Our Feathered Friends
by Darlene Park-Vigil, owner of Feathered Friends of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The following article appeared in "Critter Chronicle - The Quarterly Newsletter of Critter Care of America", December 1996
Birds make wonderful pets. But, before you decide to take on the responsibility of owning and caring for one of these delightful feathered friends, you should carefully consider the type of bird that best fits your lifestyle. There are over 300 different species of psitaccine (parrot) birds - 50 of these are the most commonly owned and discussed.
Once you have narrowed the choice to what type of bird you want, you still have other decisions to make. Do you want a domestic parrot, a hand-fed parrot or a parent raised parrot? It's been my personal experience that you and your pet will bond better if you select a hand-fed parrot. Parent raised birds tend to be more on the wild side and are not as people oriented,. Below are some other considerations that should be helpful to the first-time bird owner.
1. The Right Bird for your Lifestyle
Larger parrots are highly intelligent creatures that bond with and need plenty of attention from their owners. The first question you must ask yourself is "Am I gone or home most of the day?" Consider your ability to meet your bird's needs. Also, some birds are real talkers, some are screamers and some even like to snuggle. Learn as many breed specific traits as you can about the bird you are considering.
A passerine bird makes a wonderful pet for the person who has an extremely busy lifestyle and cannot offer the attention that a larger parrot requires. Passerine birds, such as soft billed canaries and finches, are aviary birds that do not need personal, hands-on attention. They sing, they chirp, they are very beautiful and they can bring lots of love and joy to any household.
Smaller birds, including finches, canaries, parakeets, lovebirds and cockatiels, can have a 10-20 year life-span. Larger parrots can, and will, outlive their owners if given proper care and nutrition. These birds can live 65-100 years, so remember to include them in your will.
Birds need to be cared for and fed properly to live a happy, healthy life. Nutrition is of utmost importance. A recommended diet includes fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, chicken, pasta, pizza, rice, beans, yogurt, etc. (80% people food and 20% seeds, soaked grain and pellets). The size of the bird will determine which of these foods is appropriate. You should avoid feeding your bird avocados, sugar, salt, pork, beef, caffeine, carbonated drinks and chocolate. You must also regularly provide your bird with fresh water, sometimes as often as twice a day.
For some people, acquiring the proper cage can be the most challenging task. For larger birds, you will need a cage that allows your bird to fully flap his wings comfortably without hitting the sides. I also recommend a cage with a playpen on top for larger birds. This will allow them to be out more. Cages tend to shrink when you add all the accessories, so remember to consider that your bird’s cage will need to be big enough to accommodate your bird, a food dish, water dish, something to perch on and a toy to keep them occupied. A large cage is recommended for small birds as well, since they are usually not allowed out of their cages for exercise.
Handling is much more enjoyable with a hand-fed bird. These parrots love to be with their owners. They enjoy snuggling and will even go into the shower with you. Whether you are watching television or enjoying a good book, by all means, you'll want to share this time with your parrot. If you intend to go outdoors with your parrot, it is advisable to have its wings clipped. There are hazards out there to consider. It is also important to socialize your parrot by allowing other people to handle them. Otherwise, they tend to bond only with the owner and no one else. Some parrot species are notorious for this trait.
It is critical to find a good avian veterinarian near your home in the case that your bird should need medical attention. Unlike our feline and canine friends, birds do not need vaccinations. However, it is a good idea to have your vet check your bird at least once a year if you are introducing new birds into your home. You'll want to cover your bird at night in the winter if you have a drafty house. Smaller birds need extra TLC since they tend to be more fragile.
If you have other animals (dogs, cats, etc.) or young children, you will want to attend to your bird with a keen, watchful eye at all times. Otherwise, your parrot should be kept in a separate room with closed doors.
In closing, I encourage you to do thorough research on your companion before you make the decision to take on the responsibility. Not everyone should own a bird, but for those pet owners who are ready for the responsibility, I cannot recommend a more loving, amusing pet than a fine feathered friend.
We hope to feature a question and answer section in the future. Your comments are always welcome.