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Choosing a Bird

Birds are fun, colorful, interesting pets with a vast selection to fit into many homes. Diet requirements, exercise needs, cage size and type, and mental stimulation needs, depend on the type of bird. Some other things that should be considered are the lifespan of the bird species and type of home since some species live very long lives and can be very vocal. This will be a basic rundown of information and considerations for various types of birds. It will cover some of the more popular species owned as pets, in order to help you chose what kind of bird might fit best in your home.

Finches

Finches are a very popular type of bird and actually includes several species, with a large variety of colors. This type of bird contains some of the smallest pet birds. This group of birds also tend to be more of the watch and enjoy, rather than a type to interact with. There have been cases of finches becoming tame because of hand feeding chicks or slowly working with them. Diets can vary, though many eat seeds, some also need live insects, vegetation, and various other foods. Some popular birds in this group are Zebra Finches, Society Finches, Lady Gouldian Finches, and Canaries. Life spans can vary from about 8 to 15 years depending on the bird species and how well they are cared for.

A wonderful thing about finches is that though in some cases they can be very vocal, they are not really that loud if kept in pairs or a small flock. This makes them ideal for apartment living, especially because they are also very small and a pair does not need a massive cage. Ideally, these birds are kept in same-sex pairs to prevent breeding, though in canaries there is more of a possibility of fights between males. Society finches are extremely social birds and often do well with one or more friends. Zebra finches need at least one buddy but are more likely to squabble if they feel there isn’t enough room. Gouldians do just fine in a pair or larger grouping if you like. Canary males are known for their lovely songs, but males of other finch species also sing their own type of song. Females still make vocalizations, just not to the same length as a male’s.

Though small, finches can be messy birds as they crack shells on their mostly seed diets. The best way to prevent a mess is to buy cages or accessories that are made to keep seeds in. These can be cages that are plastic around the bottom and wire on top, like the Vision Cages. Or they can be sold with food and water dishes that have “hoods”. Some even just buy seed catchers sold separately. These birds also tend to prefer longer cages rather than taller ones. For a pair, cages should be at least 30 inches long for long-term living. Height can be anywhere from about 15 inches and up. If you choose a larger type of finch, you may need a larger cage.

A variety of perch types is nice in order to work their feet. Perches spaced far apart are ideal so birds can fly back and forth, rather than just hop. You will also find that perches placed pointing from back to front or front to back, instead of towards the side, are best for their flight. The easiest to clean cages are ones with a pull-out tray, but that is a personal choice.

When choosing a finch, research the species in order to find the best diet, as most will enjoy a diet that contains more than seeds. Many enjoy vegetables in a separate dish. Some enjoy hard-boiled eggs that are mashed with the shell for a good blend of extra protein and calcium. Cuttlebones are also a good idea for calcium and to keep their beaks worn down to a normal length. With very fast metabolisms, finches and birds in general, need to have a constant supply of their main dry diet. Soft and wet foods should not be left in the cage for over 24 hours to avoid bacteria and spoilage. Fresh water should always be supplied for drinking. Bathing water in a shallow bowl, or other bathing container, should be offered daily. Finches love to take baths, especially in warmer weather!

Overall, finches are cute, little birds who can fit in most homes. They have a lifespan that still requires a commitment to them, but is not extremely long like a parrot’s. Their diets are pretty easy to handle and cleaning up after them is not necessarily that difficult. Some sing beautiful songs, or make cute noises, but are not extremely loud. Cost of finches varies greatly among the species and can range anywhere from $15 to over $100, also depending on mutation color.

Budgies and other small parrots

Budgies, sold as simply “parakeets” at most pet stores, are very common beginner birds. They are little parrots who don’t have quite the commitment that larger parrots have, due to a shorter lifespan. However, they are more interactive and longer-lived than finches. Life spans tend to be 12 to 15 years or a bit longer. Budgies have been known to pick up on some human speech, but not to the degree of larger parrots. Hand tamed budgies can be very friendly and nice little birds, while sometimes pet store budgies can be scared or even be biters. People do find budgies to be some of the most affordable little parrots, so that can also be a plus.

Lovebirds and parrotlets can be very similar to budgies in many aspects, such as likely hood of talking (even less so for lovebirds), smaller size, and possibly being less noisy than some of the larger parrots. However, budgies, parrotlets, and lovebirds can still vocalize very loudly if they are frustrated or even just randomly throughout the day. All should still be quiet enough for apartment living if there is enough insulation between apartments. All may also wake you up as soon as it beings to get light outside like many birds do if you keep them in your room. Lovebirds are higher priced than budgies, and parrotlets even more so. Lovebirds and budgies have similar lifespans, while parrotlets can potentially live 20-30 years. It is often said that parrotlets are big parrots in small bodies do to their comical and interactive nature. A fun thing about parrots is their ability to learn tricks. While the smaller parrots are less known for these, they can be taught if someone takes the time.

When speaking of cage sizes for these smaller parrots, a decent-sized cage is still necessary. These little parrots still should be able to stretch out their wings comfortably without hitting the sides. They should be able to sit on perches easily without their tail hitting the floor and at least be able to hop back and forth and climb. The ideal cage for this size of bird would be AT LEAST two by two feet. They are intelligent birds who need toys to chew, and things to do so they don’t become bored. A bored parrot of any size is extremely vocal and can be very destructive. Daily time out of the cage is a must, and if they enjoy human companionship, especially if kept alone, they need several hours of attention. Sometimes they may be content to sit atop their cage and fly over to you when they are bored. Sometimes they will want actual cuddles and rubs on their necks, much like a dog.

