Domestic Birds

The Pymble Vet
Dec 16, 2021

Birds are beautiful and intelligent animals which makes for a wonderful companion. To enjoy the benefits of owning a bird and to ensure your bird is healthy and happy, great love and care is needed.

Bringing a bird into your home should be a happy and rewarding experience. A well cared for bird will keep you entertained for years with many birds living a lifespan of between 10-80 years.

Having a bird as part of your family is a considerable responsibility as they are totally dependent on you for their food, water, shelter and good health.  Birds on a poor diet and in a non-stimulating environment can have a reduced lifespan and an unhappy life.


As birds can get stressed quite easily, it is ideal for your bird to get used to you over several days. Don’t try and grab your bird straight away, instead put your hand in the aviary or cage with some food, and eventually your bird will step on your finger. This should be done slowly and on the bird’s terms. 


Understanding bird behaviour in the wild is very important to understanding their behaviour as companions. For instance, parrots are social animals in the wild. They roost, fly and forage in flocks. Your family is the flock for a pet bird and it wants to be part of family activities. If your family is in one room and the bird is in its cage in another, the bird may scream to get the flock’s attention. Similarly, many species of parrot’s mate for life. So, when a parrot bonds with one person and is showing offensive behaviour toward others, it is simply protecting its “mate.” Giving the bird equal time with all family members is a great way to minimise the chance of aggressive behaviour. If it does display aggressive behaviour, please seek advice from us by phoning 94994010. 

Birds that always call, talk and sing are in fact demanding the attention it craves. It is a very rare occurrence for a bird to be happy on its own. Many bird diseases and various symptoms in birds are related to stress, frustration and boredom. Television and radios are occasional comforts, but they are not long-term substitutes for company.

If you have any questions or concerns about caring for your pet bird, call us on 9499 4010.

Many birds enjoy baths or showers and even enjoy going into the shower with their owners. Avoid using soaps when your bird is with you. Alternatively spray lightly with a spray bottle or hose on a fine mist spray. Birdbaths can be provided, but it is best not to leave birdbaths in cages all the time as the water may very quickly become soiled. 

Birds also need a full spectrum of light. Sunlight through a closed window is not adequate as vitamin D is absorbed from natural sunlight. 

Birds also need to have at least 10-12 hours in total darkness each night. If a bird is kept in a room that is used at night, then a blackout cover is needed. For many species of birds, the period of darkness may be varied during the year to mimic natural seasons.


(See note below on heavy metal poisoning).

Cages are a home to protect birds, not a cage to imprison them. Pet birds need protection when their owners are away, from other predators and from the poisons and other dangers that may be part of or around the house.

A cage should be rectangular preferably at least enough depth for 2 birds to extend their wings fully. Birds are not helicopters so tall cages are not appropriate. Birds should spend the maximum amount of time supervised outside their cage in order to get healthy exercise. Without this, birds become overweight and depressed. If you are concerned about catching your bird or if it is reluctant, simply dim the lights and the bird will be easier to catch.


(See note below on heavy metal poisoning).

Aviaries are the preferred housing option as they provide a lot more room for your bird to exercise.  Your bird should not be able to fit its head through the bars and the cage should be strong enough, so your bird won’t be able to bend or chew through the bars.

Cover the flooring of your birds aviary with grit or newspaper and clean the aviary at least once a week, including emptying and replacing the grit.  


Poor perches commonly lead to sores on bird’s feet. In the past sandpaper was recommended to shorten nails, in fact all it manages to do is cause sore feet. Perches should be made of natural wood branches of varying sizes and not doweling or plastic. You should also consider the size of the perching depending on the species of birds. This will differ depending on the size of it’s feet. 

Most cages and aviaries come with a perch, but usually the perches are too smooth.  A perch should be fairly rough to help nails from over growing and stop lesions forming on the skin. A branch from a tree is a free and great option, or perch covers and mineral perches are available from pet stores.

Feeding Your Bird

It is vital that your bird gets the required nutrition for growth, health, and adult development. A balanced diet is the most important part of a healthy bird’s life. The common problems that are seen by veterinarians include obesity, egg binding and vitamin A deficiency.

Choose a feed that has been designed by a nutritionist to provide all the nutrients and vitamins required for healthy development and assists in the prevention of disease. Feeding the right food throughout your bird’s life will assist in fighting various health problems.

Many birds are fed seed as their sole diet: birds love this as it is interesting to open and often high in fat, therefore tasty. But dried packaged seeds are low in vitamins (especially A), some seed mixtures contain added vitamins and minerals, however in some situations birds simply eat around these “vitamin balls”.  Many birds also select only one or two types of seed in the whole mix and will not eat any other food or seed.  And some bird’s won’t eat seed at all so please do your research on the individual species. 

