- Choosing an avian veterinarian
- Common household dangers
- Quick fixes for fumes, oil, and overheating
- Wing clipping
- Nail and beak trimming
- Signs of illness in birds
- Signs of injury in birds
- Making a Hospital Cage
- Broken blood feathers
- Molting care
- Egg Binding
- Issues With Breeding
- Other Pets and Your Bird
- Traveling with your bird
- What To Do If Your Bird Flies Away
- Reading Your Bird’s Band
- How to Choose and Instruct a Bird Sitter
- Top Ten Holiday Hazards
Choosing an avian veterinarian
All companion birds should visit an avian veterinarian at least once a year for a well-bird check up. Just as you’d take a dog or cat to the vet annually, a bird needs its own doctor too. An avian veterinarian is one who specializes in birds. Not all vets are qualified to work on birds, so you may have to look around to find one. Usually, avian vets are board certified by the Association of Avian Veterinarians, but not all of them are – if the doctor has an established avian practice, then board certification shouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
When you’re looking for an avian veterinarian, you will usually see the practice advertised as specializing in “exotics.” Call and see if there’s a vet in the office that deals primarily with birds. If so, here are a few questions to ask:
- How long has the doctor been working on birds? Ideally, he or she should have extensive experience with birds.
- Does the doctor have many patients that are (your species of bird)? The answer should be yes, unless you have a very rare type of bird.
- Do you take emergencies? Some offices will only take emergencies if your bird is already a patient.
- How much do you charge for a check up? Cost for a general work-up depends largely on where you live in the country and what you’re having done. Expect to pay between $150 and $500. It’s worth every penny!
- How long does the veterinarian spend with each patent? Some doctors only spend a few minutes with a patient. It’s nicer to have a doctor that isn’t going to rush.
- Do you quarantine sick birds? Ideally, the office should have a separate area for ill birds.
It’s a good idea to visit the office before you bring your bird there, if possible. Is the office clean? Are there people in the waiting room with birds? Is the staff friendly and helpful? For some people, the doctor’s bedside manner is as important as experience.
At the well-bird check-up, your bird will be weighed and the doctor will do a physical exam. Usually, the doctor will take cultures and blood to send to a lab for testing for a variety of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Your bird may get a vitamin or mineral injection as well. This is a good time to ask the vet to groom your bird if you’d like its wings or nails trimmed, or its beak cleaned up and oiled.
Common household dangers
Birds are sensitive creatures that are prone to injury or illness from common household items. Things we don’t often see as dangerous can be deadly for birds. Here are a few:
- Standing water. Birds have been found drowned in water glasses and even dog bowls. Keep toilet lids down, Jacuzzi tubs and fish tanks/bowls covered, and don’t let dishes soak in the sink while your bird is out of its cage.
- Ceiling fans: Take down your ceiling fans or make absolutely sure that they’re off when your bird is out of the cage. You may think that he can’t fly that high, but you’d be surprised!
- Lead: Stained glass, fishing weights, and old, chipping paint contains lead, which is as deadly for your bird as it is for you. Keep these items far from your bird’s reach.
- Scented candles, potpourri, and air fresheners: Anything that scents the air using chemicals is very dangerous for your bird. You can get the same effect by boiling cinnamon sticks and scented teas – just don’t leave them on the stove when your bird is loose!
- Nonstick surfaces: Nonstick surfaces found in cookware, space heaters, popcorn makers, and various other appliances, emit toxic fumes when heated that actually kill birds without warning.
- Hot pots and pans: A pot full of boiling water might look like a great bathing spot for your bird – very bad! And worse, the pot may be full of hot oil or sauce. Keep your bird away from the kitchen when you’re cooking.
- Glass and mirrors: A flighted bird may think that clean glass and mirrors are empty space and can be seriously injured or killed by flying into them. Sticker your glass and mirrors, or keep them dirty!
