Birds

Birds certainly are magical creatures! It’s no wonder that bird lovers all over the world enjoy keeping birds as pets. Feathery friends provide us with hours of entertainment. They are easy to care for and in most cases, to train. The opportunity to interact with pet birds is truly special and for many, such interaction—or simply watching the birds as they go about their daily activities—may reduce blood pressure as well as raise the spirits.

Many varieties of birds are suitable as pets. If you are considering adding a feathered friend or two to your menagerie, you will want to pay careful attention to their relative costs and care requirements.

Some things to consider are:

  • The size and number of birds, as this informs the size of the cage or enclosure required
  • How much attention is required to attend to the particular needs of the chosen varieties
  • The amount of equipment required, e.g., cage, enclosure, water/food containers, decorations and toys, and bird food
  • The cost to purchase the birds and required supplies
  • Care and feeding requirements — feeding and cleaning schedule
  • Activity level and compatibility with the owner’s/family’s activities
  • Lifespan – some birds live longer than others

Following is a guide to some of the most popular varieties and their associated costs and care requirements:

a group of 5 birds lined up
lovebirds

Lovebirds

Lovebirds originate from Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. These birds are best suited to experienced owners as their care demands patience and persistence. This bird can be trained to do some tricks as well as talk. Their preferred diet consists of a mix of vegetables, fruit and pellets.

They enjoy having wooden and shredding toys and swings in their large cages. Their love of climbing and swinging would be aided by having horizontal bars as part of their enclosures. Consider also, the requirement for a bathing and toenail/beak trimming schedule to maintain the good health of your bird.

Lovebirds have a high maintenance and training requirement, thereby representing a big time and effort commitment on the part of the owner. This intriguing bird has a bold personality, demonstrating both affection and cantankerousness. They are on the small side, growing from five up to six and a half inches long.

If you want to bond with your Lovebird, then a single bird would be a good choice. On the other hand, if you do not want to spend a considerable amount of time in handling and training your bird, then consider getting a pair of Lovebirds who will bond with each other. Note that this is not a suitable pet for children.

Parrots

Need some color in your life, and want a pet that is not only smart, but long lived?  A Parrot could be the pet you are looking for.  Given enough time Parrots can figure most things out, they are social and get along with most larger family pets.

Birds in general are great pets because they are largely self sufficient if you don’t have a lot of time. As long as you have others to keep them company they will be OK without you always available. If you do have an abundance of time you’ll find that they love being showered with attention.

Because they are so smart, most owners will entertain themselves and the birds by giving them puzzle games.  The birds love these games because it helps them use their amazing minds, and they’re usually rewarded with treats.  The owners love these because it is a lot of fun to watch them try to figure things out to get the treat rewards.

Many different types of Parrots can mimic human speech or phrases.  You can have a lot of fun teaching them things and having conversations with them.  They’ll quickly be able to tell you what they want, making your job as the pet owner much easier knowing that they want to play, or a specific food.

Parrots enrich the lives of their owners. If you think that a Parrot is in your family’s future read on and learn all about them.

a Yellow Naped-Amazon Parrot resting in a tree
a Cockatoo perched on a branch with its wings extended

Cockatoo

Looking for a beautiful bird that can be with your family for many years to come? If you have enough time to give them the right amount of attention, they could be quite the companion bird for your entire family.

They are mostly white birds, but what sets them apart from other birds (at least by looks) is the colorful crest on the top of their heads.  They are smart, intelligent, and often silly birds and will provide a family with decades of companionship.

As long as you do not spoil these beautiful birds, and make sure that you exercise their minds as well as their bodies they will be an enjoyable pet. They are known for being extremely affectionate and enjoy cuddling with their family. 

If all this sounds nice to you, but you don’t happen to like the look of a particular Cockatoo, you should know that there are 21 different types, all with slightly different appearances.  So you have some different options regarding the overall look of your new family friend.  Stick around and we’ll go over all you need to know about these fantastic birds.

