Mar 142012

My green conure, Babs

We all know the old adage that you are what you eat. We also know that the same is true for our pets; the better quality the food we feed to our cats and dogs, the fewer health problems, fewer vet visits, and the happier the pet. And yet we still have a tendency to continue to feed our pet birds the same old diet that we always have.

While seed has long been considered the standard for birds, there have been some major advances in diets and understanding a bird’s nutritional needs. Seeds are very high in fat and lacking in vitamins and minerals. Black sunflower seeds, found in many bird seed mixes, are not only lacking vitamin A but will drain this important nutrient from your bird’s body. Add to it that most birds are picky eaters and will pick out their favorite pieces and you have a recipe for a very unbalanced and unhealthy diet – and an unhealthy bird, too.

Nutritional deficiencies in birds are hard to diagnose  and build up until symptoms show. They can begin with nasal discharge, dull and lackluster feathers, and low energy levels. Over time, it can lead to respiratory infections, blindness, trembling, seizures, paralysis, and death. The high fat content of seeds can lead to a disorder called fatty liver disease.

Our favorite brands of pelleted bird food:

ZuPreem: Formulated with fresh ground fruit for a taste and aroma birds love.  ZuPreem has five fun shapes and colors to allow your bird to forage naturally while still getting a balanced diet with 21 vitamins and minerals. Uses natural preservatives.

Roudybush: Formulated by avian nutritionist Tom Roudybush, this great nutritionally balanced food is made with all natural ingredients and no artificial colors. It has a great apple scent to encourage your bird to eat.

Lafeber: 100% edible, highly digestible pellet food that’s virtually waste and mess free. Made from high quality ingredients like ground corn, soybean meal, oat groats, and human-grade whole egg, fortified with vitamins and minerals

Switching your bird’s diet can be tricky, and major dietary changes should be discussed with your avian vet. Birds can be quite addicted to their seeds, like kids can be addicted to chocolate. While birds can resist change, there are some tricks that you can to do transition them to a healthier diet.

  • Some birds can switch over when their owner mixes it in gradually increasing amounts with their seed.
  • Feed birds at their natural eating times: morning and afternoon. Smaller birds like cockatiels, budgies, and other small birds forage on the ground; take advantage of this by placing the need pellet on white paper in the bottom of the cage. Try putting the food on a mirror, as they’ll often eat more readily with a “flock mate”.
  • Larger birds eat high in the trees, so place the new food in a dish up high. Rearranging their cage can help, as it excites them with the sense of the new.
  • Mix pellets with shredded newspaper or very small toys, like wooden buttons. This may help mimic normal foraging behavior.
  • Offer the new food as a treat for a reward.
  • Grind the pelleted diet in a blender, add some water, and mix some millet (or other favorite food) into this mash. Your parrot will have to go through the mash to get his favored food. This works well with smaller species such as budgies, lovebirds and cockatiels. Remove the mash after several hours to prevent spoilage.
  • To switch my conure to a pelleted diet, I acted like I was eating her new food, enthusiastically pretending to enjoy it . This made her want it, I added it to her food dish, and she went right for it.

When changing a bird’s diet, monitoring their droppings  is important. Placing antibacterial bird cage liners on the bottom of the cage can allow you to see the form, composition, and size of droppings. Any decrease or imbalances can imply that your bird is not eating enough, and might mean that your bird needs to go back on seeds for a short time. Weighing a bird before and during a diet change will allow you to monitor their food intake, also.

The key to optimal parrot health is to provide a varied and balanced diet. Seeds can be offered, in small amounts, with pellets and fresh fruits and vegetables as the main part of the mix. Most things you eat can be given to a bird, but avoid avocados in all its forms, as it is very toxic. Learn what fruits your bird likes, as everyone has their favorites. My conure enjoys anything she can juice, like apples, grapes, and cherries. You can offer protein in small amounts in the form of scrambled eggs and cheese. Whole grain pastas and breads can be offered as treats. Keep the salts, fats, and sugars to a minimum, and avoid caffeine and alcohol; their bodies are small and their metabolism is fast, and they cannot handle these items.

Feeding a balanced diet for a healthy bird can be easy and fun. Sharing your food, seeing them get excited when you walk in with your plate knowing that dinner is coming is great. More importantly, feeding a balanced diet is vital to keeping your feathered friend happy, healthy, and with you for as long as possible.

Happy feeding!

Christopher Hall

Manager, Wilmette Pet

Mar 072012

We are bringing back the entire line of Lafeber pelleted diets!

Nutritionally Balanced

Good health and a long life begin with proper nutrition and Lafeber’s Premium Daily Diet is formulated to provide exactly that.