- Open windows and doors: Many birds fly away and are never recovered. Keep your window screens intact and be careful when you go in and out of the house.
- Wires: Wrap and put away all wires – your bird may become curious and chew on them.
- New carpeting: New carpet emits fumes that are deadly to birds.
Quick fixes for fumes, oil, and overheating
Occasionally, an “incident” will happen that doesn’t necessarily require an immediate trip to the veterinarian, or perhaps your vet is closed when you have a problem and have to deal with it yourself. Here are three problems that can befall companion birds:
- Fumes: Sometimes you are unaware of fumes in the air, but may notice your bird acting strangely – perhaps you’re using your fireplace for the first time that season (in which case the bird should be out of the room!). The bird may become woozy, have a seizure, or even lose consciousness. Remove the bird from the area immediately and ventilate the room. Removing the bird from the source of the fumes may be enough to bring him around. If not, take him to the avian vet immediately.
- Oil on the feathers. It happens sometimes that birds will accidentally get into household oil, which is actually incredibly hazardous because oil prevents the feathers from insulating the bird. If your bird does get into oil, the first thing to do is dust him thoroughly with baking flour and then gently wipe it off. Next, fill a bowl or the sink with enough lukewarm water to cover him up to the neck, and add some grease fighting dish soap – just enough to make the water sudsy. Dunk the bird and very gently rub the feathers – do not dunk its head! Then dry the bird with paper towels and put it in a warm place to continue drying. Hopefully these two steps should be enough to remove the majority of oil on the feathers – if not, seek professional medical help.
- Birds can overheat easily if left in a hot area or put into the sun without a shady spot where it can retreat. An overheating bird will pant with its beak open and hold its wings slightly away from its body, and will be standing on two feet. Take the bird to a cool area right away and mist it with cool water. Place a few drops of cool water into its beak (without distressing it further). Watch to make sure that the bird regains its normal activity.
Some companion bird guardians choose to have their bird’s wing feathers clipped, and others choose to leave their birds flighted. The choice really depends on your lifestyle and the kind of life you want your bird to have. If you take your bird outside, it should definitely be clipped or you risk losing it.
Finches and canaries are always flighted – these are “watching only” birds that most people don’t handle. Other small birds that live in an aviary setting are often also left flighted, including budgies, cockatiels, and lovebirds. Parrots that are “hands on” companions often have their wing feathers clipped so that they can’t fly away.
Clipping doesn’t hurt the bird – only the lower half of 7 to 10 mature flight feathers on the wing are clipped, and these don’t have a blood supply or nerve endings – it’s like a haircut. However, flying does psychologically benefit a bird, so you can keep a hands-on companion flighted if you’re very careful about windows and doors, and you parrot-proof your home, removing all of the dangers that a roaming bird can find. All birds left outside of the cage should be closely supervised.
If you want to clip your bird’s wing feathers, you can do it yourself, but not before you have a trained professional show you how. Do not, under any circumstances, try to clip the wings unless you have been shown how and you’re sure you can do it yourself. Your best bet is to take the bird to your veterinarian or a bird store that does grooming. This way they are the “bad guy” and you can come to your bird’s rescue. Also, wing clipping necessitates restraining the bird, which can be very dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you hold a bird too tightly around its chest, it can actually stop breathing. Let someone who knows how to properly restrain a bird show you how to do it.
Nail and beak trimming
Birds need very little actual grooming – they do most of the grooming themselves. They bathe themselves and they preen their feathers into perfection. When people say, “bird grooming,” they are referring to clipping the wings, clipping the nails, and conditioning/trimming the beak. A professional should do all of these grooming chores until you know how to do them, with the exception of the beak – only an avian veterinarian should tend to your bird’s beak. You can seriously injure the beak if you do something wrong, and the beak is very sensitive.
