All birds deserve to be happy. Loving your companion birds and learning to understand their needs will help you identify the things you must do to give them positive experiences and prevent them from feeling worried, upset, frightened and stressed.
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 Mental Wellbeing. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your companion birds have positive experiences and are receiving the love, understanding and companionship they need for their mental wellbeing.
Birds are prey animals, which means they’re always on the lookout for things that may harm them.
It’s important to help your new bird feel safe by housing them in an area away from loud noises and other companion animals. Birds feel safest when they are able to get up high or can take cover under shelter.
Find out more about the ideal environment for your bird under our Environment section.
To help your birds settle in, it's really important to:
Every time you enter your bird's enclosure, do so slowly and quietly. Birds feel safer when you make slow, predictable movements. It is best to place the food and water close to the door, so it is easy to change it every morning with the least amount of disturbance.
New birds can be stressed easily by the presence of other companion animals (e.g. cats and dogs), lots of people or noisy appliances (e.g. vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers), so avoid overwhelming your bird with those things when they are settling in. Over time, your bird may get used to these things, but it is important to keep your new bird’s environment calm and quiet for the time being
Absolutely! It's one of the best things you can do to make your bird’s life a happy and fulfilled one. Birds in the wild live in large flocks, so it makes sense that they should live with other bird friends!
Once you have witnessed companion birds interacting together, it's unlikely you would ever want to keep a bird on their own.
While tame birds can enjoy human company, it does not replace the fact another bird of the same species will be the best companion for them. Many people believe that if they get a second bird then they may lose the bond with their bird.
This is simply not true - just like any relationship, the more positive interactions your bird has with you, the stronger your bond with being. Tame birds need daily interaction with their guardians (owners).
It's best to pair birds of the same species, as they understand each other's behaviour best.
They can talk the same language, understand each other's body signals and play, preen each other, relax, eat together and look out for each other.
Having birds of the same gender will prevent unwanted breeding. If you have birds of different genders, it's best to speak to your vet about how to prevent any breeding behaviours that may lead to eggs.
After your new birds have completed their quarantine period and been cleared of any illness, it's time to start the introductions. The most important thing is to introduce new birds gradually, first by housing them near each other in separate enclosures, and gradually bringing the enclosures closer over a few days.
By monitoring their interactions over a week or so, you will get an idea of how they may interact when they finally meet. If your birds are spending a lot of time sitting near each other or seem calm around each other, this is a good sign that they want to become friends. When you are confident that it is the right time to introduce them.
Move your new bird(s) into your aviary and allow them to slowly come out of their enclosure/carrier on their own. Never force a bird out of the carrier, as this may stress them. Remember that you need a larger enclosure for multiple birds, that allows them to get away from each other if they want.
In the wild, birds have the freedom to interact with birds they get along with and get away from those they don’t. Unfortunately, companion birds living in an aviary don’t always have the ability to get away. Imagine if you were put in a room with someone you didn’t like and you weren’t allowed out for your entire life - it wouldn’t be very fun!
There could be a number of reasons why your birds are fighting...
1) Are you giving your birds the right amount of food? Are there multiple food dishes for your birds to eat? Birds sometimes fight over food. Try increasing the amount of food you provide and offer it in a few separate dishes around your bird's enclosure.
2) Are your birds bored? Do they have toys to play with, that are rotated daily? Do they need more flying time outside of their indoor enclosure? Boredom can lead to aggression, for healthy birds, keep your birds' bodies and minds busy by providing toys or enrichment. See our bird enrichment ideas for more information
3) Is one bird chasing another bird repeatedly? Try and figure out who is doing the chasing. Is it around food, a certain object or in a particular area? Birds can be protective of their food or toys, just like we are with our siblings. If you can figure out what the cause is, you may be able to solve the problem easily. Creating visual barriers (for example putting a nice leafy branch in between perches may also help prevent aggression from escalating (be sure to check our bird safe browse list to make sure it's not toxic). Birds can become aggressive, particularly during breeding season. You may need to house your birds in a larger enclosure or separate them if their aggression continues.
Birds do have the potential to harm each other, so it is best to contact an avian behaviourist or your vet if you are unsure as to why your birds are fighting.
If your birds absolutely must be separated, it’s even more important to provide your birds with interesting toys or things to do each day.
Birds in the wild are always on the go, foraging for food, finding mates or even avoiding predators. Companion birds are lucky in that they always have food available and a safe place to sleep, but this can make their life a little boring.
A bored bird can quickly turn into a distressed bird. Deprived of things that are natural to them, such as companionship, flying and exploring, many birds left alone in cages can become depressed or neurotic.
Boredom, fear, frustration and anxiety can lead to a number of behavioural problems. These can include:
If you believe that your birds may be bored, check out our bird enrichment section for more ideas about how to keep your bird busy.
Birds may be aggressive and bite for a number of reasons:
If your bird is exhibiting any behavioural problems, your vet will need to perform a health check and disease testing to rule out any underlying medical problem. If medical causes are ruled out, you will then need to seek expert advice from an animal behaviourist.
Some types of birds are easier to train than others. Hand raised parrots and parakeets (e.g. Budgies and Cockatiels) are easily trainable, provided you have the time and patience to spend with them. Adult birds can be extremely difficult to tame, even by experts. Gaining a bird's trust takes time. We recommend interacting with your birds daily in a positive way, so they learn to see you as a friend and companion.
If you are worried about being nipped by your companion bird’s beak, here are a few hints to avoid your bird mistaking your finger for a tasty treat.
Placing treats in a brightly coloured milk bottle lid is a great way to train your bird to come to you, or go to a certain place (e.g. back in its enclosure)
Once you know your bird’s favourite foods, you can begin training him/her to “come” to you, “step up” or “fly down.” Birds feel safest up high and feel vulnerable when flying down to a lower perch. Getting a bird used to come to you (particularly from up high) is the most important thing you can train in a companion bird - it may save your birds life if they were to ever escape.
Teaching ‘come’ is easy if your bird is comfortable approaching you for a treat. Hold a treat out at a short distance, and reward your bird for coming to you. As it learns that coming to you means treats, you can start to practice from greater distances.
If your bird isn’t used to being around people, start with these steps:
‘Fly down’ can be harder to teach, as birds feel vulnerable flying to a lower perch. The most important thing when training ‘fly down’ is to start from small distances (as little as 10cm) and reward lots with your bird’s favourite treats. As your bird begins to feel comfortable flying short distances, you can increase the distance between you and the bird.
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. Tame birds can be taught to “step up” on your hand, which is a great time to check them over for any health problems.
If you believe your companion bird may be ill and needs to go to the vet, here are some ways to safely put them in a carrier box.
1) The best way to get a bird into a carry box is to get them to walk in themselves. You can train this behaviour over a period of time by placing their favourite treats in the carry box.
2) If your bird is tame and understands the “step up” command, ask your bird to step up on your hand, and move your hand into the carry box.
3) If your bird is not tame and you need to catch your bird straight away, you may need to ask an adult to catch them using a bird net or small, lightweight towel to throw over the bird. Being chased around an aviary room is very stressful for any bird, so make sure to do this quickly and handle the bird gently. Never catch a bird mid-flight, as their wings can be easily damaged.
Here are some suitable bird transport carriers, for taking your bird to the vet.