Now more than ever, Americans are constantly on the go. Long days at the office coupled with the demanding extra-curricular activities for kids leaves little time spent at home. So before adding another member to the family, it is important to consider the responsibilities of caring for and choosing your pet bird.
“There are several factors to consider before purchasing a pet bird,” explains Dr. Sharman Hoppes, an avian specialist at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Space, cost, time, family, and life longevity must be taken into consideration. “
Before introducing a pet bird into your family, the size of your home must be evaluated. “The cage can take up a considerable amount of space, especially for large birds. In addition to having a cage, all pet birds should have a play gym to encourage exercise,” says Dr. Hoppes.
Because of their eating habits, birds regularly require their owners to clean up around the cage. Owners must also be able to handle their noisy demeanor.
“Pet birds tend to be very messy. They pick at food and leave crumbs everywhere, often spewing their messes outside of their cage,” comments Hoppes. “Birds can also be loud, so take neighbors into consideration, especially if living in an apartment or duplex.”
Purchasing a bird can often be an impulse buy; however, it is important to think about all of the annual costs before obtaining a new feathered friend.
“A large cage, toys, and the appropriate food can become costly, especially for large birds. Veterinary costs should also be considered, as it is especially important to check for hidden illnesses,” notes Hoppes. “For example, parrots are prey animals and hide signs of illness or disease. Chlamydophila, a zoonotic disease transferred not only from bird to bird, but bird to person, can be found in some birds and makes it absolutely necessary for pet birds to be initially examined by a veterinarian.”
In addition to space and cost, it is essential that the amount of time the bird will spend alone in the house be considered.
“Birds are flock animals and need a lot of socialization, so sitting alone all day in a cage can be very stressful,” continues Hoppes. “Birds are also very intelligent and need plenty of mental stimulation. They should receive lots of interaction with humans, preferably outside of their cage for a minimum of a couple of hours each day.”
Considering the rest of the family is also important before purchasing a pet bird. “Be careful if you have small children. Birds can bite, and large birds can bite even harder. A small child must be monitored very closely around pet birds,” comments Hoppes.
It is also important to note that some birds live much longer than a dog or cat and owners must be prepared for a life-long friend. “A cockatiel can live for up to 25 years, and a macaw or cockatoo can live for 60 years. People have to be prepared for a very long-lived pet,” states Hoppes.
If after considering all of the above a family decides to obtain a pet bird, it is time to determine which type of bird best suits their needs.
“Budgerigars (budgies or parakeets) and cockatiels are the most common types of pet birds. They are reasonably priced, fairly quiet, and do not require a large cage. They can also be quite entertaining if hand-raised and interacted with frequently,” says Hoppes.
“When it comes to larger birds, the African gray parrot and the yellow-naped or yellow-headed Amazon are very popular because of their unique talking abilities. The large macaws talk some, but not as well as the Amazon or African gray; however, their large size and beauty make them popular with many.”
Routine care and veterinary visits are necessary for the health of a pet bird. “Birds need to be seen by a veterinarian yearly or more frequently if they have health issues. Their wings and nails need to be trimmed two to three times a year,” notes Hoppes. “Their water and papers should be changed daily and a pelleted bird diet mixed with healthy fruits and vegetables should be maintained.”
Even though caring for a pet bird may seem overwhelming at first, birds can be fun, entertaining additions to the family.
“Parrots are amazing, wonderful pets, but people need to realize that they are loud, messy, and expensive to appropriately maintain. I have seven and wouldn’t give them up for anything!” Hoppes lovingly concludes.
With appropriate consideration and proper care, pet birds make excellent companions and can become life-long friends.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.