Your parrot needs expert beak care because its beak is an essential tool. Its beak has to be in tip-top condition so it can be up to doing all its tasks. If it has a broken or diseased beak, then it won’t be able to eat, feed, look for food, preen, drink or play. Wild parrots, as well as wild parakeets, do not get any kind of assistance in so why do you need to help your pet? The difference between a captive bird from a wild bird is that captive birds have softer diets and toys and have a very pleasant life compared to birds that live in the wild.
Captive birds don’t use their beaks to open hard and stiff hulls of seeds to get just a tiny bit of food. Pet birds don’t need to cut through wood to create nests for their babies. They don’t have to escape predators or to climb to different locations to find food. Most of all, diet, trauma, genetics, and age can affect a bird’s beak. And due to the fact that captive birds will live longer than their wild counterparts, their bills can be very different.
Pet birds can have overgrown and underused bills and thus are prone to problems with their bills. When beak care is neglected, discoloration, deformation, cracking, and peeling can all affect your pet. However, with the best care, you can keep your pet’s beak in tip-top form.
How to care for your parrot’s beak?
The following are practical ways to help your pet parrot keep its beak healthy and in the best form.
Understand what is the parrot beak made of
Before we can learn how to care for your parrot’s beak, let’s first understand what is a parrot’s beak made of and how a beak works. Knowing these will help you take care of your pet better.
Parrots have beaks or bills that the bird uses to pick food, to hold on to different things and to defend it from threats. Parrots, like all birds, have bills with two parts: the lower mandible and the upper mandible.
The upper mandible is the upper bill or beak. In parrots, this is a very prominent part of the beak as it has a hook-like protuberance at the end. This part of the bill grows from the skull, which is similar to how the upper teeth of humans grow out of the skull. The upper mandible is unable to move independently, and this is also the same as how human upper mandibles grow.
The lower bill or mandible can move independently due to its hinges. Similar to the jaw of humans, it can move up and down. As a parrot eats, makes sound from its mouth, or bites anything, the lower jaw moves easily.
The beak is not bone but rather covered with skin and a substance known as keratin. This is the same material that makes up hair, feathers, and fingernails in humans. However, the keratin that is produced by the bird’s bill becomes very hard and dry to make the bird’s beak hard and very strong. The dried keratin also helps add shine on the bill, and as the keratin starts to wear down, this is replaced by another layer of keratin to keep the bill sharp and in tip-top shape.
The beak of the bird makes up for not having paws, antlers, horns, hands, and teeth. A parrot has to use its beak to carry out all kinds of tasks. The basic use of a parrot’s beak is to get or capture food. They also use their beaks to hold on to building materials like straw, tree barks, twigs, feathers, and leaves to make their nests.
Give your pet the best nutrition
A captive parrot should eat healthily and should be provided with the best supplements and an endless supply of water. The best nutrition for parrots is a medley of fruits and vegetables to supply nutrients and a combination of other foods like nuts, cereals, pasta, beans, and many more.
Parrots and other birds need vitamins A and C for healthy metabolism, strong bones, and good beaks. You can get vitamin A in most fruits and veggies, but getting C is a bit challenging. Some fruits and veggies are also excellent sources of calcium, but these may not be enough. You can add supplements like calcium and vitamin A to their food instead.
And the best nutrition for your pet is natural pet food. There is commercially-prepared bird feed in stores and even in your vet’s office, but these are not always that good. Some of these may contain ingredients that can be harmful to your pet like preservatives and flavors, which can affect your pet’s health. So the best is still natural food, the kind of food you prepare that’s free from any dangerous ingredients.
Provide the best chew toys
Toys are not just for fun for pet birds, but these provide mental stimulation and can also help with their beaks and claws. Take a pumice stone, for instance. These come in various shapes, colors, and sizes and your pet will gladly play with it. And playtime for pet parrots is not merely looking at their toys, but they chew, toss it around, and hold their toys.
As they hold this rough toy and place this in their mouths, this will help sharpen their beaks. When they touch the stone with their beaks, they also help manicure their beaks and removing dirt and grime. In short, this simple toy can help with beak care.
Other toys like ropes and balls made of twine and wooden blocks are also stimulating and are perfect for beak care. You can place a few of these inside your pet’s enclosure or hang these from a perch if your pet is out of its cage. Your pet bird will chew these toys, hold them and toss these around. Some pet birds love to play rough and may tug at these toys and tear these apart, but still, this is a way to help maintain a healthy, strong beak.
Install a conditioning perch
Perches have many uses as well. Birds sit on it; it provides a place to check out their surroundings and can even help with beak and claw care. A conditioning perch is a rough perch, made of wood or woody material, and is strong enough to hold a large bird. What happens is that your bird sits on the rough perch and moves its claws on the perch, and this action conditions its claws and feet. When it tries to gnaw on this perch, it will move its beak across the irregularly-shaped perch, and the rough surface will polish its beak, remove unwanted grim, and can also sharpen its beak.
You’ll find conditioning perches of different sizes and shapes. You’ll find perches for a large bird or a small one, for two large ones and a bunch of smaller birds. You can also find perches made of natural wood, which is more preferred by pet owners rather than the ones made of metal and plain plastic. A conditioning perch should have complete mounting accessories so you can easily place it in your pet’s cage, and don’t forget you can also place a perch like this outside your pet’s cage. Your pet can sit on this perch as you clean its cage or train it.
