How to Care for a Bird (with Pictures) - wikiHow

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8-11-2022, 19:10
Birds are extremely social by nature, and thrive on company, nurturing, and frequent interaction. Many species of birds make fun, engaging pets. If you're considering bird ownership, the care requirements include providing good housing, nutritious food, and keeping an eye on the bird's health. You'll also need to provide plenty of enrichment and interaction, to keep your pet bird happy and alert.

Housing a Bird

  1. Purchase a large cage for housing the bird. Birds thrive in large cages, so opt for the largest cage that your housing space can accommodate. A general rule of thumb is that the width of the cage should be at least twice the wingspan of your bird. For some birds, being able to fly short distances within the cage may be an important part of ensuring it has a healthy living space. Some other fairly standard requirements include:
    • The cage bars should not be too small; the bird's talons might get caught on or in them if the bar wires or lengths are too small. Equally, the bars should not be so large that the head of the bird could get trapped or the bird could squeeze through and escape.
    • The bigger the space in the cage, the better. Although bird cages that are bigger tend to be harder to clean and are more expensive, if you are not in the house often or don't have time to take the bird out for exercise, space in their cage is critical. Small cages can lead to behavior problems.
  2. Choose a rectangular cage for your bird. Circle cages are bad for the bird. There is hardly any space for the bird, and no corners to feel safe in. Moreover, the circle tends to cause the bird to twist its head; the bird can develop behavioral problems from the constant turning and turning.
    • Do not buy guillotine-styled doors, since they are easier for the bird to escape from.
  3. Ensure that the space is more than adequate if housing more than one bird. Never house more than one bird in a small cage. Birds need space to retreat, forage, fly and be apart from other birds, so the more birds being kept, the larger the cage must be. Aviaries (large cages that are akin to small sheds) are more appropriate for keeping several birds at the same time.
    • If keeping different species of birds, you'll need to be sure that the animals are compatible when placed together.
  4. Ensure that placement of the cage is somewhere warm and comfortable. Cages should be kept indoors, and in a room with frequent traffic. Birds are social animals, and will become unhappy if isolated in a room. Also remember that you'll be cleaning out the cage frequently, so hang it somewhere that you can access easily.
    • Birds in hanging cages can often be transported outdoors to hang under a porch or similar place for daytime fresh air. Always remember to bring the bird back in before cool evening breezes and night air arrive.
    • The location of the bird's cage will also be affected by the bird's personality. While a very social bird might love being the center of attention and seeing constant human traffic, a more nervous bird might be happier kept somewhere quieter and away from hustle and bustle (but still being able to interact with the family). Nervous birds may do better in the corner of a room or in an area with the back of their cage partially covered.
    • Avoid placing a cage in front of a window permanently. The bird will be on the constant lookout for “enemies,” which can cause it to feel nervous. Putting a cage against a wall can give the bird a break from worrying about predators.
  5. Place some old magazines papers on the bottom of the cage. This makes cleaning much easier, and the papers can be disposed of with ease, then fresh ones placed straight down for the next day's use.
    • Keep a supply of papers hand; junk mail and old newspapers also work well.
    • If you prefer a more traditional method of lining your bird's cage for waste removal, line the bottom of the cage with wood chips, kitty litter, or sand.

