into dust and that can also be kicked up into the air and inhaled by humans and other pets including the birds themselves. Cockatiels not only have the regular feather flakes and debris that any pet bird will bring, but the cockatiel is also known as a “powder down” bird. The powder down can coat everything quickly and staying on top of dusting can help you and your birds as well. HEPA air filters can help cut down on the dust, but you still need to dust to prevent it from continuing to just blow it all around inside your home. HEPA filters are also handy on your vacuum cleaner. Many people also develop allergies to their pet birds and keeping things clean is best for you as well as your bird.
In addition to HEPA air filters and vacuum cleaners, to help cut down on bird dust, shake your bird’s cage cover outdoors each morning after uncovering your bird. Bathe/mist your bird in plain water at least once a week. Your bird would probably enjoy playing in the water more often though.
There are many ways to offer your bird a bathing opportunity from a shallow dish in the kitchen sink (this keeps their toes from getting caught in your sink strainer, plus gives the water a clean place to accumulate and for the bird to splash in), a shower perch in the bathroom, a new plant mister that has had only water ever used in it, or even an oversized water cup for their cage. Some birds will bathe in any shallow pan of sorts whether it is a plant saucer or upside down Frisbee.
Other grooming tasks would include keeping flight feathers trimmed, and keeping nails trimmed. Trimming beaks should only be done by an avian vet because birds have a sensory organ in their beak tips which tell them whether what they have in their beak is hot or cold and whether it is food or not food. An inexperienced person trimming a beak can permanently damage the beak to where it will never re-grow normally again or cause an extreme amount of pain and profuse bleeding from the bird. With the flight feather trim, the idea is to trim enough so that the bird can’t gain altitude but that enough flight ability is retained so that they can maneuver and glide to safety avoiding any obstacles that might be in their way. Nails only need to be trimmed when they are snagging onto clothing or in toys. If you attempt this yourself, a bird’s quick is very long and thin so you only want to remove the tippy tip of your bird’s nail. Have some corn starch or flour handy to prevent excessive bleeding. A little bit of blood is a lot to your bird who only has a couple teaspoons full in his whole body and birds blood doesn’t coagulate like ours does. Bleeding should be taken seriously in your pet bird.
Providing Proper Nutrition
My birds have a base diet of a half dozen different pelleted diets. Several varieties are available in their cages at all times. The pellets comprise approximately half of their daily food intake. Once a day, usually in the morning, but occasionally at supper time, they receive a platter of fresh foods. This is often a partial offering from what I’m having for dinner. When cooking with the birds in mind, I don’t add any butter/oils, sugars or salts to the foods. These fresh food items can include warm cooked whole wheat pasta, brown rice, bits of cooked chicken or salmon (broiled or baked), scrambled eggs, unsweetened cereals or whole grains, broccoli, sweet potato, peas, carrots, warm cooked plain beans (no sauces), shredded greens (the darker green the better), bell pepper seed balls, cucumber, apple, papaya, squash and zucchini. My birds also get a small amount of seed each night before bedtime. My goal is to keep their daily intake somewhere around 50% pellets, 30% fresh food items and 20% or less seed mix. Always make sure your bird has access to fresh clean water and has a mineral block and a cuttlebone available in his cage at all times. Variety in foods is healthy for your birds just as it is for us. Variety also helps fight boredom.
I don’t believe a bird needs any dietary supplements unless for some reason your bird is in temporary need of such supplementation and it is determined so by an avian vet. For example, egg-laying hens may require additional calcium supplementation or if your bird is sick or having some other digestive problems, there may be a need to supplement the diet. The thing about vitamin/mineral supplements is that there is no “100% dosage” pill that a bird can take. We have pre-measured vitamins for our human use, but birds don’t have that luxury. Their supplements are sprinkled on food or mixed in their water. If the food is wet, supplements can change the taste of the food and the birds may not eat any of it after the first accidental taste. If the food is dry, the sprinkled on supplement just sifts to the bottom as the bird forages through the food cup picking out his favorite dried food bits and the supplements gets tossed out with the hulls and crumbs. If added to their water, it can change the appearance or taste and the bird may avoid drinking altogether to avoid the change in the drinking water. There is basically no way to know with certainty how much of the supplement your bird is actually ingesting this way. You can overdose a bird on vitamins and too much of a good thing is nearly as bad as the nutritional deficiencies themselves. Both circumstances present their own set of problems.