So You Want a Pet Bird?
Posted March 05, 2009
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
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
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
"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
"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
With appropriate consideration and proper care, pet birds make
excellent companions and can become life-long friends.
About Pet Talk
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk.
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Angela G. Clendenin
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