Lafeber’s Premium Daily Diet is a high quality blend of natural ingredients like ground non-GMO corn and soybean meal. Both grains are literally grown outside Lafeber Company’s front door. We also add whole egg, the world’s most digestive form of protein.

The different grains are mixed and essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids are added which are necessary for strong bones and brilliant feathers. Watch your feathered friend shine with the excellent nutrition found in Lafeber’s pelleted bird food.

Switch your bird to a healthier diet with our care sheet here.

Jan 252012

We’re always on the lookout for the healthiest diet for your pets. In that quest, we’re excited to announce a new food for your feathered friends:


Tropical food granule-based formula with a natural blend of healthy grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Truly appetizing and nutritious super premium food, 100% edible, no wasteful shells.

Oct 062011

ParakeetAdult Size
6-7 inches in length, weighing about 1-1.5 ounces.

Life Span
About seven years on average, because of over-breeding. Up to fifteen years.

Male/Female Differences
The cere or “nose” of the parakeet, which is pink in juveniles, turns a blue or purple in males when they become mature and white or brown in females.

Budgies are highly social animals, and as such compatibility can often depend on the individual personalities of the birds. Very often multiple birds will be compatible, but care must be taken to ensure they accept each other. Also, pairs will pay more attention to each other and tend to shun their owner.

Inland Australia, budgies are nomadic birds. The common parakeet has been bred in captivity for almost two hundred years.

Warm and dry.

Day Cycle
Diurnal (awake during the day)

Temperature Ideal
70-80 degrees Fahrenheit

No special lighting is required, but budgies, like all creatures will benefit greatly from natural sunlight and a normal day cycle.

Ambient humidity is ideal (60-70%).

Light forest and grassland.

Aspen shavings (cedar and pine shavings can emit gasses that may lead to liver problems), compressed hardwood pellets, or recycled paper products. Uncoloured newspaper is sufficient if changed whenever it is soiled.

Hiding Place/Den
Budgies will enjoy an area high in their cage which makes them feel secure. Soft felt or fleece tents are available, or simply a high perch surrounded by hanging toys.

Cage Type
The rule of thumb for most birds is to have a cage at least half again the length of their wingspan in all directions. For a parakeet this means 18x18x18 inches as a minimum. If you decide on a larger cage make sure that the bird has an area of the cage where it can feel protected and secure.

Pelleted diets are ideal, nutritionally speaking, but many budgies would rather starve then eat them. If you have a picky bird a high quality seed diet that does not contain sunflower seeds is acceptable, or you can attempt to transition your bird slowly onto a pelleted diet. In either case the bird’s diet should be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables.

A multi-vitamin supplement is a great way to ensure your bird is getting proper nutrition, especially a seed-only bird. Calcium supplementation is also critical, and can be achieved by adding cuttle bone or calcium block to the cage.

Diet Precautions
Avoid fatty foods or mixes containing fatty foods (like sunflower seeds) as your bird may pick through the mix and eat only those. Lack of calcium supplementation will lead to fragile bone structure and possible egg impaction in females. Do not give your bird chocolate, avocado, coffee, or rhubarb.

Feed fresh food and water daily, supplementing the budgies normal diet with a good variety of vegetables and fruits. Parakeets can be finicky eaters and may take awhile to accept new food items; be persistent and your bird will be healthier in the long run.

Water Source
Some parakeets can learn to drink from a water bottle, which should be kept clean and free of algae. Else, a seed cup filled with water and mounted in the cage is fine, but should be changed daily or whenever soiled.

Budgies are very clean animals and will preen themselves and each other (and maybe you too!) meticulously. Misting your bird with a clean spray bottle once or twice a week will help keep their feathers bright and clean. Alternatively, a dish of water can be placed in the bottom of the cage and your budgie may bathe itself.

Oral and Foot Care
Nails should be trimmed monthly, either by your vet or by us at Wilmette Pet. Special ‘manicure’ perches help to keep nails trim. A variety of perches should be placed in the cage to avoid foot atrophy. Hard lava blocks or beak conditioners as well as cuttle bones should be put in the cage to wear down the beak. If it becomes overgrown it will need to be filed down by your vet.

Proper Handling
Many parakeets can be taught to step onto their owner’s finger. However, if allowing your bird out of its cage, the wings should be clipped (by us or by your vet) to avoid accidental injury. If you need to grab your bird, use a towel and gently take the body in the palm of your hand holding the head between your thumb and index finger to prevent your bird from hurting itself.

