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by Diane Burroughs April 20, 2022 7 min read

Wellness matters to us all. It’s even more important when we’re talking about our feathered friends, who are not just pets but members of the family and our responsibility to look after in every way possible! The first step towards avian wellness is establishing a good relationship with your avian veterinarian, so you can be sure that they’re always there to give you their expert advice when you need it. But even then, there are some wellness basics you can practice at home to help keep your bird happy and healthy.

Why Birds Need Avian Wellness Check Ups

Veterinary care is essential for any animal but can be especially important for birds. Birds instinctively hide illness, injuries, and pain until they can't hide it any longer. Which is why it's important to take care of your feathered friend and get them checked out today!

If you neglect the well-being of your bird, he or she could get an illness or develop unwanted behaviors due to the stress. This is why avian wellness is so important; it is all about keeping your pet healthy and happy for as long as possible.

We love our smart, social birds and want them to live long, healthy lives. Unfortunately, many of us don't know how to properly care for our feathered friends. This is why it's important to learn about avian wellness and how you can keep your pet in top shape for a happy and fulfilling life.

One of the avian world's best kept secrets is now being revealed: UC Davis has a specialized program just for parrots! It's the Richard M. Schubot Parrot Wellness and Well-Being Program. They work to provide resources, education, and veterinary care to help companion birds live the best lives they can.

This unique program also focuses on best practices for ensuring parrots' health and well-being, including all 6 dimensions of parrot wellness. I'll cover each aspect of parrot wellness in this blog post.

6 dimensions of avian wellness

How often should birds be seen for preventative health care?

Keeping your bird healthy requires more than just a high-quality diet, it also means staying on top of his preventative care. Preventive veterinary care for exotic birds is one of 6 essential dimensions of avian wellness you need to boost today.

Exotic birds are so good at hiding illnesses that it may take a while before you even realize there's a problem. By the time you notice that your bird is under the weather, it is probably very sick. An avian vet is trained to catch the early signs of common avian illnesses. If you suspect something is wrong, push your vet to do more testing.

One of the first signs of avian illness is weight loss. Keep track of your birds weight in grams on a weekly basis.  It's easy to teach your bird to stand on a scale and record its weight. While a scale with a perch is nice, it's not necessary in most cases.  You can find an affordable scale on Amazon that won't break the bank.

This video briefly explains what an avian wellness exam looks like.

Behavior Training

Most people don’t realize how smart birds are. Bird owners can and should be training their pet birds with positive reinforcement. Birds are highly trainable, and once trained, you can get your bird to do a number of different things for you.

Training is also good for preventing aggressive behaviors from developing further and helps keep your bird from becoming destructive by giving them something better to do than tearing apart your house.


There are 3 types of training that you can focus on.

Cute tricks with props or without props, like turning in a circle or dropping a ball into a pint-sized basketball hoop.

Bird manners like coming when called, staying on its perch, or coming out of and going back in its cage.

Natural parrot behaviors like eating a diverse range of healthy raw foods, foraging, playing with toys, and proper grooming.

You'll be amazed at how well your bird starts behaving with just 10-15 minutes of training a day.

Avian Enrichment

Birds’ intelligence, combined with their high metabolism, means that if we want to keep our pets happy and healthy, we need to make sure they have a stimulating, enriching environment in which to live. Offering them toys that let them climb, chew, shred, and explore around will give them a great outlet for both physical and mental energy.


There are tons of great ways to give your bird a foraging toy. Just fill a large paper with an assortment of items (such as appropriately sized tree nuts, pinecones, and sticks) and place it in a designated spot. If you’re worried about mess, you can line your basket with newspaper before filling it. Adding another element of difficulty will make foraging even more entertaining for your bird! 

https://birdsupplies.com/collections/ebooks-for-feather-pluckers/products/teach-your-bird-to-forage

Birds have an amazingly fast metabolism and, if they don't get enough exercise time, they could develop very serious problems such as splayed legs or fatty liver disease.

Flying, climbing, and movement has to be a part of your bird’s daily routine (which will also help deter feather picking), but it should be done in moderation; going to build up a strong flight muscles is no different than training for any other kind of athletic competition.

