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FAQ: Green Cheek
Health Care

Should a new bird be checked by a vet?
    It should be standard procedure for any new bird entering your home to be checked by your vet.  If you got a health guarantee with your bird, it may even demand that you get the bird vet-checked.
    The cost will vary.  Some people just get their birds looked at by the vet and that's it.  Others do varying types of tests that can go a long way towards determining the health of your bird, but of course they can be expensive.  How much or how little you want done should be discussed with your vet.

How do I find a vet for my bird?
    It should be made clear that not every vet is any good, and many good cat and dog vets don't know much about birds.  First tip - if your vet doesn't know what a green cheek conure is, consider going to a different vet!
    If possible you should go to an avian vet, which is one which belongs to the Association of Avian Veterinarians.  Many specialize in birds.  You can find one by going to the AAVs homepage (  There are more and more popping up, you should be able to find one near you.

I have other birds at home, should I quarantine the new green cheek?
    As a general rule, yes.  Any new bird entering the home should be kept away from the other birds for a period of 4-6 weeks.  They should be in a seperate room, and you should wash your hands between handling the new and resident birds.
    Quarantine is especially important if you got your bird from a pet shops.  There are all kinds of people and birds going in and out of pet shops - who knows what kinds of germs they may be carrying with them?  This is also true of birds from bird fairs.  When you yourself go to pet shops or bird fairs and handle the birds, I recommend washing your hands or even changing your clothing before handling your own birds at home - for all you know, you may have picked something up from the other birds you were handling.
    I think the only time I'd make an exception to the quarantine rule is when buying birds from a closed aviary, which is an aviary which has not had any new birds enter the aviary until they have been strictly quarantined themselves.

Is Teflon cookware safe?  What about other non-stick cookware?
    Unfortunately, Teflon and other non-stick pans are NOT safe.  When the surface is overheated (above 500 f), or if the surface is scratched or damaged and heated to normal temperatures, it releases fumes which are harmless to humans but WILL kill your birds within a matter of minutes.  Very rarely do the birds survive long enough for their owners to rush them to the vet, but those that do usually have permanent lung damage.
    Although, with a great deal of caution, non-stick cookware can be used in a household with birds, I wouldn't use it and I recommend not doing so.  If you do, please take all precautions - make sure everyone in the household is aware of the danger.  Never leave a pan on the burner, and throw away any pan that is scratched or damaged.

Are there other potential fumes that are harmful to birds?
    Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems, and this makes them especially susceptible to many dangers that their owners often never thought to think of.  Paint fumes can harm birds - if you're painting your home, keep your bird in a seperate, well-ventilated room or even ask a friend to bird-sit until the paint is dry.  Spray-on deoderant and spray-can air freshener should never be sprayed near the bird.  In fact, be cautious of anything that comes in a spray can.  Those carpet powders, even those specifically marketed for pets such as dogs and cats, can be dangerous to birds.
    There are even reported problems with things like certain types of scented candles, or even permanent markers used too close to the bird.  Use common sense.  If you're at all unsure of a product, don't use it, or use it well away from the bird.
    There are some more obvious ones, too.  Second-hand smoke is very harmful towards birds.  If you do smoke, don't smoke around your bird!  And wash your hands after you smoke and before you handle your bird - the nicotine on your hands can cause your bird's feet to itch.
    Carbon monoxide is even more dangerous to birds than it is to humans, and will sometimes kill them before the humans in the household even experience any symptoms.

What are some other common household dangers I should be aware of?
    Probably the number one killer of birds is just simple household accidents.  These can usually be prevented if you're aware of the dangers and take reasonable steps to prevent any accidents.  First, keep your bird's wings clipped, and keep a very close eye on any new feathers growing in so you are aware of when your bird may be able to fly again.
    Be careful about allowing your bird in the kitchen.  Hot burners and boiling water can pose serious damage.  So could cleaning products if the bird is able to swallow any.
    Any standing water in the house should be covered or in a room unavailable to the bird.  This includes toilets and fish tanks.
    It's best to never allow your bird on the floor.  They are easily stepped on, especially small birds like green cheeks.  Green cheeks and other conures are also especially prone to being sat on because they like dark spaces and may crawl under a blanket or pillow where they aren't seen.
    Don't allow your bird to chew on anything that isn't approved as completely bird-safe.  Birds have died of metal toxicity after chewing on things like curtain rods and the metal edging around a mirror.
    Probably the most important thing you can do to prevent accidents is simply supervise your bird whenever it's not in the cage.  Most accidents happen after the owners look away!
    Beyond that, use common sense.  Most dangers are apparent if you think about them first!

How long do green cheeks live?
    This isn't as simple a question as it sounds.  Unfortunately, more parrots die because of accidents, bad diet, or other problems than they do of old age.  However, assuming none of this happens first, green cheeks can be expected to live 20-30 years or even more.  I have emailed with owners of green cheeks who were in their teens, and one owner with a green cheeks who was 21 and still laying eggs!

