Birds as pets come in all shapes and sizes and to fit all budgets. They make good pets in households where someone is allergic to the hairs of dogs and cats. Care should be taken when younger children are around however - birds do not react well to a lot of noise and fuss around them, and younger children have actually been known to scare some of the smaller species to death - literally! Birds depend totally on their owners to keep their environment clean, for their amusement and for their food.
Birds range in size from the small canaries and finches to large Macaws.
Before buying a bird as a pet it's useful to remember that birds are a lifetime commitment with life expectancies from 5 to 80 years depending on the species you get.
They require a varied diet of fresh fruits and vegetables along with seed and pellets. These will end up on the floor, on the cage bars, and sometimes halfway across the room on the wall. You will need to provide your birds with a large enough cage to play in and stretch their wings. They also need toys to keep them occupied and plan on replacing them frequently as most birds love to chew. Then there is the noise. Depending on what species their calls can range from the songs of the canary to the ear piercing call of the large macaws. Regular vet visits are also recommended to keep your bird happy and healthy. An avian vet visit can be costly. Do a lot of research before jumping into the wonderful world of birds, they are not for everyone. If you do decide to get a bird they can bring you a lifetime of joy and happiness.
Whilst not being a pet that can be cuddled, some birds can get very tame, and interact well with humans. Bird food is normally relatively cheap, so after the initial outlay to buy the bird and cage it won't cost too much to keep your new pet. Be sensible when choosing your bird - the bigger the more expensive to house and feed and keep clean!
Whatever you do, don't make an impulse buy and purchase that colourful bird in the pet shop. The pretty looking lovebirds, for example, can make very loud screeching noises, and you have to be sure you can enjoy this. On the other hand, zebra finches make a pretty 'tooting' sound, which can be a pleasant background noise.
If you see a bird you like the look of ask the pet shop's advice about how to look after it, what food it will need, and how much noise it will make! Be sure it will fit into your life style before committing to buy it.
Best of all, buy a book about that particular breed and make sure it is for you. Make sure you understand how to look after it properly, and consider how long it will live. Books will give you the best advice - or online forums. Unfortunately sometimes pet shops are not as knowledgeable as they should be about the needs of various breeds.
Cage or Aviary?
Most pet birds in the UK are kept in cages inside. It is quite possible to keep birds in an aviary, but most colourful birds come from hotter parts of the world and need to have protection from particularly cold winds.
Birds kept in groups or even pairs will not become as tame as birds kept on their own.
It is quite possible to breed a pair of birds in a cage - we had success with a pair of canaries, and it was lovely to see them building a nest and rearing the young in a corner of the lounge!
Zebra finches in an aviary
If you keep birds in an aviary make sure you take advice about which birds can live together, and make sure you provide a diet that will suit all their needs.
If you go for one bird in a cage remember that it will rely on you to provide its entertainment. Without stimulation birds can easily get bored, and resort to plucking out their feathers, harming themselves or screeching non stop.
Budgies, cockatiels, finches and canaries are some of the most popular and easier to keep birds, eating seed appropriate to the breed and fresh vegetables/fruit daily. The more exotic the bird, the more individual it's care and diet will be, so make sure you research the requirements of your chosen avian friend carefully before purchasing so you are aware of the effort that will be involved in keeping it fed, clean, happy, healthy and amused!
Joining a forum such as Avian Avenue Message Board where people can share their experiences of owning particular types of birds will help you prepare for your new pet, and you'll be able to get advice on its care and health.
Chickens as pets...
If you fancy keeping birds as pets, why not go for chickens? Not only are these birds very cheap to keep (costing only 'chicken feed'!), they are kept out of doors keeping noise and dirt out of the house, and also reward you by laying eggs!
Children can be involved in looking after these lovely creatures, which can make surprisingly tame pets!
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Many will live with you through various moves and changes in lifestyle. The better prepared you are to deal with this long-time companion, the less likely you are to be disappointed and the less likely your pet is to end up in a rescue. Birds require a lot of attention and care and can be very messy - something else to think about if you are very house proud.