Pet-care practices research results

Your bird's environment

What birds need:

  • Outdoor aviaries must be as large as possible, protected from the weather (including shade), provide a dark area for sleep and shelter from predators.
  • Indoor cages should be as large as possible, to give birds the chance to move around freely. The bare minimum length and width of any cage should be at least twice the length of the wingspan of the largest bird in the cage.
  • Indoor cages shouldn't be in the kitchen. Fumes and gases from everyday cooking can be fatal (including fumes from highly heated non stick cookware like Teflon). Birds are also very sensitive to many other fumes and environmental conditions.
  • At night, cages should be covered so the bird can rest (they need approximately 12 hours of sleep per night) and to protect from draughts.
  • Flooring of cages should be covered with something that can be removed daily for cleaning such as newspaper, sandpaper or wood shavings. The cage and furniture will require total dismantling, washing and disinfecting once a week, to minimise the risk of disease. Always use bird safe cleaning products (no human cleaning sprays or bleach).
  • Clean water and food containers out daily. They should be kept off the ground and not placed under perches, so they won't be defecated in.
  • To ensure healthy feet, perches of different materials and widths should be provided. Natural branches are a good choice.
  • If possible, move indoor cages outside for half an hour a day, so your bird can get natural light (but ensure he/she has access to some shade and cover to hide from predators). Birds without access to natural light, risk vitamin D deficiency.

The reality:

  • 22% of birds spend most of their time in a small cage when outdoors.
    15 % of owners report their bird spends most of its time when outdoors in an uncovered area.
  • 50% of owners report that their bird does not have the ability to 'hide' from predators or threats.
  • 32% of birds spend most of their time in a small cage when indoors.
  • Overall, many birds are kept in small cages that are insufficient to meet their basic welfare needs.
  • 16% of birds spend most of their time in the kitchen when indoors, where they may be subject to noxious odours and hazardous chemicals.
  • 37% of birds have less than nine hours of access to a quiet, dark sleeping area.
  • 56% of bird owners don't clean cage flooring daily.
  • 11% of bird owners never dismantle cages and furniture for cleaning.
  • Eight% of owners use human cleaning sprays or bleach to clean their bird's cage and furniture.
  • 15% of owners only clean their bird's food and water containers once a week or less.
    24 per cent of owners put their bird's food and water containers on the cage floor.
  • Only 55% of owners provide branch perches for their bird.
  • 15% of owners fail to provide perches of different heights and widths.
  • 20% of owners use sandpaper covered perches, which can cause abrasions of the foot pads.
  • 33% of birds never spend any time outdoors.

Feeding your bird

What birds need:

  • Obesity is the biggest killer of pet birds. A common mistake made by bird owners is to feed only seed. Seed is very fatty, and lacks many essential vitamins and minerals (this includes the seed mixes and sunflower seeds available from supermarkets). Seed should only be fed as a treat.
  • Instead of seed, feed your bird commercially prepared bird pellets, plus fresh vegetables daily.

The reality:

  • 63% of owners feed seed mix to their birds.
  • Only 8% of owners feed their birds pellets.
  • 55% of owners never feed leafy greens to their bird.

Bird behaviour

What birds need:

  • Birds are very intelligent, and require an interesting variety of toys to keep them occupied. Toys should be rotated regularly, to prevent boredom. Toys can be bought or made.
  • Another option is to get your bird to work for its food.
  • Most indoor or non-aviary birds enjoy free exercise time outside the cage,  it is a good source of exercise. Consequently, wing trimming or clipping is generally not recommended. Always supervise your bird during free flying time, and ensure you have 'bird proofed' the area first.
  • You may need to seek professional advice if your bird develops behavioural problems. Deprived of company and exercise, many birds left alone in cages can become depressed or neurotic. Behavioural problems include feather mutilation (plucking), aggression (biting), screeching, head weaving or other stress induced behaviours.
  • Birds can be tamed and trained when handled regularly. It is best to handle birds daily from a young age so they become accustomed to humans.

The reality:

  • 20% of owners do not provide access to toys or other objects birds can manipulate.
  • 16% of owners don't provide any form of exercise for their bird.
  • Only 44% provide free flight time outside of the cage.
  • 21% of owners clip the wings of their birds.
  • 27% of birds are frightened of loud noises.
  • 41% of birds are aggressive.
  • 15% of birds have separation anxiety.
  • 21% of birds display anxious behaviours.
  • 21% of birds display destructive behaviours.
  • 44% of owners don't train their birds.

Companionship for birds

What birds need:

  • Most birds (except birds such as male canaries) are highly social, flock animals. They require the company of another bird of a similar or the same species, unless you are available to provide company for most of the day.
  • While providing companionship is preferable, if you must have a solitary bird, some species such as budgies will benefit from the provision of a mirror in their cage. They think their reflection is another bird, which goes a long way towards keeping them company when the humans are out!

The reality:

  • 26% of birds are regularly home alone for more than 8 hours at a time.
  • 59% of birds don't have the companionship of another bird.
  • 19% of owners interact with their birds less than once a day.
  • 42% of owners don't provide their birds with access to a mirror.

Bird health

What birds need:

  • Birds require regular preventative health care — for example, control of internal and external parasites.
  • Owners should be aware of the signs of a sick bird, and when noticed, seek immediate veterinary attention.
  • Owners can prevent overgrown beaks by providing their bird with cuttlefish. Overgrown nails can be prevented by providing rough, uneven diameter perches. To help keep birds' feathers healthy, owners should provide a warm water bird-bath once a week.

The reality:

  • 44% of birds are not checked or treated for external parasites, and 48% are not checked or treated for intestinal worms.
  • 15% of owners say that they would not take their bird to the vet if it became sick.
  • Many owners do nothing to maintain their bird's beak health (8%), claw or feet health (13%) or feather health (15%).

Further information

Bird welfare recommendations were sourced from the Pet-Care Practices in Victoria research that surveyed 1,629 dog, cat, bird and rabbit owners in Victoria to measure how well they understood their pets’ welfare needs.

Find out more about owning a bird and how to care for birds.

Page last updated: 24 Nov 2020