Even small parrots require a diet with variety. Pelleted foods are most ideal for these birds, with only a small amount of seed. A good amount of vegetables and fruits should be offered daily. A parrot fed a mostly seed diet will not be as healthy and can even develop fatty liver disease. Various toys are on the market that can be used to make mealtime more fun. In the wild, parrots have to forage for food, some toys offer that ability with different puzzles and movements to get their food out of it. It should be noted that parrots can be extremely messy birds even being small. Fresh water for drinking should be offered at all times. Water in a container for bathing should be offered daily, and even misting water with a spray bottle can be done to keep the bird healthy and clean.

As you can see, small parrots can offer some of the fun of larger parrots, with less mess and noise. These birds are good for people who have to worry about noise but want an interactive bird. They are also good if you have some room but not a very large space for a cage. Their lifespans are longer than finches, but you don’t have a human lifetime of commitment. Costs vary but they are much more affordable than large parrots.

Cockatiels and Conures

The next size up in pet birds would be the cockatiels and conures. These birds are bigger than budgies, but still are only about 9 to 15 inches long. They are both more likely to pick up on noises and speech than smaller parrots, but the bigger size also comes with being louder. Both types of birds are not the most ideal for apartment living due to their potential noise level. Conures tend to some of the most vocal of the smaller/medium sized birds. Both types can be playful and learn tricks. Cockatiels can have lifespans of 15 and possibly up to 20 years, while conures can actually live from about 20 to 45 years! Be sure you can commit all those years to a bird who will want your attention every day. As with many parrots, the hand tamed and hand fed birds are much more affectionate and interactive.

Cages for these birds should be very strong. Their beaks can be very destructive. You may be okay with a regular wire type cage for a cockatiel, but a conure should have the hardier wrought iron cage. Cages should be large, roughly three foot long by two foot wide, though the bigger the better. Wings and tails should not hit any part of the cage if they were to sit on a perch in the middle. They should be able to climb around. As with the smaller parrots, they need daily time out of the cage for flying, interacting and playing. They need plenty of toys to chew and play with. Ideally, for most parrots, they will be out of the cage any time you are home and able to keep an eye on them. The cage is more of a safe place to sleep, eat, drink and bathe when you aren’t around than a house where they spend all their time. It is similar to how you may kennel your dog when not at home, but you wouldn’t leave them kenneled up when you are there. A parrot should be part of your family.

Parrot diets are fairly similar across the board, pellets, some seeds, and a decent amount of vegetables and some fruits. Interesting feeders that offer foraging are great as well as the basic dishes for most of their diet. Water is a must for any pet, and bathing water daily for nearly all birds. Some parrots may even enjoy joining you in the shower as long as you don’t get any soap on them. Shower perches can actually be bought for your feathered friend.

So, if you want a bird bigger than a budgie, one of these two types might be ideal for you. If you can handle their mess, possibly louder noise, and larger cage, you might have what it takes. Don’t forget to plan accordingly for their long lifespan. Parrots don’t take well to being re-homed.

Large Parrots

Larger parrot species include African Greys, Cockatoos, Amazons, and even the Macaws. There is a bit of variation of sizes here ranging from about 12 inches to possibly 40 or so, including tails. These birds can be extremely noisy! And many of them have the ability to talk and imitate many noises. African Grey Parrots are known as some of the best talkers and imitators. Some have said that they even can carry on a conversation and understand human language. On the other hand, they may imitate noises you would not like copied such as sirens, babies/children crying, phones ringing, and even screaming or yelling.

These species also have very long lifespans ranging from about 30 to 80 years! Many people have to put these birds in their will to ensure they will have a proper home with family or a friend when the owner passes. It also should be noted that the larger parrots have very strong beaks and that should be a consideration for who the bird will be around (like children with poking fingers), as well as if you have things you worry about being ruined.

It is important to know the full length of any bird to get a proper sized cage to be sure they fit comfortably in their cages. Because larger parrots have even stronger beaks, the only recommended cages would be made of wrought iron bars. Locks on doors are very important for keeping these smarties contained when you aren’t home or are asleep. Any toys need to be completely parrot safe and expected that they could be destroyed. You will not be able to always keep these birds locked up (and why would you want to?) as they will definitely let you know they are frustrated. They absolutely need cage-free time as it is impossible for most people to have a cage large enough for them to fly around in. They need loads of interaction daily!

Much of the rest of the information about these birds have already been said about the smaller parrots, a diet of pellets, vegetables, fruits and maybe a bit of seed. Plan for long lifespans, possibly them to outlive you, and know that they can be very loud, messy and destructive. Cared for properly though, they give affection, can become wonderful talkers and really be a true companion.

If you are considering a bird for your family, make note of all requirements and be sure you have the proper home and time to dedicate to whatever species you choose. As with other pets, they should never be an impulse buy, research needs to be done, and all the factors figured in. As stated before, parrot type birds will often bond closely with their owners and do not take well to re-homing. They may become so stressed out, they pluck themselves bald or become aggressive. Imagine if someone suddenly took you from your family (your spouse and kids especially) and put you in a new home. It would be devastating. Please only consider a parrot or other longer-lived pet if you can truly dedicate their lifespan of time to owning and caring for them.

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