By Diane Burroughs
Like humans, a pet bird's weight will fluctuate. Birds are exotic pets. And so, it is critical to ensure that your parrot has a healthy weight, because its whole body is made to be light and small so that it can fly more easily. Every single one of their body systems is geared towards maintaining a healthy weight in order to fly, and two of the most important factors are diet and exercise.
In this post, I will tell you about how to keep an eye on your bird's weight and what can happen to it when it is either overweight or underweight. It is crucial to the well-being of the bird to be at the proper weight and maintaining a balanced diet.
Measuring your bird’s weight allows you to observe changes and catch health problems early. In nature, birds will hide signs of injury so they can continue to survive—so when birds are sick or injured, they often don’t show any outward signs. Your pet bird is no different. Weight loss is often the first sign that your bird is in trouble. Weighing your bird regularly can help you spot those changes before they become serious issues.
A bird’s weight should be relatively stable over time. Some birds will even lose weight while they molt, or shed their feathers and grow new ones in. But most pet birds gain a little weight with age, just like humans do. Be sure to weigh your bird at least once per week to make sure it’s not gaining too much weight, which can lead to health problems later on.
One major advantage of using a bird scale is that it's accurate enough to notice even slight changes in your bird's weight. That is critical information to know for an exotic pet that needs to maintain an optimum weight. For example, a bird who's only 10% over- or underweight may be at risk for complications. That's why it's so important to keep track of your bird's weight.
Weighing your bird once per week allows you to quickly observe its overall condition. Does it look healthier than usual? Has it lost or gained weight? What's its feather condition? How do its eyes and nares look? How it acting oddly?
Choose a day of the week that you’ll weigh your bird each week. As long as it’s consistent, any day will do. Weighing your bird will let you keep track of its progress and ensure that it remains healthy and happy. Check out our guide to choosing scales in order to find an accurate scale suitable for your feathered friend.
Next, choose a time frame to weigh your bird. A bird’s weight can fluctuate based on when its last eaten or the amount of exercise it gets, so weighing your bird once weekly at about the same time of day will give you more consistent results. If your bird has recently eaten, been housed with another bird or had its feathers preened, try to get it back to the same state before weighing. This will give you an accurate reading of how much your bird weighs when it’s at rest in its natural environment.
It's so important to monitor your birds weight, but how do you do it correctly?
Don't let this necessary, painless procedure stress your bird out. Make it as stress-free as possible.
If your bird has not been trained to step-up and step-down, use clicker training to teach them this important skill. Melinda Johnson, the author of Clicker Training For Birds defines this as one of the most fundamental manners that you can teach your bird. "Every companion parrot should learn to step up readily..."
Stepping up is simply when your bird steps from a lower surface to a slightly higher one. You can find the instructions here.
Your bird should also be well versed in the skill of “staying put” for a brief period of time. This skill will come in handy when it comes time to weigh your bird, but it can come in handy at other times, too. Here's a great post on how to teach this important skill.
After mastering these two “bird skills,” you’re ready to train your bird to get weighed each week. (Oh, by the way, there are so many fun skills you can teach your bird now that you’ve mastered these two!)
First things first: Gather the following supplies: A bird scale that measures in gram increments A logbook so you can consistently collect important information that will help you learn early on if your bird is suffering.
Here's a FREE PDF to help you keep track of your bird's weight so you can intervene early if your bird is having trouble.
How do you know when your parrot is overweight or underweight? Use the Bird Size-O-Meter to find out. This easy to use, accurate, and FREE Bird Size-O-Meter will give you the information you need to make minor adjustments that will keep your pet bird healthy. The best part? You can use the Bird Size-O-Meter with any bird!
With this method, in addition to gathering your birds weight in grams, you hone in on feeling your birds breast and measuring body fat through touch.
The Bird Size-O-Meter was developed by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association of the UK
First, towel your bird, turn it on its back and locate the breast bone, also known as the keel. A bird that is within an ideal weight range has a rounded breast muscle that allows you to easily feel the breast bone, but its not sharp or pointy.
Think about it this way: A bird's body is designed for handling weight when flying. All of its bones, joints, organs, and systems depend on managing weight. If your bird is too fat, there is a mushy feel over the breast bone. If your bird is obese, the breast bone is actually hard to feel. Fat birds and obese birds simply can't engage in natural parrot behaviors as easily, so they may become neurotic. Too much seed and lack of exercise is often the culprit.
The best way to engage your birds natural exotic nature is to feed them like they'd eat in the rainforests and jungles of the world. Wild birds eat lots of healthy, raw vegetation. If you've ever had a chance to hike in a rainforest, you've probably noticed a massive variety of plants, flowers, grasses, and more. Feed your bird a diverse plant based diet supplemented with a high quality pellet to maintain its weight.
To find out if your bird is underweight, you can use the Bird Size-O-Meter. When a bird is underweight, it has emaciated breast muscles and the bird's keelbone juts out. Underweight birds are typically fragile and require medical attention from an avian specialist.
The main reason being it is so important to work with your avian vet is because birds have an extremely high metabolism but don't have the ability to store fat like humans do. That's why birds graze on food throughout the day. Furthermore, when they get in a weakened state, they often refuse to eat. If you notice any of these signs, you should contact your avian veterinarian immediately.
Tracking your bird's weight is important for a number of reasons, but you may find that changes in weight could be an indication that something is wrong. It is reasonable to say that 10% of one's weight is significant.
There are many things that can cause a bird to lose or gain weight such as diet, illness, stress and other factors. A scale allows you to track these changes over time and catch any problems early. Use the keel bone method as a backup to learn your birds ideal weight.
Choose a day of the week to weigh your bird and pick a specific time. Ideally, the time would(Hint: You can ask your Echo device to remind you every week at the same time.)
Record the weight on a chart or a spreadsheet.
It’s important to monitor your bird’s weight and use a bird weight chart ! However, it’s not just as simple as taking a single measurement to get your result. You need to be aware of your bird’s normal healthy weight range, and make comparisons against that range over time. How often you take measurements will depend on how much you are worried about their health or if there is a specific bird disease or condition for which you are trying to prevent.
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: #BirdStress #BirdSelfMutilation
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