Nail trimming can be traumatic for a bird, especially if it has to be restrained to have it done. Also, the nail has a blood supply, called the “quick,” and if you cut into it the nail will bleed. You can stop the bleeding with styptic powder or flour. If you’re going to cut the nails yourself, use a guillotine-style clipper used for cat’s nails, or one specified for birds.
A really great, non-traumatic way to clip nails is the “sneak up” method. Hold your bird on your hand and talk to him in an animated way to distract him. Then, sneak up on the very tip of one nail and clip it off quickly and then turn around or do something to distract the bird from the fact that you just did that. You can do one nail a day, and in 8 days you’ll have all of them done. Remember to only clip the very tip of the nail. Don’t try to get too ambitious with this method!
A bird’s beak can get flaky and overgrown, often due to a poor diet, but sometimes just because the beak is built that way. The beak is made of keratin, the same material as our own nails. An avian vet can “condition” the beak using a file to smooth and shape it, and then oil it to keep it from drying. Don’t do this yourself!
Signs of illness in birds
You’ll often hear that birds hide the signs of illness until it’s too late, and the illness is either too far advanced to be cured, or the bird is belly up in the cage. The truth is, if you know your bird really well, you can easily notice the subtle signs of something being “not quite right.” Here are some signs of avian illness:
- Change of attitude. A typically active, playful bird that becomes listless and withdrawn may be feeling ill.
- Sleeping too much. A change in your bird’s sleeping habits can indicate illness, especially if the bird is sleeping on two feet with its feathers fluffed up to keep it warm. Sometimes an ill bird will crouch on the bottom of the cage.
- Discharge from nares: The nares are your bird’s nostrils and are found at the base of the beak.
- Discharge or bubbles from the beak: This is indicative of a respiratory infection.
- Clicking from the beak: A clicking sound that happens as your bird breathes indicates air sac mites – these usually occur in finches and canaries.
- Tail bobbing: A bird whose tail is bobbing (going back and forth) noticeably while at rest usually has labored breathing. Don’t mistake this kind of tail bobbing for the kind that accompanies singing or breathing heavy after exercise.
- Vomiting: Vomiting is different from regurgitating, which is what a bird does when courting another bird (or you!) or to feed young. Vomit usually sticks to the feathers around the face and the chest.
- Lack of upkeep: An ill bird will usually look unkempt and ratty because it isn’t preening as much.
- Being picked on by cage mates: Birds will pick on other birds that are ill, and may even kill the weakened one.
If you notice any of these signs, take your bird to your avian vet right away.
Signs of injury in birds
Just like with illnesses, birds like to downplay their injuries as well. But, if you’re observant, you will notice when something is wrong.
- Bleeding: If you notice any bleeding or dried blood on your bird, take him to the vet immediately. Birds don’t have that much blood, so even a small bleeding injury can create extreme distress.
- Leg: A leg injury may be quite obvious – you may see the leg hanging if it’s broken, or notice a broken toe, or even a toe that has been ripped off (perhaps by another bird or by an unsafe toy). Usually, minor toe injuries do not require veterinary care, but leg injuries do.
- Eye: Eye injuries are common among birds that thrash in the cage due to fear or night frights. Also, other birds can injure a weaker bird’s eyes. Always consider eye injuries serious.
- Change in attitude: An injured bird may sleep on the floor of the cage with its feathers fluffed, as if it’s ill. A formerly sweet bird may become aggressive and not want to be touched.
If your bird is injured you should take it to the avian vet as soon as possible. If you can’t get there quickly or you have to wait overnight, put the bird into a “hospital cage” until you can get to the doctor.
Making a Hospital Cage
A hospital cage is used when a bird isn’t feeling well, is injured, or is egg-bound. This is a warm, safe place for the bird to recuperate and rest, and be away from any stressors. You can use a commercial incubator or brooder as a hospital cage – these are great because they regulate temperature and humidity, but if you don’t have one of these, here are directions for a simple hospital cage.
- Line a 10-gallon fish tank with paper towels.
- Place a rolled-up hand towel in one end of the tank.
