Wing and a Prayer – Is a bird a good pet choice for you?

They’re beautiful, exotic and they have a real “cool” factor.  However, there are many things to consider when thinking about owning a bird. Birds are very delicate creatures. They require adequate housing and plenty of attention to thrive. Their life span can be long, especially among the larger parrots. With proper routine care, a healthy diet and lots of love many birds even outlive their owners. It is not uncommon for some bird owners to find themselves in the position of planning for their avian companion’s care after they are gone.

Wing and a Prayer – Is a bird a good pet choice for you?

Wing and a Prayer – Is a bird a good pet choice for you?

Since today (January 5th) is National Bird Day, it seems like as good a reason as any to go over the in’s and out’s of bird ownership.

The Cost

Whether purchasing a bird from a breeder, a pet store or adopting one from a rescue organization such as Beak ‘n Wings, you should think about the cost of acquiring your pet bird and all that goes along with it.  For example, Parakeets are relatively inexpensive at the local pet shop. Depending on the type they can range from $12-65. They will need a cage adequate in size to move around in and flap their wings; the bigger the better. They will not thrive without toys or distractions. Toys themselves can be inexpensive if you are creative, but the dwelling can cost upwards of $40 or more for an adequate size – that’s for a small bird. Food, of course, is an ongoing expense. A parakeet doesn’t eat much in a day. For best nutrition, they should have pellets or a pellet/seed mix. Pellet food is more expensive because it is more nutritionally adequate. Plan on $10 per month for food. So the initial investment will be around $70 dollars or more plus the ongoing food requirements and possible vet visits.

Breeder prices are always lower than the local pet shop and usually produce a healthier, weaned and well-handled baby. As you move up to the larger birds the prices keep getting higher, reaching upwards of over $10,000 for a bird. Obviously the budget will come into play. The larger the bird the more expensive the housing and the bigger the food bill. Start-up costs can be in the thousands for larger parrots with adequate housing and food, vet check, etc.

Larger birds will also require grooming. This can be learned and done at home, but many take their birds to a professional to have wings, nails, and beaks trimmed. Even the little parakeets need their nails trimmed and some owners keep their bird’s wings clipped to prevent accidents like flying into windows or ceiling fans, or escape through open doors and windows when they are allowed out of their cage.

The Mess

Birds of any size are messy. They poop often in both small and large amounts. They blow feathers around.  They manage to get seeds everywhere. It is a fact that cannot be avoided no matter what you do. Since pet birds do best with handling and in order to handle them they obviously must spend time outside their cage, there are ample opportunities for birdie to spread the mess. Can you handle poop on your shoulder, hair, carpet, or floor? If you don’t think so, it is best not to own one. Birds are also wasteful creatures; scattering and dropping their food everywhere. Up to half or more of what you give them can end up at the bottom of, or thrown outside, the cage. Can you overlook this loss, or will the waste annoy the heck out of you? Again… this can be a major cost; are you sure it won’t bother you? Cages should also be sanitized at least weekly; you have to have a backup plan for your new friend while you are doing it.  No “winging it” – pardon the pun.

The Noise

Birds make noise! The bigger the bird, the louder the noise. Some have a pleasant “song,” others talk and some scream and screech (very loudly). This is a consideration not only for your own noise threshold but could be very problematic if you live in an apartment, duplex or in a neighborhood with houses spaced closely together. Will your neighbors be bothered by a whistling or screaming bird? Whether you live in a house or apartment, if you can hear your neighbor’s pets with your windows closed they’ll be able to hear yours. Will your neighbors adjust to the sounds coming from your place or will it be a problem?

The Decision

Why do you want a bird for a pet? The worst reason is that you want a talking bird. What if the bird you get never learns to speak? What if he learns to speak but has only a limited vocabulary, or you can’t even understand what it is saying? Will you be disappointed? In fact, most birds don’t speak much, if at all, during the first year of life. Some never even learn a single word. There are certain birds that are well known for their speaking abilities, but each bird is different and there are no guarantees.

The Time

There is no point having a larger bird that won’t have significant one on one time out of its cage. Do you have that kind of time? Will you make the time daily to spend time with the bird? They also need a routine. Are you willing to fit a bird into YOUR routine? Smaller birds like budgies, finches, and canaries may be content as cage-dwellers, however, even in a cage, they DO enjoy hearing you talk to them, offering them treats and some of your time. If you can’t be consistent it is not a good idea to own a bird. They are much like children and need the same type of attention. If you travel or are routinely gone for long periods of time, it will stress the bird to have other caregivers. Birds don’t cope well with change. Even something as seemingly simple as the relocation of a bird’s cage, or the furniture in the room, can be devastating for some.

The Other Pets

Do you have other pets? Do you have cats with claws or cats that like to hunt outside for birds? Believe it or not, this is a safety issue for both birds and cats. Large birds can maim or even kill other pets and vice versa. It may come down to who bites what first. A large parrot, for example, can bite tails, legs, ears and other body parts hard enough to actually sever them. Are you confident that you will be able to keep these pets separated?

Still, considering a bird as a pet? All you have to do now is decide which is the perfect bird for you! Birds can make wonderful companions when cared for properly and when the owner can be tolerant of certain idiosyncrasies. Just keep in mind that once you’ve got the fever it is tough to stick to just one!!!

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