Illness: Is My Bird Sick?
Signs of a Healthy Bird
Healthy parrots are beautiful creatures. They are stunning and picturesque. In order to maintain your parrot’s health, it is essential that you know what healthy looks like. And once you get that image in your mind, you need to be alert to any signs that your beloved parrot might be suffering from an illness or disease.
Here’s a brief overview of the signs of a healthy, vibrant bird:
- The eyes should be clear, bright and sparkling. There should be no cloudiness, redness, or sores.
- The nostrils should be clean and clear. There should be no signs of a nasal discharge, such as de-colored or matted feathers.
- Your bird’s beak should be smooth and structurally sound, allowing your pet to properly swallow his food.
- Feathers should be lush, full and colorful. There should be no dullness, bald patches or exposed skin.
- Each foot should consists of 4 toes—two on the back of the foot and two on the front. The skin on the feet should be smooth and clean. Excessive dryness or scaliness could be a sign of mite infestation.
Parrots are exceptionally active creatures. A healthy bird will be curious, inquisitive and playful. Most parrots are extremely active in the early morning when they first wake up. A healthy bird will spend his morning hours in his bird cage eating, vocalizing and playing with his toys. During the early to mid afternoon, parrots tend to quiet down and rest in their bird cage or aviary. Normal activity levels usually resume in the late afternoon and evening.
Signs of Sickness
One important thing to keep an eye on is your bird’s appetite. Just because your parrot appears to be eating does not necessarily mean he is well. Most birds will eat up until a few hours before their death. This is a protective instinct. In the wild, a sick bird will attract predators, which could endanger the entire flock. As a result, flock members will kick a sick parrot out of their community, leaving him to fend for himself. A bird who is not part of a flock is unprotected and defenseless. After all, there is safety in numbers. Since a sick bird does not want anyone to know he is sick, he’ll pretend to eat and act normal.
Become a Detective
When it comes to detecting illnesses, birds can be hard to figure out, unlike dogs or cats. If your dog is ill, you generally pick up on it right away. They won’t eat. They flop down in the middle of the floor, refuse to move and look at you with those big, “I’m sick” eyes. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to detect illness in a dog or cat. But birds are a little more complicated. Oftentimes, by the time a bird shows any noticeable signs of illness, he may have been sick for an extremely long time.
If you want to keep your bird healthy, be alert. Take every change in you bird’s behavior into consideration.
A Simple Test
If you suspect your bird is ill, place a food dish in his bird cage and carefully watch as he eats. Is your bird actually swallowing his food, or is he simply spreading it around the bird enclosure and making a mess?
As a general rule, here are the top signs of illness in birds:
- Weight loss
- Inactivity or decreased energy levels
- Droopy eyes
- Frequently falling from the perch
- Failure to preen itself (birds are obsessed with keeping their feathers clean and shiny. If a bird stops cleaning itself, it’s a sure-tell sign of illness)
- Runny nose
- Excessive sneezing or coughing
- Puffed up feathers and an overall huddled appearance
- Stops chirping or talking
Caring for Your Ill Bird
When your bird becomes ill it’s easy to panic. You feel so bad you try to do everything in your power to make your parrot well. You obsess about your bird’s eating, drinking, and sleeping habits. You call your vet every hour to ask a question and desperately try to fix the situation. While you can go overboard in this area, it is important that you adequately care for your parrot.
Here are a few things your bird will need during the recovery process:
Heat boosts the immune system and enables your bird to fight off infection and disease. The bird cage should be kept between 80-90◦ F. Heating pads are a good way to keep your parrot cage warm. Simply place the heating mat underneath the bird enclosure. Then wrap 3 sides of the cage using a birdcage cover or towels to hold the heat inside.
Heating pads work well for small cages such as finch cages, or Parrotlet cages. However, it is much harder to heat large bird cages with this method. Heating lamps are generally the best way to warm a large birdcage or aviary.
2. Lots of rest, peace and quiet
Sick birds need a lot of sleep to recover. You should place their cage in a quiet, secluded part of the house, away from any noise or activity.
Cage covers are also important. They help hold in the heat and also promote a dark, secure environment that allows your bird to sleep and rest. Dark cage covers, such as the ones offered by Custom Cages, are ideal.
These cage covers are made out of durable, light-weight non-toxic poly cotton fabric. They are machine washable and custom made to fit your bird cage. So you don’t have to worry about trying to drape a sheet or blanket over your parrot cage each night…plus try to figure out how to keep it from falling off. These commercial covers also include a unique flap door, which is secured with Velcro on each side. The Velcro allows you to easily lift the flap to open the door to check on your sick bird, without removing the entire cover.
3. Hand feeding
Although an ill bird may peck at his food and pretend to eat, he will actually swallow little or nothing. As a result, hand-feeding or spoon-feeding is the best option. On some occasions, your bird may need to be tube-fed. If this is the case, consult your veterinarian for instructions on how to properly do this. Otherwise you could damage your bird’s trachea or lungs.
If you have multiple birds it is important to isolate your sick parrot from the rest of the flock. If you keep all your birds in a large outdoor aviary or indoor aviary, you may need to purchase an additional bird cage for your sick parrot. You can purchase a stainless steel bird cage, a decorative bird cage or simply a cheap bird cage to house your ill pet. If you are on a tight budget, you can buy some exceptionally nice bird cages for under $500.
It is also a good idea to have a bird carrier on hand, in case you need to take your parrot to the vet.
Tending to a sick bird can be time consuming and worrisome. However, with proper care, you have a good chance of nursing your feathered friend back to health.