- Place a heating pad on “low” heat under one half of the tank – make sure that the other half isn’t on the pad.
- Use a screen to cover the top of the tank.
- Cover the tank at least 3/4 of the way with a towel so that the cage is a little darker inside and will stay warm.
- Include a very shallow dish of water – a very ill bird can drown in an inch of water.
- Include some of your bird’s favorite food, like Nutri-Berries, and something easy to eat, like millet spray.
Place the hospital cage in a quiet room. Keep a close eye on your bird to make sure that it’s feeling comfortable and not too warm. If you have one, place a thermometer in the tank to make sure that the temperature doesn’t go above 98 degrees Fahrenheit.
Broken blood feathers
Most feathers do not have a blood supply, but new, growing feathers do, so they will bleed when broken. A new feather is encased in a white sheath of keratin, and as it grows it bursts out of the sheath, which is either preened off of comes off on its own. Until the feather is fully mature, it still has a blood supply. Be very careful not to cut a blood feather. Sometimes, blood feathers will break if a bird falls or thrashes in the cage. In this case, you’ll have to pull the feather out from its root to get it to stop bleeding. It sounds barbaric, but if you leave the feather in the bird it will bleed for quite a while, and then perhaps become infected. Not all broken blood feathers cause this kind of tragedy, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you can’t get your bird to an avian vet to remove the blood feather, you can do it yourself. Restrain the bird properly in a towel, making sure that you don’t prevent the bird from breathing. Next, locate the bleeding feather – usually a wing or tail feather. Using needle-nose pliers, grasp the feather firmly close to the root, and pull it out – don’t yank – just pull hard enough to take it out. Then you can swab the area with a weak hydrogen peroxide solution.
Molting is the process by which a bird replaces old and worn feathers with new feathers. This doesn’t happen all at once – feathers are replaced on all parts of the bird’s body simultaneously, a few dozen at a time. You won’t see any bald patches on your bird, but you will notice quite a lot of feathers on a bottom of the cage and around it, and you will also notice “pinfeathers” peeking out from between the bird’s plumage. These white pins are feather sheathes made of keratin, and they protect the feather until it’s ready to emerge.
Molting usually happens seasonally, once a year, but it can sometimes happen twice a year, and birds can also go into a “soft molt” where they molt all year long. Molting time is determined by the time of year or how much daily light the bird receives.
Molting a stressful time for a bird – feather production takes a toll on the body, and if a bird is poorly nourished, the bird’s health can seriously suffer. Molting birds need extra protein and vitamins. A molting bird also needs more rest than usual. It might be a little cranky too – the new feathers can be itchy. Canaries will stop singing during molting time. Some birds don’t change attitude at all during molting, and may actually want you to help gently remove some of the itchy pinfeathers that emerge around the face and head – the bird can’t reach these by itself, and would usually have a mate help remove the sheaths. If your bird lets you, gently pinch the very tips of the sheathes to help the feather emerge. The bird may also want to be gently scratched on the head and face as well.
Some hens (female birds) will lay eggs with or without a mate present, and some will even lay them without a nest present. Cockatiels and lovebirds are notorious for this behavior. Seeing an egg on the bottom of the cage can be distressing for a bird’s guardian. What do you do about the egg? It seems cruel to take it away, but actually, if the egg is infertile (which it is if there’s no male present, and often even if there is a male present), then it’s not so nice to allow the bird to sit on the egg for weeks in attempt to hatch it. Also, the presence of one egg will prompt the bird to lay others to create a “clutch.” You can allow the “mom” to sit on it for a few days, but then you should remove the egg and all traces of a nest that she may have tried to build.
Egg laying is a perfectly normal behavior, but it’s not to be encouraged simply because it takes a large toll on the body. Eggs leach calcium from the bones, and egg-laying hens need a lot more nutrition – especially calcium and protein – than non-laying hens. You can discourage egg-laying by decreasing the amount of light your bird gets a day to less than 12 hours and by removing all “nesting” material, including paper.
