New Birds and  Basic Care



Your bird’s diet is one of the most important considerations of its overall care. Adequate feeding plans may be developed from a wide variety of commonly available foods, or formulated diets specially prepared for birds by commercial companies may be offered. Ask your avian veterinarian for recommendations on feeding your bird.


  • Temperature: A healthy bird can tolerate temperatures that are comfortable to its owner. Sudden changes in temperature may be a potential threat to the sick bird.
  • Humidity: Pet birds can adapt to a wide range of humidity levels, although birds native to subtropical climates may benefit from localized increased humidity in the home (e.g., in bathroom with running shower or frequent spraying of the feathers with water).
  • Light and Fresh Air: Opportunities for supervised access to fresh air and direct sunlight (not filtered through glass or plastic) appear to be beneficial, as long as shade is available.


The largest cage that can be accomodated in the home is recommended for birds that are expected to be confined most of the time. The cage must be strong enough to resist bending or dismantling by the bird, made of non-toxic material, and designed for safety and ease of cleaning. In most cases, the cage would need to be wider than it is tall to accomodate stretched wings; however, ample height should be provided for long-tailed birds.

  • Perches: Optimum perches are clean, easily replaceable, appropriately-sized, natural wood branches from pesticide-free and non-toxic trees (e.g., Northern hardwoods, citrus, eucalyptus, Australian pine). A single, well-placed perch may be adequate for agile climbers like psittacines because they tend to prefer the highest perch, even if more are provided. Two perches, one on each end of the cage, should be available for species such as finches, which prefer flying or jumping to climbing. A perch should be placed to prevent droppings from contaminating the bird’s food or water and to prevent the bird’s tail from contacting food, water or the floor of the cage.
  • Food and Water Bowls: The use of wide bowls rather than deep cups displays food attractively and may encourage the bird to eat new items. Healthy psittacines with normal ambulatory skills can easily approach the food and water bowls; therefore, it is not necessary in these cases to place bowls directly beside the perch. Birds often overeat or chew on food dishes out of boredom.
  • Hygiene: A daily cleaning of the cage floor and bowls prevents problems with food spoilage and alerts the owner to potential signs of illness. A weekly, thorough cleaning of the cage is suggested.
  • Cage Liners: Newspapers, paper towels, or other plain cage liner paper may be preferred over wood chips, chopped corn cobs, kitty litter, or sand as cage substrate, so that the appearance and number of the droppings can be monitored on a daily basis. Substrate should ideally be below a wire barrier so the bird does not have direct access.
  • Security: Many birds benefit from the availability of a retreat inside the cage for a sense of privacy (e.g., paper bag, towel, nest box).


In appropriate species, opportunities may be provided for exercise in the form of supervised freedom from the cage. Pet birds are intelligent, active animals whose psychological needs should be addressed. Locate the cage near family activity in the home.

Toys provide diversion as do a variety of foods. Seeds pushed into an apple or an orange present a bird with entertainment, challenge, and food, all at the same time. Use your own imagination, keeping within safe parameters and provide entertainment and enrichment for your pet birds.

Toys are useful as mental diversions and tend to encourage physical exercise and beak wear; however, they must be selected with safety of the bird in mind. “Chewable” items include branches, pine cones, rawhide dog chews, natural fiber rope, and soft white pine.

General Care

Minimal body care is required for the healthy, well-fed pet bird. Confined indoor pet birds that resist a varied diet require more attention in the care of the nails, feet and feathers.

During the molting of feathers, additional fat, protein and vitamins may be required in the diet. As a new feather develops, the bird may pick at the pin feather cover to open it. This should not be interpreted as “feather picking” or the presence of mites.

Pure water is the most appropriate feather spray. Keep feathers dry and free of oily substances. Soiled feathers may be gently cleaned with a mild detergent solution (e.g., baby shampoo) followed by thorough warm water rinsing and drying.

Wing clip may be desired to prevent escape or injury, or for taming and training. Your veterinarian can advise you on wing clipping.

It may be wise to remove open leg bands to prevent injury. If a closed band must remain on the leg for identification purposes, check under the band occasionally for signs of dirt accumulation, swelling, or constriction of the leg. A regular visit to an avian veterinarian for a routine health examination is advised in order to detect potential problems early.

To Avoid

  • Sandpaper-covered perches.
  • Air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, insecticides, and toxic fumes from over-heated non-stick-coated utensils.
  • Mite boxes or mite sprays.
  • Easily dismantled toys such as balsa wood, small link chain items, toys with metal clips or skewers, or those with lead weights.
  • Access to toxic houseplants, ceiling fans, cats, dogs, young children.
  • Access to cedar, redwood, or pressure-treated pine chips as cage substrate.

Adapted from a brochure by the Association of Avian Veterinarians