Feeding Your Bird

  1. Give your bird varied types of food on a daily basis. As a rule of thumb, a healthy diet for most bird breeds consists of 75% pellets and 25% human table foods. Since precise dietary requirements are dependent on the species, talk with an avian veterinarian to see what type of food your breed of bird needs. Over time, you'll begin to see patterns emerging in the types of food that your bird prefers.
    • Ensure that you have correct feed for the species of bird. You must find the correct food for your bird, as some birds are picky, while others have very strict dietary requirements. Usually the bag/can of food will have a label telling you which breed of bird it is for. If you don't know what the best food choices are, ask the breeder, the retailer or leave a question on a specialized forum of people who care for this species of bird.
    • Bird pellets, crumbles, or nuggets can be a good way of ensuring adequate nutrition for your bird. These tend to combine healthy seeds, vegetables, fruits, and grains, so the bird can eat a nutritionally balanced diet. These are preferable to a seed mix, which allows birds to pick out tasty seeds and leave the healthy ones behind.
    • Feed new seed daily; always empty out the eaten shells the same day too, as this keeps the seed fresh and clean.
  2. Give your bird fresh fruits and vegetables every day or 2. This adds greens and variety to their diet. A mixture or variety of foods is both healthy and fun for birds. Cut up and serve your bird a variety of fruits and veggies, including oranges, berries, spinach, and celery.
    • You can also give your bird nuts and cooked beans for flavor and variety with their meals.
  3. Provide constant fresh water. There should be a water dish provided; fill this daily with average temperature water. Give your bird water in a large, shallow dish, since birds can struggle to drink out of deep dishes. Change water daily to ensure that it is always fresh.
    • Place the water dish at the opposite end of the bird's cage from the food dish. This will force them to move around and be active to eat and drink.
    • Dehydration can occur very quickly in birds, within 1 to 2 days without access to water.
  4. Keep the feeding arrangements sanitary. Water and food cups should be located up high out of the way of any branches above the birds, since birds often drop feces into their food, which isn't sanitary. If the birds ingest their own fecal matter, they could become very ill.
    • Along with your daily cleaning of the cage, be sure to clean out the bird's food and water dishes as well.
  5. Feeding the bird regularly at about the same time each day. This could be when you eat, or at an arbitrary time like 4 pm. However, choose a time and try to stick to it, so that the bird knows when to expect its food. If you want to stick to the natural feeding time of birds, feed approximately half an hour after sunrise and just before sunset. During the day, small fruit and vegetable snacks can be left in the cage.
    • Smaller birds with a higher metabolism may need to be fed more often.
  6. Make feeding interesting for the bird. You can make the eating experience more enjoyable for your bird by making eating time an interactive time too. For example, encourage your bird to eat a piece of food at a time, straight from your hand.
    • Or, encourage your talking bird to sing and talk for its food.
    • You can also try interactive puzzle feeders, which allow the bird to mimic foraging behaviors it would use in the wild. This provides critical mental stimulation for your bird.

Providing Your Bird with Toys and Perches

  1. Start off with at least 4 toys that are varied and interesting. Make sure they are bird-safe and that toes or beaks cannot get caught in any parts of the toys. Bells make great bird toys. Be sure that the bell does not have small gaps in it though, as this can become caught up in the bird's feet. Make sure to have no mirrors as it can cause problems along the way.
    • Items that are not safe on toys used for birds include: frayed ropes (could entangle bird feet and beaks); wire (might impale the bird); “jingle-bell” type bells (the bird's feet might get stuck in the small cracks).
  2. Give the bird new types of toys to stimulate it. Change it up a bit! Birds can get bored with the same toys, day in and day out. By buying new toys, you increase their enjoyment and reduce the chances of feather plucking and other boredom-stimulated behaviors. Birds especially enjoy chewable toys, made out of things like pine cones, rawhide chews, rope, or white pine wood.
  3. Set up differently shaped and textured perches for the bird's feet. Birds will spend the majority of their time perched in their cage, so set up a few different perches at different heights. Set perches on opposite sides of the cage as well, so the birds can fly and exercise. Include some wooden perches, and some natural tree branches for variety. This helps “file” the bird's beak and nails, so there is less work for you. Don't include sand perches because that could potentially scratch the bird's legs.
    • If you get a natural wood perch, be sure to scrub thoroughly before use, and do not use any cleaning products because many of these contain ingredients that can be toxic to birds.
  4. Place food and enrichment items in multiple places around the cage. This will fulfill the bird's need to move about in search of food. You can also weave food into the bars of the cage, hide food inside a toy or an enrichment device and hang food from the top or sides of the cage. All of these will help to satisfy the bird's foraging instinct and is a form of mental stimulation.

