10 Ways to Prepare for Your New Pet Bird

Welcome to Dee’s Corner!

You’ve made the decision to add a bird to your human flock at home, how exciting! You want to be as prepared as possible to welcome your new feathered family member, and prepare for their arrival both before and after you get them home! Here are some things you should always prepare for your new bird arrivals:

  1. RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH - Every new bird owner, whether experienced in other species of birds, or new to bird ownership should read articles written by Avian Behavioral Consultants, Avian Veterinarians, or very experienced owners/breeders about your specific species of bird, and their housing requirements, temperament, noise level, diet, lifespan, behaviors, compatibility with other birds etc. It’s also important to prepare for your bird’s arrival with the most appropriate cage size, food, and environment to ensure your bird is happy and healthy!
  2. HOUSING YOUR BIRDS - If you already have birds at home, it’s never a good idea to add new birds to your existing birds too quickly. One of the most common causes of unnecessary stress for new birds, results from immediately adding new birds into an existing cage with established birds. Most experienced bird owners understand the importance of keeping new birds in a temporary cage for a minimum of 14 days, however 30 days is ideal. I highly recommend having an ‘emergency cage’ ready in case you have to separate birds that don’t get along, or a bird needs special care. It is extremely important to make sure new birds are able to cohabitate with existing birds. Finches and canaries should rarely be housed with hookbills (parrot type birds) in a normal setting. There are very few cases where small docile hookbills can live in oversized walk in aviaries. You should never put any species of hookbill immediately into an existing cage occupied by a current hookbill, even if they are the same species. Would you happily accept a complete stranger moving into your house? Hookbills should be introduced slowly with supervision outside of their cages. You can also contact us before placing an order, as we are happy to help you with bird compatibility, and suggest birds that will do well with your existing birds.
  3. ONE, TWO, THREE, MORE! - The happiness of your bird(s) is greatly influenced by companionship. Since they live in pairs and flocks in the wild, they should do the same in captivity. Finches should always be kept in pairs, whether two males, two females, or one male and one female. They are truly content with a friend of the same species. A common misconception is canaries and finches are the same, and can live together as a group or pair of finches do. Canaries are actually quite solitary birds. A male canary (gender can be determined by DNA testing) purchased for its singing ability should never be housed with other birds as this will most likely reduce the amount of singing it does. Doves should always be kept in pairs, even if you want it to bond with you. They need constant all day companionship to it will get lonely and depressed. Lack of companionship can greatly shorten their lifespan. Parrot species can be kept as single birds since they should technically bond with you as their new human flock!
  4. NO TWO FOODS ARE THE SAME - The food your bird is fed is more important than most people realize. It is strongly recommended to continue the diet your bird has been fed before you received it for at least the first 30 days before slowly weaning them onto a new food of your choice. Abruptly changing the food any bird eats can make them very stressed and even sick. No bird should ever be fed a diet of seed only. This causes serious vitamin deficiencies, health issues and diseases. The Finch Farm lists the recommended foods on each one of our bird pages. 
  5. CAGE STYLE AND PLACEMENT - There are many beautiful cages on the market today but not all are well suited for live birds. Antique and vintage cages are often shaped in a way that causes your bird to be stressed, as these cages are usually made with paint or materials that are toxic to a bird, if it decides to nibble on the rungs of the cage. Round cages are my biggest pet peeve when it comes to cage styles. Birds need a cage with corners to feel secure and safe, especially birds that are brand new to your home. Cages should always be positioned against at least one wall, and corner placements are even better! A cage should never be placed in front of or next to a window or mirror. Even the most intelligent birds don’t understand that mirrors and windows are actually solid objects, and placing their cage in front or next to either of these makes birds feel vulnerable and stressed. You can read more in depth about my cage recommendations in our blog titled What Cage Should I Choose for My Pet Bird?
  6. TO FLY OR NOT TO FLY - As an Avian Behavioral Consultant and Trainer, I always recommend customers have their new bird’s wings clipped prior to receiving them. The process is painless and discourages young birds from flying. The pros of wing clipping outweigh the cons. Safety precautions must be considered when your bird is flighted. Stove tops, windows, mirrors, open doors, and open toilets are just some of the hazards in every home environment. The entire bonding process is made so much easier if your bird is clipped before you receive it. If you purchased a parent raised bird, it is even more important to understand the different approach that needs to be taken if you choose to have a fully flighted bird at home. Don’t worry! Your bird’s flight feathers grow back during their next molt, which is usually within 6 months.
  7. YOU CAN NEVER BE TOO PREPARED - There are a few things that are always recommended to have readily available in case of emergencies. A Certified Avian Veterinarian is extremely difficult to find, and finding a small animal vet that is willing to look at an exotic bird is hard. It is always recommended to have a broad spectrum antibiotic on hand before your bird arrives. If your bird shows signs that it’s not feeling well every hour counts. All birds are extremely stoic and may initially hide their illness or stress. Once your bird displays signs of stress or illness, too much time may pass before receiving your antibiotics, if you do not have them readily available. Stocking a good daily supplement is also wise, as birds are often very picky eaters, and each has its own very specific diet requirements. A high quality daily supplement such as Hearty Bird is perfect to ensure your birds are getting all the vitamins, amino acids, and nutrients it needs. View my in depth vitamin and supplement product recommendations. 
  8. GETTING THE BIRD FROM THE TRAVEL BOX TO THE CAGE - Depending on the bird(s) you received in your Safety Travel Box, there are two ways you can go about getting them safely into your cage. Remember if no wing clipping was added to your order, prior to receiving your bird, your bird will most likely bolt if it is fully flighted. Ensure there are no doors or windows are open, especially for small birds like a finch or canary. It is not uncommon for them to squeeze right out of a door unnoticed when changing their food and water. We offer a net specifically for catching birds, and it’s always a great idea to have one on hand if you have small birds. It is much safer to transport small birds with a net then chasing them with your hands. The most common way birds are transferred to their cage is by making a small opening in the travel box, and then tipping the travel box slowly so the small opening can fit right into the open door of the cage. We will include these instructions again with your order. If you ordered a Psittacine (hookbill) and added wing clipping to your order, the process of removing them from the travel box and getting them into their new cage is much easier. If you ordered a hand fed species, I recommend slowly opening the box near the cage, and allow it to take in its surroundings for a few minutes. Slowly offer your hand open and flat to make it easy for your new bird to step right onto it. If your new bird ‘threatens’ to bite, do not react. It has no idea who you are and has not bonded with you yet. A good idea for birds that aren’t willing to step up right away (this is common) is to just remove the perch very slowly from the box with the bird on it. If it tries to fly off that’s okay. Always stay calm, and just present the perch again for it to step up onto. You can then taxi your new bird right to its cage. Bonding with a bird takes patience, but it is worth every minute!
  9. THE FIRST 24 HOURS - The first day with your new bird is important. If you have children, dogs, or a high traffic / activity household you will want to have the cage in a room where it is quiet and calm. As soon as your bird is taken out of the travel box, the ‘acclimation process’ begins. Acclimating to a new environment is one of the most stressful experiences any bird goes through. Be observant of any signs of stress at all times. Stress symptoms include appearing puffed up or fluffy, being ‘sleepy’ or lethargic, hanging out on the bottom of the cage, and sleeping an abnormal amount during the day. If your bird exhibits any of the signs at any time, contact us right away. Too often, these symptoms go unnoticed and unreported. Birds are extremely stoic, so it is important to act quickly when your bird shows signs of stress or illness. When a bird is stressed, their immune system is impacted. When a bird’s immune system and stamina is lowered, they don’t have the ability to keep the normal bacteria found in their bodies at a safe level. If bird stress is not addressed right away, the bird may develop a bacterial infection. Often the infection will either be respiratory or intestinal. This must be treated with a broad spectrum antibiotic. The bacterial infection is completely avoidable if you recognize the signs noted above, follow the instructions on cage placement, and follow instructions on introducing your new bird(s) to your existing bird(s). 

