There’s a lot of things to take in when you buy/adopt your first bird. Cages, toys, perches, food, behavior, training… It’s easy to make common mistakes along the way, and nobody blames you. You should do as much research as possible into the care of your birds before you take one into your home, to avoid situations that over stress or upset them.
I’ve outlined below four of the most common mistakes that bird owners make, and how to fix them. Keep in mind that every bird is different with their own special needs, and it is your job as their guardian to meet these needs.
Feeding them an All-Seed / All-Pellet Diet
Birds need more than just seeds or pellets to thrive. Seeds are almost entirely fat with no nutrients, and can cause severe malnutrition and obesity. While pellets are far better than just seeds, they still don’t provide a full spectrum of nutrients and the dryness of the pellets can cause dehydration if water isn’t cleaned and refreshed daily.
Fresh, organic produce will provide them with essential vitamins and minerals for energy, skin health, beak health, feather health, and digestive health. Giving your parrot a daily mix of pellets and approved foods will greatly help in their health and happiness. Finches and canaries have different dietary needs, compared to parrots.
You will see a significant boost in your bird’s behavior and energy, once you add real food into their diets.
Not Taking your Birds to the Vet
Vet visits aren’t just for big, expensive parrots. All birds, even finches and canaries, need to be taken to the vet for annual or bi-monthly checkups, just like a dog or cat. Your vet will be able to tell you exactly what changes need to be made to your bird’s environment for maximum health and happiness.
Birds also like to hide the fact that they are sick or injured so, by the time you notice something is wrong, it’s already gone from bad to worse. Your vet can thoroughly inspect your bird, allowing you to catch something before it becomes a terminal or fatal issue.
You can also have your bird micro chipped, in the event that they escape or are stolen.
If you plan to breed birds, you need to have direct contact with an avian vet – preferably one that can come to your house when a new clutch is laid. All newborn birds should be professionally inspected, banded, micro chipped, and sexed.
Giving them a Cage too Small
One of the most common mistakes I see is improper cage size. A cage’s dimensions should be, at minimum, 1.5x their total wingspan with cage bars spaced correctly for their feet. If you already have a cage for your bird, and it is too small, then you should upgrade it as soon as possible.
Another mistake I see is having too many birds in a single cage. While many birds are flock birds, they should still have enough room to escape their cage mates in the case something goes awry. Once again, take the wingspan of every bird in a cage and times it by 1.5, that should provide plenty of space for individual birds to have privacy when they need it.
A larger cage will greatly improve your bird’s health and happiness. It’s their home, and they will be spending a lot of time in it. The more they can move and play, the better.
Reinforcing Bad Behaviors
Something I often see with new bird owners is them trying to punish their bird like you would a dog. When you yell at, scream at, or hit your bird, not only are you scaring your bird and loosing their trust, you are reinforcing bad behaviors. Birds take all elevated emotions as reinforcement. The more attention you put on your bird doing something wrong, the more they will do it.
Instead of negative reinforcement, try neutral and positive reinforcement.
If your bird is doing something wrong, move them into another room and ignore them for a period of time. This is a neutral situation which will tell your bird that you will not endorse the behavior they are doing.
If your bird does something good, reward them with a treat or positive attention like cooing and cheering. You can also attempt positive reinforcement through clicker training. This will help your bird understand what is a behavior you endorse versus one you do not.
Never hit or throw things at your bird. Period. This can cause your bird to develop severe mental illnesses and cause aggression, depression, and obsessive compulsive behavior.
Research your Bird Before you Adopt/Buy
Never buy or adopt any pet without thorough research beforehand. Birds are especially fragile creatures that have very specific needs to be met. It would be a terrible situation to have an unhappy bird or an unhappy owner. Read up and learn, and share that knowledge to anyone looking to be a bird owner.
If you have any questions, comments, or tips of your own, as always, comment below!