Microchips: Don’t Let Your Birds Fly The Coop Without One

In a few of my past posts, I reported on microchipping dogs and its importance in locating lost pets, particularly during inclement weather such as hurricanes. Of recent date, the application of microchipping has expanded to include some of our other most loved pets. For instance, with parrots, like dogs, this procedure is a lot safer than the standard, traditional leg bands. 

Many house birds also object to a foreign object placed on the limb which can lead to chewing of the area (an irritation which can progress to behavioral problems e.g. feather picking) or in the larger species e.g. Macaws compression of the ring itself resulting in significant damage.

The chip inserting process for a parrot is a simple and safe procedure, done by a veterinarian, requiring no anesthesia.

The 'microchip' itself is a piece of silicone programmed with a specific numeric code, surrounded by a copper coil, encased in glass and coated in medical silicone to decrease the risk of migration and tissue reaction once implanted.

The chip actually works like a tiny computer chip. There is no power supply nor moving parts to worry about. It is about the size of a grain of rice with a unique identification number programmed into it. It’s placed in a hypodermic needle and then injected under the skin usually above the breast muscle. It is harmless to the animal, lasts for decades and need never be disturbed.

Why use a Microchip?

The basic reason for chipping is for reliable identification of a bird. It is safe and unlike leg bands, cannot be easily removed.

A chip will help in retrieving a lost or stolen bird, if found by others. Also, since a chip is permanent, it can act as a deterrent to potential thieves. Chips can be quickly read with a scanner and traced via a registry. Some leg bands are traceable, but only to the breeder or importer, not the current owner. The breeder or importer may be able to provide further information, but the process, even if successful, will take time. DNA fingerprinting, another method, also takes time and requires a fee.

Some breeders chip a bird in order to identify and keep records on a bird's history for tracking gene pools and variety. Chips also enable them to differentiate among similar birds in an aviary.

Saving Rare Parrots & Penguins too!

In the wild, microchipping also serves an importance purpose. Off the coast of New Zealand, conservationists are microchipping and sequencing the genome of kakapo parrots to try and bring this unique, flightless bird back from potential extinction.

There are only 123 kakapo left in the world. These nocturnal parrots are so rare that each has its own name to humans. Scientists have implanted microchips under each parrot’s skin, along with a transmitter on his or her back.

Also in New Zealand, the breeding season for the endangered penguin along Otago's coast is under way with 445 nests counted - 25% fewer than last season's "bumper" year, Department of Conservation ranger Mel Young said. Microchipped so scientists could track their movements, with human intervention these penguin chicks are able to gain more weight, which provided them with a much better chance of fledging and long-term survival.

For your bird’s safety . . .

Some people prefer not to put their bird through any kind of invasive procedure such as microchipping that is not absolutely necessary. That is understandable. But, others don’t want to experience regret should their bird escape. In a perfect world this wouldn’t have to be a consideration, but, in reality, doors are accidentally left open and birds are inquisitive creatures who like to experience wide open spaces. Microchipping is an option now available for bird owners to address that risk proactively, in the event it happens in the future.