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Information on keeping Birds as Pets
Caring for a bird is a serious responsibility and starts with
making a well-informed decision before you acquire a bird
In the year 2000, 19 million birds lived in U.S. households, and
the number of households including birds increased eight percent
to 6.9 million households from 6.4 million households in 1998.
Why do you want a pet bird?
Birds make good companions, are fun to watch, and fill a home
with sound. Each bird has his own personality, but there are
similarities in temperament and general behavior within bird
species. You should decide what aspect of having a bird is most
important to you. For example, canaries and finches are known for
their song, color, and activity. Finches are extremely social and
are best kept as pairs or groups where they will form bonds. A
single parakeet or atiel may be more suitable if you want a
companion bird. If you want a talker, consider a parakeet.
Can you afford a pet bird?
In addition to the adoption fee of the bird, you will need as
large a cage as you can accommodate, quality food and
supplements, supplies and toys, veterinary care, pet sitting
costs, and pet deposits if you rent housing. These and other
sometimes unforeseen costs can add up quickly. You must also be
prepared for emergency veterinary costs.
Do you have time?
If you think you can just put a bird in a cage and take care of
his basic needs for food, water, and cage cleaning, reconsider.
Many animals in shelters are there because their owners didn't
realize how much time it took to properly care for them. Despite
the popularity of parrots and other large birds, their lifespan
and need for devoted companionship, regular mental and physical
stimulation, are beyond the capability of most people. Birds
respond to repetition and reward, so if you hope to train your
bird, you must be gentle and patient. Your bird may be more
receptive to training at certain times of the day. Are you
willing to accommodate his schedule? If cleaning up bird seed
from the floor does not appeal to you, think twice. Be aware that
many small birds live from seven to ten years; many large birds
fifty years or more. Don't adopt more birds than you can take
care of responsibly.
Can you have a pet where you live?
Many rental properties have no-pet policies. Sneaking in a pet,
even as small as a bird, can lead to trouble for you and your
pet. Birds can be destructive to drapes and woodwork, and their
noise (while music to your ears) may disturb other residents.
Even if your landlord allows pets, you may be required to pay a
special deposit in order to keep him in your home.
Do you have the space to accommodate a pet bird?
Birds in their natural habitat fly to find food and shelter, as
well as escape predators. Since your pet bird will probably spend
many waking hours in his cage, he needs as large a cage as
possible just to keep in shape (especially if he is not allowed
indoor flight outside the cage). Finches, although small, are
extremely active and need a large cage to accommodate their
constant movement. Do you have a place to put the cage that is
stimulating for your bird (e.g., where your bird has a view
outside), but is away from drafts, hot sun, and potentially
Are you home during the day? Do you travel frequently? Who will
care for your pet while you are away or on vacation?
It's not "just a bird," but a sensitive, living creature who
needs stable companionship, routine, and the best care you can
provide. If you travel frequently, you need reliable friends and
neighbors to look after your bird, or will have to pay a boarding
facility or pet sitter.
Will you be a responsible pet caregiver?
For your bird's safety, he should be kept indoors. While it's
okay for your bird to enjoy an hour in an enclosed porch, he
needs to be protected from wind, cats, dogs, vandals, the hot
sun, and diseases that can be transmitted by wild birds. Keep
your bird happy by creating a healthy and stimulating
environment. This may include offering food in challenging ways,
rotating safe toys frequently, having the radio or television on
a timer. Will you supervise all indoor free flight to protect
your bird from such common dangers as poisonous plants, windows,
mirrors, ceiling fans, toilets, the stove, and other pets? Know
the symptoms of a sick bird, and find a veterinarian who
specializes in avian medicine, and preferably makes house calls.
Where to Get Your Pet Bird
Get your bird from a reputable source. Check your shelter or seek
out bird rescue groups and your newspaper for private breeders of
locally bred birds. Birds who are not locally bred are probably
less well cared for and suffer more stress and trauma from
confinement and shipping. The canary, parakeet, and tiel are
commercially established bird species that have a long history of
captive breeding; zebra and society finches are likely to have
been captive bred also. Unfortunately, many finches and parrots
(conures, Amazons, African grays, atoos, and macaws) are
often caught in the wild.
Every year millions of birds from hundreds of thousands of other
bird species are also caught in the wild for the pet trade. Never
buy wild-caught birds. Buying such birds means supporting an
industry that causes great suffering and needless death and
threatens the very survival of some bird species. Up to eighty
percent of birds caught in the wild die in the course of capture
and shipment. After purchase, wild-caught birds suffer from
stress and an inability to adapt to life in captivity, making
them prone to medical and behavioral problems.
A bird who has been bred in captivity is accustomed to being
handled and eating commercial bird foods; less likely to carry
diseases; and will be less traumatized in adapting to your home.
Get an Animal for Life
A pet is your responsibility to love and care for from the day he
arrives until the day he dies. Sharing your life with a bird
companion can bring incredible rewards, but only if you're
willing to make the necessary commitments of time, money,
responsibility, and love—for the life of your pet.
Copyright © 2004 The Humane Society of the United
Which Bird is the Right Pet For
Keeping Birds as Pets