Bird Supplies Your Bird Needs Now
By Valerie Trumps
Whether you’ve never owned a bird or just want to make sure you’re doing the right thing by your feathered friend, having the appropriate essentials is paramount to the health and happiness of your pet. According to the Association of Avian Veterinarians, here’s what you need and why you need it:
- Food. Pet birds need a formulated diet, meaning food pellets specifically for birds, as a base diet. Fresh or dehydrated fruits and vegetables are also a nice addition, along with nuts, beans, and cooked brown rice. The really daring can feed Tweety table foods, but don’t give your bird onion, alcohol (obviously), avocado, or chocolate — these are toxic to birds.
- Cage. The biggest you can afford and that will fit in your home is ideal for a bird that will spend most of its life behind bars. Make sure the cage is made of a strong, non-toxic material and is easy to clean. A basic measuring estimate is a cage that’s wide enough to not cramp fully extended wings and high enough to accommodate birds with long tails.
- Perch. A do-it-yourselfer can be made by attaching two branches on each side of the cage with uncoated wire or a small bracket. Make sure the perches are set far enough from the food and water bowls. Branches from pesticide-free, non-toxic trees such as Northern hardwoods, citrus, eucalyptus, or Australian pine are best. Or you can keep it simple and just buy a couple of perches from the pet store.
- Water and food bowls. Wide, rather than deep cups will encourage your bird to try new food items. Many food and water dishes have a built in perch, and they all have a ledge the bird can balance on as he eats and drinks. As long as Tweety gets around well on his own, perches need not be set close to the bowls. In fact, if his perch is too close, he may overeat or chew on his food dishes — not healthy activities.
- Cage liners. No need to get fancy on this one. Cage liner paper, paper towels, or newspapers will do just fine. An advantage of choosing paper over pieced liner (sand, wood chips, etc.) is easy monitoring of droppings for good hygienic cleaning. Put the liner under the mesh barrier to maintain space between your bird and his leavings.
- A hiding place. Birds are constantly on display to the outside world, including humans and other pets. Like anyone else, they enjoy a degree of privacy and feel safer having an escape hatch. Again, simple is best; a towel, paper bag, or nest box is ideal.
- Toys. No pet should ever be without playthings. Appropriate objects to play with, such as soft white pine, rawhide and leather chews (made for pets), or pine cones, help to keep the beak healthy and will keep your bird active. Natural fiber rope can also provide a nice diversion, but balsa wood, cedar, redwood, and pressure-treated pine are all no-nos.
- First aid. Just like us, birds need to have their nails trimmed, so it is likely that at some point in your bird’s life, there will be at least a little blood. A styptic pencil puts a quick stop to bleeding, calming both Tweety and you. Keep one handy as a just-in-case item.
Of course, lots of other toys and supplies are available for your feathered friend, but these are good for a start.