The sweet lullaby of a bird whistling in the distance. Those "Polly want a cracker?" and other silly conversations we see birds and their owners have. And of course, every fearsome pirate has a parrot has a shipmate. Let's face it - we have all thought about owning a bird.
Experts say that owning a bird can be a lot of work and first-time bird owners are usually happier with smaller species such as finches, canaries, budgies or cockatiels. If possible, always adopt rather than buy as there are many birds that are available for adoption in local shelters. If you are looking to add a feathered friend to your family, these five questions will help you determine if you are ready.
Do I have enough space?
They fly, they hop, they chew, they glide - birds are active. When it comes to space, find a place that's large enough for a cage. Your bird needs to be able to spread his wings! Remember: wider is better - birds will like to hop from perch to perch as well as have the height to move. A small cage won't cut it.
Other tips: Place the cage in an area natural light and doesn't have a draft. Experts suggest near a window as a bird will enjoy the sunlight during the day (owners can simply close the curtains at night). And despite the common area for families, you don't want to place your bird in the kitchen - those fumes are not safe for them!
For more housing ideas and suggestions, read this article from the Humane Society.
Can I give the bird(s) lots of my time?
Birds are social creatures. They may not always be seen with their flocks or gaggles, but those groups are never far away. Think about Romeo and Juliet at the Boston Public Gardens. Swans mate for life (who can imagine Romeo without Juliet?) so they are always in a pair. As a result, birds will want to spend a lot of time with you, their owner. Some birds will require hours of your time daily. If you have a busy schedule, a bird may not be the best addition for your family. However, birds do better in pairs; if your budget allows, get two birds, a male and female of the same species, so they have a constant friend.
Am I ready for a long commitment?
A parrot just may out-live you. Yes, parrots can live up to 80 and many parrot aficionados will add their pet parrots to their wills. Owners can rest easy knowing that their beloved birds will be taken care of long after they are gone. Cockatiels can live to be more than 20 years-old and finches, canaries and budgies can each live to be about 15.
Do I have realistic expectations?
A rooster isn't the only bird who has a morning alarm - your new pet bird may sound the alarm too! Some people are surprised by all that comes with owning a bird. Cage cleaning daily is a must. Owners will have to bird-proof their homes, doing things such as covering all electrical cords so birds won't chew them. (Home improvement stores will sell "cord covers" that can range from $5-$12.) And don't forget, birds can bite. Are you prepared to possibly get nipped by your pet bird?
Can I afford the cost?
Now it comes down to funds. Veterinary care, food, cage, chewable toys - all of these things can add up. Put together your pet budget and see if it aligns with owning a pet bird. Don't forget - you may be buying food for 15+ depending on the type of bird you own. Be sure to calculate that in!
Think you are ready? Check out this list of birds to see which one is right for your family.