Simple steps to control bird stress
Domesticated birds still retain certain aspects of wild behaviour and as result a caged environment can cause anxiety to a bird if it not well managed by its owner. In the wild the way that a bird responds to stressful situations plays a large role in determining the bird’s chances of survival. These situations will generally only arise periodically, however, and the bird has the power to remove itself from the source of the anxiety in many cases. For caged birds this is not an option. Excessive stress over a lengthy period can start to have a negative impact on your bird’s general health.
Fortunately the most common causes of stress for caged birds result from things that we, as their owners, have the ability to control. These things include poor diet, sleep deprivation and inadequate exercise and mental stimulation. Follow the guide below to ensure that your bird’s environment is as comfortable as possible.
Quiet, secure environment
The cage should be placed in the social part of your house. Avoid the kitchen, as certain fumes can be toxic to a bird, and avoid areas where children often play. The cage should be placed against a wall, rather than in front of a window or in the centre of a room, as this helps the bird to feel secure and protected from predators. New hanging items (eg. paintings) should not be placed above the bird’s cage and it should also be noted that birds will often feel threatened by the presence of helium balloons in the same rooms. It is also advisable to avoid placing the cage in a room with a ceiling fan.
Your bird needs a diet appropriate to its species. There are commercial diets available for most species, comprising of a baked mix of seeds and grains. Fresh raw foods appropriate for your bird’s species should always be available and comprise approximately 30% of the diet.
Birds like routine; in the wild their sleeping habits often roughly mimic the sun rising and setting. This does not necessarily have to be precisely mirrored for house birds, but your bird will benefit from a routine of waking and sleeping at approximately the same times each day. It is preferable for your bird’s cage to be moved somewhere quiet (away from the television etc.) when it is time for sleep, alternatively you might prefer to set up a small sleep cage in a separate room and transfer your bird to this at bed time each night.
Birds should be housed in an appropriate sized cage relative to their size. Even if your cage is large, a bird still needs to exercise its wings by being let out in a secure environment to fly and exercise it’s muscles. Ideally your bird should be allowed to fly every day; before letting it do so, make sure you draw the curtains to stop it from colliding with the window and potentially hurting itself.
Many birds, especially parrots, are social creatures. They like to interact and socialise with each other and without mental stimulation from their environment and their owners they can become stressed and lonely. Stress and loneliness can lead to various behavioural problems, like feather plucking, if allowed to go on for too long. Be sure to enrich your bird’s environment by providing toys and healthy treats that the bird can occupy itself with when you are unable to provide attention. There are various stimulating toys available, which will help to relieve boredom in your bird.