Additional steps can be helpful to your bird if it seems stressed during the acclimation process:

  • Make sure the temperature in the room is as close to 80 degrees as possible. The reason a bird looks puffed up when it is stressed is because their immune system is weakened and they feel cold. If you cannot have the ambient temperature in their room that warm, I recommend placing a covered heating pad on the low setting in the bottom of the cage. You can reposition a perch so that it is just a few inches above the heating pad as well.
  • Add 3-4 drops of apple cider vinegar to the water source. We provide a packet of electrolytes in the envelope on each travel box, and the apple cider vinegar should be mixed with them in the water. We offer an amazing product on our site called VITALIZE thats perfect for birds acclimating to a new home. It’s great to give to new and existing birds when first introducing them to each other in mixed aviaries, or before and after transporting them for grooming or yearly vet exams.
  • Covering the cage on three sides, leaving just the front exposed, is recommended for birds that seem stressed. Keep lighting very dim and the view around the cage restricted also really helps new birds feel safe and secure.

10. THE BEGINNING AND END OF THE ACCLIMATION PROCESS-The acclimation process for any bird starts the second it is removed from the travel box or carrier. The actual end of the acclimation process depends on each individual bird, the species of bird, environment, and the relationship want to have with your bird. Finches, canaries, and other birds that do not require handling have a much shorter acclimation period than parrot type birds. Hand fed parrots will acclimate to their new surroundings and bond with their new family much faster than parent raised birds. The amount of time you’re able to commit to your new bird each day along with the level of understanding you have about bird behavior greatly impacts how quickly your bird will acclimate to you. This is where the ‘research’ referred to above really matters. People should always research the expected temperament, behavior, and body language of both the specific species purchased and birds in general so you know what to expect and how to react. Remember birds kept in captivity are genetically identical to the same species in the wild. Pet birds are still ‘exotic’ pets and are not ‘domestic’ pets like a dog or cat. They have the same drives, fears, behavior, and temperament as a bird in the wild. Understanding this concept greatly helps people bond with their birds in a very short period of time. The relationship you have with a pet bird is indescribable if you have never experienced it before. A bird quickly becomes a part of the family, creating an unbreakable bond with their human flock. Being prepared before your feathered family member arrives, and after you get it home, are the most important things someone can do when adding a new bird to their home. You and your bird(s) will be glad you did!

As always, give us a call at 877-527-5656 or email at customersupport@thefinchfarm.com with any questions or to place an order.