Guide for exotic birds & softbills

Buying & equipment

Since exotic birds and softbills are such unusual and colourful creatures, keeping them can be a highly rewarding hobby. Before bringing these birds home, however, there are a few important things that you need to bear in mind so that nothing stands in the way of a longstanding friendship. For instance, you need to ensure that your birds receive a balanced diet and are housed in a suitable birdcage.

Checklist for initial equipment:

  • A spacious birdcage
  • Perches of different sizes for foot exercises (at least thick enough that the bird's foot does not enclose the entire perch)
  • Untreated natural branches for climbing or using as perches
  • Toys to keep your bird occupied
  • A nest and nesting material, if required
  • Water bath for daily bathing
  • Bird sand, such as Premium SANDY with calcium carbonate and essential minerals
  • Food bowl or automatic feeder filled with main food, such as Vitakraft Premium Menu
  • Water bottle with fresh drinking water or Vita Fit® Aqua drink
  • Mineral stone, e.g. Vita Fit® Mineral to provide added minerals and help care for your bird's beak
  • Kräcker® sticks for exotic birds to keep your bird's beak healthy and provide variety

The right spot for your birdcage 

Birds love to have company and a light, sheltered corner in a living room provides the ideal location for a birdcage. Placing the cage in an elevated spot allows your pets to observe what is happening around them. Large indoor or outdoor aviaries are also ideal.

  • Birds are sensitive to draughts and direct sunlight, so be careful not to place your birdcage too close to a window. Domestic birds also cannot tolerate extreme variations in temperature. 
  • Kitchens, in particular, can be hazardous places due to hot hobs, toxic detergents etc.
  • Birds enjoy fresh air. In summer, you can set up an outdoor aviary in a shaded corner of your balcony or garden that is protected against wind.

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Caring for your pet

All pet birds are social animals. If you talk and play with them regularly, some species can also become trusting of humans. However, since a human owner is no substitute for avian company, they are only truly happy when kept together with others of their own kind. Keeping birds together does not have a negative impact on their willingness to make contact with and trust humans. 

Preening 

Birds preen their plumage thoroughly several times each day. They also enjoy taking an occasional bath. They do not usually require any human assistance with this.

Beak care 

Your birds should always have access to a beak stone and strong, untreated branch. They need to grind their beaks against a stone to keep them healthy. The Vita Fit® Mineral beak stone is ideal for this and also provides vital minerals, trace elements and natural calcium carbonate. 

Claw care 

If you place sufficiently wide, untreated branches in your birds' cage, they will wear down their claws naturally. However, if their claws become too long, they will need clipping from time to time. Your pet shop, breeder or vet will be happy to show you how to do this properly.

Moulting 

Birds need particularly high levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients when moulting. Supplementary products, such as Vita Fit® Pro-Feda® Moulting Aid and Vita Fit® Mineral, provide additional nutrients and essential ingredients.

Cleaning your birdcage 

You should replace the bird sand between once and twice each week, depending on the size of the cage, the number of birds and their size. The bottom of the cage will also need rinsing out with hot water once each week. While doing this, you should wipe down the perches and toys using a brush or damp cloth and thoroughly clean the food and water bowls using hot water.The cage also needs a thorough clean once every month: This involves rinsing the cage itself with hot water. However, you must never use strong household detergents!

Diet

The perfect diet 

Exotic birds and softbills originate from a wide range of different natural habitats. Popular Zebra Finches, for example, are Australian birds, whereas the most widely known softbills – Mynah birds and the Japanese Nightingale (Red-Billed Leiothrix) – come from India or the Himalayas.

Most species primarily eat seeds, grains, fruit, insects and fresh greenery in the form of grasses and wild herbs. The living conditions and, in particular, the range of food available differ greatly from region to region and different birds have evolved to survive on the foods available in their native habitats. Wherever they live, however, these birds tend to have an extremely varied diet.

Vitakraft's diverse range of food products has been designed to cater for these specific dietary needs: We select the perfect mix of high-quality ingredients to provide an optimal, species-appropriate diet and ensure a long and healthy life.

Food types

Main food:
A main food such as Premium Menu or Premium Menu Soft-Mix covers your birds' basic nutritional requirements

Kräcker®: 
Tasty Kräcker® sticks have a number of functions in one: Exotic birds have to work for their food like in the wild. This helps prevent boredom and is a natural way to occupy your bird. Picking at the nibble stick also helps keep your bird's beak healthy

Natural Snacks: 
VITA NATURE®. Tasty treats that cater to the birds' natural instincts, e.g. picking seeds from natural millet spikes

Treats:
Snacks, such as Bisquiti® provide variety, serve as a reward and help to tame your pet and create a bond

Nutritional supplements:
Pet food supplements, such as Vita® Fit  Mineral strengthen your bird and promote well-being. They help meet the specific nutritional needs that can arise during certain stages of life, e.g. during periods of growth, after illness or when laying eggs. They may also be beneficial for particularly active animals.

Feeding tips

  • Remove the empty grain casings from the food bowl or dispenser on a daily basis and top up with new food 
  • Special Kräcker® sticks for exotic birds should be placed in the cage for your birds to nibble and peck on. This is a natural way to keep your birds occupied and exercises their beaks
  • Provide a varied diet 
  • Provide fresh drinking water every day
  • Provide fresh fruit

Behaviour & familiarisation

Behaviour

The group of exotic and softbill birds includes a wide variety of different species, some of which are very amenable and inquisitive, whereas other are more shy and reserved. It can be particularly interesting to observe the social behaviour within groups of the more reserved species. In the end, however, each bird is an individual and many a bird has surprised its owner with its uncharacteristic behaviour.

A new member of your family

During the first few days, your new birds will need a little bit of peace while they settle into their new surroundings. To disturb them as little as possible, you should ensure that the birdcage is set up properly in advance. Once your birds has moved in, you can remain nearby and speak to them in a soft voice. However, it is best to leave them alone for at least a day. 
By observing your new pets' actions, you will easily be able to tell if they feel at home. A settled bird will start nibbling on a few grains from its bowl or give its feathers a good preen.
Since all domestic birds are social animals, they should only be kept together with others of their kind. Newly introduced birds will initially need a little time to get to know each other. It is best to keep a close eye on them during this period.

How to tame exotic birds and softbills

Some species within this group, such as Estrildid finches for example, will not become as tame as budgerigars. You should, however, make efforts to alleviate their fear of humans so that you can interact with them more easily.

A new bird will have settled in after around one week, and you can then begin familiarising it with the human hand. This is best done using a treat, such as VITA NATURE® foxtail millet: Hold out the millet in the cage and speak to the bird with an encouraging tone of voice. It will usually approach your hand after a short period of time and start nibbling on the treat. By repeating this action on a regular basis, your bird will start to associate your hand with positive things like treats.

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