Most pet birds are not naturally equipped to handle low-temperature situations, and they need their human companions to plan ahead accordingly. Natural behaviors, like shivering or cuddling, can only bring your pampered pet so much warmth.
In this guide, we explore some of the most effective ways of keeping your pet bird warm without impeding their natural functions. We also explain some health and safety issues that are easy to overlook.
Let’s start learning!
Position Your Bird Cage to Avoid Drafts
Birds work their hardest to prepare for cold weather (molting in the fall takes a lot out of them), but there’s plenty you can do to help.
Drafts are your worst enemy when trying to keep your bird warm, but they’re fairly easy to combat. By choosing the right cage location, you give yourself greater control over its climate and keep your bird happy and warm.
In most cases, avoiding windows and doorways is enough. Either put the cage along a wall clear of both, or move it into a central location of the room. Shrink wrap kits work well to seal up older windows or doorways that remain drafty.
It’s important to maintain proper humidity in the cooler, dryer winter months.
Utilize Cage Covers and Tents
Cage covers and tents both work by closing heat in a certain location.
A cage cover goes over the entire enclosure and promotes warmth throughout. Cage covers are commonly used overnight to promote security and encourage sleep, but the lack of visibility may be stressful for some birds.
Cage tents create small, cozy areas for birds to snuggle down without blocking off the entire cage. Because of their small size, they’re better equipped to capture body heat. They can be used alongside a cage cover or on their own for targeted warmth.
Consider Electric Heating Options
Powered heating sources like space heaters, heat lamps, and thermo perches are some of the most effective ways to keep your bird warm, but there are a few things to consider.
Space heaters and heat lamps are the most readily available, but they usually have a non-stick coating (like polytetrafluoroethylene) that is toxic for birds in the home. Even if you use these in other rooms, you need to make sure they’re bird-safe.
Heaters specifically designed for birds, like perches and cage panels, are the most straightforward. You can also use infrared or ceramic bulbs designed for birds for more targeted heating. These bulbs do not emit light that interferes with your bird’s sleep habits.
Deep Litter May Provide Organic Warmth
The deep litter method is often used for chickens or other livestock, but it’s easily adapted to suit indoor birds. When using this method, you add fresh bedding without removing the old. This allows the bedding to become bioactive, and the increased activity generates warmth.
It takes a few months to establish deep litter, and you need a cage that can handle at least 6 to 12 inches of depth. The litter composts as time goes on, and you can add or remove material as needed. Just make sure there’s plenty of ventilation and you add new bedding before you get an ammonia smell.
As a bonus, you can use the litter you remove as compost for your garden. You may even be able to sell it!
Diet Affects a Bird’s Ability to Stay Warm
You may have been warned not to feed your bird too much corn or sunflower seeds because they’re not very nutritious and can cause overheating, but winter may be the perfect time to offer more snacks. While these shouldn’t be a cornerstone of their diet, the increased metabolic activity during digestion increases their internal body temperature.
It’s important to provide your birds with a high-quality, fresh diet to provide them with more energy and boost their immune system during the cooler months as well. Fresh fruits and vegetables are great for this, but you need a quality seed mix foundation to build on.
Promote Physical Activity with Toys
Providing proper enrichment is a major part of owning a bird. The right setup allows and encourages your bird to move around and gets their blood pumping, therefore warming up their body.
Ideally, your bird should have the option to cuddle down to warm up or stretch their wings and boost body temperature. On top of that, the activity (paired with full-spectrum lighting) tackles the root of issues like seasonal affective disorder in birds.
Keep an eye out for signs of overheating, such as panting or holding their wings away from their body. This may mean it’s time to turn down the heat, letting your bird handle the colder weather in a more natural way.