Getting a Pet Bird

Not everyone is a cat person or a dog person. Some folks are bird people. If you’ve decided to get a feathered friend, you have a lot to consider. There are numerous species of birds, all ranging in size, personality, and requirements. It’s not just about choosing a bird you think is pretty. Considering the traits of the different species and your lifestyle is critical to finding the right fit. 

Caring for Pet Birds

Birds might be much smaller than a cat or a dog, but they still need special care for a happy, healthy life. Below are several of the factors you should consider before you adopt or purchase a pet bird. 

Preparing your home. While birds typically live in cages, they do like to get out and stretch their wings. You’ll need to ensure a safe environment by minimizing potential hazards. Things that you can do include:

  • Cover electrical cords
  • Remove toxic plants
  • Avoid aerosol sprays and candles
  • Ensure your home is well-ventilated
  • Watch out for plywood and particleboard

Habitat. Birds of all sizes typically live in cages. You will need an appropriately sized home for the species you choose. Smaller birds such as finches need enough room for some flight, while larger birds such as macaws and cockatoos need room to flap their wings and play. The cage should be sturdy and made from non-toxic materials. Your bird should not be able to escape it, nor should other pets be able to get in it. 

What birds eat. A healthy diet is essential for a healthy bird. Different types of birds have different nutritional needs. For instance, budgies and cockatiels are granivores, meaning that they eat seeds and grains. Blue and gold macaws are florivores, and sulfur-crested cockatoos are omnivores. You can find specially formulated foods for pet birds at most pet stores. 

Perches and toys. In addition to a cage, food, and water, your bird will need perches and toys. Birds are intelligent creatures that need a lot of mental stimulation. You’ll need liners for the bottom of their cage and clippers to keep their nails trimmed. You may also want to consider having styptic powder in case you trim their nails too short. 

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Exercise and training. Bird toys can keep your feathered friend mentally stimulated. Interaction with you is also important for their mental health and wellbeing. As for physical exercise, you can let your bird out to fly around. Be sure to close windows and shut off fans to avoid accidents.

You can train your bird to follow basic commands and do tricks. Some birds, such as parrots, can even be taught to speak. 

Maintenance. Birds are not low-maintenance pets. They need fresh food and water every day. Every time you change their food and water, you should wash their bowls. You also need to change their liners regularly, at least once a week.

Personality. Every species of bird has its own unique personality. Some are social creatures and do better with another feathered companion or two. Others are more solitary creatures. Some show love and devotion to only one human member of the family, while others enjoy the company of everyone.

Level of commitment. Birds require a lot of commitment. You can’t just leave a bird in their cage alone all day. Birds need attention to keep them mentally stimulated and happy. If they don’t get adequate attention, they can become destructive and depressed. Bored birds may start to pluck their own feathers. 

Compatibility with children and other pets. Birds are delicate creatures. Small children who are too aggressive can hurt them. If the bird is scared or hurt, it may bite your child. You should also be careful if you have other pets, especially cats. Even if your other pets only want to play with the bird, they could accidentally hurt it. 

Before You Get a Bird

There are a few other considerations to keep in mind before you choose a bird to bring into your life:

Bird lifespan. Every species of bird has a different lifespan. Many smaller birds live 10 to 15 years. Larger birds, such as macaws and African grey parrots, can live 50 to 70 years. They’re a long-term commitment. 

Cost of owning a bird. The initial cost for bringing a bird into your home varies based on the type you choose. Smaller birds are fairly affordable, while parrots can cost several thousand dollars. You’ll also need:

  • A cage
  • Feeding bowls
  • Food
  • Cage liners
  • Perches
  • Toys

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Birds may not need regular vet visits like a cat or dog, but you may need to make the occasional visit if your feathered friend gets hurt or sick. 

Common illnesses. Even if you do your best to keep your bird happy and healthy, they may still become ill. Some of the most common illness that affect birds include:

Common illnesses vary by bird species. If you notice anything wrong with your companion, you should seek veterinary care right away.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 07, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Best Friends: “Bird Proofing Your Home.”

Hartz: “Bird Training Basics,” “How to Choose a Bird Cage.”

Pet Coach: “Bird Nutrition: Feeding Pet Birds, Parrot Diets, and Nutrition Recommendations.”

Pet Place: “The Lifespan of Some Common Pet Birds.”

VCA Hospitals: “Common Conditions of Pet Birds.”

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