Basic Bird Care

Basic Husbandry & Medical Care of Birds in Ellisville, MO

The Best Way to House a Bird

  • Sandpaper perches should be avoided. They do not keep nails filed short as previously thought but can abrade the bottoms of the feet, rendering the bird susceptible to foot infections (bumblefoot). Natural tree branches of variable sizes make the best perches. Safe trees include most fruit trees, dogwood, and willow; cherry trees should be avoided, however. Stone or ceramic perches may help to keep the nails from having sharp points but should not replace wooden perches. If natural tree branches are not available, then dowel rods of varying sizes can be used as perches.
  • The cage size should allow adequate room for lateral extension of the wings (i.e., width is more important than height). Cages must be made of nontoxic materials such as stainless steel. Zinc-coated metal (galvanized metal, hardware cloth) is dangerous to birds and should be avoided.
  • Food and water dishes should be placed so that fecal contamination cannot occur. If this cannot be done, covered dishes will protect against contamination. Dishes and the cage floor should be cleaned daily and the entire cage and its contents should be cleaned and disinfected weekly.
  • Wood chips and corncobs as cage liners may be dangerous to birds. Paper cage liners are ideal as they are safe and allow droppings to be monitored. Cutting paper cage liners to the size of the cage and stacking them several layers thick allows an owner to remove the top layer of paper daily, leaving clean paper underneath.
  • Cages must be secured to prevent escape or traumatization by other family pets.
  • Exercise is essential for proper health. If possible, supervised flight in a safe indoor environment is recommended. Birds should not be allowed to fly in rooms with mirrors, running ceiling fans, open doors, or windows without the shades drawn. Ingestion of lead drapery weights or other foreign objects should not be permitted.
  • The kitchen is not a safe place for birds. Fumes from overheated non-stick pans are toxic to birds (as are many other airborne chemicals or pollutants) plus birds have also been known to fly into pots on top of a stove.
  • Ultraviolet full spectrum lighting is essential to good health and can be purchased at most pet stores. These lights should be placed above the cage and turned on daily, regardless of what other lighting, (artificial or natural), is available. Full spectrum lighting fixtures should not be covered by glass or plastic as the covers filter out some beneficial wavelengths of light. A sunny room is insufficient as a source of full spectrum lighting because the glass windows filter out some of the necessary wavelengths of light. Poster black lights (BLB lights) and incandescent lights are also not acceptable.
  • All tropical birds, such as Amazons and Macaws, thrive if bathed or misted frequently (preferable daily). Canaries like to bathe daily in a shallow bowl of clean water whereas Budgies may prefer to bathe in wet lettuce leaves. Oil-based substances should never be used on feathers or skin.
  • Never take a bird outdoors unless it is in a cage. Trimming a bird’s flight feathers does not guarantee that the bird cannot fly, especially outdoors where air currents may aid in flying. Reasonable exposure to the outdoors is ideal with appropriate supervision (i.e. good weather, secure flight cage, available shade, and adequate water supply).
  • Bird cages should be covered during the night period to allow for sleep and rest. A light/dark cycle that mimics the normal sunrise/sunset cycle outdoors is best for a bird and helps to promote normal molting cycles.

Avian Nutrition

  • Seeds, especially sunflower seeds, are high in fat and deficient in Vitamin A making them inadequate as a total diet. Seeds may safely comprise up to 15-20% of the total diet as long as the rest of the diet is balanced and nutritionally complete.
  • Seeds can be a common source of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria. 
  • A variety of table foods including vegetables (except avocados), cereal products, and eggs should be offered daily. A small amount of fruits (without the seeds or pits) and meats help complete a balanced diet. Chocolate should be avoided at all times.
  • A pelleted ration is the preferred food for a bird and should be the mainstay of the diet. If pellets are fed, vitamins are not necessary and should be avoided. Some experts think that African Grey parrots do not thrive on an exclusively pelleted ration and recommend supplementing their diet with skim yogurt, white cheeses, papaya, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, beans, and green leafy vegetables.
  • Peanuts are particularly high in fat and should be offered as treats only. Peanuts in the shell can be a significant source of fungus and should be avoided (especially for African Grey parrots).
  • It is often difficult to convert a seed-eating bird to pellets or table food. 
  • A vitamin supplement should be added to the food or water daily if the diet consists of mostly seeds.
  • Tap water can be a source of disease causing bacteria; therefore only boiled or bottled water should be offered.
  • Grit may be offered once every six months. It is unnecessary and possibly detrimental to offer it continuously.
  • Calcium is necessary for all birds and is particularly important in African Greys and in egg-laying hens. Cuttlebones and oyster shells may serve as a calcium source provided the bird uses them. Some birds may benefit from calcium supplementation added to the food or water.
  • A weekly source of Lactobacillus (normal gastrointestinal bacteria), such as Bene Bac powder or gel, is helpful at preventing yeast and bacterial infections.


Care That Stands Out

Read More Reviews
  • Tri-city has a great team of doctors and technicians that truly care about the health of your animals and understand that a pet is part of the family. We appreciate their expertise, professionalism, and that they go the extra mile to connect with our pets.
  • I've been visiting Tri-City since 2019 for my small animals - namely domestic rats - and have nothing but praise for it's doctors. They have helped me with everything from chronic illness treatments to end of life care, and have a wonderful staff with experience in small animal handling. If you're looking for a cozy, wonderful vet for your rat/guinea/other exotic pet, then this is the place.
  • This has been our family vet for 23 years. We have seen many of the different vets on staff. They all have been friendly, knowledgeable, and compassionate, including the support staff. They even made a house call when our dog was too sick to make the trip. They offer grooming and have a full pharmacy.

  • Tri-City recently figured out a really difficult health issue affecting my pug. Looking for a vet that has all the answers. Stop looking. This is where you want to take your best friend.

  • This place is awesome, vet techs are professional, everyone is nice, Dr. King is incredible with animals. My dog has pretty bad anxiety and she always get down on the floor and makes them feel so comfortable. Prices are reasonable, and they offer online medical history now which is awesome.

At-Home Medical Treatment for Birds

  • A pre- or post-purchase examination by an avian veterinarian is highly advisable. Birds are very good at hiding signs of illness, and therefore, many underlying illnesses are not detectable by visual examination alone. Further testing (gram stains, cultures, bloodwork, Chlamydophilla testing, and viral tests) is often necessary to better evaluate a bird’s health. Annual examinations and gram stains are highly recommended to ensure a bird’s continued good health.
  • Wing, beak, and nail trimming are services provided by avian veterinarians as needed.
  • New avian additions to a household should be quarantined in a separate part of the house for 45 days and examined by a veterinarian to prevent the introduction of disease to other birds.
  • Birds should not be exposed to drafts at any time. Most healthy birds prefer warmer temperatures (75 to 85 degrees F) to maintain optimal health. The ideal environment temperature for a sick bird is even higher at 85 to 90 degrees F.
  • Over-the-counter water medications should be avoided at all times. Most disease causing organisms are not susceptible to these products and their use interferes with diagnostic tests.
  • Smoking in the house often induces respiratory and skin problems in birds and should be avoided.
  • Bands should ideally be removed to prevent leg damage from hanging up in the cage. Larger birds may be microchipped for identification purposes.

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