Birds As Pets

Last updated: February 26, 2013

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two colourful macaw parrots preening each other

Looking for a pet that is a bit out of the ordinary, highly intelligent, inquisitive, active, comes in all different shapes, sizes, colours and personalities? This pet may even answer you back – a bird!!

Tips for Choosing a Healthy Bird

When you look to buy a bird, stand back and watch what he’s doing.

A healthy and happy bird will play with his friends and toys in his cage.

When you think he looks happy and healthy, have a close look at him.

  • The bird should not have any sores, lumps and swellings
  • ‘Ruffled’ or ‘fluffed up’ feathers are not a good sign. This can show that the bird is sick.
  • His feathers should be clean and smooth
  • His face, beak and bottom should be clean.
  • The bird should perch with both feet on the perch. Healthy birds only sit when they are sleeping
  • His head should be up. It is not a good sign if his head is bobbing or leaning to one side.
  • The beak should not be sore, look strange or be scaly.
  • Both eyes should be clear and open
  • Wings should not be dropped
  • Look at him breathe. He should not breathe slowly and deeply.
  • If you see ‘tail bobbing’ the bird may be sick.

When you have chosen the bird you like, get him out of the cage.

cartoon drawing of a parrot

Feel his chest. It should feel round and his bone should be covered. If you can feel his bone very well, he may be a very sick bird.

You need to look at his bottom too. It should be clean.

Lastly, have a look through his feathers. Check for bald parts, ticks, fleas, or mites (parasites).

Have a look at his droppings in the cage. You should see solid droppings with liquid around it.

It is a good idea for your vet to check your bird’s health and droppings once you have bought him. The tips given are only to help you choose, they are not a health guarantee.

Take your new bird to the vet after you have bought him for a check up.

Housing your Pet


Your bird must be:

  • protected from weather, pests and predators
  • unable to escape
  • Look up what your species of bird needs.

The biggest cage you can fit into the area where your bird will live the better!

It is best to buy a cage that is long instead of high. Birds fly along, not upwards.

The cage must let your new friend at least fully stretch and flap his wings with getting hurt. Your new friend must be able to move around the cage and not bump into things.

You need to make your cage strong enough to hold your bird.

Keep your cage in good light (natural light).

They should not be in direct sunlight or where it is windy either.

It is a good idea to let your bird see you a lot and what is going on around him. They are social animals.

Birds need 10 to 12 hours darkness each night. Get your new friend a cage cover so he can have this. Be careful that he doesn’t get too hot in the summer!

Birds are very smart animals. They love to talk and play with people.

Do not let anyone smoke near your new friend. Smoke is very bad for birds. It makes them very sick.

An aviculturist can help you to do the right thing for the type of bird you buy. An aviculturist will help you to build the best aviary for the bird you have chosen.

If you build an aviary for your bird make sure there are no sharp bits of wire. This will hurt your new friend.

cartoon drawing birds on a perch


You must choose a good perch or you can hurt your bird’s feet.

Branches from trees are a really good idea.

DO NOT use plastic or dowelling perches.

NEVER put sandpaper at the bottom of the cage or on the perch. This will damage your bird’s feet. It will not keep their nails short.

Rough branches are good for your bird’s feet and parrots love to strip the bark off them.

Do not use toxic plants like Oleander.

It is a good idea to give your new friend hidey places where he can go if he feels scared.

Food and Water bowls

Buy wide bowls rather than deep ones.

DO NOT put bowls on the floor of the cage. Our bird’s dropping will fall in his food and water. YUK! This will make him very sick.

You can put food in different places in his cage. Make hidey holes for his food too. It will stop him being bored if he has to find his food.


Clean the floor and bowls everyday to stop your bird eating old or dirty food and getting sick.

Clean the entire cage once a week.

Clean your friend’s toys when you need to. This may be each day.

Give your bird new perches when he needs them (when they have droppings on them).

DO NOT use dirt flooring, this helps to make your bird sick.

DO NOT clean the cage with chemicals. Some are toxic to your bird. Check with your vet or aviculturist.

Aviaries with wire floors that hang are a great idea for lorikeets.

Environmental Enrichment (Keeping your friend happy)

Birds are very clever animals. They love to play and will watch everything.

They need lots of things to do during the day, just like us!

You must let your bird have time outside his cage so he can exercise and look through the grass.

Make sure you are with your friend all the time when he his out of his cage. You don’t want him to get attacked by something or eat something that will make him sick.

Most birds like to have a shower or bath every now and again. Use a gentle hose to do this.

If you do not allow your bird to play with toys and give him lots of time out of his cage he will be very sad and may get sick. He will become naughty too because he is bored.

Your new friend will become overweight if he is not allowed to exercise. Like people, this is very bad for your bird.

You should give your bird toys all the time!

Give him 2 or 3 at a time and change them a lot. This will stop him from getting bored with the same toys, just like you!

Make sure the toys you give your bird are safe. They can’t be made from toxic material. They must not have any sharp bits or places where your bird can get his toes or legs caught.

You can make your own toys. You do not need to spend a lot of money. The middle of a toilet roll makes a very fun toy! Other ideas are: pinecones, rawhide dog chews and branches.

Hiding treats and making the bird work for its food gives your bird friend something to do during the day. This can help to stop your bird learning bad habits.

Feeding Your Bird

Birds do not only need bird seed.

There are lots of other things that you should give your bird.

  • You can buy pellets for your bird instead of seed but it may take a while for your bird to eat these. You should check with a bird expert before feeding these pellets.
  • 60% of a bird’s diet should be grain. This is only for seed eating birds. Grain includes birdseed, cooked rice and wholemeal bread and pasta.
  • Do not feed your bird only sunflower seeds. This will make him very sick and fat!
  • 10-20% of your bird’s diet should be fresh vegetables. Use spinach, parsley, peas, carrots, silver beet, celery, cabbage, broccoli, cooked pumpkin and sweet potato.
  • 5% of his diet should be fruits. Use apple, rockmelon and apricot.
  • Your new friend


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