Avian Expert Articles

A Longer Life For Your Pet Bird

3 Ways To Extend Your Bird’s Life Expectancy

cockatiel perched on fingerRecent research out of the U.K. suggests that even small changes to our diets can have significant impact on our health. For example, little tweaks like eating less red meat and savory snacks like chips and eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can reduce our odds of developing heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and it can extend a person’s life expectancy by eight months while reducing diet-related greenhouse gas emission by 17 percent. It goes without saying that our feathered family members also reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle — one that we, as our birds stewards — are tasked with providing.

Here’s a look at three simple steps that can help your bird achieve a longer life.

  1. What are you really feeding?  Many people like to think that they eat healthy, but we might be surprised by how many not-so-good foods we manage to sneak into the day … coffee with lots of cream and sugar,  vegetables smothered in butter … and have you ever taken notice of just how few potato chips constitute a single serving?! While it’s true that some people, and some birds, manage longevity even with a less than ideal diet, it’s not something to bank on. Moreover, while your primary care doctor touches upon the importance of a good diet (along with exercise, not smoking, alcohol in moderation, etc.), for most bird people, the No. 1 take away from the well-bird vet visit is that a healthy diet is the key to a long life for a pet bird. A well-balanced diet for companion birds simply cannot be stressed enough.
    Going back to the “you’d be surprised by the amount of bad foods we squeeze into our day,” the same goes in regard to our pet birds. It might be more convenient to drop a scoop of seed into the bowl before rushing out the door, with the intent of offering fresh fruit/vegetables or a healthy birdie mash upon return home, only to be overwhelmed by other commitments, chores, etc. On the other hand, if you’re in the habit of sharing a bit of everything you eat with your bird, is that bit of something a chip, pizza, french fry, quesadilla, cookie, etc? Bits can add up to a full serving of high-fat, high-sugar or high-sodium not-so-goodness. The easy tweak here is to create a basic menu and follow it. Post it on the fridge to remind yourself and, if you’re perpetually short on time, keep in mind that there are plenty of healthy foods to feed your bird that take little to no prep time. Sub-out that scoop of seed in the morning and sub-in some Nutri-Berries, which are just as easy to serve but offer balanced, non-GMO nutrition. Many parrots love carrots and you can grab a carrot weenie from the bag with no time wasted, or rinse off a leaf of romaine lettuce to wedge through the cage bars or place in your bird’s treat bowl. Create a “30 seconds or less to prep healthy food item list” and go off of that.
  2. Give a daily dose of exercise. Birds, like us, need to get up and move each day. If you have a feathered flyer, let him or her have some flight time in a bird-proofed room. If you’ve got a walk-abouter (cockatoo anyone?!) allow for some supervised floor to explore time. Long ladders can function as your bird’s very own Stairmaster … start your bird at the bottom of the ladder and once he or she reaches the top start at the bottom again. Wing flapping exercises also get your bird on a cardio routine: perch your bird on your hand or a hand-held perch and drop your hand down so he/she has to flap his/her wings to stay perched. (Wing flapping takes a delicate balance — don’t go so fast that your bird flies off or crashes to the ground, and don’t do so many wing-flap reps that your bird struggles to catch his/her breath!) You can also give your bird exercise opportunities inside the cage via a swing perch, destroy toy, foot toy, etc. And some birds do like to hand wrestle, which can be  a fun form of exercise … just be sure to watch out for “interaction overload,” where your bird gets so overly stimulated with play that he/she suddenly nips you.
  3. Make daily social interaction the norm.  Birds are social animals — chances are those whistles, screeches, jabberings,  etc. are attempts at communication. We humans have kept pets for eons to keep us company. Never forget why you welcomed your bird into your home — for companionship! And never forget that your feathered companion craves the same.  Pausing to give your bird some head scratches when you walk by the cage or play gym, or having some out-of-cage time perched near you can go a long way to making your bird’s day.
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