Do my green cheek's wings need to be clipped?  How do I do that?
    Wing-clipping is highly recommended for the safety of your bird.  Keeping a bird fully flighted is a big risk, due to dangers they can get into around the home, and the possibility of them escaping outdoors.  Clipping wings can also help curb aggression that can be caused when the bird knows that you have no control over where he goes.
    Clipping wings is a simple procedure that has almost no danger involved.  People invariably warn against the risk of clipping blood feathers (new feathers that still have a blood supply), but so long as you clip above the coverts this is not a problem, because the blood supply only extents a little ways up from the base of the feather; never past the coverts.  Are you lost yet?  If so, you may want to study up on your wing anatomy.  Or, have your veterinarian or pet store clip your bird's wings to show you how, and hopefully you can do it yourself from then on out.
    Now, let's get down to business.  Some green cheeks will let their owners extend their wings and clip them without fussing, but may need to be toweled.  Get a bird used to being gently towelled while young and you won't have as many problems when they get older.  It helps to have one person hold the bird while the other clips the wings.  When extending the wing you want to grasp the "thumb" part, not the feathers.  Clip the first 6-9 primary feathers, about a half inch above the coverts.  Don't leave the outer one or two primaries; this was a common practice in the past, but it isn't a very effective clip.  Also, do NOT clip just one wing; birds need to be equally clipped on both sides.

Do my green cheek's nails need to be clipped?  How do I do that?
    Some people seem to have the notion that ALL birds nails need to be trimmed periodically, but this isn't the case.  Some birds do need to have their nails trimmed, but many do not.  It helps if you have natural branches as perches, or one of those cement perches (although these should not be the bird's main perching spot).  The growth of the nails may also be related to diet.
    As a general idea of whether your bird's nails are too long, set him on a flat surface.  If the nails are so long that they lift the tip of the toe off the surface, then they need trimming back.  Also, many birds can use their nails trimmed just for their owner's comfort, if they grow sharp little tips which dig into hands.
    Like wing clipping, nail clipping may require you to towel your bird.  Always have everything you need on hand.  Bird nail clippers are sold in pet shops, but human nail clippers work just as well.  It's also a good idea to have a styptic powder on hand, such as the one marketed as Kwik-Stop.  It is all too easy to clip just a little bit too far and draw blood, and a little bit of powder on the nail will stop the bleeding; although it should be noted that you have to be careful not to get this in the bird's eyes or mouth.  It is interesting that so many people are afraid to clip their bird's wings but more comfortable doing their nails, when in fact it's easier to "mess up" when doing the nails!
    Just clip off the sharp tip if you're clipping for your comfort.  If your bird's nails are overgrown, carefully clip back a tiny bit at a time, being careful never to clip too much at one time.  Stop when the bird's nails look like they're at a comfortable length.  When in doubt, err on the side of caution!

Does my green cheek's beak need trimming?
    Beaks should never need trimming.  Beaks that do become overgrown are usually the result of an imbalance in the diet.  If your bird's beak does become overgrown, you should see a veterinarian.  Hopefully the vet will be able to help you find out what is causing the overgrowth, as well as safely trim the beak.

Do you have to bathe green cheeks?  How do you go about doing that?
    Baths are a very necessary but often neglected part of bird care.  Green cheeks often solve this on their own by bathing in their water dish, but this isn't the ideal solution.  Green cheeks usually love to bathe in a dish of water; long and wide enough for them to fit their tail in and spread their wings.  I have used dog dishes, Tupperware containers and frying pans just to name a few ideas!  The water should be about 1"-1 1/2" deep, although first-time bathers may feel more comfortable with shallower water.  Some green cheeks prefer slightly warm water, but many prefer cool water.  My family's pet green cheek would try to bathe in glasses of ice water!
    First-time bathers may need a little coaxing.  It helps if you bathe them in an area they're familiar with, perhaps around their cage.  Set them on the edge of the dish and wiggle your fingers in the water.  If the bird seems unafraid, you can try gently setting him in the water, but if he doesn't want to go in don't push him.  The last thing you want to do is make him afraid!  Older birds may need a few tries before they figure the whole bathing thing out.
    It has been my experience that green cheeks prefer this "tub-style" bathing, but some birds also like "showers" with a spray-bottle such as those sold for misting plants.  Spray over the bird so the mist falls down like rain.
    Many people have asked me how often they should bathe their bird.  The answer is, as often as the bird wants!  I've heard of a few green cheeks who take several baths a day, and this is just fine.  More commonly birds will take baths every couple of days.  Just keep in mind that wet birds get cold easily, so try to bathe earlier in the day so the bird has time to dry off before night.

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