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Physical and Mental Needs of Captive Birds

Pune Dracker, ASPCA

Talk is Cheep

The following is an excerpt taken from Good Sports
(ASPCA Animal Watch – Spring 1995).

Though the physical and mental needs of captive birds in home environments have not been well studied, we do know that Polly most definitely wants more than a cracker. Says Dr. Michael Krinsley of ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital, “All birds should have ‘Out Time’ everyday for at least 1 to 3 hours (Editor’s note: this is not advisable small birds like canaries and finches). It’s very good for their psychological health and gets rid of the boredom of sitting in a cage.”

To ensure that your feathered friends don’t regard playtime as the hour set aside to shred and chew various objects in your home, provide them with the toys that more capture their interest. Commercially available avian “jungle gyms” built on wood bases with branches often fit the bill. Many toys that small dogs play with are fine for conures, and parrots enjoy rawhide chews.

And remember, safety first during Out Time! Keep wires and hot bulbs out of beak’s reach. “It’s not uncommon for birds to get injured by chewing on wires or cut themselves on sharp objects,” says Krinsley. Floors should be covered with rugs or other cushioning in case your avian companion takes a fall. Some birds have been known to fly right into windows; cover yours if this is a problem. If you have other companion animals that are not bird-friendly, be sure to keep them out of the room during Out Time.

Some birds prefer to spend Out Time on the fly, but don’t get in a flap if yours doesn’t. All companion birds do not necessarily need rigorous, vigorous exercise. “In the wild a lot of birds – especially large parrots – are often inactive a good part of the day,” explains Krinsley. Activity level varies greatly from species to species, and so too from individual to individual.

Avians with serious behavior problems – biting and aggression so severe that their owners are afraid to take them out of the cage – should be evaluated by a veterinarian. In some cases, clipping the wings (they grow back!) can allow the bird Out Time and afford the owner relative ease if handling; a vet can also demonstrate the proper technique for catching and holding difficult birds.

© 1995
ASPCA Animal Watch – Spring 1995

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