Sometimes, if a bird isn’t in her prime or if she has recently had too many eggs, she can become “egg bound.” This is when an egg is stuck inside of her, usually because it is malformed, soft, or because she’s too weak to pass it. You may notice that her abdomen is distended and that she’s on the bottom of the cage, fluffed up and possibly distressed. Her droppings may be large and watery, or she may not have droppings at all.
Egg binding is a potentially deadly condition that requires immediate veterinary care. If you can’t get her to the vet right away, place her in a warm hospital cage and give her two drops of olive oil in her beak and several drops in her vent (where the egg comes out). Be very gentle and be careful not to aspirate (choke) her with the oil. The oil may lubricate the egg and allow it to pass – heat is also critical to this process, so make sure that the hospital cage is around 98 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, and that it’s well ventilated. Moisture is important too, so place a dish of water in the hospital cage as well. Keep an eye on her to make sure she’s okay, but don’t disturb her too much. Give her a chance to pass the egg.
Issues With Breeding
Many people “hobby breed” their birds, and this is quite accepted in certain species, such as budgies, canaries, doves, pigeons, finches, lovebirds, cockatiels, Indian ringnecks, and some other species that come in a variety of mutations and are relatively free-breeding (easy to breed and raise). However, breeding does come with some risks, and it’s important to be aware of them before you undertake this task. Any bird breeder will tell you that breeding birds actually costs more than you make – there are veterinary bills, feed costs, not to mention the time it takes to care for the parents and chicks.
Breeding birds takes more than just putting a nest in the cage with them. There’s actual know-how involved, a lot of which comes from actually doing it. Fortunately, there are hundreds of bird clubs that will offer you mentorship and guidance should you choose to breed your birds. Do not, under any circumstances, try to set your birds up for breeding without consulting an expert, someone who is experienced in the hobby who will guide you in the various details you need before you even begin – proper pairing, cage size and placement, next box size, diet, and so on. There are a lot of details to know before you begin! There are also some serious risks to both parent and chicks. Know what you’re getting into before you make your final decision. Bird breeding can be very rewarding, but it’s not without its pitfalls.
Quarantine is traditionally a period of 40 days in which a new bird should be separated from other birds in order to make sure that it’s healthy. Many deadly avian diseases are easily spread through the air or close contact, so it’s important to separate new birds from established birds. Many bird-keepers cut the time down to 30 days rather than 40, and find this to be as effective, especially if veterinary tests are pending in the meantime. Usually, once the veterinarian clears the bird, it’s fine to introduce to your flock.
Ideally, quarantine should take place in an area that’s completely separate from the established birds, such as a separate building, or an area that has a different ventilation system. If that’s not possible, separate them as much as possible. Always tend to the established birds first, and then to the new bird. Change your clothes and shoes, and wash thoroughly after tending to the new bird so that you don’t transfer any possible diseases to your other birds.
Birds need a period of solid, undisturbed sleep every night. A bird that’s not getting enough sleep can become cranky and even unwell. Most birds will do well with 12 to 13 hours of sleep per night. Any less than that and a bird may be pushed into breeding mode, especially in the spring. Birds are photosensitive, meaning that their bodies respond to light to regulate the breeding cycle. This doesn’t mean that 12 or more hours of light a day will definitely prompt your bird into a hormonal phase – some individuals are more sensitive to light than others.
If your bird’s room is going to be disturbed in the evening, consider a sleeping cage in another room where the bird can get some quiet. It’s also a good idea to stick with a routine and put your bird to bed at about the same time each evening, waking it up at the same time each day. Birds are creatures of habit.
All of this being said, birds are also adaptable creatures that can live happily with an unusual routine. Birds will “cat nap” when tired, so don’t fret too much about sleeping habits. Just do your best.