Macaws

Macaws, a type of Parrot, originate from Central America, Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. They can be found in rainforests, with some species preferring a savannah-like environment. In the wild, they eat a variety of vegetation. In your care, a suitable diet would include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and pellets. 

This bird needs a very large cage to stretch its wings, play and interact. Macaws offer entertainment and companionship in exchange for being very high maintenance pets.

Owning a Macaw is not for the faint of heart! This is an intelligent bird with a very strong personality. When bringing a Macaw into your household, you are really adding a family member. As these birds can typically live to a ripe old age of 30-60 years, they might even outlive you, making lifelong care a major consideration. 

They can be trained to do tricks and to talk. Macaws enjoy the company of their owners and, in fact, thrive on it. A lonely Macaw is a destructive Macaw, so plan to spend a lot of time together playing, training, and interacting. Some species of Macaw are less aggressive than others. Do your research to find the best one for you and your household. Because of its size, this is clearly not a bird suitable for smaller children.

a close up of a red Macaws face
dove

Doves

Doves and Pigeons come from the same family. Doves are smaller and usually white in color. There are, however, hundreds of different types of Doves, but they all have the same care requirements. This bird was native to the Indian subcontinent with some types moving into Asia and Europe in the 1600s. Today, Doves can be found on almost every continent of the world. Many hobbyists keep Doves as pets and enjoy doing so.

Doves are known to be a peaceful and social type of bird that can live up to 15 years. This is a medium-sized bird, growing up to 8 inches in length. They thrive in pairs or flocks in a very large enclosure. Given enough room, Doves will climb, play, and fly around their cages.

This bird appreciates multiple perches, installed at various heights, and of different thicknesses and materials. Doves need a hut for sleeping and the cage should be covered at night to eliminate light. As with most birds, they do not like drafts, direct sunlight or strong smells. You will enjoy training your Dove to sit on a hand and with additional training, they can be considered as safe for children.

Parrotlets

Parrotlets are the smallest birds of the Parrot family. They were originally found in Mexico as well as Central and South America. This is a very active and curious bird that has a bold personality. Parrotlets require relatively large cages and the addition of toys, swings, and kabobs (for chewing) will keep a Parrotlet busy for many hours.

While some Parrotlets can be trained to talk, this is not generally known to be a noisy bird. Feeding is straight forward, with their diets consisting mainly of pellets supplemented with fresh vegetables, fruits, and seeds.

Although the birds are small, they have surprisingly high maintenance requirements. Parrotlet owners should plan to spend many hours every day interacting with their birds. Parrotlets will bond with their owners through such interactions as playing, training, and exercising. As these are social birds, companionship is important for their development and health. With adequate supervision, Parrotlets can become affectionate members in a family situation.

Parrotlets
Cost of Keeping Pet Birds

The cost of keeping a bird annually is approximately $185. However when you factor in the cost of multiple birds the cost per bird quickly drops. This is because once you already have 1 cage unless you buy several birds you are unlikely to need to buy another cage.

Here is a table to guide you on what you may need to buy and the cost of each item..

Product Cost
Cage $70
Food $75 yearly
Veterinary charges $85 yearly
Toys and treats $25
Swings and ladders  $3.99 – $22
Nesting materials  $3 – $30 
Perches  $7 – $30
Ideal Habitat for a Bird

Cage

A bird requires enough space to jump around and spread its wings. It’s recommended that you give your bird a large cage so it can move around.

Most pet owners make the mistake of giving their birds narrow vertical cages for a habitat. Birds don’t move in a straight line and don’t particularly enjoy these cages. When picking out a cage, it should be wider rather than taller.  A good rule of thumb is that the width of the cage is at least twice as wide as their wings. 

Powder-coated materials make the best bars for bird cages because some metals react poorly with certain bird species. Stainless steel cages are also durable and readily available. 

You will want a cage where the floor is easy to clean. As messy as birds are you will need to change out the bottom of the cage fairly often to remove waste such as food droppings or poop. The easier it is to clean, the less hassle it will be on cleaning days.  If you ever notice the floor of your cage is rusty or chipping, it is time to replace it. 

