Food safety for pet birds

scarlet macaw at food pot* Food must be kept dry, because if it becomes wet, this is likely to cause it to turn mouldy, and seed will start sprouting. Aviary birds should therefore be fed under cover, with special hoppers being recommended. This will prevent the food becoming soiled by the bird’s droppings, which can be equally harmful. A number of potentially serious illnesses, not to mention parasites including roundworms, may be spread in this way from contaminated food.

* Bird food needs to be fresh because it deteriorates with age. This applies just as much to processed foods as seed, with vitamin levels in particular falling off rapidly, especially if storage conditions are less than ideal. Formulated bird foods such as pellets or egg-rearing food should therefore not be used after their recommended ‘use by’ date, because otherwise, the birds may suffer nutritional deficiencies as a result.

* Always store seed in metal bins in outbuildings, rather than leaving it in sacks.This will help to ensure that it stays dry, but will also prevent rodents gaining access to it. Their droppings in amongst the seed represent a particular hazard to any birds feeding on it, with serious infections including salmonellosis being spread to birds from contaminated seed.   

* If you use bins for bird food, operate an all-in, all-out policy, emptying and then cleaning each one thoroughly bird seed and scoopbefore refilling it. Otherwise, you will be creating ideal conditions for fodder mites to proliferate. As their name suggests, these tiny creatures feed on seeds, and are barely visible to the naked eye. Their presence is most likely to be revealed if you sniff at a sample of seed in your hand, because these mites impart a strong, sweet and rather sickly scent to it.

* Drinkers as well as feeders must be washed out regularly, because they too can represent a threat to the bird’s health if contaminated. Special avian disinfectants can be recommended for this purpose, being used in accordance with the manufacture’s instructions. Check these carefully when using a new product however, because the recommended guidelines do vary from one brand to another.

* A bottlebrush provides the easiest and most efficient way to clean tubular feeders or drinkers, allowing both the top of the inside and the base unit to be cleaned thoroughly, but choose a bottlebrush of suitable size for this purpose, rather than one that is likely to split the base of the drinker.