5 Common Mistakes Made By New Parrot Owners

1. Dirty Food:

The expression “you are what you eat” is so true.  Since we are in charge of our parrot’s food selection, we have to make sure that it is not only the best quality we can offer, but that it is safely edible.  Thoroughly wash all fresh foods. Even organically grown produce use pesticides, although not chemical ones.

Many of us work full time jobs and are in a rush to get out the door in the morning.  It’s convenient to feed the birds and go.  However, when we leave fresh or wet foods out for a period of time they begin to collect bacteria.  Most birds are very hungry when they first wake up, so this is a good time to feed them their fresh foods.  Often they will have finished their meal by the time you are ready to leave for work and the dirty bowls can be collected.  I will often cut up the food the night before and store in plastic containers for easy service in the morning.

If they are slow eaters, like mine tend to be, give them drier, less seepy foods if it needs to be left in the cage for a period of time.  I save the wetter foods, which collect more bacteria, for their second meal after I return home.

Even dry foods will go stale.  Any pellets and seed not eaten should be thrown away and replaced at least every other day.  Even better, serve only as much as they will eat in a day.

Note: If your bird poops in it’s food or water, it is no longer edible.  It may dry as a solid in the pellet or seed bowl, but there is urine in their poop that will spread and contaminate the food or the water.

2. Dirty Cages:

Birds eat with their feet.  This means that when they are done eating, they will be tracking remnants of food around their cage. It will sit and harbor bacteria, which your bird will walk through again on it’s way to pick up more food or to get to its toys. The amount of harm this does to your bird depends on how often you wipe down the bars of the cage.  Dirty perches can lead to foot infections, which in birds are a serious thing, given that they are on their feet 24/7.

Did you know that a cockatiel can poop every 15 minutes?  This makes for a lot of poop in a single day, and poop is another bacteria gatherer.  I have gone into homes and seen a mound of poop building up like a stalagmite underneath a parrot’s favorite pooping spot.  If this doesn’t particularly bother you, then know that it dries and becomes airborne, causing disease in humans.

3. Use Of Commercial Cleaners:

Commercial cleaners leave a chemical residue on surfaces that are harmful to your parrots.  Never clean cages, toys,  or perches with any commercial cleaner or solvent.  In fact, I won’t let my birds play on a floor that has been washed with a commercial product.  Even those claiming to be pet friendly or a green product are not suitable to me.  I use white vinegar diluted with water, grapefruit seed extract (GSE) or a mild dish soap like dawn for any bird related cleaning.

4. Use Of Air Pollutants:

Parrots have an incredibly sensitive and efficient respiratory systems.  Their systems is designed so that when they take a breathe, a second breathe is necessary to push the first one to complete the cycle.  A third breathe pushes the second through to completion etc.  When you think about this, since two inhalations are necessary to equal one of ours, it means that if there are toxins in the air, birds are doubly affected.

We have all heard about the coal miners in earlier times that would put a cage of canaries into a mining shaft to determine if there were any odorless gases present.  If the canaries were found alive after a time, they knew they could enter and work safely.  If the air was safe enough for a bird, a human certainly would survive.

It is very important that we pay attention to the air quality in our homes. We should never smoke around our birds, or use incense, aerosol sprays or scented candles.  Pick your cookware carefully, anything with a non-stick coating can kill a bird within minutes.

No Toys In Cages:

The most common excuse for this is:  “Well, it never played with them anyways.”  And it never will learn to, if they aren’t there.  Birds are very active and intelligent creatures and they need mental stimulation.  If your bird doesn’t care for a particular toy you selected, try one of a different texture.  Most birds can’t resist toys made of shreddable materials.  A crumpled up ball of paper can keep a bird busy for hours. If you give them enough options and watch how they respond, you will hit upon just the right type of toy, and you’ll know from there which toys are preferred and most likely to be played with.  Just remember to keep it interesting for them by rotating toys every couple of weeks.  A reason many birds don’t explore toys is because they don’t understand what they are.  If you play with the toy with your bird, it will quickly get the message.

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

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