“Polly want a cracker?”
Many people think that owning a playful, colorful parakeet or parrot will be nothing but fun, but living with one is far different from the assumption that all you’ve got to do is refill their birdseed and water every day.
Even birds as small as parakeets can live 5 to 8 years, and African grey parrots and Macaws can live from 35 to 50 years or more. That’s a huge commitment.
Here are eight essential things to consider before you bring home a pet bird.
1. Pet Bird : Sensitivity
Birds cannot tolerate houseplants, smoke, hairspray, perfume, air fresheners, scented candles, or Teflon-coated cooking pans. In fact, the invisible fumes that come from cooking on Teflon-coated pans are fatal to birds. Their respiratory systems are extremely sensitive and cannot tolerate any of these substances.
Birds can transmit airborne diseases (including avian tuberculosis) to humans, and their dander can aggravate those who suffer from breathing problems such as asthma, COPD, and emphysema. HEPA air filters can help reduce feather dander, but if anyone in your home is sensitive, maybe another type of pet would be a wiser choice.
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Unless you’re happy with small, jumpy finches or canaries who make little peeps throughout the day (both of which are not generally sweet and loving), be prepared for a lot of noise. Even parakeets – as small as they are – can cause you ear pain, if not hearing loss if they decide to chirp on your shoulder for an extended amount of time. The only time it’s quiet is at night. Another thing to keep in mind: As with chickens, domesticated birds wake up with the sun. If you can’t handle that, consider placing their cages in a windowless room.
Birds eat constantly when it’s light outside. There is no such thing as three meals a day. Whatever seeds they eat come in two parts: the hull and the meat. They remove the hulls and eat the meat, and the hulls drop to the floor. You’ll have to vacuum at least once a day. Keep in mind, too, that pet birds will shred paper, wood, plastic, cords and anything they can get their beaks around.
5. Pet Bird: Flight
Unless you want your bird to fly around the house or even escape through the front door and possibly get lost forever, you must clip their wings. Don’t attempt to do this on your own without learning how to clip wings correctly. Done properly, the task is as easy as clipping your nails. Done incorrectly and you could permanently damage the bird’s ability to fly. If you’re nervous, you can take the bird to the vet or to the place you adopted him from to have professionals do the job.
When you buy your pet, make sure that it lives in a cage large enough that it can move around and flap its wings, or install some prefab branches (available at your local bird store) somewhere in your home so it can land there to rest. If you don’t want to house your bird inside your home, you can build a separate aviary for its comfort.
Birds are like human toddlers. They’re social creatures who adore constant attention from their humans. And that includes scratching under their wings, rubbing their necks and letting them sleep in your shirt pocket (if they’re small enough). If you’re not the cuddly type, then perhaps seek out a pet that prefers solitude.
8. Pet Bird Biting
A parakeet can bite hard enough to draw blood. A Macaw can take your finger off. Never taunt a bird with anything you can’t afford to lose, and be very careful when they get near your face. Birds usually won’t bite down with all their strength unless they feel threatened, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, even if your bird-dog has been in your home for years.
Birds are extremely loving, loyal pets, but owning them is a major commitment of time and effort. If you determine that they’re right for you and your family, you’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of love.