Socializing with Your Bird around the House

  1. Bird-proof your living area. Check the safety of the rooms before allowing the bird to fly and explore the house outside of its cage. Ensure that the room the bird is contained in is safe. This includes closing blinds, rolling up cords, closing toilet seats, ensuring that hot radiators are turned off and checking that open fireplaces are closed off. (This also goes for simply allowing the bird to fly around in an enclosed space.)
    • Most birds need outside-of-cage time. This time must always be supervised and the space must always be safe.
  2. Let your bird explore your house outside of its cage. This will give it much more freedom, and the bird will enjoy flying around rather than remaining cooped up inside of its cage all day long. Without this type of socialization, birds can end up biting, screaming, feather plucking and forming phobias. Hence, this is a very important part of keeping the bird happy and well-adjusted.
    • You can even turn your porch into a screened-in aviary, and let your bird spend time in the outdoors.
  3. Regularly hold and pet the bird. Birds crave socialization with humans, and will become bored, lonely, and unhealthy if left in their cage all day. The more often you handle the bird, the more excited the bird will be to see you and will likely greet you with whistles, chirps and bird talk.
    • If you regularly handle the bird, it will also be easier for you to take it to the vet's office, since the bird will be relatively docile to touch.
  4. Ensure that the bird gets daily exercise. Daily exercise is recommended for all birds that are tame and can be handled safely. Birds love to interact with their owners and play with toys together. If you can release the bird from its cage regularly, it will be all the happier for this. This is an absolute must if you want to have a healthy relationship with your bird; birds can suffer a lot being trapped in cages all of the time, considering birds normally fly great distances in their natural environment.
    • If you have a finch or other bird that is not meant to be handled, this is not an issue. But if you have a bird that you wish to handle, is living in a small cage, or just needs more exercise, be sure to include exercise for the bird on a regular basis.
  5. Give the bird lots of attention. Frequent attention will keep your bird from becoming bored or lonely. This will allow you and your bird to become more attached, and will result in a happy, healthy bird. In some cases, a good level of attention can reduce shyness in some species of birds, as familiarity breeds reassurance.
    • You can even talk to your bird. This is especially important during the first couple of years together. Birds are fast learners and will surprise you with their range of sound effects.
    • Play music together. For example, your bird might learn to sing sweetly when you play the piano or other instrument.
  6. Let the bird ride on your shoulder as long as you've considered the risks. New bird owners often want their small- to medium-sized birds to stand on their shoulder. However, if your bird comes to see you as just another perch, they may defecate on you or bite your face or ear, or swallow your jewelry. If you want the bird to sit on your shoulder, train it to step off of you and onto your finger as soon as you place your finger next to your shoulder.
    • Until birds reach sexual maturity, it's impossible to gauge their aggressiveness. Whereas as juvenile bird may sit docilely on your shoulder, the bird may start to bite once it's matured.
    • Do not walk outside with the bird on your shoulder. It could fly away and not return.

