Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bird n.4

[rhy. sl. birdlime n.2 (2) = time n. (1)]

1. a prison sentence; do bird, serve a sentence; throw bird, imprison.

E. Wallace Room 13 ix. 90: He’s just out of ‘bird’ – that’s jail.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 14: If you’d never done a bit of bird you didn’t know what it was like when they topped a guy.
[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 329: birdlime : Time (in prison). Of an old convict the Underworld would say : ‘He has done plenty of bird’; the ‘lime’ part is usually left out.
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Borstal Boy 147: We might [...] do our bird together.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 20: Me not having done any bird.
[UK]Clement & La Frenais ‘Prisoner and Escort’ Porridge [TV script] flet.: What’s it like, this nick? barrowcl.: Oh very good [...] flet.: Oh yeah. Bird’s bird though in’ it?
[UK]S. McConville ‘Prison Language’ in Michaels & Ricks (1980) 525: One may speak of [...] bird (rhyming slang bird lime = time).
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 92: Days and nights of doing bird and eating porridge within the flinty walls of Pentonville.
[UK]Guardian G2 17 Aug. 13: Bennett, who did two years’ bird for burglary.
[UK] (ref. to 1971) F. Dennis ‘Old Bailey’ Homeless in my Heart 179: Beginning to learn what is meant [...] By ‘bird’ or ‘a nice jam roll’.
[UK]A. Wheatle Crongton Knights 32: If they said I’d have to do a year’s bird I’d still do it.
Harlem Spartans ‘Call me a Spartan’ [lyrics] Feds tryna move like zoos / Tryna throw a bird on my crew (on crew).

2. previous convictions.

Police Journal Oct. 501: This, with Jack’s previous convictions (bird), caused him to be five years’ penal Parkhurst.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

3. in fig. use, any form of constraint, responsibility.

[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 91: They’ve got to do the bird, carry the weight, and change the nappies.

In compounds

bird-happy (adj.) [ -happy sfx]

(UK prison) emotionally affected by a (long) prison sentence.

[UK]T. Parker Frying-Pan 42: I’m bird-happy, that’s my trouble. I’ve done too much of it.

In phrases