Other Pets and Your Bird
Most households containing multiple species can remain peaceful, even those animals that seem at odds, like dogs, cats, and birds. But, there are hazards to keeping various species together. Here are a few of the potential issues in a multi-pet household.
- Dogs: Birds and dogs can live peaceably depending on the individual dog. Some dogs actually make friends with birds, and some consider them part of the household, another family member to be protected. However, no amount of training is going to teach some dogs that birds aren’t squeaky toys or food. Some breeds, like terriers, sighthounds, and some sporting dogs are actually hardwired to view small, fast moving objects as prey. It’s tough to unravel a dog’s instinct. If your dog seems interested in your birds, your best bet is to keep the two pets completely separate. Remember, animals change as they get older – a puppy that wants the bird might grow into a dog that doesn’t care about it anymore. A puppy that doesn’t notice the bird might grow up into a hungry or playful dog that takes his chances with your avian friend.
- Cats: Cats and birds don’t make great household companions – most cats have a very strong prey drive and will view small birds as playthings or food. The bigger the bird, the less able a cat will be to test the boundaries, so small birds are more in danger in a household with cats. However, cats have pasteurella bacteria on their teeth and claws, and this is deadly to birds – one little scratch and it’s likely that your bird will become very ill, perhaps even die, within 48 hours. Any run-in with a cat should be considered extremely serious and requires medical attention.
- Snakes: Snakes are the natural enemy of birds. A snake should be kept as far away from birds as possible.
- Ferrets: Ferrets are also very hazardous to birds and should be kept in a separate area.
- Rats, rabbits, and other furry critters: Most “critters” aren’t dangerous to birds, but they do carry pasteurella bacteria, which is deadly to birds.
- Fish: The fish aren’t a problem, but the water is – keep all fish tanks and bowls covered. Birds are naturally curious creatures and may fall into the tank and drown while investigating or trying to have a bath.
Traveling with your bird
Traveling with your bird is easy if you take some precautions and steps to make it as stress-free as possible. Here are some important travel tips:
- If you’re traveling by air, make sure that you have an airline-approved carrier that will fit under your seat. Do not put your bird into cargo!
- Call your airline when you book your ticket and ask about their bird policy. Some airlines are no longer accepting birds in the cabin, so don’t get stuck at the airport! Book your bird onto the flight when you make your reservation. Most airlines have limit on how many pets they take per flight, so make sure that your bird has its flying papers.
- Make sure that you take your bird’s health certificate with you. You will not be allowed on the plane without it.
- If you’re traveling by car, your bird should always be in a carrier. If you can’t get the safety belt around the carrier, use bungee cords to secure it to the seat. It’s very dangerous to allow your bird to ride freely in the car.
- If you have to leave the car, always take your bird with you – the car may become overheated, or a thief may spot your bird and steal it.
- Birds are not allowed on Amtrak, but they are allowed on some local trains – call to be sure and always have your bird in a carrier. The same applies for busses.
- In case of an emergency, write your bird’s name and species, your phone number, and your veterinarian’s phone number in permanent ink on the bird’s carrier, and draw an arrow on each side to indicate which way is “up.”
- Most birds are fairly calm inside the carrier, but some may panic. If you have a panicky bird, line the entire carrier with soft towels to avoid any injury from thrashing.
- Line the carrier with paper towels. Put your bird’s favorite food inside the carrier along with a shallow dish of water or a water bottle (if your bird knows how to use one). Or, you can include a dish of cut fruit, like apples and oranges, so that your bird can get moisture from them. If the trip is long, check on his water often to make sure that it hasn’t spilled.
- It’s a good idea to clip your bird’s wing feathers before the trip in case the carrier opens.
What To Do If Your Bird Flies Away
It’s a tragic moment for any bird keeper to watch a beloved bird fly away – and it happens quite often. Flying away isn’t just a result of not having the wing feathers properly clipped. It’s also a result of a carelessly opened window or door, and sometimes it’s a matter of misjudging the bird, thinking that it will always stay on your shoulder, or that its wing feathers haven’t grown in yet. Here’s what to do if your bird flies away:
- Try to keep an eye on the bird and call for it to come down from wherever it has perched, usually a tree or other high spot.
