Guest Author - Heather Thomas
Birds and trees naturally go together. As bird owners, it is tempting to harvest branches in their natural state for our feathered friends. Commercially available perches, made from natural wood such as manzanita, are wonderful additions to your birdís cage. They promote foot health and interesting surfaces for your bird to explore. While these branches are wonderful, they can also be expensive. The do-it-yourselfer can save some money while providing an interesting environment by using branches from the great outdoors.
Bird Safe Wood
While it may sound like there is no down side to using natural branches, some precautions must be taken to ensure your birds health and safety. Not all plants, including trees, are safe for pet birds. Some are toxic. Research every tree before you select branches for your bird. Avoid dead wood and diseased trees. Some of the most common bird-safe trees include: Ash, Apple, Birch, Elm, Grape Vine, Pine, and Poplar.
Natural branches provide your bird with a healthy chewing surface. A bird can literally spend hours smoothing all the nubs and rough surfaces from a branch. This experience also allows your bird to spend time doing something that their native relatives do in the wild.
It is critical that you know the source you harvest from. Pesticide free branches are essential to your birdís health. Unless you know the long history of a tree, it is better to be safe rather than sorry. Do not stop and pick up trimmed branches from along side the road and use them for your bird, especially if it is something like apple or grape vine; these two plants are often sprayed with pesticide to prevent pests from consuming their sweet fruit. As a side note, this is also a consideration when feeding your bird grapes or apples; choose organic whenever possible or remove the skin if that is more reasonable.
Since there is a strong likelihood that your harvested branches have come in contact with wild birds, sanitize your branches for added protection against avian illness. Spray the branches with a solution of water and grapefruit seed extract. This powerful disinfectant has been shown to disinfect as well as bleach without the harmful effects to your bird. Different strengths of grapefruit seed extract, or GSE as itís commonly referred to, are available online or at most local health food stores. Allow branches to dry completely before placing them in your birdís cage.
You can view finding clean healthy sources of natural branches as a quest to enrich your birdís life. If there is ever any concern that a branch is not pesticide free, donít take the risk with your birdís health; just stick with commercially available perches.