PET BIRD SPECIES
The First Days At Home
It is best to get a hand-reared bird that is already eating seed, but it still accepts being fed by hand. This is called the weaning stage. The weaning period can be a very difficult time and you must be given exact instructions on how to hand feed your new bird at the time of purchase. The weaning period is a very good time for taming and training and for your bird to develop good eating habits.
Take great care of your bird during weaning.
Weaning is encouraged by offering a variety of seeds in the form of fresh millet sprays or sunflower hands for the larger birds. Offering individual seeds and fruits by hand is a fantastic way to gain the trust of your new friend. Remember, the weaning bird will try new foods more readily than at any other period of its life, so offer your bird a large variety of foods at this time. This is also the best time to introduce special health supplements, such as vitamins and minerals. The new bird quickly accepts the taste of these health supplements, ensuring a healthy future.
The first three days at home are very important for the new bird.
For both hand-reared and already weaned birds, the first three days after you collect your new pet bird are the most stressful as it adjusts to the new surroundings. The care and understanding that is given during this time will determine just how tame your bird will eventually become. Too much stress during these important first days may cause illness in your bird, just as people under stress become ill. The most notable disease is called Psittacosis. This disease becomes active in birds under stress and your new bird can then infect humans.
A complete health examination by an avian veterinarian is a good idea.
A complete health examination within 24 hours of purchase time is recommended for every new bird. This is a very good health insurance policy for the bird, you and your family. A clean bill of health at this time means that under the correct care your bird should never get sick. This is also a good time for you to discuss feeding and the proper care of your new pet bird with the avian veterinarian.
Health Protection Plan For Your New Bird
The following recommendations will limit the stress experienced by your new new bird and should be adopted from the time of collection and continued for its entire life.
The correct cage makes your bird feel safe.
Make sure your bird has food and water and is eating and drinking.
Give your bird plenty of sleep time.
Give NV Powder (a sweetened stress vitamin and mineral) in the water for the first three days.
Get a health check from an avian veterinarian within three days of purchase.
Keep the cage clean.
The cage and making your bird feel safe.
Birds feel safe when they think their enemies cannot find them.
Get a cage with a large door and a flat top. Such cages allow the bird to feel safe and are best for hand taming.
Place the cage up off the ground in an area of the house with a clear view of the normal household activities and sounds, but not in the direct line of traffic flow. The family room would be ideal. When your bird is well adjusted to the household then it can be moved closer to the action.
Do not put the the cage near the high humidity of the bathroom or laundry.
For the first week cover the sides and tops of their cage leaving only the front view exposed.
Feed your new bird the best quality food.
The correct feeding is the most important part of your new birds future health and quality as a pet bird. Good nutrition and good health go hand in hand. The most tame and best talking pet birds are always very healthy. The reverse is also true, unhealthy birds never talk and rarely become fully tamed. Good feeding requires more than selecting good quality food and keeping the water clean.
Engender good eating habits immediately.
You must teach your new bird good eating habits during its first three weeks with you. At the same time you must help your bird adjust to the new foods and its new home as quickly as possible.
Use clean seed (see image) and clean water.
Use health supplements on the seed (Turbobooster and F-vite). Make sure your bird is accepting these new tastes and is actually eating the seed.
Do not put grit, paper or sand on the floor at this time. Instead clean the floor with a cage cleaner daily. In this way dropping health can be monitored very closely.
Give NV powder in the water for the first three days. This vitamin and mineral product is also rich in energy and helps the bird cope with the stresses of moving to a new home. Give NV powder for two consecutive days each week for the first three weeks then go onto the sugar free regular health programme mentioned.
Talk gently and touch your bird as often as possible.
Monitor its health and well being very carefully every day for the first three weeks. It should be active and alert, not fluffed up and disinterested in you. Call your veterinarian if it becomes fluffed up, listless or is not eating.
Give your new bird plenty of sleep.
At least 9 hours of sleep a day is required to help your bird adjust to its new home and because the bird will only sleep in the dark it is necessary to cover the cage or turn the lights off. Keep the cage in the one place, not moving it to another room at night as this will upset your new new bird.
Move slowly but surely near and around your pet bird.
Quick movements will scare your new bird and it is recommended to keep your dog and cat away from your new bird for at least two weeks. When feeding or catching your bird do so slowly and do not raise your voice or shout at it especially if it bites, for this will promote a noisy spiteful bird.
Whatever the reason you may be called upon to take up the task of hand-rearing a baby bird, you must remember that it is very time consuming, especially with chicks that are very young.
