So you're thinking of getting a pet bird, but you're still doing your research to see if a feathered friend is a good fit for your household. Birds can be amazing, entertaining animals—they're also high-maintenance pets. Personalities and moods vary and range from sweet to shy or feisty. More than 5 million households in the U.S. keep pet birds, from parakeets to canaries, and parrots are the most popular pets after dogs and cats.
A parrot will screech until it has your attention, and it can launch into screaming tantrums that would put a toddler to shame. Moluccan cockatoos are the loudest parrots on the planet, and their shrieks are audible up to five miles away. And birds don't just love making noise; they love listening to it too. Many macaws enjoy fireworks, so that's one thing you don't need to worry about if you get a parrot instead of a dog.
Prepare for chaos if you keep your parrot uncaged for parts of the day or your bird manages to escape its nook. Birds can peck your computer's keys right off, and they might shred or chew household items without a care in the world. Picture the aftermath for your electrical cords, paper, furniture, drapes, and photo frames. Birds can also be aggressive bullies. They bite when they're sleep-deprived or stressed, and they act out when put in quarters that are too tight. Bites can cause enough damage to send owners to the ER with missing bits of ears or tongues.
Parrots require potty training, have petting preferences, and harbor phobias. They can have panic attacks and trauma from previous neglect. Large parrots have stringent nutritional requirements—too many seeds can be fattening for sedentary birds, and this can cause significant health problems. Parrot maintenance can wear at a person's resolve, so you need to ask yourself whether you're willing to take on the potential labor and emotional burden. Retraining and positive reinforcement can assist with behavioral issues.
Birds don't tolerate poor air quality well, so if you plan on buying or adopting one, you can say goodbye to your fancy scented candles and the smoking spot close to where you plan on homing your birdie. Teflon pans release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particular air fresheners are no-gos. Ceiling fans are hazards worth noting too.
Birds are not traditional, tame domestic animals, so parrot behavior, for example, is often difficult to anticipate. If you have visitors over, there's a slight chance your parrot may try to mate with someone's head. A parrot's mental state, including boredom or anxiety from a fall or an as yet undiagnosed medical condition, can also result in self-plucking and wound infliction. Don't confuse self-harm with molting. The latter is natural but could cause allergic reactions.
Time for the upsides. Birds live for decades. Though rare, there are reports of centenarian parrots, and the average parrot can live for more than half a century. That's over 50 years of your avian bestie slapping its wings at you or making heartwarming memories. Imagine having a lifelong relationship with a non-judgemental creature you might need to include in your will—that's priceless.
Birds and humans can form remarkable bonds. Pet birds can console you when you're grieving and are loving in unexpected and touching ways. And it's not just parrots and macaws that deserve the plaudits. Cockatiels are intelligent and social and can learn the theme songs to your favorite shows. That fact alone should get bonus points in the bird pros column. You can also take well-behaved leashed birds to school pickups or treks to receptive stores.
Pigeons are so much more than rats with wings. The rock pigeon was the first domesticated bird, and almost three dozen pigeon carriers received medals for military service in WW2. Pigeons are clean and don't yell like many other birds. They're power nappers and sunbathers, which could be right for you if you're looking for some therapeutic company. Pigeons are brilliant too. They can recognize themselves in a mirror!
You can feed chickens from your hand and hold them for quick snuggles. In recent years, backyard chicken coops and chicken raising have become more popular, and it's possible to see diapered pet chickens milling about inside American homes. But what do you do when your hen or rooster falls ill? Exotic bird vets are often ill-equipped to treat poultry-specific issues. Amateur chicken raisers must turn to the internet for help. There are also chicken accessories to consider, from saddles to protect hens from libidinous roosters and irresistible costumes for holidays.
Before acquiring a bird, check whether you have adequate space in a warm, well-lit, and draft-free area. Do you have the time necessary to interact with, feed, clean, and generally take care of a beaked buddy? Locate a nearby bird vet for wing trimmings or in case of emergencies. Pick bright-eyed and active birds and look for illness indicators such as unusual breathing or discharge from the eyes and nose. Keep the new bird in quarantine for a month if you already have birds. Always supervise your pet bird, especially around children.
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