How to Prepare Your Bird for Winter
Many birds need your help adapting to the changing seasons.
Most birds that are kept as pets are native to a rainforest climate. These pet owners must take steps to prepare their bird for the change in temperature and humidity that occurs during indoor winters. Your pet will become stressed if not properly cared for, and his immune system and metabolism will suffer.
Environment and Temperature
During the winter months, pay particularly close attention to your bird's environment. When you turn a heating system on, the humidity level inside can plummet. Even bird species that have adapted to normal climates will be stressed by the dry air. To help your bird, observe the following:
- Keep his cage in a room with a humidifier.
- Periodically spray or mist him with water, simulating rain.
- For smaller birds, place a bird bath in his cage — large enough for him to walk in and out of with ease, but not deeper than the bird itself.
Note: these steps are generally not necessary during the spring and fall, but can be beneficial whenever you run an air conditioner, as it can have a similar, but less severe, effect on humidity levels.
Besides humidity, keep an eye on your home’s ambient temperature.
- Each species of bird has a different preference. Check with your veterinarian for specifics.
- In general, try not to allow the temperature in your bird's cage to shift dramatically.
- Birds like to establish a comfort zone in their cage, and react poorly to environmental shifts.
Good nutrition is always a concern for a responsible pet owner, but it becomes more important when preparing your bird for the winter. Even if you regulate your home's humidity levels, birds will naturally become stressed during the winter. Stress may result from slight changes in temperature, ambient sunlight, humidity, or just an instinctual reaction to the season. A stressed bird's metabolism shifts, making it more vulnerable to health problems — try the following steps to avoid them:
- Be sure to diversify your bird's diet. Many birds will eat mostly seeds, but you should also supply him with ample protein, fats, and carbohydrates by feeding it beans, corn, spinach, and bits of fruit.
- Consult with an animal professional if you have questions about a proper winter diet for your bird.
Birds respond to changes in photoperiods (days becoming longer and shorter seasonally) by shedding their feathers in the spring and fall. This process is called molting. Birds molt so that they can replace damaged and worn feathers. It is natural, and should be expected. Be vigilant, however, of the following:
- If your bird is picking out his own feathers, this could be a sign of stress or illness. Bring him to your veterinarian immediately.
- Some of the common causes of picking are parasites (mites) and bacterial infections.
- Low humidity, boredom and attention seeking behavior are other possibilities.
If you’d like to learn more about your bird’s seasonal behavior and physical changes, visit the Association of Avian Veterinarians website. You will find many interesting articles and educational materials that can help you keep your bird happy and healthy.