General Husbandry of Caged Birds

Droppings Can Reflect Illness
A bird's droppings reflect its state of health. Therefore, it is a good idea to pay close attention to them. A bird's digestive, urinary and reproductive tracts empty into a common receptacle called the cloaca and the products from them are expelled through the vent, which is the opening at the birds "south end".

A normal dropping may contain excretory products form the intestinal tract, urinary tract or both. The fecal (stool) portion of the dropping should be green or brown. The color is influenced by the bird's diet. Normal droppings are formed into a coil, reflecting the size and diameter of the intestine. Along with the fecal portion is a variable amount of uric acid or urate ("whitewash") and urine ("water"). The urates are usually in a blob or mixed in with the feces and should be white or beige. The urine portion soaks the papers on the cage bottom for a variable distance beyond the perimeter of the dropping. It is important to regularly observe the amount of urine being excreted in the droppings. For this reason, such material as crushed corncobs or walnut should not be used on the cage bottom. It is impossible to evaluate each dropping when these materials cover the cage bottom. They also tend to promote rapid growth of disease causing fungi on the cage bottom, especially when wet with urine or water. Newspapers or paper towels are preferable.

Smaller caged birds (finches, canaries, parakeets) tend to have an individual blob of fecal material with an accompanying amount of urate. The amount of urine excreted is usually quite small. A bird has diarrhea when the fecal portion of the dropping lacks form ("pea soup"). Diarrhea is not very common in birds. A dropping with a normal fecal portion but a large amount of urine around it represents a watery dropping (polyuria), not diarrhea! A11 diarrheic droppings appear loose, but not all loose or watery droppings constitute diarrhea. This is a very important distinction. Polyuric droppings may indicate disease (diabetes or kidney disease), but more often they result from increased water consumption or consumption of large amounts of fleshy fruits and vegetables.

The color, consistency and amount of each component of the droppings of normal caged birds frequently change, depending on the type of food consumed, amount of water consumed, amount of stress experienced, mood changes, and other factors. Abnormal droppings typically remain abnormal in appearance during the entire course of a bird's illness.


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