To provide a balanced diet many other foods may need to be offered daily. Vegetables especially green vegetables are extremely important. Good examples of green vegetables include spinach, silver beet, endives, parsley and celery. Fresh grasses, milk thistle, dandelion and fresh fruits are also great. Good quality bird pellets can also be used and the right one will depend on the species. 

Provide cuttlefish or mineral stones at all times for your bird as it’s a great source of calcium and helps with your birds’ beak health and shape (again this will depend on the species).

Grit is essential in your birds’ diet to help breakdown seeds in its gut and help with egg shell formation when breeding (which may not be appropriate to you but still vital to know).

Food to Avoid

Avoid feeding your bird avocados, fruit seeds, rhubarb, chocolate, onions, raw or dried beans, eggplants, cherries, beetroot, cabbage, and oxalis.

Safe Foods

Safe food to feed your bird in moderation may include pears, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, broccoli, celery, capsicums, cauliflowers, carrots, cuttlefish, spinach, zucchini and pumpkin. Again, this will depend on the species. 

Water for your Bird

Food and water bowls should be placed in cages where the bird will not defecate in them. Placing bowls away from underneath perches will help. If your bird has parasites or any kind of bacterial infections they will not improve if your bird consistently eats and drinks their own faeces. 

It is best not to place any materials on the ground that encourages your bird to eat off the floor. Placing bowls on D cups appropriately near perches is best. Also, use a grill to allow faeces to fall through or plain paper.  

Also avoid using metal toys or plastic-coated bag ties in the cage as these may lead to heavy metal poisoning (see health note below).

Toys and Exercise

It is important to provide your bird with toys and puzzles within their housing. As birds are very intelligent animals, they need stimulation to keep them from boredom. For tame birds, it is vital to let your bird out of the enclosure to help maintain fitness and keep your budgie from becoming overweight.


A word for cigarette/tobacco smokers

Smoking is extremely hazardous to birds. Their lungs, in combination with their air sacs, are an extremely efficient breathing system, the skin can also become irritated by the smoke and it is considered one of the reasons for self-mutilation. Many smokers assume that if they smoke on the other side of the room the bird will be safe but this is not true. Smokers are advised to smoke somewhere outside or in a separate, well-ventilated room.
Another problem that can arise from smoking is the nicotine staining on their owners fingers. Bird’s feet sitting on this part of the hand often get dermatitis of their feet. Finally, nicotine on cigarettes is extremely toxic if ingested. Owners should keep cigarettes away from birds and dispose of butts sensibly.


Birds that live in aviaries should be wormed every three months.  Inside birds need to be wormed at least twice a year.  


To prevent mites and lice treat your bird every 6 weeks with a mite and lice spray. Spray your bird according to the instructions on the bottle and spray the cage and toys.  Be sure to remove any food and water prior to treatment.

Symptoms of Ill Health

Vet visits are required when your bird is looking ill and at least once a year at a minimum.  Keep a close eye on your bird for any of the following symptoms: not eating, puffed up feathers, sleeping excessively, throwing up, abnormal droppings, sitting low or at the bottom of the aviary/cage and discharge from nostrils, eyes or beak.

Common Illnesses and Diseases

Malignant Tumors, Lymphomas, and Fatty Tumors

These may be cause from seed only diets, and can be benign or cancerous.

Scaly Face

These are little organisms that live on your bird and weaken the bird’s health. This is mainly common in Budgies.


This occurs from a lack of iodine and causes the thyroid gland to enlarge.


A large organism which causes a bird to lose its strength, energy and appetite very quickly.

Heavy metal poisoning

Heavy metal poisoning is a common problem seen at veterinary clinics. Many birds are exposed to heavy metals in their cages or their environment. Lead, zinc and copper are the most common metals involved. They are found in galvanised wire, paint, copper wire, metal ties, rusty metal toys and backs of mirrors etc.

Cages and aviaries should be made of stainless steel, powder-baked or the new BHP polymer-covered wire. Scrub galvanised wire with vinegar and a wire brush, then rinse the vinegar off and repeat, this well help minimise the zinc toxicity but will not eliminate it. Weathering the wire (leaving it outside to the elements) will not detoxify the metal either.

When cared for correctly and allowed sufficient exercise and socialisation, birds are a long-living, intelligent and fun-loving companion pet.

If you have any questions or concerns about caring for your pet bird, please do not hesitate to contact us on 9499 4010.


Pets Domain

Vet West


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