Birds For Dummies
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Buying a bird and setting it up in a new, happy home can be a big investment, but you don't need to purchase much of the gear some retailers suggest. Some of the products out there are more than unnecessary — they're dangerous.

No matter how much essential (and nonessential) stuff you buy for your bird, there's one thing not to cut corners on: Start with a healthy, well-socialized bird from a reputable breeder or bird shop, and have an avian veterinarian examine it (and include a baseline laboratory workup).

Here's a list of supplies that you absolutely need for your bird:

  • A well-designed, safe cage of appropriate size for the species. (A good rule: Choose one size bigger than the label suggests; for example, choose a small parrot cage for a cockatiel.)

  • A diet appropriate to the species. For most birds, a pellet diet supplemented by fresh vegetables and fruit.

  • Stainless steel or crockery (with nontoxic glaze) bowls.

  • Perches: wooden, rope, natural branches (such as manzanita or citrus), and cement.

  • Sturdy toys for amusement and exercise.

  • Squirt bottle, for misting your bird.

  • Nail trimmer (dog or cat) variety) or Dremel tool for blunting nails, plus styptic powder to halt any bleeding.

  • First aid kit (buy one ready-made or put together your own)

  • Travel cage or carrier.

  • Cleaning supplies.

Things you shouldn't buy, but may be told to get anyway:

  • Over-the-counter medications, including antibiotics, feather-picking "cures," vitamins, or parasite controls

  • Sandpaper perches

  • Seed-exclusive diets

  • Plastic toys that can be swallowed

  • Grit

  • Nesting boxes (except for a breeding bird)

And lastly, there are some things that are nice to have — for you and your bird:

  • Air filter and humidifier

  • Handheld vacuum

  • Play gym

  • Cage skirt to catch food and other messes

  • Identification, either microchip or leg band

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