Guide The Welfare of Domestic Fowl and Other Captive Birds

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Table of contents

Large parrots e. This means that it would be difficult to provide for their needs in captivity, and as companion animals they are likely to suffer reduced welfare to some extent [ 8 , 9 , 14 ]. African Grey parrots Psittacus erithacus have been the subject of several studies on intelligence, cognition and referential communication, [ 15 , 16 , 17 , 18 ] and providing for their advanced cognitive and social needs can only be achieved by the most dedicated of pet keepers.

Amazon parrots Amazona spp. Unsurprisingly, the aforementioned large parrot species are also the most prone to stereotypic feather mutilation, an indication of psychological distress and poor welfare [ 8 , 9 , 21 , 22 ]. The larger parrots and cockatoos also have a long lifespan up to 80 years , meaning they may need to be rehomed several times during their lives [ 9 ]. Pet parrots vary in the extent of their domestication, with most being either wild caught or first or second generation [ 9 , 23 ].

There is an illegal trade in wild parrots that continues to cause significant welfare issues during capture, transport and at the eventual destination [ 24 , 25 ]; therefore, keeping wild-caught parrots is unethical and is not recommended for any reason. First or second generation captive bred parrots cannot be considered domesticated and are genetically identical to wild parrots; as such, their ethological needs coincide with those of wild birds [ 9 ]. Wild parrots spend most of their time flying, foraging and interacting with conspecifics [ 26 ], and although there are species-specific differences in behavior, their needs in captivity are broadly similar.

Most wild parrots are highly social and these prey species are protected from predation by flocking through predator dilution and vigilance [ 9 , 26 ]; therefore social isolation is likely to cause severe psychological distress. The flock is important not just for protection from predation but also for mate choice, communal foraging, allogrooming, and offspring socialization. Several studies have found solo housing to be linked to stereotypic behavior and poor welfare, and there is evidence that parrots suffer less when kept in pairs or groups [ 27 , 28 ].

Over-caged birds i. Based on their natural history, parrots have ethological requirements for space to fly and social interaction, and the authors recommend that psittacines need a minimum of 4—6 hours of daily flight time out of the cage, preferably socializing with other parrots.

Owners may want to consider housing psittacines in indoor or outdoor aviary-style accommodation instead of a cage. Wing clipping, as well as being a threat to welfare, is also unnecessary as birds can easily be trained to obey most requests from their owners [ 29 , 30 ]. Although safety is cited as the main justification for wing clipping [ 31 ], wing-clipped birds may be less safe, as they are unable to escape from danger.

Wing clipping also deprives parrots of a source of exercise and the ability to carry out natural and highly motivated behavior [ 30 ]. Expression of normal behavior such as flight is a criterion for adequate welfare; therefore, we believe that wing clipping is generally undesirable, but must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Parrots also have specialized dietary needs, which many owners are not aware of. Captive diets consisting of all-seed traditional parrot mix are nutritionally inadequate [ 32 ].

The Welfare Of Domestic Fowl And Other Captive Birds Hawkins Penny Duncan Ian J H (ePUB/PDF) Free

Furthermore, appropriate levels of enrichment, in particular foraging enrichment, are not always provided for pet parrots, which can cause abnormal behavior and impaired welfare [ 9 , 20 ]. Hand rearing is the practice of deliberately raising and feeding the parrot chick away from its parents and other conspecifics and is mainly done to increase the tameness of the parrot, and make it imprinted onto humans and more dependent on human companionship [ 33 ]. However, on reaching sexual maturity they do not behave normally [ 34 ], and may be more interested in human companionship than that of other psittacines [ 35 ].

Williams et al. Indeed, although hand-reared birds are preferred by owners initially, later there can be reduced owner satisfaction due to behavioral problems such as aggression, fear and unwanted sexual behavior directed towards owners [ 36 ]. Warwick et al.

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Birds generally are scored as moderately to extremely difficult to keep, and parrot-type birds, especially those with a long life span and that have been imprinted onto humans have a high score using this method, meaning it would be difficult to fully meet their needs in captivity. The needs of parrots are likely to vary by species, but few studies have investigated species-specific personality and behavior differences in psittacines. It is clear that the larger parrot species are fundamentally unsuitable as pets for reasons already outlined [ 8 ].


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As long as the ethological needs for social interaction, space, enrichment, flight and diet are provided for, some of the smaller parrot species such as lories, lorikeets, caiques, Pionus and Poicephalus species, cockatiels, conures and budgerigars may make suitable pets [ 8 , 22 ]. As the smaller species are also more economical to buy and feed, it becomes easier for owners to address their social and spatial needs [ 38 ].

Having said that, the individual species must be researched fully, since for example, some conure species are extremely vocal, and lorikeets require a specialist nectar diet. Also, smaller birds may be seen as disposable because of their lower cost, and therefore the threats to their welfare may be different, yet as acute as the larger parrots [ 9 ]. The Netherlands has banned hand-rearing psittacine birds [ 39 ], but other European countries have not yet followed suit. Wing-clipping, over-use of a cage and social isolation are clearly contrary to this, but the law is highly unenforceable, with many parrots being kept this way pers obs and few prosecutions occurring to date.

United States legislation is inadequate at both state and federal levels [ 9 ]. Clearer, species-specific legal guidelines are required for parrots. It is difficult to quantify the extent of herpetological pet keeping, but it is thought to be extensive and involve at the very least tens of millions of animals [ 6 ]. The European Union is also a large market for the reptile trade, with estimated imports of 6.

