The value of knowing your birds. It is always a good idea to get to know your birds and understand their behaviour by observing them on a regular basis. For example, you will soon get to know how they behave when they are hungry, how they respond when a stranger enters the room or how they change when they enter the breeding season. You may discover that at such times they eat more or become more active. Understanding your birds' reactions to different circumstances can be very helpful in detecting when they are ill. A bird's general appearance can also give vital clues as to its well-being. If the bird is fluffed up, for example, and looking larger than normal and is not very active, these are clear indications that something is wrong. Remember that it is better to be safe than sorry, so if you are not sure, contact your veterinarian for expert advice. All birds need plenty of fresh air passing through their enclosure. This will help to keep the bacteria level low and thus lessen the risk of infection. Be careful, for there is a big difference between fresh air and draughts; draughts can kill. If you keep your bird indoors, it is perfectly safe to open a window during the summer months. This is not the case during cold, windy weather, however, as a draught blowing onto your bird could very well result in its death.
Keeping many different species of birds in one aviary is not always as easy as it seems. You can often mix quite diverse species, but this is normally more straightforward out of the breeding season or with single birds. The breeding season is an important factor to consider. Once it begins, the different species of birds that once lived so happily together can suddenly turn on each other as they fight for territory and protect their nestsites. Quite literally, warfare can break out. Keeping one single bird in an aviary with several other pairs should present no problems, but if you decide to pair it up, keep a close eye on it in case trouble starts. Because the individual characters of each species vary so much, it is very difficult to give detailed advice on what species of bird you can safely keep together.The majority of birds usually moult just after the breeding season. Do not be alarmed that during the moulting period, they may not be able to fly quite as well as they usually do; this is quite normal.
Providing bathing water Allowing your bird to bathe occasionally is a good way to keep it healthy. It is not sensible to provide a permanent dish for bathing unless you are prepared to change the water every day. It is essential to change the water because your bird will not be able to distinguish between drinking and bathing water and will end up drinking from the water it has just bathed in. A good method is to introduce a large, shallow container full of water into the cage or enclosure once a week and remove it after a couple of hours.
A healthy bird resists parasites and their harmful effects. Besides proper diet and cleanliness of habitat it is known that frequent bathing is necessary for good feather conditioning and maintenance. Infrequently bathed birds have ratty-looking, sometimes tattered feathers. Bathing reduces feather debris and dust and may also discourage birds from the feather picking that can result from trying to groom unwashed dirty or brittle feathers. Bathing promotes tight, well locked feathers and a supple feather condition. In dry climates, infrequent bathing may contribute to the development of allergies, disease or sinus problems. Behavioral stress related feather chewing, of birds in captivity, may also be helped by frequent bathing, as well as exposure to the proper amount of full-spectrum light. That birds, in the wild, find bathing a necessary part of their life is readily apparent to any but the most casual observer and thus, in allowing captive birds to bath, we are providing them with an opportunity which they would readily make use of in their natural habitat. For the caring pet owner, even one endowed by above average motivation, the inconvenience and mess inherent in a recommended daily bath, for their pet, can be quite discouraging.
Most birds will need their nails clipped at some stage, although it is difficult to say how often because it depends on the individual bird. Parrots need clipping on a regular basis once or twice a year, while softbills may need clipping only once every three or four years. Nail clipping is a delicate procedure and can be dangerous. Before you make your first attempt, ask a veterinarian or an experienced birdkeeper to show you how to carry out the procedure correctly. Once you have caught your bird, it is a good idea to have someone else hold it as you clip the toenails. If you examine each nail before clipping it, you can usually see how far the blood supply runs down the inside of the nail towards the tip. Where the blood supply is not visible, perhaps because the nail is dark, this is when common sense and experience are vital. Carefully clip one nail at a time, removing just the very last portion and leaving a margin of one or two millimetres from the cut edge to the blood vessel inside. It is always better to remove too little than too much. If a bird has very long claws that have obviously not been cut for a year or more, you may need to cut the nails several times over the course of a year before they reach the required length. You cannot transform an excessively long claw into a very short claw with one cutting session, because you are likely to cut through the blood vessel and cause considerable bleeding. Once the tip of the nail has been removed, the blood vessel inside will shrink and you will be able to remove more of the nail after about six weeks. If you cut through the blood supply, the bleeding can prove to be extremely difficult to stop. You can stop a small amount of bleeding by placing a little cotton wool over the end of the claw for a few minutes. If the bleeding stops, release the bird back into the aviary but do not remain close to it; this can stress the bird and thus raise its heartbeat and blood pressure so that the bleeding starts again. If there is excessive bleeding and you have failed to stop it, it is vital that you contact your veterinarian. Just to be on the safe side, however, even if you are experienced at clipping nails, it is advisable to have a coagulant, such as a styptic pencil, close at hand.
Feather clipping The two most common reasons for clipping your bird's feathers are to restrain its flight and to prevent it flying altogether. You may like the idea of keeping birds such as ducks or pheasants at liberty in your garden, but if you buy and release them without clipping their wings, they will disappear. The most practical option would be to clip their wings, and by the time they have moulted and the new feathers have appeared, your birds should be familiar with their surroundings and, if they are contented, you should have no problems keeping them on your premises. This approach is not advisable with parrots or any other expensive birds. The correct procedure for clipping feathers is to remove nearly all the primary and secondary feathers , the longest feathers - from one wing. The object of clipping only one wing is to unbalance the bird so that it will only gain lift on one side and thus be unable to fly. If you clip both wings you will discover that the bird will still be able to fly. It is important to leave two or three outer feathers, so that the bird still looks neat and attractive when it closes its wing. If you stretch out the bird's wing, you will see several layers of feathers. There are approximately 10 primary and 10 secondary feathers. The primaries are the longest feathers, and these are further away from the bird's body than the secondaries. When the time arrives it is best to have someone to help you by holding the bird and gently stretching out the wing as you remove the feathers carefully one by one. Your bird will suffer no pain whatsoever, as there is no feeling in the feathers. If you feel unsure about this procedure, your veterinarian will clip the wing for you. The effects of feather clipping only last until the next moult, when completely new feathers will appear. An important point to watch out for when clipping wings is to avoid touching the blood feathers. These are feathers that are still growing and so have blood continuously being pumped into them as theydevelop. Quite often you will find that half a blood feather will be out of the quill and the other a wi sti wrappe in a silvery skin. If you come across such a feather, take great care not to cut it as it will bleed profusely.