All birds must receive immediate veterinary attention when they are sick or injured. In most cases, unnecessary pain, injury and disease can be prevented through good husbandry, regular visits to a veterinarian and addressing any issues the veterinarian raises.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Health. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your companion birds have the right veterinary care to be healthy.
Just like you have a family doctor that you see when you are unwell, your bird needs their own doctor too - a veterinarian is an animal doctor.
It’s a good idea for your family to find out which veterinarian they plan on using before you get your birds. Not all veterinary clinics specialise in birds, so it is important you find a vet that is very experienced with companion birds. If possible, visit the clinic beforehand and look around. Ask yourself: Is the waiting area clean? Are the staff helpful? Find out the opening hours and if they handle emergencies after hours as well.
Once you get a new bird, your family should have him/her checked by your chosen local veterinary clinic straight away. Make an appointment as soon as you can for a check-up. Your vet will have lots of useful advice that may help your bird settle in. It is helpful to write a list of the questions you want to ask so everything can be covered.
Birds feel pain in the same way as other animals, including people - but they are not very good at showing outward signs of pain and may be suffering a great deal before you notice anything is wrong.
A change in the way your bird normally behaves can be an early sign he/she is ill or in pain. If your bird is not eating or is more quiet than usual, he/she is highly likely to be ill, or in pain. You should talk to your bird’s veterinarian immediately.
The main health problems that we see in birds are:
Regular health check-ups with a vet are the best way of detecting any problems with your bird early. It's important to remember that if any of your birds show any signs of injury or ill health, you must take them to their veterinarian immediately. If it is late at night or on the weekend and your veterinary clinic is closed, there are great after-hours clinics available for emergencies. Make sure your family know where your closest after-hours veterinary clinic is.
Birds moult one or two times a year, which means they can look very scruffy during this time. It is extra important to provide the best nutrition you can during this period, as moulting can be exhausting for a bird.
If you see your bird plucking out their feathers, contact a vet, as this is not normal. Your bird is either stressed, frustrated or bored or maybe has a medical problem that is causing them to pluck out their feathers.
It is important you seek veterinary advice immediately. If your vet determines that your bird is bored or frustrated, take a look at our enrichment ideas for birds, for ways to make your birds life more interesting.
Ask your parent or caregiver to help you check your birds for signs of illness or injury every day. The best time to observe this is when you put food out for your bird and watch how they move and feed.
Make sure this is done by someone else if you are away. Consult your vet immediately if you suspect your bird is in pain, ill or injured.
People often think a trip to the vet as something only needed when one of their birds become unwell. However, it is also important to remember that annual health checks are important for your birds’ well-being. These annual checks are a great way to detect any small problems before they become more serious.
During this 15 - 20-minute appointment, your veterinarian will carefully examine each bird’s entire body – from the top of its head, its wings and tail! This is a good time to check your bird for any internal or external parasites. Your veterinarian will also discuss any concerns you have regarding your bird’s health, diet and behaviour.
Whenever you want to introduce a new bird to your current flock, it is important that all introductions are done carefully to avoid stress, health and aggression problems between the birds.
To avoid passing on any illnesses, you will need to quarantine any new birds for a period of approximately 6 weeks before introducing them to your existing birds. Quarantine means keeping the bird in a separate aviary, away from your existing birds to prevent the spread of disease. It is important to:
After the quarantine period, and the vet determines that your new bird/s are healthy, it's time to introduce your birds to each other. See our section on Mental Wellbeing for advice on introducing birds.
If any of your birds ever show any signs of injury or ill health, an adult must take them to their veterinarian immediately. Birds can become highly stressed by being physically handled. To find out the best ways to move a bird into a carry cage, see our Mental Wellbeing section.
If it is late at night or on the weekend and your vet is closed, there are great after hour clinics available for emergencies. If you find a bird that doesn’t belong to you or that shows signs of sickness or injury, get an adult to contact your local Bird rescue or SPCA immediately.
Remember to always find an adult before you approach any bird that appears sick or injured – even your own bird. Birds may respond differently because they are in pain.
There will be times when you may need to look at your bird more closely, such as for health checks. Birds are prey animals and can easily become stressed (or hurt) by being handled.
To help minimize the risk of accident or injury, bird need to be handled in a safe and gentle manner. Birds can be taught to “step up” on your hand, which is a great time to check them over for any health problems.
See our Mentall Wellbeing section for more information.