Another thing to look into when buying a cage is the bar spacing. The spacing shouldn’t be too wide that the bird can easily escape. If you are finding cages with wide spacing of the bars it is likely that you are looking at a cage meant for a different animal.

Perches

Birds need perching surfaces for healthy feet. One cage should have about three perches made of different materials. Some perches are made of natural wood and can double up as a chewing post. You can also have rope perches because they are flexible. Concrete perches are also a good choice for pet birds.  You should be able to find a guide to tell you which type of perch different types of birds prefer. 

As you buy the perches, check to make sure that they leave a ¾ inch between the rear and front nails of your bird. This gives the bird a secure grip to avoid falls and injuries. 

Toys

Birds love to have to play with toys in their cages. Some of the best choices of bird toys include those that a bird can play with and find treats inside. Birds are very smart, and they enjoy games and toys which lets them solve problems. 

Swings and ladders are always popular for your bird to play with.  Knotted toys make a great choice for bird toys.  Anything that moves around or lets them do something physical are always good choices.

Just make sure as you buy toys for them that you avoid those that can choke them or entangle their feet. If they get something caught around their feet it will cause them a lot of stress.

Movement

Being in a cage all the time isn’t that great, so once in a while, consider letting your birds outside of the cage in the rest of the house. You can set up perches somewhere interesting for them like near a window so they can look outside.  It is still a good idea to put something below where they are perched because you never know when they will need to use the toilet. 

Before letting them out of their cage and into your home it is a good idea to trim their nails or else they get stuck in carpeting or on furniture. 

Wing Clipping

You should also clip their wings so that they are unable to fly and escape to the wild.

When trimming the feathers of your bird, only trim the flight feathers which facilitate flying. Without the primary feathers, your bird will not be able to gain the lift needed to fly.  If you do this while they are young it may not even be necessary when they are older.  If they never learn to fly while they are young they may never learn to fly.

Food Preference for Pet Birds

Understanding the dietary needs of your birds is essential for maintaining healthy birds. Birds can eat on their own if served in their bowls but some birds love being fed by hand. Feeding them by hand helps to build a bond and also caters for the companionship needed naturally by birds.

What to feed pet birds

Commercial pellets and seeds

Most pet owners tend to feed birds on birdseed. According to experts, a birdseed diet does not provide the birds with all the nutrition they need to stay healthy.  Commercial pellets are the best alternative to birdseed. Just like with seeds, a pellet only diet is not the best for your birds.  

Many experts recommend a 70/30 split of pellets to seeds.  There are commercial pellets mixed with seeds that you can feed your pet. If you want in place of seeds you can also use fresh vegetables to give them more variety.

Leftover fruits or vegetables should always be taken away from the cage after four hours to avoid stinking up the cage. It’s also worth noting that leftover fruits and vegetables can easily get contaminated. 

Vegetables 

About 20 percent of your bird’s diet should be vegetables. Pet birds especially enjoy eating green leafy vegetables. Here are some of the best vegetables for your birds. 

  • Cucumber 
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Snow peas 
  • Carrots 

Fruits 

Fruits should take up about 5 percent of your bird’s diet. Fruits are juicy and also contain dietary fiber to your pet. Some of the fruits you can incorporate into your pet’s diet include: 

  • Pawpaws
  • Melons
  • Mangoes
  • Bananas
  • Apples 

Make sure that you always avoid avocados or foods that are prepared using avocado such as guacamole. Avocado contains a toxin called persin which could kill your bird just as chocolate can kill dogs. 

Fibrous foods 

At most once a week, you should cook your bird some brown rice, pasta, barley, and oats. These foods contain high amounts of fiber necessary for bowel movement and digestion in birds. 

Health Concerns for Bird Pets

As much as birds are good companions, from time to time they can become ill. As a pet owner, understanding signs of illness and taking measures to control them could save your bird from catching one of the listed illnesses.

Here are some of the most common bird pet diseases, their symptoms, and how to control them.

