I have collected tons of information about pet birds, and had eventually wanted to put them together into e-books, but it would take years, so instead I'll just offer the information collected (as is) free to our puppy owners.
But I want to be sure to warn people who have Dachshunds that it is NOT a good idea to ever have birds outside their cages when Dachshunds are in the vicinity. Dachshunds are hunting dogs and will quickly kill birds - and other small pets.
I have information about the following types of pet birds:
Budgies (American Parakeets)
Cordon Blue Finches
Green Singing Finches
A bit of info about peafowl, and a ton of info about chickens and also guinea fowl
The below was how we cared for our pet birds:
There are as many differences of opinion as to feeding and care as there are breeders. We can only tell you what worked for us. Our birds were not housed in a basement, outdoor aviary or separate building. We share our home with them.
Every day each cage is cleaned and fresh white paper towels are laid down on the bottom of the cages. Paper towels are easy to gather up every day and the droppings show up well on them, giving you a good indication of your bird’s health.
We do not use either newspaper or corn cob bedding. Colored newspaper ink can be toxic if ingested, and even non-colored newspaper can stain a bird’s feathers.
Both corn cob and walnut litter can grow fungus & bacteria when wet. Both can be ingested by birds with disastrous results, which might not show up for years. Veterinarians have performed necropsies and found birds’ proventriculus filled with litter.The main reason for using corn cob or walnut litter is because it disguises/obscures droppings, making the cage appear cleaner than it actually is. And a change in the appearance of the bird’s stool may well be the first sign you get that your bird is ill. Also, droppings dry and form a fine dust, which when inhaled can cause severe, and sometimes fatal, respiratory problems.
We prefer not to use water bottles, which tend to be forgotten until the water level is low and the water stale.
Instead, we like to give our birds fresh, clean water every day in water bowls, which also gives them the opportunity to bathe and keep their feathers and skin in good condition. Most birds love to play in water, and it is good for them physically and emotionally.
Water bottles can often jam, either by the bird poking the ball up into the metal tube or by packing pellets (or other food) into the tube, thereby cutting off the flow of water.We try to place the water bowls where they are not underneath perches, swings or other food dishes – so the birds are less likely to soil the water.
Seed (versus Pellets):
We feed a varied diet, but it is based on “seed” and not “pellets”. We feel that variety in diet is important to birds and also helps relieve the boredom from the psychological stress of being caged, and is better for their nutrition. The seed mixes vary according to the size of the birds. Dr. Alicia McWatters, PhD, and a specialist in Avian Nutrition, speaks of the “pellet diet”
“Today a bird owner can go to any bird or pet shop in town and purchase a dry convenience diet out of a bag or canister. It is that easy. The majority of bird owners feed these diets to their birds either as a portion of the diet or as a total diet on a daily basis. The sad part of this is that bird owners are taught to believe that this is the proper diet to feed their birds and that these diets are actually superior to a diet made up of natural whole foods.” “`Provide complete, balanced nutrition to all your feathered friends by serving a pelleted bird feed.’
This is what many of the advertisements [and sadly, veterinarians] are saying. We are told that all the essential nutrients our birds will ever need are to be found in a bag or canister and by simply pouring these crunchy morsels into our birds’ feed bowl we have done our job as good bird owners. We are happy because we think we have just provided our pet bird with 100% nutrition.
Sadly, we have been deceived. These diets consist of a few fractionated grains and seeds, followed by a very long list of synthetic enrichment nutrients which enables these diets to provide the minimum levels of nutrients to maintain health for some birds.”
Before anyone can talk you into using a “pellet only diet”, please consider the following:
- Read the ingredient labels on these pellet containers; many of them list the following basic ingredients: ground corn, ground oats, groats, and wheat middling. Some labels also mention alfalfa meal, corn gluten meal, soy bean meal, plus some other minor ingredients, and of course the usual ceremonial list of vitamins and minerals.
- Pellets are processed out of their natural nutrients which have to be added back artificially (most times along with artificial coloring and preservatives), and they aren’t made for individual species. The budgie version is just smaller bites of the macaw version.
- When the seeds or grains are fractionated with the addition of synthetic vitamins and minerals, the heat during the pelletizing or extruding process nearly destroys not only a good percentage of the natural nutrients, including the vitamins and minerals that the natural foods contain, but also the added synthetic vitamins and minerals. A good percentage of them are lost during the pelletized or extruding process.
- Most birds need to be starved into submission before they eat a pellet only diet.
