Learn to Care for Birds
- A course for anyone with an interest or passion for birds
- Keep them as companion animals -pets
- Manage them as part of your work (eg. in a pet shop, zoo, animal rescue service, farm or elsewhere)
There are many different bird families, and within each family, lots of different types of birds. Some bird genera or species are more likely to be kept as pets than others. Finches, chickens and budgerigars for instance, have been bred as domesticated animals, for hundreds if not thousands of generations. The original species of such widely domesticated animals is far removed from the birds that we find in modern aviculture; and the variety of “breeds” within the species has in some cases, become very great.
There are nine lessons as follows.
- Scope and Nature of Bird Care
Choosing a bird
Commonly kept birds
- Housing Birds
Minimum requirements for keeping birds
Water, feeding and stimulation equipment
- Feed and Nutrition
Feed and feeding
- Health Management
Caring for the sick bird
Safety on the home
- Bird Behaviour and Training
Sexing and Desexing
- Working in the Bird Industry
Pet trade and breeding
Zoos and Wildlife Parks
Farming birds for meat, eggs, feathers or oils
Birds for pest control
Bird fertilizer -manure
- Discuss the nature and scope of aviculture and develop networking with others involved with aviculture.
- Determine appropriate types of birds to keep for different purposes.
- To consider and choose appropriate housing for a range of different types of captive birds.
- Outline the feeding requirements of a range of different captive birds.
- Describe management techniques for the health of a range of different birds.
- Appreciate behavioural traits of any birds you keep, and understand how to properly manage and respond to those traits; and if so desired, train the birds you keep.
- Manage the breeding of different types of birds.
- Identify opportunities for working in the aviculture industry.
How Easy is it to Handle Birds?
Birds can be trained easily to come on to your hand in order to feed or place back in the cage, and it is important that you spend time allowing birds to become accustomed to your hand, both within the cage and out. There are times, such as health checks, when you will need to restrain the bird to be examined and catching them is much easier if they are hand-trained.
Prior to catching any bird, large or small, it is important to observe their behaviour and their current mood. The main aim is to catch the bird causing minimal stress, so if the bird is already anxious or harassed, then it is probably best left at that time.
Once observations of the behaviour have been made, you must remove all the items from the cage before attempting to catch the bird. This includes removing perches, water dispenser, feeding bowls and hanging toys. Remove anything the bird may injure themselves on. Remember, birds are very frail, and may be easily hurt. They can also become stressed easily if they are handled roughly or incorrectly.
When handling a small bird (e.g. finch or budgerigar), it is vital that your hands close right around the bird’s body, including the wings. Any attempt to take hold of any bird by one wing or one leg will usually cause severe injury. If you cup your hands round too slowly, and a wing ends up loose and flapping, this can also cause injury to the bird. Of course, you also want to avoid closing your hands too tightly, damaging the bird. The best method for catching a small bird is to move your hand slowly and deliberately towards the bird until it is very close, then seize the bird quickly. Then you can arrange your hand so that it is over the back of the bird, with your first two fingers either side of the head and neck, and the thumb and last two fingers in a cage loosely around the entire body, holding all extremities (wings and legs), firmly together. You can also restrain the bird with your middle finger and thumb at either side of the head and your index finger supporting the head, with the body grasped by your cupped hand. It really depends on what is most comfortable for your hand and the bird being restrained. These restraints allow the bird to be fully examined. This restraining method can be quite difficult at first, so it can help to bring both hands slowly towards the bird and cup them gently together, whilst arranging your restraining hand.
Approach these in much the same way as small birds, except you should use a towel. Swiftly capture the bird with both hands and wrap towel round to hold wings in place, ensuring the head is poking out. This is usually best completed with two people. Restrain the bird with one hand at the head area, with thumb and index finger under lower jaw bone on either side of the head, and while the other hand seizes the body of the bird, or "both" legs high up (to prevent struggling).
With birds of prey you can use the same method as above however, you should wear protective gloves to avoid bites or scratches.
Why Do You Want to Keep Birds?
- There are a variety of reasons for keeping birds captive and some types of birds are more likely to be found in captivity than others.
- Some people keep birds as pets.
- Some need temporary care in animal rescue centres
- Some farm birds for meat, eggs, feathers or other products (eg. Chickens, Emus, Ostriches, Ducks, Geese, Quail, etc)
- Birds of prey have been kept and used for hunting throughout history (i.e. falconry)
- Birds are kept for conservation breeding purposes
- Birds are kept in zoos, wildlife parks and bird parks for tourism and educational value
- Certain birds are used in racing (eg pigeons).