All birds must have access to clean water and a well-balanced, nutritious diet. Freedom from hunger and thirst provides a bird’s most basic needs by allowing that bird to remain in good health and full of energy.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that animals in your care must be provided with an environment and care that meets their five welfare needs. These welfare needs are five important conditions that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the five freedoms.
One of these Freedoms is: freedom from hunger and thirst. In this section, you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your birds have what they need to be freed from hunger and thirst.
Birds are very active and need constant access to food to make sure they have all the energy they need to fly around. As your pet bird cannot go and find food themselves, it is very important that your family provides your bird(s) with a balanced, nutritious diet to ensure they live long, healthy and happy lives.
Different types of birds eat different foods. Some birds eat
Make sure you research into providing the right diet for your bird, based on its species and overall condition.
In the wild, budgies, cockatiels and canaries spend most of their time looking for lots of different types of seeds to eat in their environment. Unfortunately, most stores bought seed mixes are quite different to the types of seeds birds would be eating in the wild. Store bought seed mixes sometimes only have a few different types of seeds and are often high in fat and carbohydrates.
Birds will often pick out their favourites (usually sunflower seeds), which mean they really are living on only one or two types of seed. It would be like you living on a diet of peanuts every day - you wouldn’t be very healthy.
Birds that are only fed dry seed every day are often overweight and lack the important vitamins and minerals they need to be healthy. This can lead to all sorts of problems with their feathers, their beak and even how much energy they have to fly around.
Bird pellets are a great diet choice for pet birds. They are made of high-quality ingredients and are a healthy, nutritionally complete diet for your birds.
Ask your birds’ veterinarian to recommend a healthy pellet food for your bird. Remember, only introduce a new food or change to your bird’s diet gradually, as some birds can be fussy and refuse to eat. You need to make sure your bird is always eating something.
While pellets are really nutritional, on their own they're not a very exciting diet – imagine if you had the exact same meal every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner for your entire life! Like you, your birds will become very bored. Therefore, it is recommended you add some variety to your birds’ diet by supplementing bird pellets with vegetables or a small amount of fruit.
Fresh foods such as vegetables and fruit can provide extra vitamins and minerals that are important for a healthy bird. Not all vegetables and fruits are safe for birds, so it is important to check whether the fresh food is safe for your bird.
Offer your bird a variety of safe, washed vegetables every day. Fruit is very high in sugar so these should be fed just as an occasional treat for your bird. Birds particularly like carrot, beetroot or corn, but remember that too much of anything can sometimes be unhealthy.
If you are feeding small birds such as Canaries, finches or quail you can grate the vegetables using a cheese grater to make it easier to eat.
Other safe vegetables/fruits include broccoli, capsicum, apples and pears. Always check with an adult before feeding your bird any food - if they don’t know for sure whether it is safe – don’t feed it to your bird!
Ask your bird’s veterinarian or local bird rescue for ideas of other bird safe fresh foods.
Unless advised by your birds’ veterinarian, most adult birds do not require additional supplements, provided that you are feeding your birds a complete and balanced diet.
Birds that may need supplements include sick or ill birds, young or old birds, or birds during breeding season. Supplements can come in the form of:
Speak to your birds’ veterinarian about whether your birds require additional supplements.
Grit can be offered sparingly (for example, once a month), but if fed a proper and balanced diet, birds should not require grit. Previously, it was believed that grit was an essential part of a pet birds' diets in order to help break down the seeds that they eat, but now most avian veterinarians are no longer recommending feeding grit.
Whilst birds in the wild may eat grit to aid digestion, pet birds eat a vastly different diet. Pet birds have been known to overeat grit, which can build up in their digestive system, leading to a serious medical condition known as ‘crop impaction’.
Speak to your local avian veterinarian if you want more information about feeding grit.
Water is absolutely essential for every function of a bird’s body. A bird needs water because without water, a bird is not going to survive for very long.
Birds often like to bathe in their water dish, which means it can get dirty quickly. Fresh, clean water must always be available and replaced daily for your birds. Make sure to place your water dish in an area your bird can get to easily, next to a comfortable perch.
Avoid placing the dish underneath perches, as it can become contaminated easily with droppings or old food.
Not all foods are safe for your bird to eat. Birds can become sick very easily if they eat toxic foods, so make sure you check whether a certain food is safe or not before feeding it out.
Here are some common toxic foods to avoid:
While lots of fruits are safe for birds to eat, apple seeds and fruit pits from stone fruit (e.g. cherries, plums, apricot and peaches) contain cyanide which is highly toxic. Always remove any pits or seeds before feeding your birds.
Watch for any changes in how much your bird is eating or drinking. Eating more or less than normal can be a sign that your bird is sick.
Another thing to check is your bird’s droppings. Any changes should be reported to your vet. Keep in mind that certain vegetables can change the colour of the droppings (e.g. beetroot and carrot can give your birds droppings a pink or orange tinge)
For more information about how to know whether your bird may be ill, check out our freedom from pain, injury and disease section.