Guest Author - Heather Thomas
The majority of Americans struggle to maintain a healthy weight, and we witness the health consequences woven throughout society. This growing trend also affects our companion pets. Pet birds need to maintain a healthy weight to stay in optimal physical health; excess weight can contribute to fatty liver disease, respiratory illness and shortened lifespan.
A lot of discussion surrounds the optimal avian diet. For years, a seed based diet was the norm. For some birds this caused obesity and as a result the pellet diet was created. While a pellet diet has optimal nutrition going for it, converting a seed-eating bird to a pellet diet proves difficult and considerably more expensive.
Consider what your companion bird would eat in its wild environment: berries, nuts, seeds, insects and vegetation. With this in mind, maybe our focus should not be as much on the base diet but what we add to it from our refrigerator and pantry. Just like their human counterparts, birds thrive when given fresh fruits, vegetables, sprouted seeds, whole grains and even bits of protein. Variety and nutrient dense foods should be our focus when choosing a diet for our feathered friends.
Simple and inexpensive additions to your birdís diet might include:
Sprouted Beans or Seeds
Because pet birds no longer fly great distances or forage for every bit of food they eat, we must be creative in finding ways to stimulate our birds to greater physical activity. There are many foraging toys on the market today for all size birds. Foraging toys not only hold nutritious treats; they require physical exertion and energy with the added benefit of entertaining your bird.
Diet alone does not assure a healthy bird. Exercise must be part of their everyday life. For the flighted bird, living in an aviary, this is not an issue. However, for companion birds, who primarily live in their cage, we must consider their ability to exercise.
Cage size becomes a more important component when we are concerned about the physical well being of our pet birds. A large cage offers the space needed to provide toys that encourage climbing, chewing and swinging. Many cages now come with play-gyms built onto the top. These are great additions to your birdís environment for times when you are home but donít have time to directly interact with your bird.
Wing exercises can also be a valuable tool and fun interaction with your bird. Simply, place your bird on your hand and drop your hand quickly enough to get his wings flapping. If youíre creative, you can turn this into a fun game to be enjoyed by both you and your bird.
The bottom line of weight management for your bird comes down to the same thing it does for us humans, diet and exercise. By helping your companion bird find balance in these areas, you should enjoy many happy and healthy years together.