Additional avian enrichment possibilities include visual and auditory stimulation. If you have a very active bird, it’s a good idea to have play stand by the cage door so that your bird can get out of the cage and explore its environment. Bird's love music, animal shows on TV, and mine especially enjoy Bird TV for Parrots.

Avian Nutrition

As far as nature is concerned, birds require the same level of nutrients that other living creatures need. So what do the environments from which tropical birds originate offer them to eat? There are many fruits, seeds, sprouts, leaves, roots, and more in the rainforests and jungles of the world.

So the issue is that most pet birds are taken out of their natural habitats, given food made from processed cooked pellets full of unhealthy fillers. These do not offer them the nutrients they need to be healthy. Birds fortified pellets that have grains as a base and additional protein.

When given a raw food diet in line with what they would consume in the wild, our parrots flourish. Make different healthy snacks for your feathered friend by making items containing a variety of plants, seeds, herbs, sprouts, nuts, flowers, and more. To keep it from being just a daunting task, turn chopping your bird's food into a fun project. Get a good parrot cookbook or two and chop away.

 


Pain Prevention

Proper pain prevention and management is a vital aspect of avian well-being. To the untrained eye, it's as difficult to know when a bird is feeling unwell as it is to tell when it's in pain. And, knowing how to tell when pain is being properly managed can be hard, too.

Most of us have to pay attention to signs that a human is in pain. These are easy to recognize, especially when you're paying attention for them. When your bird is feeling unwell, it's a little bit harder to tell. Because birds won't communicate their suffering (or lack thereof), you must learn how to observe your feathered friend more closely and look for signs that your bird isn't feeling well.

https://birdsupplies.com/products/pain-assessment-for-birds-questionnaire

It's a shame when your pet suffers but it's understandable that if you're lucky enough to adopt a rescue animal or your pet's getting up there in years, there will be a time when they have some pain to contend with. Middle aged to older birds are prone to a number of painful age-related health issues just like we are. Here is an infographic that provides helpful guidelines.

Obviously, if your bird is in pain, you will want to consult an avian specialist to come up with a safe treatment plan that includes medication.

Life Stage Care

It’s vital that you understand each stage in your bird’s life and how to maintain his health and wellbeing. Birds, as with all animals, have unique needs at different ages and you need to take care of them accordingly.

Our tropical birds come in a vast range of sizes from a 25 gm. parrotlet all the way up to a 1,600 gm. hyacinth macaw. Very small birds have the shortest life span while larger birds have a longer life span.

A parrotlet or green cheek conure may wean at 9-10 weeks of age, undergo puberty at 9 months, and be considered a senior bird at 12 years.

Medium sized birds like African Grey Parrots mature more slowly. They may wean between 12-16 weeks of age, reach puberty at 3 years of age, and start into its senior years at around age 20.

Large birds, like large Macaw's and Cockatoo's may wean at around 6 months of age, reach puberty at 4-5 years of age, and be considered middle-aged birds at about 40 years

You can think of the life stages of birds as similar to those of our own children. Similar to newborns, baby birds need extra care and food. Toddlers and younger children should be engaged in age-appropriate independent activities with supervision; as they get older, more independence can be taught and encouraged. Let's be honest, everyone gets a little funny during puberty.

Related Posts:

Feeding Your Parrot A Well-balanced Diet

How To Tell If Your Bird Is In Pain & What To Do About It

Using Positive Reinforcement To Stop Your Bird From Plucking

life-stage supports

5 Important Ways To Keep Your Bird Entertained When You're Not At Home

Parrot Care: Daily, Weekly, And Monthly Bird Care Tasks

References:

https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/hospital/small-animal/parrot-wellness

https://www.northernparrots.com/important-stuff-to-teach-baby-parrots-blog95/

Budai, K. A Parrot's Healthy Dining. Go Raw! Avian Nutritional Guide For All Species. K & S Natural Company Ltd, UK. 2020.

Budai, K and Pao, S. A Parrot's Fine Cuisine Cookbook & Nutritional Guide. Quietlight Productions, No. Palm Springs, CA. 2018.


Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

TAGS: #AvianWellness #BirdWellness #ParrotWellness #AvianWell-being #BirdWell-being #ParrotWell-being

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