To Buy or Not to Buy?

The Pros and Cons of Owning Birds


True some birds arenít very intelligent (like chickens) but most parrots are. A few, like the African grey, can be as smart as a five year-old child. Many can count. Others can understand or even speak human language.

Little-known fact: birds are one of the messiest pets you can get. Expect to find seed sprouting in your carpet or sink. You won't ever be able to walk through the house again without feeling "chrunchies." Forget so-called "seed guards," nothing will ever stop your birds from flinging all they can as far as they can. I've had budgies take baths in their seed. The best defense against mess indoors: Buy plastic carpet protector and put it beneith and all around your cages. Outdoor/indoor carpets work well to as well as old sheets. My conure's cage is covered on 3 sides by plexiglass which prevents her from flicking fruit on the wall. This would work well for lories too, who tend to squirt. For outdoors: Mess won't bother you as much as attract wildlife. At one point in time at my mother's house we had three raccoons, one possum and an unknown number of mice/rats visiting the cages each night. My dad's house only has one bird, my duck, but we involuntarily feed rats, gophers and wild birds. This is a major problem. Many animals can carry disease or kill your birds. Even if they won't directly hurt your birds they can still scare them and cause them to break a bloodfeather or bone. Cats and dogs work wonders, cats especially.

Parrots and a few other birds have the amazing ability to mimic human speech (some so well that there are cases where a person was invited into the house mistakenly by the family bird) . Birds can often understand what they are saying too, though it depends on how they were taught. There is ongoing research right now with an African grey named Alex. Alex can count to six, identify shapes, colors, sizes and even ask for things he wants. Many birds have even been known to make up words for ones they don't like or can't pronounce. One grey, Arrow, named it's owner "Joba." In the wild birds use sound to communicate with each other. This is why they pick it up so easily in captivity. They naturally want to learn the language of their "flock." This is also why they can understand it so well- better than dogs.
Not all Birds Talk

It is unreasonable to buy one solely for that reason. Infact, many birds prefer to whistle or imitate sounds around the house like the microwave or doorbell. These sounds are much closer to natural bird calls and are picked up very easily. This also means you could have a bird on your hands that beeps, rings, coughs, and creaks all day long. This annoys many people. I've only had one bird that could really talk, a kak named Bob. The few others I had that "talked" could usually only said a squeaky version of "pretty bird."

Birds come in an endless variety of colors.

Birds are not curtains or plants. They are living, social creatures. Never buy a bird spice up your livingroom.

Birds often live in flocks in the wild which naturally social. This is the main reason why people get hooked on birds. They make great pets! Birds are playful, cuddly and sweet. They donít have to be taken for walks or played with. Most are content just hanging out on or with their favorite person. Good owners like to let their birds out as often as possible. Many of us watch TV, read and work on the computer all with our birds.

Though birds require a different kind of attention than dogs or cats they DO require lots of attention. Birds that get no human interaction should at least have another bird for company (mirrors don't cut it). Most species bond very strongly and get upset whenever their "mate" isn't around. My ringneck won't shut up if I'm home but not in my room with her. Many species are especially clingy. Cockatoos are well-known for this. They can be the most lovable birds one can buy but they easily develop behavior problems. If not given enough attention they can turn to plucking, self-mutilation or constant screaming. Bad attention is better than none and owners can actually teach their pets to continue with these habits by rewarding them. Birds quickly learn that screaming brings their owner back in the room. And look how excited they are when they come back! Most of the behavior problems birds get are from improper interaction and sociability.

My sister used to subscribe to Cat Fancy and I got Bird Talk. One month both came in the mail the same day. Cat Fancy had an article on coping with the loss of your cat; Bird Talk had one on making sure your parrot is well provided for after your death. Even many small birds could easily outlive a cat or dog, whoís average lifespan is only 15 years. Budgies (parakeets) can live about that long. With good care cockatiels usually make it to their twenties, small parrots can live to their 30's or 40's, and large parrots can live to be over 80!

Birds aren't disposable pets that can be flushed down the toilet in a year. They may outlive you. Buying a bird, especially a large one, is a lifetime commitment. Itís like adopting a child. You may even have to set up a trust fund for your bird. Birds often end up in uncaring hands of non-birdfriendly family members once their human has passed.

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