Riverside Veterinary Clinic

Parakeet / Parrot Care

Cage: Prison Or Palace?

In the wild, birds fly long distances during the course of daily activities. While necessary for your bird's safety while you're not at home, any cage restricts natural movement. Even a bird with trimmed wings needs plenty of space to exercise, stretch out the wings and explore. The cage should be the biggest that you can possibly afford. Choose an area in the house without drafts and where the bird can interact with people.


Perches that are the same thickness (diameter) can cause pressure points on the feet. Use perches that vary in size and shape so that different parts of the feet are used. Tree branches make good perches, but check that the tree is not toxic to birds. Also ensure that the tree has never been sprayed with any chemicals. Some examples of trees that are safe for birds are apple, bamboo, bottle brush, casuarina, citrus, guava, hibiscus and mulberry trees. Never use any part of the avocado pear tree. Don’t use sandpaper perches as these can cause abrasions to the feet.


Sunlight: Direct sunlight is important for calcium metabolism. Make sure that the bird has the option to move into shade should it get too hot.
Heating: A bird’s optimum temperature is in the high 20s. When the temperature drops below 20 degrees celcius, a heat source such as a heater is needed. Placing a cover over the cage will prevent drafts, but will NOT heat up the temperature inside the cage.

Mental Stimulation

Many birds are highly intelligent and need plenty of mental stimulation. Studies have shown that some birds have the mental capabilities of a 2 year old child. Boredom and frustration can cause behavioural problems such as feather plucking and excessive screeching.

How can I keep my bird mentally active?

1) Timeout: Let your bird spend as much time as possible out of the cage when you are at home to supervise.
2) Toys: Provide plenty of toys that you rotate on a regular basis to give variety.
3) Tearing apart: Give paper and cardboard items that your bird can chew and tear apart for example boxes, toilet rolls, egg cartons and rolled up newspaper.
4) TV: Leave on the radio or TV when you are not at home.
5) Treats: for foraging activities. Wrap up treats (like seeds or nuts) in pieces of paper and place them in different areas of the cage so that your bird spends time searching for them.
6) Tricks: Take the time to teach your bird verbal labels for items or actions by consistently using the same word when referring to something. Do not reinforce inappropriate behaviour by giving attention while the bird is performing the behaviour. Rather ignore the undesirable behaviour and give plenty of praise and attention when the bird is behaving appropriately.

Social Needs

Birds are highly social creatures.  They are flock animals, travelling and feeding together as a group and crave interaction with their flock members.

1) Your bird may choose one person in the family as their 'mate' and may see other people as rivals to your affection. Remember to give enough time to your feathered 'mate' and be consistent in the amount of time you spend interacting with your bird.
2) Recreate social interactions of the flock by sharing meals together and including the bird in activities at home such as  watching TV in the evenings.
3) If there is a new pet or baby in the household, make sure you give your bird plenty of attention so that he does not feel neglected.

Emotional Sensitivity

1) Threatening events
In the wild, birds fly away to escape perceived threats, such as a bird of prey. A bird that is confined within a home environment cannot escape from situations that they find stressful. Although it is impossible to prevent all stressful occurances,  you can remove your bird from noises, movements, objects, people or animals that scare him.
* If you are having a party at home, move the bird to a quiet room and leave a radio playing to block out the other sounds.
* Closely supervise any interaction between visitors and your bird. Birds are often terrified of young children because they tend to be noisy and boisterous, and often people inadvertently scare a bird by their actions.

2) Environmental changes
Birds enjoy following an established routine and find unpredictable changes to their environment frightening. The simple addition of rituals to interactions with  your parrot can add some appreciated predictability to his environment.
* Let the bird enjoy taking part in your daily rituals, for example keeping him with you as you eat meals, shower, dress, watch TV and so on.
* Use the same words and rituals as you greet him, leave home, say goodnight and so on.
* If you are moving home, rather leave your bird with a bird-sitter while you are packing, moving and unpacking to spare your bird from this stressful process.

Possible Dangers

1) Incorrectly trimmed wings
If the bird's landing feathers have been cut, he may be unable to land properly and chest wounds can occur as the bird’s breast bone (sternum) hits the floor. These wounds usually require stitches in order for them to heal. A bird can also lose a large amount of blood if a blood feather (a growing feather with a blood supply) has been cut. Ensure that your bird's wings are trimmed only by a bird vet.

2) Metal poisoning from eating metal items such as pieces of jewellery, decorations, burglar guards or rusted items.  Metal poisoning can be confirmed by taking an x-ray of the bird.

3) Dangers in the kitchen
Keep your bird away from the kitchen while you are cooking to avoid a number of risks:

a) Accidental burns can occur from boiling water, hot oil or hot plates.
b) Toxic poisoning can occur when non-stick cookware is overheated. The excessive heat creates a gas emission called Polytetrafluoroethlyene (PTFE) intoxication that is deadly to birds even in small doses. Teflon and any other type of non-stick cookware or coated appliance like grill plates, electric pans or even irons and iron board covers can cause this poisoning.

4) Exposure to other poisonous toxins
Toxic fumes are particularly dangerous to birds because they have a highly efficient respiratory system that consists of both lungs and air sacs. A very high metabolic rate, light bones and low body fat all ensure that oxygen (or toxic fumes) are distributed quickly around the body to enable birds to fly. It is vital to be aware of the potentially deathly hazards in any normal household, such as:

  • burning incense,  oils or candles
  • car fumes (carbon monoxide)
  • cigarette and cigar smoke
  • deodorant spray or air freshener
  • hair dye and hair spray
  • insecticides and pesticides
household cleaning products:
  • ammonia based cleaners
  • drain cleaner
  • floor polish
  • furniture polish
  • oven cleaner
  • stain remover
  • surface sprays
  • toilet cleaner
  • paint and varnish, paint remover    
  • perfume
  • treatment used on furniture such as Master Guard
  • matches
  • moth balls
  • nail polish and remover

* Remove the bird from a room that is being cleaned and make sure that the room is well aired before returning the bird to the area.
* Your bird's bowls and cage can be cleaned using dish washing liquid, but ensure that all items are well rinsed before use.



62 Soofie Saheb Drive,
Durban North,

Consultations by appointment

Monday - Friday: 07:45 - 17:45
Saturday: 08:00- 11:45
Sunday: Closed
Public Holidays: Closed

Contact Us

Tel: 031 563 6565 / 66

Sherwood After Hours Emergency Clinic:
031 207 1300