Do you have a question for Dr. Burkett? Please send your questions to AskDrB@TheBirdVet.Com. Your questions and answers will be posted on this page because maybe it can help someone else.
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Consult the Doctor
Question:
Hi Dr. Burkett,
I brought my cockatiel, Comet, to see you a couple of weeks ago, and you gave me the best advice I've heard in almost 2 decades of owning cockatiels. I can't thank you enough!! I am considering options for a larger cage for Comet. A new cage of the size he needs is (at least right now) prohibitively expensive. I am wondering... is it safe to purchase a used cage if the right precautions are taken to clean/disinfect it to make sure it doesn't harbor any harmful bacteria, etc...?
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Answer:
I am glad I was able to help you and Comet. Yes, that will be OK. I recommend using Oxyfresh Cleansing Gele for cleaning and disinfecting. It is available at my hospital and you can order on the phone from Birdie Boutique's mail order division (888-442-8426), but it is not available online. It is acceptable to use bleach, but it is dangerous for you and your bird to breathe. Contact time for each is 20 minutes. I do recommend not using porous cage furnishings such as wood perches and toys. These things cannot be sufficiently disinfected.
Why Disinfect?


Question:
I was just told about your website! :-) I need some help please... I have rescued a 30+ year old Umbrella Cockatoo who is a severe self-mutilator. I am wanting to try better foods for him... yet don't like the idea of buying a bag of food he refuses to eat or throws on the floor. I wanted to know if you had sample packs available? I really want him to get healthier and I'm doing my best. I love him. :-) He is such a good parrot. :-) Thank you for taking the time to read this. :-) Cookie and I thank you for your time. :-)
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Answer:
Certainly it is most important to feed Cookie a complete and balanced diet. In fact, it is the first thing I would correct regarding Cookie's care. Unfortunately, manufacturers do not provide us with samples. It may be possible for you to contact them directly for samples. However, I would encourage you to buy at least a small bag of food because a sample will not be enough to convert Cookie to a new diet. With the right food and the right technique, there is no doubt that Cookie will convert. I have added links to some articles that will not only help you convert Cookie, but will also give you some basic care guidance.

Avian Healthcare Recommendations
Light Up Your Bird's Life
The Importance of Water Bottles
Things NOT To Do For Your Bird & Why
How & Why To Switch Your Bird To Pellets



Question:
I'd love to see an article that deals with how to handle your parrots when they start growing up, getting hormonal and becoming territorial!

I have two parakeets and to Conures The Conures are just approaching one year old. Each group played separately and peacefully when they were out of their cages and basically ignored each other--until recently when the Conures started to become very territorial about everything and started going after the parakeets so that now they have to have totally separate out of cage time. In addition they've gotten very territorial about their cage and go after me every time I try to put my hand in there!

I'd love some advice. Thank you.
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Answer:
When two birds live together in the same cage they will tend to want to be with themselves more than owners and other birds in the flock. As they mature, they will become cage territorial. Out of the cage is territoriality aggression to a degree, but there is also the component of want to be the birds who boss everyone else. You need to not allow the conures and budgies out at the same time. The conures will inevitably harm the budgies, and typically it is very serious. They will never get along. Reaching in to the cage is threat to them and invades their territory. This behavior is worsened when birds are allowed free access in and out of their cage. When they get to make the decisions, they generally make bad ones. This way they choose IF and WHEN they want to come out and if you want them to they are not necessarily wanting to themselves at the same time. This is likely never to change if there are two birds in one cage. This happens also when the cage is too small. Cage size is important even if they are allow out of the cage a large amount of time. The importance is evidenced by not being allowed to put your hand into the cage. With the ability to fly, the problem is escalated. Green-cheeked conures are notorious for being nippy. We canít change that.

The advice I can offer is: -To not let the budgies and the conures out at the same time and -Donít let the budgies land on the conures cage when they are in it. -Give them a larger cage. -Donít let them come and go from their cage on their own. -Clip their wings. -House them separately.

I know these changes are probably not what you want because of the lifestyle you want for your birds: freedom, ability to fly, and to be able to live together. Understandable and supported by me. But this lifestyle requires sacrificing some things like: having a less independent bird, a more social bird, a less territorial bird, and being important to your bird beyond a food source.

Dr. B