Bringing a new bird into your home is a momentous event that demands careful preparation. Your bird will be a part of the family for many years to come.
She will depend on you for not only food, shelter, and companionship, but also for enrichment, guidance, and affection. Plenty of forethought and planning should go into preparing for this commitment.
How should you prepare yourself, your family, and your home before bringing your new bird home? The fact that you’re reading this post puts you ahead of the game.
First of all, you need to find out all you can about caring for your bird, set up an appropriate living space for her, and lay the groundwork for a smooth beginning to your relationship.
Resources abound for helping you learn to care for your bird in the best possible way. In fact, it can be difficult to weed through the abundance of information.
Advice can be contradictory, and you won’t always be sure who to believe.
Rather than becoming overwhelmed, gradually narrow your research to a few sources or people that you have the most confidence in. As you get to know your bird, you’ll gain a better idea of what works best for you and him.
It’s also important to pay attention to your gut feeling about certain advice. If something feels cruel or wrong, it probably is.
Fid (Feathered Kid) Fundamentals
Here are a few fundamental facts about birds that may help you navigate any contradictions in your research.
- Birds are prey animals. This means they are easily frightened and their first response to something that alarms them will be to flee. If flight is impossible, they will revert to biting. Any advice that encourages you to dominate, grab, or subdue your bird ignores this reality and should be doubted.
- Birds are self-serving. They most often do what they do to please themselves not you. This must be considered when you are interacting with or training your bird. Gentleness, treats, praise, and positive reinforcement are essential. To have a healthy relationship with your bird, you should make every interaction as positive as possible. You want your bird to associate you with enjoyment.
- Birds are intelligent and curious. They love to be included. They are liable to get into everything. They can quickly develop both bad and good behaviors but they are never beyond help.
- Birds are not people. They don’t know right from wrong. Your bird will never purposefully do something simply to make you angry, although she might do something to make you yell because it’s entertaining. Understanding what comes naturally to a bird and how this figures into her interactions and behaviors will make developing and sustaining relationships much easier. Remember, it will always be up to you to be the mature one.
- Birds aren’t meant to be pets. They didn’t ask to be brought into our homes. Even for the most domestic species, it will always be an unnatural environment. Their instincts and needs may not fit with our expectations of them. It’s our responsibility to be understanding, patient, and kind, no matter what. Every bird deserves the best you can give him.
Costs to Count
Many birds are bounced from home to home because people fail to educate themselves on the costs that will be involved in caring for them. The expense of purchasing a bird or paying an adoption fee is only one of many.
- Adequate cages, high-quality food, vet care, and a regular supply of toys are essential for your bird to enjoy a long and happy life. These expenses can add up quickly.
- Aside from monetary costs, there is also the mess and destruction to consider. Birds love to scatter food, nibble and shred anything they can get their beaks on, and generally make messes. It’s just the way they are. You will be constantly cleaning up after them.
- Depending on the species you choose, your bird could live for 15 to 80 years—or even longer. Be sure you’re prepared to care for your bird long-term and have a plan in place to ensure his well being if at some point you’re no longer able to care for him.
Species Specific Information
Amazons are different from African greys, and a conjure will have different needs than a macaw. Gather as much information about the species you intend to bring home as possible.
Be aware, however, that each individual bird is different. While one species may be touted as “easier” than another or “more likely to talk,” there are no guarantees that your bird will fit the profile exactly.
If you were bringing a child home to live with you, you would likely look around your house and think about how to keep the child safe from various dangers like sharp corners or electrical sockets. You would also put things they could tear up out of reach or behind a closed door.
When you prepare to bring home a bird, you should do the same thing.
A few household dangers include:
- Hot and cold kitchen appliances
- Teflon-coated pans
- Fumes from candles, etc.
- Chemical cleaners
- Uncovered standing water (aquariums, toilets)
- Boiling pots
- Lead (in paint or stained glass, etc.)
Your bird may also be a danger to your furniture and books, etc. If you don’t want your bird to tear something up, it’s best to put it in a place that your bird will not be able to reach.
Also discourage your bird from chewing on objects he shouldn’t by providing plenty of objects he can destroy (toys).
If possible, don’t wait until you’re ready to bring your bird home to run out to the store and buy a cage and bag of feed. This is a sure way to get started on the wrong foot.
Try to have his cage set up and ready for him well in advance and establish a plan for continuing or introducing a healthy, varied diet.
Which Cage Is The Right Cage?
You want your bird’s cage to be a fun, comfortable area where he will enjoy spending time. Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a cage.
- Is it large enough? Your bird needs to be able to flap her wings, climb, and move about the cage without being crowded, breaking feathers, or dragging her tail. There should also be room for a variety of toys and dishes. Bigger is almost always better. Keep in mind that your bird will use horizontal space more than vertical space, so a wide cage is better than a tall, thin one. (Although, for long-tailed species like macaws, plenty of height is also necessary.)
- Are the bars a safe distance apart? Small birds should have bars that are closer together so they can’t poke their heads through and get stuck.
- Is it well-made and safe? Large birds have strong beaks that may be able to break and bend flimsy cage bars. Bars also should not come together at a single point as birds may get their toes stuck where the space narrows. Escape artists will need solid latches and there should be no danger of a door falling on or trapping the bird as he climbs through. Materials should be nontoxic (no painted cages).
Place your bird’s cage near but not right in the middle of an area of your home where the most activity takes place. Being right in the center of the activity can be stressful for a bird, but she needs to be able to see what’s going on and have plenty of companionship and interaction.
One caveat—a bird’s cage should not be placed in the kitchen. There are too many potential dangers.
It’s best to place the cage near at least one wall, so your bird will never feel surrounded and will have a place to retreat. Make sure there are no drafts and that your bird is not too close to an entryway where cold air may seep in as people come and go.
A window nearby is fine as many birds enjoy seeing outdoor activity. However, make sure the cage is not in direct sunlight or drafts at any time.
Your bird should also have a place to retreat from the window if she sees something that frightens her outside, like a hawk or airplane.
A Healthy, Varied Diet
You bird will be most healthy and happy on a nutritious diet with lots of variety. Unless the species has specialized diet needs (lorikeets, toucans) a well-rounded diet will include a pellet or pellet mix specially formulated for your type of bird (finch, canary, small parrot, large parrot); a variety of vegetables, fruits, and leafy greens; and some treat foods like seeds and nuts.
Look for a pellet with healthy ingredients and always be sure to wash any fruits, veggies or greens provided for your birds. If you are adjusting your bird’s diet from what he’s accustomed to, plenty of tips and tricks for doing so can be found online.
Just be sure he is continuing to eat and never loses too much weight.
Many birds will be curious to try fresh produce, but if not, don’t give up. Try serving it in different ways or chopping it and mixing it with other goodies.
Many people enjoy making fresh chop (a well-rounded mix of veggies, grains, and legumes) for their birds.
Bring your bird home in a small carrying cage or carrier. Most birds will feel safest if the cage is at least partly covered with a blanket or towel while you are traveling.
It’s best to bring your bird home when you will be home for at least a couple of days.
Place your bird in his new cage and allow him some time to settle in, but don’t go too far away or leave him for too long. It’s best to interact with your bird at least a little bit from day one.
You want to become as familiar and safe to him as his new living area, and habits you establish from day one will be the easiest to keep up. Pay attention to his body language and back off if he acts too frightened or overwhelmed.
Birds are amazing, intelligent, needy creatures, and you will never be completely prepared for the surprises, challenges, and joys they bring into your home. Just do your best, never stop learning, and always treat your bird with respect and kindness.
This is the basis for any fulfilling and long-lasting relationship.