Taking Care of Bird Hygiene and Health

  1. Find a vet who is qualified to work with birds. Get your bird checked before you bring it home, and then regularly afterwards. The vet should inspect your bird at least once a year. Not all vets are qualified to work with birds—or have much experience doing so—so be sure to check the vet's credentials.
    • Take your bird to the vet immediately if it gets sick. Birds can get even sicker very quickly; the sooner that the vet can see the bird, the better.
  2. Provide water in a large enough container for self-cleansing. Birds are fully capable of handling their own grooming. Most likely, the bird will clean itself in its water bowl, provided the bowl is large enough for it to use as a bath. Also, birds bathe to keep cool in warmer weather, so be sure to provide water for washing in when the temperature is on the warmer side.
    • In hot weather, put the bird outside, either in its cage or on a perch (only have it out of its cage if its wings are clipped, so that it can't fly away). Squirt the bird with water from a spray bottle. Birds love the cooling sensation.
    • If it's cold outside, you can buy a perch that mounts to your shower wall by suction cups and give the bird a shower indoors.
  3. Clean the cage on a daily basis. A clean cage reduces the changes for bacterial, fungal or viral infections from occurring in your bird. Regular removal of bird droppings is very important for maintaining good bird health. A bird living in a clean environment tends to be a more active and happy bird than one living in filth. To keep the cage clean:
    • Change the bedding regularly.
    • Remove droppings from perches/toys.
    • Remove uneaten food that has been sitting around on the base of the cage.
    • If your bird is molting (this is common with parrots, for example), there will be a need to vacuum up the molted feathers daily; this tends to occur when there is a warm spell.
    • Only clean with basic, non-toxic cleaning supplies. Birds are easily poisoned, so find out if a product is safe for birds before using it.
  4. Only clip a bird's wings if it's necessary. In some birds, such as parrots, this is essential to prevent serious or fatal flight accidents in the indoor or caged environment. Talk to your veterinarian about this requirement for your bird and find someone qualified to do it, should it need doing. In most cases, a bird's wings will not need to be clipped.
    • Trimming is aimed at restricting, not preventing flight, and only the primary flight feathers are the subject of a trimming, so the trimmer must know what to do.
    • The bird's toenails may also need trimming, especially on larger adult birds. Usually toenails are not trimmed on baby or small birds, as birds need them to stay on the perches. But the toenails of adult parrots, for example, should be trimmed. Ask your veterinarian to explain how to do this safely.
  5. Know the signs of a bird that is either too hot or too cold. Most birds exhibit similar symptoms for being overheated or too cold and you must attend to fixing either situation as quickly as possible, or there is a risk of the bird dying. Generally speaking, most pet bird breeds prefer a slightly cool indoor temperature of about 70 °F (21 °C). The things to watch for include:
    • An overheated bird: The feet will feel hot to touch, the bird may be panting (a rapid breathing rate), fluttering from the throat, red nares (nasal openings) and hot breath. All of these signs signal an emergency situation and you must contact the vet immediately.
    • A freezing bird: The bird will hunch in, using its feathers to covers its feet and it will fluff out its feathers. Check for drafts, move the bird away from a cold room or area, and place the bird in a warmer spot. Windows can be a source of cold air during the winter months.


  • If you keep passerine birds, you may need to put a bit of grit (sand or small rocks) in a bowl; they need this to assist crushing seeds in the crop (chest area). However, not all birds need this grit, and if they eat too much, it can create a blockage. Finches and canaries tend to find a little grit necessary, but don't give it to budgies, cockatiels or parrots.
  • It is helpful to get it a partner, so that the bird has constant company. However, always be considerate of the temperament of both birds, along with knowing the potential for compatibility before introducing the two. If you are not sure how to introduce the birds, ask a bird expert or your veterinarian for advice.
  • You might like to consider covering your bird's cage at night, to make the bird feel safe, secure, and warm. However, not all birds like being covered, and it actually can frighten some birds. Gauge the utility of covering the cage from how your bird responds.


  • Avoid throwing chewing gum anywhere near the bird or outdoors. Both wild and tame birds think that chewing gum is some kind of food particle and tend to swallow it, only to be choked by it and die.
  • Do not encourage birds to land or play anywhere in your yard or garden where they might be attacked by your pets.
  • Birds can nip and bite and in some cases, sexual maturity can cause a bird to become aggressive and challenging. Make use of towels to handle difficult birds, to prevent you from being bitten and distract a biting bird as much as possible. If the bird attempts to bite, cease interaction in relation to the activity to led to the biting and interact in a different way. Do not reward biting. If you are having severe problems with a bird behaving aggressively, talk to your veterinarian.
  • There are some foods that are not suitable for many species of birds. For example, don't feed the bird any alcohol, chocolate, or avocado. Each of these contain chemical components that can be toxic for the bird.
  • Birds can be loud and bothersome. However, sometimes the bird's loud sounds can mean that something is wrong. For example, a short, loud sound repeated often could indicate that your bird is experiencing discomfort. Always listen to the sounds your bird makes and know its normal sounds, so that you can better determine whether different sounds are signs of something serious.
  • Keep cords (electrical, blinds, curtains, etc.) away from bird cages. Birds are naturally curious and use their beaks to explore and will chew on anything they can reach. Electrical cords can result in electrocution if chewed, while blinds or curtain cords could cause strangulation or amputation.
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