Birds can be fantastic pets and companions. They’re great for apartment living, they’re fun to watch, and the right species can bond with you just as strongly as a cat or dog. Science even backs it up. Birds can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure in their people… just like their furry counterparts.
But don’t go into bird ownership expecting a low-maintenance pet. While they may not take up much space, and feeding them is relatively inexpensive, birds have unique needs for socialization and enrichment. If you’re new to bird ownership, or just looking for some new ideas to keep your bird busy, we’ve got bird care and enrichment tips to keep your feathered friend healthy and happy.
bird care 101
Choosing The Right Bird
Before you bring a bird home, narrow down the types of birds you are interested in. Keep in mind that many birds can easily live for 20 years or more. Some parrots have made it to over 100! Birds are an extremely long-term commitment.
If you want a social bird that can be cage-free and bond with you, then a canary is not a good choice. Budgies, lovebirds, cockatiels, and other small parrots are social and love being handled. Many of these petite parrots can even learn to talk! Doves and pigeons are also very social birds that make fun, friendly pets.
Canaries and finches are less social with humans, which is good if you prefer to look but not touch. They tend to do better in pairs, since they need companionship and need cages large enough to allow them to move about freely (especially important since they won't have cage-free time).
Large parrots are highly intelligent and make fun and charming companions. African greys, cockatoos, Amazon parrots, and Eclectus parrots are beautiful birds. They require ample mental stimulation and enrichment activities to keep them happy. Without enrichment and socialization, birds can turn to negative, and dangerous, behaviors like self-mutilation.
If you’re in the Oakland area don’t make a pet shop your first stop. Palomacy and Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue can help you adopt the perfect companion bird. By adopting, you can give a bird a second chance at a long and happy life.
Basic Bird Care
Birds need more than just a little sprinkle of seeds to stay healthy. While they may not require intensive grooming, there are some basic cleaning tips to keep their skin and feathers in tip-top condition.
Provide them with a safe, stimulating environment. Cages should be large enough for perches, food and water bowls, toys, and ease of movement. (For finches and canaries this means a flight cage is necessary.) Birds have very sensitive systems, so make sure your cage is made of bird-safe materials. Avoid wood, plastic, and antique cages.
Keep the cage close to where you spend your time. Birds are social, and even if they aren’t a hands-on species, you are part of their “flock”.
Feed them a species-appropriate seed mix or pellets and a variety of fresh fruits and veggies.
Make sure paper and perches are cleaned frequently. Dirty cages don't just stink, they can lead to nasty foot infections.
Keep those nails trimmed. For birds that aren’t routinely handled, rough perches can keep their nails filed down. Birds that are regularly handled should be acclimated to having their feet touched so trims are not a stressful experience.
Regular vet visits are just as important for birds as they are for non-exotic pets. Oakland has great options for veterinarians who specialize in bird care, including The Medical Center For Birds and Bay Area Bird and Exotics Hospital.
enrichment toys and activities for birds
It turns out “bird-brained” isn’t exactly an insult. Birds are very intelligent and need mental stimulation to keep them satisfied. A bored bird can be just as destructive as a bored puppy, and unfortunately, this destruction can often be aimed at its own body. Plucking feathers, screaming, aggression toward you, and even chewing off its own toes are all signs of a bored, stressed bird.
Fortunately, keeping your bird entertained doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. Simulating natural behaviors, like finding food, climbing, and encouraging them to move are all beneficial. Keep a stash of extra toys and activities around so you can swap them out if you can see your bird losing interest.
Did you know that birds are foraging animals? Treat or foraging toys make a bird have to work to get their food. You can buy foraging toys like this one designed for parrots, or DIY your own. You can use finger traps, coffee filters, and even empty toilet paper rolls!
Stacking cups, untreated wooden toys, wooden spools on natural fiber rope (an easy DIY), stainless steel bells, and crinkly paper they can pull out of a box or bag make great toys. If they can chew it, move it, destroy it, or make noise with it, your bird will love it.
Climbing toys like rope ladders and swinging perches can keep your bird occupied.
Out of the cage, social time is very important for parrots, even the small ones like budgies and cockatiels. Social time can be training time too. Birds can be trained to step up on a finger and to come when called, and those are just the basics! Birds can be trained extensively if you put the effort in.
bird care in oakland while you’re away
Birds can be very easily stressed when their environment changes. But what if you’re heading out of town? If you’re in Oakland, we have the solution. Give us a call! At Fur and Feather Pet Care, we specialize in exotic pet care… and that includes birds! This means, we’ll help to eliminate your bird’s stress while you’re away, giving you invaluable peace of mind.
When we visit your bird, they’ll get fresh food and water, fresh chopped veggies and fruit (if needed), and fresh paper in their cage daily.
They will also get the socialization that they’re used to. If your bird gets out of cage time when you’re home, they’ll get it with us too! We’ll also make sure that their cage has ample activities to entertain them and keep them occupied. Whether you have toys you prefer or you’d like us to DIY some, we’re happy to come up with something fun and engaging for them.
Most importantly, we’ll keep an eye on your bird, and make sure that they don’t exhibit any signs of distress. If your bird seems quiet, is sitting on the bottom of the cage, or shows any signs of injury or illness, you’ll be alerted immediately.
Why is your bird so safe with us? Because with Fur and Feather Pet Care, you aren’t just getting an average pet sitter. You’re getting a Registered Veterinary Technician with years of hands-on experience working with and caring for birds. Birds are prey animals. This means that they’re very subtle about their signs of distress (as, in the wild, they wouldn’t want to attract a predator). This is why it’s so important that your bird is cared for by a trained eye - someone who can spot the slightest change in their demeanor.
Our founder Michelle hasn’t just worked with pet birds. One of the highlights of her career was volunteering in a Macaw reintroduction program in Costa Rica. Birds are very close to her heart, and your bird will be too!
Curious about our services? Check out our Services page!