Always have safety in mind
As you care for your pet’s beak, consider safety above anything else. Remember that your pet bird relies on its beak a lot, and disregarding safety can lead to serious circumstances. For instance, using a tool like a sharpener, a motorized polisher, or a pair of pliers can be dangerous if you’re new to using these tools. If your pet needs trimming or cutting anything from its beak, then take it to the vet or a groomer. Don’t rely on DIY tools and techniques because these can become dangerous tools in the hands of an experienced bird owner.
Also, be wary of products that claim to make bird bills healthy, polished, or manicured. Products like bill polishers, cleaners, cleaners, etc. only have dangerous chemicals that can harm your pet. Don’t forget to check the labels because these can also have ingredients that can make your pet hyperactive.
Take your pet to the vet regularly
Regular checkups can help prevent serious beak problems. A vet can make an initial physical exam to check the health of your pet, including its beak. He can also examine the beak, including your pet’s mouth, throat, and tongue. If he sees anything unusual, he may recommend treatment, and for good patients, a vet may recommend parrot beak expert care at home.
It’s time to ask questions to your vet about beak care and other pressing issues about parrot care. Consider asking questions and recommendations about your pet’s diet because this greatly affects pet beak health. Consider asking about the right perches because these will also help in conditioning your pet’s beak, nails, and feet.
Also, visit your vet regularly, even if your pet is well. This is to get a clean bill of health, especially when you plan to travel with your pet, or you want to get a companion for your pet parrot.
Understand PBFD to care for your parrot’s beak
We have to highlight a particular beak and feather disease common in Old World members of the parrot family called PBFD or Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease. This is a very contagious, life-threatening viral disease that affects the feathers, beak, and the immune system of birds that are members of the Psittacidae family.
PBFD was initially discovered in 1975 by vets in Australia because of the spread of the disease in wild birds. Most birds that are showing signs of PBFD die, but it is also common for individuals to be exposed to the disease, have a mild infection, and then have a full recovery.
Cause and transmission
PBFD is due to a DNA virus that targets the cells of the immune system. The cells that produce feathers and beak material are the most commonly affected. The PBFD virus is also the same virus that causes diseases in doves known as the circovirus.
PBFD is a virus that is very contagious and can be transferred quickly from one specimen to another. Large amounts of the PBFD virus can become airborne, which comes from the bird’s droppings. The feather dust can move from dried dropping, and these will contaminate water and food as well as the cages and clothing through wind action.
Birds can also get the psittacine beak and feather virus by inhalation or by eating food or drink that has been infected with the virus. Some studies claim that the virus may also be transferred from the mother to her eggs.
The incubation time of PBFD is from the time of exposure to the development of signs, which is from 3 to 4 weeks. However, some species can show symptoms only after several years, which depends on the amount of virus that has been transmitted. Other factors include the age of the bird, the stage of feather development of the species, and how healthy the bird’s immune system is.
Signs of PBFD
In the peracute form or active form of PBFD, young birds are very vulnerable. Signs of the disease may seem to be completely unrelated to beak and feather disease. Specimens that are affected are seen as depressed and will regurgitate food because of stasis.
Aside from these, young birds may also be affected by diarrhea, enteritis, or pneumonia. Some die without showing any kind of feather or beak problems. When the peracute form of PBFD happens in juvenile parrots, these will lose their downy feathers and will develop new feathers with lesions and the presence of circular bands that affect the base of the feather. The feathers that grow from sick juvenile parrots are often easy to break, may bleed easily, and are very painful to touch. Usually, these young parrots are just a few days from dying.
In chronic PBFD, parrots that are older are commonly affected. The parrot’s powder-down feathers are the first sets of feathers that are affected.
These feathers become fragile and may bend or fracture easily. Each affected feather develops constricting bands, may bleed easily, and may change color. Some feathers may also become curled and deformed. The follicles of the feathers are damaged; therefore, the bird will never be able to replace the damaged or lost feathers. Also, the primary, secondary, and the crest and tail feathers are gone. You can now see the skin of the bird, and there is no feather dust to cover the body.
The bill may also become elongated and start to change shape and fracture easily. Also, secondary beak and mouth infections may happen. In some severe cases, even the nails of the bird may become deformed and may slough off. Aside from the symptoms of the nail, feathers, and beak, PBFD affected birds may have mucus in their poop or green color in their droppings. PBFD can also affect the liver, and thus the bird may die due to liver failure.
How to treat PBFD
Sadly there is still no specific treatment for this illness; only supportive pet care is recommended. Pet owners are told to provide the best nutrition and to perform parrot beak care. The sick bird must be kept in a controlled environment with supplementary heat like an incubator. Regular beak trimmings and treatment of any secondary infection will be done.
Some pet owners consider euthanasia for their pets, especially those with severe signs. Birds that die naturally usually give in to fungal, bacterial, or viral diseases, and this could happen even if the bird is undergoing treatment. Usually, birds with PBFD die within 6 to 24 months after being affected by the illness.
Image Source Parrot beak care is very important for all types of parrots. As a pet owner, you must understand how the beak works and how to care for it to prevent common beak conditions like PBFD. When beak care is overlooked, your pet’s health may be affected as its beak deteriorates. Beak care should be done regularly and should be done as early as the day you bring home your pet.