I was in a conversation recently with someone who mentioned that he’d lost not one, but two, birds to the same manner of death. He came home one day to find one of his budgies dead, his head trapped in the bottom grate of the cage. A couple of months later, he came home to find that a second bird from that flock had died in the same way.
Naturally, I asked: “If you knew there was a safety issue in the cage, why didn’t you do something about it after the first bird died.” His answer surprised me: he simply assumed the first bird was “stupid” and figured that the odds of having two birds that “stupid” were rather low.
Even though I was appalled and offended, I remained calm. One thing I have learned over the years is to control my impulse to scold people who are harming their birds – even when it seems blatant and intentional. It does absolutely no good at all to anger someone who obviously needs guidance into walking away uneducated.
I tried to stay on course by telling myself that there was a flock of budgies that were counting on me. I knew that if TWO of his birds had died this way, more would follow. There was a reason the second bird mirrored the actions of the first.
I wanted to dissect the situation and enlisted his help by assuring him that others would benefit from his attention to this matter. What was determined was that the cage bar spacing was inappropriate for budgies, he didn’t change the cage papers often enough and that he was unable to determine when their seed dish was technically “empty”.
These three unrelated things came together in a perfect storm that resulted in the deaths:
- Budgies hull their seed, meaning that they only eat the insides and leave the outer shell behind in the dish. When you look into the dish it might appear full, but it is full of inedible shells. This is a mistake that many new bird owners make.
- The cage grate was only about two inches above the paper tray at the bottom. With the paper changed infrequently, the dropped seed near the feeding stations mounded and looked retrievable.
- The cage he kept his budgies in was not meant for birds as small as a budgie and the gridded grate at the bottom was big enough to let the head through in one direction but the hinge of its jaw prevented it from coming back out again.
These were not “stupid” birds at all as it turns out, just hungry.
There are many things that can go wrong in our bird’s cages or play areas. With the best intentions, we sometimes put our birds in harm’s way. This isn’t the first time a bird has died after getting trapped in some part of the cage or on a toy or other accessory, and in most cases, these things were provided to make the bird’s life better by a conscientious owner.
Pay attention to the small details. You will keep your bird safest by looking at every object and situation with the eyes of a pessimist: “How could my bird possibly injure himself on this?” – “Are there any parts on this toy that my bird could get tangled in?” – “Is there anything inside this that might be toxic?” and be aware that most likely some bird out there has already managed to find the potential problems.
Be sure to sign up for our toy program that will deliver safe and size-appropriate toys to your door each month!
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.