Habitat Maintenance
Substrate should be changed whenever soiled. Perches and the cage itself should be scrubbed down when they become dirty, usually every week or two. Health Concerns Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems and should be kept away from drafty areas as well as kitchens and laundry rooms as fumes from these areas can be enough to kill your bird. Too cool temps can lead to respiratory infections.

Oct 052011

Gouldian Finch: erythrura gouldiae

Download the pdf version of the finch care sheet.

There are many species of finches. Most common are zebra finches (poephila guttata), Gouldian Finch (erythrura gouldiae), and society finch (lonchura striata domestic)



  • Finches are birds that need ample room to fly back and forth within a cage. Therefore, the wider the cage the better.  Typically, one would need to purchase a cage with the minimum measurements of 24” long by 14” wide by 18” high for a pair.
  • Barring on the cage must be relatively small to prevent the birds from flying out or getting stuck.
  • Aviaries are another route to go.  These are large bird rooms that allow the finches to fly about without the restraints of a small cage.  There must be sufficient lighting and aeration to keep them healthy.


  • One option, often recommended by veterinarians, would be a paper substrate.  This includes newspaper, Kraft paper, blank newsprint, and any other similar matter.  Paper substrates allow owners to inspect the fecal matter for any possible ailment.  Since it is easily dirtied, paper must be changed every day.
  • The second option would be a litter/bedding substrate.  This may include aspen pellets and recycled paper bedding such as Yesterday’s News unscented cat litter.  Pellet bedding is highly recommended because it has a lower risk of bird consumption and impaction.  Unscented material is also recommended to avoid any possible respiratory issues.  Although it becomes difficult to see and assess the fecal matter, litter substrates are more absorbent; thus, allowing owners to change it fewer times within a week


  • Finches do not fancy regular bird toys.  Instead, they enjoy materials that they can use to generate nests.  Items such as wicker nests and fluff bedding may be used as foraging material due to their neatness and their ability to provide healthy stimulation.  Other foraging material may be wheat grass pots or sprouts grown from finch seed.  This also provides the finch with a healthy diet supplement.  String, twist ties, and other such material must be steered away from due to the fact that it may both be swallowed and choked upon or the bird’s foot may become caught thus cutting off blood circulation.
  • Perches are another necessity in keeping healthy finches.  There must be a variety of perches with different shapes and textures in the cage since they spend most of their time on them.  There are several types of perches available to finches.  Manzanita branches are a common form of a perch used by most owners.  It provides a natural look in the cage and it comes in a variety of sizes and structures.  A manicure perch is often utilized for its perfect diameter size and for its ability to trim nails with ease.  Soft rope perches are another type preventing callused feet.  Try to stay away from sandpaper perches because they may often cause pressure build-up and sores on their feet.  Provide as many different types of perches as possible to keep the finch happy and healthy.  Place them away from food or water dishes to avoid contamination and sickness from any fecal matter.  The more variety of perches in the cage the healthier the finch will be.
  • Finches also enjoy swings made from dowel rods.  Provide a couple of these in the cage to allow the finch to sit, swing, and relax throughout the day.
  • Mirrors are another great accessory to add in the cage.  They provide good mental and physical stimulation.  When the finch sees its reflection, it will often posture and sing to its reflection.  However, mirrors must be offered for short periods of time by rotating it in and out of the cage to allow the finch to rest.


  • Substrate must be checked on a daily basis.  If a paper bottom is used, change it every day.  Bedding must be inspected daily; however, it can be changed about twice a week.  Full sanitation of the cage must be done at least once a month while the bottom tray is sanitized once a week.  Food and water dishes must be rinsed out daily and replaced with new material.  Perches should also be taken out and sanitized of any fecal matter at least once a week, or as deemed necessary.


Pellet and Seed:

  • Although most believe that finches are solely seed eaters, many recommend cutting back on seed and using more pellet food.  The seed may be a finch favorite however it lacks several needed vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.  It also contains a higher fat content thus exposing the bird to obesity or health disease.  When providing the finch with a seed diet, pure Calcium and Vitamin A must be allotted to maintain the health of the bird.  Pellets provide a more complete diet to keep the finch healthy.  Since pellet food already contains Calcium and Vitamin A, providing extra may cause over exposure.  Seed may be given occasionally or mixed in with the pellet in small amounts, but it should not make up the entire diet.


  • Providing protein, especially to younger birds or to birds that are molting, is especially important.  Protein may include hard boiled eggs, other egg based food, and bugs such as mealworms and fruit flies.  It is also a good idea to provide the finch with the entire egg, shell and all.  Other than protein, the shell gives the bird the Calcium that it needs to remain healthy.

Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Chopped spinach, lettuce, kale, broccoli, mustard greens, carrots, and sweet potatoes are the most common and most recommended vegetables to be given to finches on a daily basis.  Fruit slices such as apples, mangoes, and bananas are a great supplement in a finch diet.  Other than being a healthy meal, they may also be used as activities for the finch.  Larger pieces of fruits and vegetables may be used as exercise tools by tying them up to the sides of the cage so that the finch can try to pull and tug them.

Cuttlebone and Grit:

  • Cuttlebone is highly recommended for finches.  It provides them Calcium which is a vital component in their diet that must be met.  Cuttlebone also has traces of lime that aid in digestion.
  • Grit is a charcoal essential in aiding digestion while also providing valuable minerals and trace elements such as Calcium.  It should be provided in a separate cup.


  • Avocado, fruit seeds, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol should never be given to finches for it causes serious medical conditions.


  • Proper Bathing:
  • Bathing is very important in regards to finches.  A water bowl should be placed on the bottom of the cage filled with lukewarm water.  Bathing rituals should be done on a weekly basis during the year and on a daily basis during the summer.  The bowl should be removed after the birds are done bathing.
  • Molting refers to the event in which the bird sheds or loses feathers then grows them again during a period of time.  Bathing allows the finch to preen itself during the molting process, thus encouraging healthy feather growth.


  • Proper lighting is necessary in keeping the finch healthy and responsive.  UVB and UVA lights must be provided in the cage.
  • Birds are very emotional in regards to lighting and it allows them to maintain a mental and physical health.
  • UVB:
    UVB lighting allows birds to synthesize vitamin D3 in their bodies.  It is essential for proper calcium metabolism, normal growth, egg production, and for strong bones.
  • UVA:
    UVA lighting is also known as visible lighting.  This allows the bird to locate food, recognize mates, and identify different species.  UVA helps reduce feather picking and other unhealthy behaviors.  This lighting helps stimulate appetites, develop feathers, and properly see colors.


Beak Care:

  • Finches rarely need a beak trim; however, owners may bring their birds into veterinarians or other specialists who are able to do it.  Finches themselves are able to trim down their own beaks through the accessories provided in the cage such as abrasive perches and nesting material.  Supply a beak conditioner with pumice to aid in beak trims.

Feet Care:

  • Nails may be trimmed when it is necessary.  They are able to trim down their own nails through the help of proper perches.  Proper perches entail different shapes, sizes, and textures.
  • Finches may form pressure sores on their feet if the proper equipment is not provided.  Several perches of different varieties must be in the finch cage in order to relieve them of any pressure.



  • Finches are social animals that usually do not harm one another provided that they have sufficient cage space.  Multiple finches may be housed in one cage as long as it is big enough to allow them territory space.  Larger species may cause problems in the cage if bullying ensues.


  • For the most part, finches of different species are able to tolerate one another.  However, certain breeds, such as the Zebra Finch, may be aggressive in their own nature.  Though they are considered a gentle breed, they are aggressive towards other finches if there is not sufficient room for territory marking.  It is often recommended to avoid mixing Zebra Finches with others.
  • Most finches are compatible and comfortable with others of the same species.  It is recommended to obtain a pair of finches of the same breed so they are happy and so they can enjoy one another’s company.  If multiple pairs are desired, the issue of cage space is brought up.  There may typically be competition amongst one another if there are two pairs; therefore at least three pairs of finches of the same species would be ideal in keeping them happy.


  • When purchased in a pair, the gender of the finch does not matter.  It may be of the same gender or it may be a heterogeneous pair.  However, once multiple pairs are looked at, competition becomes a factor.  Males tend to fight over a single female therefore having an odd amount of birds is not recommended.  Competition may even ensue if two pairs of finches are purchased therefore three pairs would be the best set up.



  • Finches must be kept away from drafts because they are highly sensitive to temperature.  Warmer temperatures are needed in keeping finches healthy therefore cages should be kept away from windows, air conditioned and heat vents, or any other drafty area.


  • Although finches are hardy birds, they are notorious for having respiratory issues due to their sensitive systems.  They must be kept away from any toxic fumes and their cage must be well ventilated.


  • Finch illnesses are uncommon; however, those who do fall sick can usually blame it on improper diet, dirty cages, and drafts.  Precautions must be taken in order to avoid sickness.  Owners should constantly monitor their birds in order to notice any peculiar or drastic behavior changes.  If a problem persists, veterinary involvement is mandatory.
  • Some signs of illness include: feather plucking, puffiness, beak swelling, wheezing and coughing, runny and discolored stools, swollen eyes, loss of appetite, eye or nasal discharge, and unusual sitting on perches or the floor of the cage.

Download the pdf version of the finch care sheet.