Taking Pet Birds Outside (by Vera Dennison)
If you take your pet birds outside on pleasant warm weather days, it can be a wonderful experience for them. It can however, also be traumatic and life threatening.
Precursors of Vitamin D3 exist in the bird’s body. By absorbing ultra violet light rays through his skin the bird can produce Vitamin D3 which is necessary for him to be able to regulate the deposition of calcium in his bones. The exposure to direct sunlight must however be limited because heat can also be harmful to your bird. If you cannot control the amount of time your bird spends outside, or if your bird shows fear and anxiety at being outside, rather leave him inside and make sure he gets a good vitamin preparation in his drinking water or sprinkled on his softfood or that he eats a good brand of parrot pellets. These will supply him with sufficient vitamin D3 so he does not need sunshine. Your bird should not be eating seeds, nuts and fruit only anyway; he should be eating a good brand of pellets or a softfood which contains a variety of protein sources and the right levels of vitamins and minerals for him. He should also be getting some fresh, crisp vegetables and fruit and branches and other natural materials to chew.
It always amazes me to see people walk around in malls and shopping centers with their parrot, unrestrained, on their shoulder. I must say that most of these parrots are in beautiful feather, which goes to show that they get so much loving attention from their owners, that they do not feel frustrated or lonely enough to pluck their feathers. However, any sudden noise, a car driving by, a hooter blasting, the sight of a dog, cat or wild bird, a child shouting etc may frighten your pet bird. Its instinctive reaction will be to flee, and its way of fleeing from any threat is to FLY UP and AWAY! Even if it has its wings clipped, the initial fright gives it enough power to fly some distance, over the fence, into a busy street, amongst the crowd, on the ground between hundreds of feet, against a window pane, into a high tree, against electric wires the dangerous and fatal possibilities are endless.
Bird harnesses are a great invention. They can be made and sold locally if there is enough demand, otherwise you will have to manufacture your own out of the same material as dog leash straps. If your bird shows great fear of the harness, you can make it get used to the idea by leaving it lying in the same room as his cage and then gradually moving it closer to the cage. Then touch him with it and lastly try to slip it over his head.
Do not use a harness to tie your parrot onto its stand and after an outing, make sure your pet bird has access to fresh water and food and is allowed to rest.
Cages for outside
If you want to take your pet bird outside regularly, have a special, safe cage for this purpose. It need not be big, and it must contain at least one perch and food and water dishes. Do not place in the direct sunlight to prevent overheating. I like the idea of placing a towel over part of the top and side to provide a feeling of shelter at all times and putting the cage under a tree in dappled shade. Limit this time to half an hour and preferably always be nearby so you can keep an eye on what’s happening. As soon as you see your bird lift his wings away from his body and open his beak, bring him inside, as those are sure signs that he is overheating.
We are very often not aware of how much we pollute the air in our homes, with cigarette, fire and candle smoke, small amounts of gas as we light or extinguish our heaters, deodorants, cooking sprays, perfumes, air fresheners, household cleaning chemicals, dust from sweeping and vacuuming, fumes from cooking and gluing etc.
These pollutants do not affect us much, but the tiny lungs of our pet birds that often weigh les than half a kilogram, will certainly be affected, especially if the air is polluted often. Being aware of the above will help you choose the best place for your pet bird’s permanent cage position.
In any case, your pet bird will benefit from time outside in the fresh air time on the verandah, an open window near his cage, or some time under a tree, especially while the house is being cleaned. He will benefit from the fresh sir (hopefully you will not have hundreds of cars going past your yard) and also something different to look at. Make sure he is always safely locked up in his cage; we have heard some heartbreaking stories of wild birds snatching pet bird off their play stands and out of cages with open doors.
And finally – a cool shower
Clean, fresh air is good for our birds and it most certainly improves the appearance of their feathers. Some large parrots carry a lot of powder down (feather dust) on their feathers. You only have to look at the bottom of their cage to see the dust, bits of feather sheaths etc to realize how important it is to clean their cage and the room that they are in, regularly, and how good it is for them to come out of that dusty atmosphere and into fresh air.
Most pet birds love nothing better than a refreshing shower (with tepid water) after they have been outside. Some will hang upside down, open their wings and swing about while you spray them. They will look like half drowned rats at the end of it all, but all it takes is a good few shakes, a lot of preening in a cozy spot and they will be dry in no time.