By Dr. Laurie Hess | Director of Pet Health and Nutrition at ZuPreem
If you visit a rescue facility or a home where a bird is being fostered, there are certain things that you’ll want to look for:
1. You’ll want to see how the bird interacts with people in the foster home or rescue. Is the bird friendly and relaxed, or timid and fearful, in these interactions? Is the animal comfortable being handled? Birds that are uncomfortable or afraid of people they are already familiar with may need a great deal of interaction and attention to become better socialized.
2. See how the bird reacts to you. It is not unusual for a bird to act standoffish to a new, unfamiliar person, but this aloofness should go away over time, particularly if you have multiple visits with the bird. Birds that act defensive, territorial, or aggressive to new people after they meet them several times may have histories of abuse or neglect and may need a lot of socialization to trust new people. Some birds have specific aversions (i.e. to people who wear glasses, wear the color red, etc.) based on their past experiences. Find out whether the bird has had any specific negative interactions you should be aware of before adopting it.
3. Look how the bird interacts with other birds and/or other pets, such as dogs and cats. Particularly if you already have pets in your home, you will want to know this bird’s experience and comfort level with other animals.
4. See how the bird acts with people of different ages and genders. This is important especially if you have children or elderly people at home, or if you have people of different genders at home. Some birds are afraid of kids or have a history of negative interactions particularly with men or women.
5. See what the bird is eating. Birds that have been eating high-fat seed and nut diets over the long-term may have more health problems than birds raised on nutritionally complete, pelleted diets. These birds will need added effort to help transition them from unhealthy diets to nutritious, pelleted bird food formulations. If the bird is already eating a pelleted food, ask what brand/size/variety it likes best so that you can have this ready if you take the bird home.
6. Notice whether the bird is active and attentive to its surroundings or is quiet and fluffed-up. Healthy birds are responsive, reactive, and often vocal when new people come into their environments, while sick birds tend to sit still and are minimally responsive and lethargic.
7. Ask about the bird’s past history. Many birds end up in shelters and foster homes because they have developed behavioral problems that their previous owners could not handle. This is definitely something you’ll want to know before becoming involved with that bird, so that you can determine whether you’re equipped to handle these problems.
8. Ask about the bird’s medical history. Some birds have ongoing medical issues or previous injuries or illnesses that require continued veterinary care. Some birds end up in shelters because of medical conditions prior owners didn’t want to, or couldn’t afford to, treat. Find out as much as you can about the bird’s past, so that you know what you’re getting into.
9. See what toys or treats the bird likes best. Some birds are chewers, while others are shredders. Watching the bird to see what kinds of objects (i.e. particular colors, textures, and shapes) it chooses to interact with most often will give you an idea of how to best prepare if you choose to adopt it.
10. Pay attention to the bird’s outward appearance. Healthy birds have beautiful, sleek, vibrant-colored feathers. If you see dull- or discolored feathers, missing patches of feathers, red and irritated or dry and peeling skin, the bird may either have an underlying medical problem or a behavioral problem, such as feather picking or self-mutilation. Some birds will start to pick their feathers and/or skin when they arrive in a rescue group or a foster home because they’re stressed about being in a new environment.
11. Take note of the cleanliness of the cage and of the bird’s surroundings. Bird cages should be clean and not overcrowded. Birds should have fresh water and food, and perches should not be caked with droppings. The cleanliness of the cage and of the room the bird is in will give your insight into how well-kept the birds in the foster home or shelter are. If birds are overcrowded or live in dirty cages, they may be more prone to developing disease.