- If you can, call someone to come outside and bring you the bird’s food container, or something else the bird likes. If you have to get it yourself, move quickly. Try to call the bird down using the food.
- If that doesn’t work (and most of the time it doesn’t because the bird is scared or distracted), go inside quickly and get the bird’s cage, or any cage, and the bird’s friend (another bird) if it has one. The other bird will call to its friend to come back. Prop the empty cage door open and put food and water inside, then sit back a few feet (maybe out of sight) and wait for the bird to come back. If it does, rush over and shut the door.
- If your bird is friendly, try climbing a ladder as close to it as possible and lure it down with food.
- If you can’t get your bird to come down, wait until nighttime when the bird will have to find a roost. If you know where the bird is when darkness falls, then you can use a ladder to reach him – grab him very quickly or use a net so that he doesn’t go flying off into the darkness.
- If your bird has flown out of sight, get in your car and drive around looking for it. Do anything possible to locate it in the daylight hours.
- If you can’t find your bird, immediately call all of the local animal shelters, veterinary offices, and pet stores and inform them about your lost bird. Someone may find your bird and take it to one of these places.
- Make up flyers with your bird’s photo, a brief description of your bird, and offer a reward (but don’t say how much the reward is). Post the flyers in high traffic areas within a 10-mile radius of where the bird was lost.
- As a preventative measure, if your bird can talk, try to teach it your phone number – it’s a long shot, but it may help to bring the bird home if it is lost. You can also make a recording of your bird’s vocalizations and play it outside if your bird is lost – the sound may bring it back.
- Make sure that your larger bird is micro chipped and that the chip’s number is registered in a database.
Reading Your Bird’s Band
These days, most states require that all birds sold should be “closed banded,” meaning that a small, metal band is placed by the breeder onto the bird’s leg when it is just a few days old. Some breeders don’t do this, especially with smaller birds, but most do band their babies, especially if they intend to sell the birds to stores or to the general public. Some breeders of small birds will use a colored plastic band to identify gender or individuals.
Close metal bands have several letters and numbers on them that you can use to identify your bird, and perhaps even find out where it came from.
- The band has a number unique to the bird – this helps the breeder keep records of all the babies.
- The band may have a state abbreviation on it, like TX or FL.
- The band may have the acronym of a bird club on it or an acronym of the aviary’s name.
- Most bands have a year on them so that you know when your bird was hatched.
How to Choose and Instruct a Bird Sitter
If you can’t take your bird with you when you travel, you’re going to need a competent bird sitter. Perhaps a friend, relative, or neighbor will agree to bird sit for you, or perhaps you’ll hire a pet sitter to watch your feathered friend. Here are some tips for choosing and instructing a bird sitter.
- Find someone who knows something about birds. The sitter doesn’t have to be a bird expert, but he or she should have cared for birds before and be familiar with what they need.
- If you hire someone, make sure that they are licensed and bonded (insured) and that they already have bird clients. Ask for references from other bird owners and follow up on them.
- Leave enough food and medicine for your bird for double the time you’ll be gone. You never know if you’ll be delayed, and you don’t want your bird sitter to play a guessing game about what your bird needs.
- Leave detailed instructions about feeding, watering, cleaning, and lighting. If you can, put lighting and the radio/TV on a timer, but ask the sitter to check it every day to make sure it’s working properly.
- Leave the sitter with all of your contact information and your veterinarian’s contact info. Ask your veterinarian if you can leave your credit card on file in case there’s a problem and the bird needs to come in.
- Call the sitter at least every other day to check on your bird.
- Before you leave, give your bird some extra toys that you know are safe, and remove any toys that need maintenance, like cotton rope toys or huts.