Monday, May 02, 2005

Choosing Feathered Friends

Prospective owners should know what their committment is with fearthered freinds Posted by Hello
Pet birds can enrich their owner's lives in a variety of ways but, as with any potential pet purchase, it is not something that should be done on an impulse or a whim.

It is important to do some research and make careful considerations to ensure that the bird you choose will best suit your lifestyle and pocketbook.

# COST

Determining how much you can afford is a logical first step toward the purchase of a pet bird. Monthly expenses of owning a feathered friend can range anywhere from $40 to $90 per month. This does not include the initial cage purchase or the yearly veterinary, emergency care or boarding costs while you're on vacation.

There also is the purchase price of the bird. Birds can range anywhere from just under $20 for a small finch to several thousand dollars for a large parrot.

Typically, the more exotic and the larger the bird, the more it will cost to purchase, cage, feed and care for.

Potential pet owners shouldn't be tempted to take advantage of bargain-priced birds from unreputable pet dealers, though.

These birds frequently come with baggage — such as health problems and mental disorders — that can be difficult, long-term problems to correct, if they're correctable at all.

Healthy, hand-raised birds are well worth the initial price in the long run.

# COMMITMENT

Another important consideration is to determine if there is enough time in your daily schedule to give a pet bird the care and attention it will need.

Some birds are very social creatures, requiring lots of daily contact and interaction when their owners are home and lots of toys and cage furniture to keep their minds occupied when their owners are away.

Not committing daily time to fulfill the interaction needs of the more social species can result in a variety of neurotic behaviors.

Also, unlike dogs and cats that are considered long lived if they make it to the high teens, birds — particularly parrots — can live more than 30 years, some even making it to well over 50 years of age.

Some of these birds bond closely with only one person or one family. If given up or sold, the transition to a new home can be a difficult, stressful adaptation for them, to say the least.

# SPACE

Pet birds can require a lot of space. Small species like canaries and finches need lots of room because they get most of their exercise within the cage, while larger birds require even more space.

Parrots, cockatoos and other large species may spend lots of time outside their enclosure, yet they still need room to move, play and exercise within their cage when their owner is not at home. For these big guys, an area of 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep by 3 feet tall, should be the minimum cage size used.

# NOISE

Birds can be noisy. The volume and frequency of noise can vary from species to species, so it is important to learn about the behavioral characteristics of different species before making a purchase.

Finches, doves and canaries, although not completely silent, tend to softly chirp and chatter, compared to budgies, cockatiels and many of the parrot species, which are known to screech, click and whistle loudly.

Some species also are accomplished noise makers and talkers. African grays can commonly recite multiple lines to songs, plays and prayers.

Other birds, like mynas, can mimic an impressive array of environmental sounds — including a car starting, a squeaky drawer opening, a microwave running, a phone ringing and even the sounds of other birds.

# MESS

Some species of birds can be little mess makers. Most of the mess comes from their eating habits, since they scatter debris outside the cage in their seed- and nut-shelling pursuits.

To maintain a hygienic atmosphere birds should have their cage's paper changed daily and their entire cage scrubbed and disinfected weekly.

Pigeons, doves and a few other species also produce lots of feather dust — a fine white powder produced by special feathers — that can be very noticeable on dark furniture or clothing.

Parrots typically enjoy being destructive. They like to rip and shred phone books, paper towel rolls and anything else they can get their beaks on while in the cage.

Outside the cage they are equally fond of chewing. Electrical cords and furniture are not off their menu, so precautions should be taken to parrot-proof the home environment.

Birds are very popular pets, and for good reason. They have many positive attributes. However, the decision to add a pet bird to the home is not one that should be taken lightly.

Purchasing a pet bird, like purchasing any pet, should be done with the commitment of caring for that animal, daily and for the duration of its life.          

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