Parrot fever

The disease is highly infectious among birds in one cage. Usually, sick birds show signs of breathing difficulties and eye infections. Administering antibiotics to the birds is the best cure for Parrot Fever.

Candidiasis

Candidiasis, or Candida (and thrush), as it is more commonly known, is an illness that affects pet birds. A bird with thrush appears to have white lesions on the mouth and throat. Infected birds will vomit a lot which eventually leads to weight loss. Candida is treated with antifungal drugs, but having clean food and water dishes when feeding the birds is the best prevention.

Goiters

Goiter affects birds a number of different ways. One symptom is their throat swells. In extreme cases, birds vomit, their voices change, weight loss and even seizures.  

The disease is usually a result of iodine deficiency in the diet, often from a diet of only seeds. To treat goiters, pet owners should adjust the bird’s diet to include reducing the amount of seeds and add pellets or vegetables in their place.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD)

This deadly disease mainly affects birds under two years, but birds of any age can contract the illness. Sick birds have abnormal feather growth, loss of feathers, and beak abnormalities. The disease has no cure, but veterinarians offer pain management for the infected birds.

Most bird diseases show similar signs and symptoms and it’s advisable to consult your vet for proper diagnosis. Birds are also able to manage pain without showing any signs of discomfort until the disease becomes obvious. You should take your bird to the vet whenever you feel as though they have a problem.

General Bird Care

Hygiene

Your bird’s cage should be cleaned daily to avoid contamination of food and water with feces. As you clean, you should place plain newspapers to act as substrates each day. The plain newspapers enable you to determine the consistency of your bird’s poop.

Bathing

Birds love taking baths.  Some birds make use of water in bowls to clean their feet and feathers while some enjoy showers with their owners in a large sink or tub. Another alternative to bathing your bird is to use a mist sprayer.

If your bird enjoys bathing from bowls, make sure the bowls are secured to the cage so they cannot fall over and suffocate your bird.

As you clean your bird, make sure that they don’t come into contact with any soap, shampoos, or detergents. It’s very important to thoroughly clean the bathtubs, sinks, and bowls before and after the bird uses them.

Body checkup

Examine the bird regularly to determine if there are any changes in behavior or their body. Their eyes should be free from any sores or tears. The feet of a bird are also prone to injuries during perching.  Examine the legs for any sores or weak points.

You should also trim the toenails of your bird to protect it from injuries emanating from overgrown toenails. Long nails tend to stick onto plush toys, couches, or even on the perches.

The feathers should appear shiny and healthy. Observe each feather to see any abnormalities. If you see a bleeding feather, you should pull the feather out to stop the bleeding.

Are Pet Birds Aggressive?

Aggression among birds to other birds and owners is a common occurrence. Aggressive birds often react out of fear or memories of a traumatizing past. Adult birds that didn’t have human handling experiences while young can also become aggressive to their owners.

The good news is that birds are intelligent and with some patience, they can enjoy being handled. Aggressive birds often bite the hands of caregivers.

To control aggressive behavior in pet birds, you should create a routine to help them get used to handling. You could create time to teach your bird some fun tricks, feed them from your hand, or try stick training.

Stick training helps with birds that aren’t comfortable with human contact. With time, the birds may come to trust you and enjoy being handled. When stick training, you should open the cage and place a sturdy stick for your bird to perch on and then take them out of the cage on the stick.

You should also allow other members of the family to interact with the bird so that it gets comfortable with every family member. You can even allow your bird to join in while your family is eating. Then encourage everyone to feed the bird from their hands. Eventually, the bird will stop being aggressive and look for every chance of social interaction.

As you train your bird, avoid long training sessions because the bird could easily get stressed. Experts recommend a maximum of about 15 minutes of training and handling daily.

In a nutshell, birds are great pets because they all come in different sizes, colors, and unique character traits. If you plan on keeping a bird as a pet, use this guide to help you know everything about taking care of birds. Researching the specific bird species is also a good starting point. 

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