All birds should be free to express their normal behaviours. A normal behaviour is the way an animal acts in its natural environment. Enough space, proper shelter and housing, as well as company of the animal’s own kind, allows and encourages the expression of normal behaviours.
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 need to be met for animals to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the five freedoms.
One of these Freedoms is: freedom to express normal behaviour. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your birds can express normal behaviour.
Did you know that Budgies in the wild can fly up to 400km in a single day, in flocks of up to 10,000 birds?! A bird’s main method of transport is their wings. They are happiest when they are able to fly from place to place, towards tasty treats or away from danger. In the wild, birds cover great distances in a single day.
By keeping birds in an enclosure or your home, you are taking away some of their natural instincts and pleasures. Unfortunately, most cages purchased from pet shops or online do not allow the freedom to fly more than a few wing beats. To make up for this, you need to ensure their living area is as large as possible and allow them opportunities to stretch their wings.
All pet birds should be housed in aviaries, not cages. An aviary is a large enclosure for housing birds that allows for flying space. There are both outdoor and indoor aviaries available, so before purchasing one, make sure it suits:
For TAME birds that live in INDOOR aviaries:
If your bird is tame, lives in your home and enjoys human contact, you should allow your bird “free flying time” in a safe, enclosed area. Before you let your bird fly out of their aviary for the first time, it is important to:
1) Choose the right location
2) Make sure free flying time is always positive. Being chased around a room is incredibly stressful for birds. Instead, you can teach your bird to come to you, or their aviary by rewarding him or her for doing so.
If your bird is not tame and stresses around humans, he or she should be housed in a large aviary away from people so he or she has the ability to fly in a safe area.
Whenever a bird is not in flight, you will most likely see them sitting on a perch. Just the same as you prefer a comfortable pair of shoes, birds need comfortable perches. Birds not only use perches for standing, but also for scratching their beaks to remove small pieces of food. The best perches are ones that are easy to clean, comfortable to stand on and the right material and diameter to help prevent foot problems. The right size perch is one that allows your birds feed to cover 2/3 of the perch's diameter.
Perches should be placed throughout the enclosure in a way that doesn’t limit your birds flying space. Try to avoid putting food/water bowls or toys directly under any perches, as they may end up covered in bird poo!
Different types of birds take baths in different ways - some birds like water, others use sand or dust. Before purchasing your bird, find out everything you can about their natural behaviour in the wild. All birds like to be clean, and they spend several hours preening and bathing to keep their feathers in top condition.
Birds are extremely intelligent and are happiest when they have things to do. Toys allow birds to perform natural behaviours such as chewing, climbing, foraging and exploring. Different birds enjoy different types of toys, so try providing a variety of items until you find out which ones your birds like best! Just as we can become bored with our toys, birds get bored of theirs too if they have them all the time. Swap one toy every day for a different one, so your bird will want to play with it as it will feel like a brand-new toy.
Provide your birds with safe toys to play with and chew. Birds tend to love the simple (and cheap!) things in life. Talk to your local pet shop about what bird toys are the most popular.
Here are a few suggestions for toys and objects that could be a hit with your birds:
Make sure any items you give your birds are safe and inspect them regularly to check for potential injury points. As birds LOVE to chew, throw away or replace any items that become damaged or dangerous.
If you have more than one bird, check that there are enough items for each bird. Always ensure your birds can move away from a new object and keep a close eye on your birds when first giving them new items.
If they do appear stressed or frightened by a new item, remove it and watch their behaviour – talk to your veterinarian if you’re worried.
Eating from a bowl can be really boring for a bird that in the wild, spends up to 70% of their time in daylight out foraging for food. Make your birds feeding time more like a treasure hunt by scattering their favourite foods around the enclosure.
Here are a few ideas to make feeding time more fun:
The way a bird behaves will depend on his/her age, personality and past experiences. If one of your birds changes his/her behaviour, he/she could be distressed, bored, ill or injured. Birds that are frightened or in pain may change their behaviour or develop unwanted habits such as aggression or hiding.
Signs that a bird may be suffering from stress or fear can include constant loud vocalisations, sitting hunched or not wanting to move, hiding, chewing cage bars, over-plucking feathers, or eating/drinking/toileting less (or more) than normal.
Be observant. If your bird’s behaviour changes or he or she shows regular signs of stress or fear, ask your parents or caregivers to talk to your veterinarian.