The Welfare of Domestic Fowl and Other Captive Birds

Many authors have expressed concern in terms of ethics and welfare about the growing trend for keeping these animals [ 6 , 41 , 42 ], which has created demand for their removal from the wild and is responsible for huge mortality and morbidity [ 6 , 41 ]. As well as the ethical concerns surrounding the trade of these animals, reptiles and amphibians require specialized care and do not make suitable pets. Reptiles and amphibians have species-specific thermal, hydrological, dietary and behavioral requirements, and most owners lack a basic understanding of their needs in captivity.

Whilst there are a number of exceptional hobbyists who are knowledgeable and scrupulous about providing for the needs of their animals, the vast majority of pet reptiles are kept in inadequate enclosures with poor husbandry and a lack of understanding of their biological needs [ 43 ]. Toland et al. The issues are multiple, but include calcium deficiency and associated metabolic bone disease , incorrect humidity levels, trauma due to escape attempts, thermal stress, inappropriate handling, and poor diet. Unlike dogs and cats, reptiles and amphibians are usually restricted in their movements in inadequately sized enclosures [ 6 , 43 ].

Social isolation, however, is less of a problem with amphibians and reptiles than with other, more social taxa. In addition to the welfare threats to the animals, reptiles and amphibians often carry zoonotic diseases, primarily salmonellosis, which is a particular concern if there are children or pregnant women in the household [ 45 , 46 , 47 ]. The Internet contains numerous care sheets and other information on keeping reptiles and amphibians in captivity, but misinformation and erroneous statements abound, particularly relating to the ease and suitability of keeping the animals [ 6 , 43 ].

There is the perception that certain species are easy to keep, and that they may be less demanding than larger pets and require less space, none of which are supported by the available evidence [ 6 , 43 ]. Owners are not generally knowledgeable enough to recognize the signs of stress and poor welfare in reptiles and amphibians, and many veterinarians do not have the specialized knowledge required to treat these species [ 4 ].

Rabbits are a popular pet in the UK [ 48 ] and the USA [ 49 ], with the estimated pet population ranging from 0.

Rabbits are also becoming popular companion animals in Mediterranean countries such as Spain, where traditionally they have been kept for meat or fur [ 51 ]. These dimensions are proposed to allow rabbits to move, stand up and separate feeding, resting and excretion areas [ 52 ]. It has been reported that smaller enclosures 0. A survey of the English population by Rooney et al. These are clear areas of concern considering the RWAF recommendations [ 52 ] and the detrimental welfare effects of restricted enclosures [ 53 ].

Rabbits commonly contract a range of diseases including dental disease, gastrointestinal diseases, skin conditions and myiasis fly strike [ 55 , 56 , 57 ]. Many of these issues can be addressed if they are detected early on via health checking by owners. The UK Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals RSPCA [ 58 ] advises daily general health checks and more thorough weekly checks, but currently the prevalence and frequency of rabbit health checking by owners is unknown.

Myxomatosis and Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease are usually fatal to rabbits, and also result in pain and suffering prior to death [ 59 ]. Rabbits should have a diet predominantly consisting of hay [ 61 , 62 ]. Rabbit muesli should be avoided due to concerns regarding selective feeding, obesity and dental disease [ 63 , 64 , 65 ].


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  7. Within the UK, whilst the majority of owners feed their rabbits hay, fresh greens or pellets, This is a clear concern, as the diet that the rabbit receives can influence the development of dental disease and obesity, as well as diseases such as myiasis [ 64 , 65 , 66 ]. In the wild, rabbits are prey to many other animals, and this can be an important consideration when handling pet rabbits. Rabbits should be approached and picked up in a non-threatening manner, ideally not from above in order to avoid inducing fear [ 67 ]. Full support of rabbits when handling is necessary to help avoid stress in the rabbit and prevent falling [ 68 ].

    Correct handling and restraint is also important to avoid back injuries in rabbits [ 69 ]. Unfortunately owners may use inappropriate handling techniques, which induce stress or provide inadequate support. Rooney et al.


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    Wild rabbits live in large social groups, are very active [ 61 ], dig extensive warrens [ 7 ] and have relatively large home ranges [ 70 , 71 ]. Domestic rabbits display similar behaviors to wild rabbits [ 72 , 73 ] and are likely to have similar behavioral needs.

    1 Introduction

    Issues can arise from solitary housing, such as abnormal behaviors [ 76 ] and a reduced lifespan [ 77 ]. Meeting the behavioral needs of rabbits is crucial to avoid abnormal behaviors and behavioral problems, and enhance their welfare [ 76 , 79 , 81 ]. Whilst there are a number of concerns associated with keeping domestic rabbits, they are not fundamentally unsuitable as pets as long as potential owners research rabbits and appropriately consider their health and husbandry needs.

    Degus Octodon degus are social, long-lived, diurnal rodents native to Chile [ 82 ], although most pet animals are captive bred. As with all species, requirements in captivity reflect wild behavioral ecology. In particular, they are susceptible to heat stroke. They also need to be kept away from draughts, as they are susceptible to respiratory disease. As a prey species, degus may suffer fear of being swooped on from above, so a solid cage top is recommended. Degus are highly social [ 84 ], and, like parrots, rely on vigilance and the collective detection of predators [ 85 ], so should not be kept singly.