FINDING THE RIGHT PET BIRD FOR YOU

The Choice is Contingent Upon Many Factors

by Joelle Steele

Writing Logo

It seems so simple. Just walk into a pet store, buy the bird you think is the prettiest, pick out a cage, get some seed, and you're a bird owner, right? Wrong. Selecting a bird requires careful thought and planning. Making the wrong choice could be a heart-breaking experience for you and the bird. Here are some of the most important items to consider when deciding which bird is the right bird for you.

COMPATIBILITY

Is your lifestyle compatible with the needs of such high maintenance creatures as birds? These animals can live a long time -- some will even outlive you! They all require daily attention in the form of cleaning the cage and the area surrounding the cage, preparing a varied and nutritionally complete diet of fresh and packaged foods, covering and uncovering the cage at the appropriate hours, and keeping a watchful eye on them and learning their behavioral patterns to insure that any health-related issues are dealt with immediately. Do you have the time in your busy schedule to devote to this kind of daily routine for years to come? If not, a bird is definitely not the right pet for you.

If you do have the time and you are willing to make this long-term commitment, your next step is determining the type of bird with which you will be most compatible personality-wise. Some birds are companion animals who require a lot of daily personal interaction with their human caretakers. Other birds are less sociable though still in need of regular attention. Read up on parrots, parakeets, canaries, and finches to get an idea of how you are likely to interact with each of them.

As you study up on the various bird choices, keep in mind that some birds are very noisy and that almost every bird will make some kind of sound. This is not necessarily because they are screaming or squawking for attention (although that can be the case when they are neglected). In addition to those that Atalk,@ most birds naturally make a variety of sounds which, depending on their species, range from chirping and twittering sounds to trills and warbles to whistles and squeals to screeches and squawks. With the latter, you may or may not enjoy the sounds, and your neighbors will most assuredly be, at the very least, severely annoyed.

And speaking of the neighbors, there might be others in your own household to consider when you make your decision. Children in particular can be frightening to some birds. Elderly people might be disturbed by a loud squawking and chattering bird. Some people just like a very quiet environment. The mess that birds make should also be considered by you and the other members of your household. It is a rare bird indeed who confines his seed husks only to the cage floor.

HOUSING

Space is an important consideration when selecting a bird. First, there's the space you live in. If you select a large or noisy species, you should probably be living in a house with a fair amount of room between you and your neighbors to act as a noise buffer.

Second, there's the space you allot to your bird. Most birds will need to be in an area where they can interact with you and see what's going on, while others are a little more timid and need a more secure area. Whichever you choose, their area should be free from drafts, chemical odors, and heating or air conditioning vents.

Third, since the days of small cages are fast becoming a thing of the past and standards for caged bird care are becoming more humane, you will need an area that can accommodate a cage which is sufficiently large to allow some measure of flight activity. The bigger the bird, the bigger the wingspan, and the bigger the cage.

And fourth, there is the space for your bird to play and exercise. Depending on what kind of bird you choose, this can be anything from a small indoor play gym to a large outdoor flight cage, climate permitting, of course.

BUDGET

Birds are expensive. The cost of the bird alone is an important consideration and is based, at least in part, on how well it was bred and raised. Unless your best friend is a reputable breeder who wants to give you a bird as a gift, you will need to investigate the price of a well-bred bird and incorporate that cost into a budget which also includes cages, carriers, food, toys, and, very importantly, veterinarian visits, one of which should occur immediately after you purchase your bird.

Larger birds inevitably cost more, demand bigger and more sturdily constructed cages, go through more toys, and have greater dietary requirements. So, if budget is an issue, a smaller bird such as a cockatiel or a little budgie, might be a better choice. These birds are attractive, affectionate, and make good household pets. For a little more money, you might consider small conures or parrotlets.

Plan to spend about one-half of your budget on the bird itself. About 25% of your budget will go to the primary cage, and at least $75-$100 should be allotted for a visit to your local avian veterinarian. Food, bowls, perches, toys, a small holding cage, a carrier, and other accessories can run between $100 to $400 depending on the bird. Remember to buy the best for your bird. You are creating an environment for him in which he will spend the rest of his life. It should be safe and comfortable, and appropriate to his needs in every way.

MAKING YOUR PURCHASE

No matter what bird you decide to buy it is imperative that you purchase it from a reputable breeder or pet store. Do your homework on this. Make sure that your breeder or pet store properly socializes their birds and that their conditions are clean and sanitary. You don't want to end up with an unhealthy bird and you don't want to encourage unprofessional or unscrupulous breeders or pet stores by frequenting their shabby establishments.

Whenever possible, buy a bird that is domestically-raised. They make better companion animals and you will also be helping preserve endangered wild populations. Don't feel obligated to hand-feed a baby bird. You can bond closely with any bird over time, and hand-feeding is a delicate art best left to a real expert, not a well-meaning novice.

Spend time talking to the breeder to make sure that you know exactly what you are getting into when your purchase a bird from them. When you make your final choice, be sure that your bird is eating well, that it is physically alert, and that it enjoys playing with its toys.

Research in the form of reading and talking with experts is the main requirement for deciding which bird is the right bird for you. The time it takes for you to read a few books and magazines and talk to breeders and other bird owners will provide you with a sound basis on which to make your final decision, a decision which will result in a long-term relationship with a beautiful and loving avian companion.

This article last updated: 06/29/2007.