- Seed eaters nourish themselves by cracking and shelling seed. It is their natural instinct. This is what they know how to do best and they are very happy cracking and shelling seeds. Seed eaters hate to crack pelletized grain (pellets). If birds are forced to eat pelletized grain, in many cases they become frustrated and exhibit their unhappiness in detrimental ways such as plucking.
- Pellets ARE convenient, but forcing a bird to eat a bland, boring, unnatural pellet diet leaves much to be desired - physically, mentally and emotionally.
This said, I do not believe the “all seed” diet either. I think that too many people are looking for an “easy” diet, and pellets and seed are so much easier than all the soaking, sprouting, cooking and chopping many of us do every day for our birds. All birds in their wild habitat eat a variety of seeds and grains including wild seed in the milky stage. Many feed on insects and their larvae, grubs, a variety of wild berries, wild fruits, wild nuts, blossoms, buds, plus other natural foods available in nature.
Fruits & Veggies:
Every day our birds receive a “fruit & veggie salad” made up of corn peas, carrots, apples, oranges, celery, cucumbers, green beans and parsley. For the finches, diamond doves and parakeets, we shred or finely dice most of the fruits and veggies. For the cockatiels, lovebirds and larger birds, we cut them in appropriate size chunks. The salad is sprinkled with Prime vitamin powder, ground oyster shell, charcoal and grit.
Our birds are given eggfood every day. Our eggfood consists of hardboiled eggs (including shells) chopped fine and mixed with soaked quinoa and sprouted seed. We always make sure that each cage has a cuttlebone in it.
Our birdie bread is given out along with the eggfood to all our birds (with particularly generous proportions of each to birds which are laying, birds which are feeding babies, and newly weaned babies - as described on our Dainty Diamond Doves website).
There are many recipes, but I just make a basic Birdie Bread using the following recipe:
4 eggs (throw the shells away)
1 box Corn Muffin mix (I use JIffy)
3/4 cp water
1/3 cp molasses
1/3 cp peanut butter
1/3 cp wheat germ
1/2 cp Malt-O-Meal cereal
I mix the above ingredients thoroughly. The batter should resemble thick cake batter (if it is too thick, add more water; if it is too thin, add more Malt-O-Meal cereal). Pour into cake pan (use either wax paper or grease & flour your pan or use Pam, to prevent sticking). Bake in preheated oven for 20 - 35 minutes at 300 degrees. Bake only until firm in the center. Cool. Slice into squares or wedges. Wrap the squares or wedges in plastic wrap and put in freezer bag and keep in the freezer. Remove one each evening to thaw for the following morning.
Our larger hookbills are also given food treats in the form of graham crackers, animal crackers, shredded wheat cereal, cheerios, nuts in shell (peanuts, almonds, pecans, brazil nuts, walnuts – and we slightly crack the harder nuts before giving them to the smaller hookbills) and monkey biscuits.
Many birds, particularly the grass parakeets, are most active during the early daylight and early evening, and I like to give them ½ hour of “half-light” during those times. In the morning, it gives the birds a chance to stretch and wake up slowly and naturally instead of being startled from a deep sleep into bright light. And in the evening, it gives them a chance to get in that last bedtime snack, take a drink and cuddle up with their mate (or babies) and peacefully chirp themselves to sleep.
In two of our bird rooms (the "finch and dove room", and the "smaller hookbill room" - with parakeets, cockatiels, lovebirds, Bourke's, Scarlet Chesteds, and Rosellas), we merely turn the light dimmer to low and close the door – reaching in after a half hour to quietly turn the light out.
For the larger hookbills (parrots, ringnecks, conures and quakers) in our living room, we cover the cages, because sometimes we do enjoy staying up late to watch tv. Once their cages are covered, they tend to go to sleep, even if the television is playing or people are talking; just be sure not to jar the cages which would startle them.We do leave a night light on in all the bird rooms. Occasionally young birds might have “night frights” and it is important for them to be able to see their perches and to see that there is nothing in their cage to be afraid of.
We do not clip our birds’ wings. We feel that it is important for baby birds to learn to use their wings. We take them from their cages to an enclosed room (shade drawn over window) to have free-flight exercise and to interact with people and other birds. Young birds need to be able to fly, turn, land properly, etc. There are a lot of reasons for this: confidence, coordination, balance, muscle structure, psychological growth, etc.
Clipped birds can and do fly off into trouble. You have to keep up on the clip. There tends to be a false sense of security with clipped birds…they can still fly to a point and if they get a gust of wind behind them, they’re off to quite a distance….but they also know they can’t really fly and will be less likely to try. If the bird is free in the house, use caution when opening doors and windows. Please do not trust that your bird will not take flight, clipped wings or not.
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