The following rules will help you to be successful.
The need for heat and humidity of the brooder.
The need for the correct recipe, consistency and temperature of the diet.
The need for the correct feeding technique, frequency and hygiene.
The need to monitor the babies progress and to be able to detect signs of problems.
The Need for Heat
A new born chick requires a temperature between 33-37 degrees Celcius. As the chick grows and produces feathers its need for heat diminishes.
The best brooder can easily be made from a glass or plastic fish tank or a laminated wooden box. Untreated wood or cardboard is ill advised as it harbours germs and prevents adequate cleaning. The heat source can be a heat pad or even a 15 watt light globe housed inside a tin can that is about 12cm across. It should not get hot enough to burn the chick. A hot water bottle changed frequently is another alternative as a heat source. Whatever method is used to warm the brooder the heat can be kept in by a simple lid of a sheet of polystyrene with air holes punched in.
It is important to closely monitor your charges. Chicks which are too cold become lifeless and are cold to touch. Chicks that are too hot at first will show a red wrinkled skin then become restless, pant, gasp and hurl themselves around the brooder in a frenzy. Overheating is often fatal.
The floor of the brooder should be lined with fine wood shavings with a layer of paper towelling on top. The purpose of the towelling is to monitor the bowel movements of the young bird.
Humidify the air via an open dish of water covered with wire to prevent an accidental drowning. Humid air will prevent dehydration of the baby bird.
The most convenient formula is a commercial mix called "Roudybush". This is a powdered product that needs only warm water added to it. This is a completely balanced formula to which no additives are necessary.
How much, how often?
The consistency of the food will depend greatly upon the age of the bird. A youngster that is only a day or two old will be able to handle extremely thin watery food every 2 hours, if the crop has completely emptied.
Newborn chicks have only small crops and will not hold much food at all. Don't force the chick to take more than it can handle. Remember they are very weak at this tender age and will eat very slowly and tire quickly.
The food should become thicker as the chick grows to a melted ice cream consistency. Feeding intervals will be determined by the speed of the crop emptying. Only very young birds need feeding at night, and then only once at about 3am, otherwise four times daily feeding until 5 weeks of age is adequate for most parrots. The food should be given at 42 degrees C. Tis is the temperature we can just tolerate on the lip without burning.
Utensils for feeding
The most practical utensil is a teaspoon, with its sides bent upwards. In between feeds boil the utensils etc. so as to prevent any food spoilage and subsequent infections. Syringes can also be used.
Most parrots wean about ten weeks of age, but there is marked individual variation. The first indications that the time for weaning is correct is the growing lack of interest in their food. When this behaviour begins a variety of soft foods (peas, spinach, pear, carrot sliced into small pieces) can be placed in a shallow dish on the floor of the brooder or cage. Stop the morning feeds and leave these foods in a parrot mix containing sunflower. Canary Oats and Millets are left as well. remove these foods after 6 hours and replace fresh each morning.
Feed the birds only in the evening until they lose interest and then weaning should be completed.
Weaning - The Critical Period
To develop the best pet your bird will require daily supplemental handfeeding for a short time. This weaning period can be a difficult time for your pet bird.
The weaning period is the best time for taming, imprinting discipline and developing good eating habits, all vital ingredients for the perfect pet bird.
Weaning is encourage by offering a variety of soft foods such as fresh corn, steamed peas, broccoli, pumpkin, carrots, apple, fruits, soaked lentils, beans, sunflower seed. Seed should be given in as small quantities as possible. Millet sprays and sunflower heads are given on a daily basis to stimulate the weaning process. Soaked clean seed mixes for 24 to 48 hours helps your bird develop a taste for a variety of seed types.
The newly weaned bird will try new foods more readily than at any other period in its life, so offer your bird a variety of foods during this time.
Birds start flying at the same time as weaning and we recommend wing clipping for both taming and safety. The birds should be provided with a low perch during the weaning process and offered water twice a day in a low dish.
Spilled food around the face should be cleaned with a warmed clean cloth before it dries. A "bib" may help to keep the feathers clean as well as a fine warm water mist spray over the body when the weather is hot, but prevent chilling. To develop the best pet bird it is necessary to be a loving but stern parent. Discipline at the weaning period will control the troublesome, noisy bird. For the next three months you bird must get into a routine of feeding, exercise, play, talking lessons and discipline. This short period in your bird's life is critical to its future as a healthy, happy and well behaved pet.
The Ideal Cage
It is true that at times birds must be restricted.
