The original twitter ... keeping your feathered friends happy

STIMULATION: Caged birds need plenty of enrichment to stave off boredom.
STIMULATION: Caged birds need plenty of enrichment to stave off boredom.

Pet birds can be wonderful companions - but even though they're small, they have complex needs to keep them healthy, and to make sure they have enough enrichment in their lives.

It's really important to know that birds often display a 'preservation instinct' - this means that, even when they're unwell, they can appear healthy.

They will often hide illness or injury so as not to appear vulnerable to predators.

That's why it's very important to be proactive and seek veterinary advice if you have any concerns at all about your bird's health.

The RSPCA Knowledgebase can help with what to look for when checking if your bird is healthy.

Most bird species are highly social, so if you're keeping pet birds, they should be housed in groups or compatible pairs.

Feeding your birds

Birds in the wild eat a much more varied diet than that offered by most commercial bird feeds.

Therefore, it's important to first have an understanding of the specific species of bird you have, and what they need in their diet.

As a general rule, you should feed your birds a combination of both a high quality commercial food and some natural foods e.g. fresh fruit, vegetables, seeding grasses, native flowers and vegetation, green foods etc that are appropriate and safe for the particular bird species.

Food is a great opportunity to provide enrichment for your birds, so supplying appropriate fruit, vegetables and native flowers and vegetation for them to peck at, or feeding items through the use of safe puzzle feeders can be a good option.

Check with your vet to make sure what you're feeding is appropriate and non-toxic.

Food should always be fresh and clean, and should be changed daily rather than 'topped up'.

Provide plenty of fresh, clean water, and you can place a cuttlefish bone for your birds to peck at to supply them with important minerals.

Food is a great opportunity to provide enrichment for your birds, so supplying appropriate fruit, vegetables and native flowers and vegetation for them to peck at, or feeding items through the use of safe puzzle feeders can be a good option.

Housing your birds

Exercise is a really important part of keeping your birds happy and healthy, so the enclosure they are housed in must be large enough for them to enjoy free flight and movement.

The enclosure you choose should be made of safe, non-toxic materials, and have both horizontal and vertical space to allow your birds to move naturally and freely.

Providing environmental enrichment will keep your birds from becoming bored - offer different, movable perches, and objects for them to play and interact with.

Choose perches that are made from natural branches, as smooth commercial perches can lead to issues with your birds' feet.

Make sure that you place your birds' enclosure somewhere they are protected from extreme hot or cold weather.

Allow your birds the opportunity to bathe regularly, by placing a shallow bowl of clean water on the ground of their enclosure, and changing the water daily.

The enclosure should be cleaned regularly to remove faeces and food waste, especially if it is a cage, rather than an aviary.

Find out more about how to care for pet birds at the RSPCA's Knowledgebase.