Companion birds come in all sizes, shapes, colours and personalities. They range from the diminutive finches with their soft beeping calls, to the Hyacinth Macaws, the largest and one of the loudest of the Parrot family. Interactions with companion birds can range from a friendship-from-a-distance with a Canary, to a literally in-your-face relationship with a Parrot.
However divergent as these animals are, there are some universal truths when it comes to bird ownership. Being aware of them can make all the difference in having a long and happy life with a creature with feathers.
#1: DON’T wait until you have a medical emergency to try to find an avian veterinarian.
Veterinarians with special knowledge about birds are not that common, and the odds are slim that you would be able to find one during an emergency. You need to know and trust your avian vet. You do not want to deal with a stranger in the midst of a life-and-death situation, and you want them to be familiar with your bird. Besides, emergencies have a tendency to happen during off hours, when avian veterinarians do not have regular office hours and you won’t have access to them if you are not an established client. Emergency veterinary hospitals frequently have little or no experience with birds.
Find the nearest avian vet to you here.
#2: DON’T save money by going to a dog and cat veterinarian instead of an avian veterinarian.
Because of their specialised knowledge and experience, avian veterinarians tend to be more expensive than dog and cat vets. The odds are good that going to the wrong vet will cost you a lot more in the long run. Medical mistakes with birds tend to be very costly, both financially and emotionally, and your feathered companion could also pay the ultimate price. Again, you get what you pay for.
#3: DON’T let your bird eat a poor diet “because that’s all he likes.”
With patience, any bird can learn to eat a good diet. The number one obstacle to good nutrition is the owner’s lack of patience. Over the years, I have converted hundreds of birds to pelleted diets, and I have never failed at this. The difference between most owners and me is that most people don’t grasp just how important diet is, so they give up too easily. I worked with avian veterinarians for twenty years and daily watched birds dying of malnutrition. As a result, I know how important diet is, so I don’t give up and I don’t back down.
Find the best food for your Parrot here.
#4: Don’t expect your companion bird to be a quiet animal.
Most species of companion birds are communicators. Even the tiny Finches tend to make little beep-beep-beeping noises throughout the day, and small Parrots like Budgies merrily chirp and warble nonstop. While considered a “quieter” species, African Greys tend to babble along pretty steadily, and the large Parrots produce gut-wrenching, window-shattering noises off and on throughout the day. If you really enjoy silence, then bird ownership is not for you.
#5: Don’t expect your bird not to be messy.
Birds are the epitome of the word “messy” and cannot be taught to be anything else. Even small songbirds like Canaries and Finches are untidy creatures, blowing seed hulls and discarded feathers over a respectable distance. The large Parrots hold Olympic records for the blueberry toss, and it’s impressive how far they can lob a messy chunk of beet.
#6: Don’t expect your bird not to make noise early on a weekend morning.
Most birds awaken at dawn and immediately announce the joyous news that they have survived another night. It does not matter if the bird is living in the South American jungles or our living rooms – this is normal behaviour and not subject to change. You are unlikely to be able to sleep late unless you install blackout shades in a bird’s bedroom. While songbirds like Finches and Canaries might greet the day with pleasant chirps, Parrots tend to respond with horrific screams.
#7: Don’t expect your Parrot not to chew anything within reach of its beak.
Unlike puppies that usually curtail their chewing when they get their adult teeth, Parrots chew for life. Allowing a psittacine within beak range of furniture, woodwork, wallpaper, curtains, and priceless antiques, gives it tacit permission for composting. It is not the Parrot’s fault if it chews up your stock certificates and your passport. It’s your fault for allowing the bird access to them.
#8: Don’t forget to provide a Parrot with toys.
Intelligent animals need to play, and this includes the very bright and gifted psittacines. Toys are not a frivolity; they are a necessity. Colleague Debbie Foushee categorised toys as climbing toys, foot toys, puzzle toys, and chew toys; Parrots require one or two of each in their spacious cages. To maintain high interest, toys should be rotated every week or two.
Choose from hundreds of toys here.
#9: Don’t expect your Parrot not to destroy its toys!
People often misunderstand the purpose of a Parrot’s toys. One woman told me she no longer gave her Macaw toys, because he didn’t like them. This was obvious, she said, because he destroyed them in minutes. A man told me that his Amazon hated toys, as evidenced by his screaming while beating up on them. Both these well-meaning people misunderstood the function of toys: to keep Parrots busy and to enable Parrots to blow off steam.
#10: Don’t stop reading and learning.
None of us will ever know enough about birds. The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know. In the 35 years in which I have lived and worked with birds, there have been extraordinary advances in knowledge that has helped keep our companion birds healthier and happier than ever before. Only by staying plugged into the avian world will we continue to learn what is best for these extraordinary creatures.
To find an avian vet near you click here.
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