However, permanent confinement is unhealthy for birds selected as pets. The prime purpose of the appropriate cage is to improve the physical and emotional security of the bird at all times. A bird that feels safe emotionally and physically makes the best pet.
You will enjoy your pet bird more if it is outside the cage when you are at home.
However, all birds should be confined to cages whilst their owners are away to avoid accidental injury and other misfortune. An unsupervised pet bird allowed the run of the house will eventually get into trouble. Not only can they be terribly destructive to the home itself and its furnishings, but there are objects in the home that are harmful directly and indirectly to pet birds (mirrors, windows, walls, pot plants, electrical cords, lead, zinc and copper etc). Birds resting on open perches are usually content to stay there and will usually take flight only when frightened in response to sudden movement or loud noise. Unfortunately these impromptu flights are taken without a flight plan and birds usually wind up crashing into walls or windows. Traumatic injuries from these "encounters" can be life threatening. Under your supervision it is unlikely your bird will get a fright.
When you are not at home it is best to have you pet bird inside a cage.
The location of the cage in the home is important. Some birds thrive in areas of heavy traffic where they receive lots of attention, whereas others prefer solitude and privacy. The kitchen and laundry must never be used to house birds as they promote fungal infections.
The door of the cage must be very large.
The cage is both the outside and inside facility of the bird and is divided into an inside resting/sleep area and an outside fun area. A large door is a necessity as it gives you access to your pet bird in a non-threatening way making daily contact with it a routine procedure. Birds do not tolerate being held but do enjoy jumping onto a hand. When unattended the pet bird is returned to the inside for its own safety. Daily contact outside the cage is important for the emotional health of the pet bird.
The security offered by a well-designed cage promotes the proper training of the pet bird.
Under the correct guidance the pet bird can be trained to do almost anything. Toilet training and homing are the most basic requirements for every pet bird. Training must start from a very young age and is based on food rewards at first. After a while, it is purely the joy of pleasing its owner that motivates the pet bird. Homing and toilet training starts from day one by positive reinforcement i.e. give a treat or praise the bird when it poos on top or in the cage.
Training is best done in the late afternoon and on the finger or top of the cage.
Short lessons are best (2-3 minutes) in the late afternoon in a quiet room. Reward your bird with a food treat or praise at the end of each lesson.
The type of perch is very, very important.
Captive birds spend most of their lives on a perch so the correct perch arrangements are extremely important. The perches should be placed at the same height and as far apart as possible to stimulate exercise between perches. If perches are at different heights ensure they do not overlap. Also allow enough clearance between the perch and the end of the cage so the bird can turn freely and not damage its tail feathers.
Native eucalypt tree branches of varying widths make the best perches. Round dowelling or round branches are given to parrot birds, because they have two toes forward and two back, whereas oval perches are best for canaries and finches which have three toes forward and one back.
Eucalypt branches must be given to Australian birds (especially budgerigars) from a very young age. Australian parrots love to chew on eucalypt branches. The eucalypt oil inside the bark is a natural health tonic and the chewing activity keeps the bird occupied for hours on end. In the wild, our native birds are very active in the morning and evening, but spend most of their day resting in the trees and chewing the branches.
The floor must be free of any covering.
All parrots love to chew and especially when they are unwell. often ill birds chew and eat the floor coverings that often leads to a blocked gizzard. This is a very serious condition and can be avoided by leaving the floor free of sand, grit, paper or sand paper. it is much easier to monitor the health of your pet bird when a clean floor reveals each new day's droppings. The droppings reveal so much about the changing health of birds and are one of the first signs of illness.
Beak & Nail (Claw) Clipping
Caged birds live in a very geometric world in contrast to their wild counterparts. most of the surfaces with which they routinely come in contact (perches, cages bars etc,) are very smooth and regular. Consequently the claws and beak of the pet bird tend to overgrow and the surfaces of their beaks also tend to become rough and irregular. In their natural environment this is not a problem because of the wild birds' increased activity level and their daily encounters with tree bark, rocks, and other abrasive surfaces. A fresh eucalypt branch in the cage each week keeps the beak in good trim and natural perches will help keep the claws short. Sandpaper perch covers do not prevent nail growth, but do cause irritation and excessive wear of the soles of the feet and must not be used.
The greatest enemy to your pet bird is moisture in the cage that allows bacteria and fungus to breed and harm your bird's health. The diseases related to moisture are common problems easily controlled by water cleansers and cage cleaners as part of a health programme.
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