My daughter had a pet parakeet, and then we adopted another. I enjoy sharing what we've learned about caring for these colorful pets.
Are You Considering a Pet Bird?
So you are thinking about adopting a pet bird. Besides deciding which type of bird to get, there are many other considerations:
- How much of a commitment is this?
- Where will the bird live?
- Who will take care of a bird?
- What type of cost is involved?
- Should you get one bird or a pair?
Use this guide for tips on how to adopt a bird and what to expect once it is home.
Life Span of Pet Birds
One thing to consider when picking a bird is its lifespan. Are you committed for ten years or 75? Smaller birds, like parakeets, may live to be about 10–15 years old, but some types of parrots may outlive you!
Picking a Bird
Pet birds are typically sold individually or in pairs. If you buy a single bird, it is more likely to bond with you. When you buy two birds together, they will probably bond with each other, and you could be ignored.
Meet Lemon and Marshmallow
For this reason, my daughter adopted a single small parakeet, named Lemon for her solid yellow color. She bonded with the bird and was successful in some training. After a year, though, she purchased a second parakeet, white in color and so named Marshmallow. The two birds adore each other, and though Lemon has less interest in my daughter, she appears to be a happier bird over all.
How to Identify a Healthy Bird at the Store
Once you have decided which type of bird to adopt, visit a pet store and observe the appearance and behavior of the birds. Healthy birds will be active and alert. Examine the bird's feathers to make sure they are vibrant and clean. The eyes should be bright and free of discharge. The beak should be free of discharge as well. Typically, the pet store allows a two-week return policy, so if the bird appears sickly or is just not a good fit, you can make the return.
Observe the Bird's Personality, Too
Take some time to see how the birds act. Is the bird quiet and inactive, or noisy and climbing all over the cage? Smaller breeds will be more active in general, but observing the birds for a while may give you a better idea of their disposition.
My daughter adopted Lemon because she was such a beautiful yellow bird with cute white cheeks. But, Lemon was not a playful bird, and we found that she ignored most of her bird toys. She was a "talkative" bird, though, and appeared healthy and happy. When we adopted the second bird, we looked for one that was more active. Marshmallow was definitely the "crazy" bird at the pet store. She flew all around and played in and out of all the toys. Now that she is part of the family, she has taught Lemon all her tricks and they have a big time together.
Where Will You Keep the Bird?
When you purchase a bird, you will need to buy a cage and have somewhere safe to keep it. It will need to be out of direct sunlight and away from any type of draft. If you have other pets, the birdcage needs to be placed in a secure spot where it will not be disturbed by curious cats or dogs.
We like to keep our birds in a central area of the house, between the kitchen and breakfast room. When selecting a spot, remember that birds are noisy, messy and smelly! Though we clean the cage regularly, there always seems to be a bird smell, as well as little feathers and seed all over the place. Every morning, we change the newspaper-lined bottom of the cage and sweep away excess bird debris from the surrounding area with a small dustpan and brush.
Pet Bird Supplies
When you purchase a bird, the pet store staff will help you select the right cage and necessary bird supplies. The cost of a bird can range from $15 for a parakeet to hundreds of dollars for the larger parrots. Some basic supplies you will need are:
- food bowls
- mite/lice spray or container
When you adopt a bird, you need to be aware of the time commitment involved and decide who will care for the bird. Most birds love attention and will not thrive if they are ignored. Finches and canaries are exceptions to this rule. They typically will not interact with you and do not like to be handled. These birds will be happy with other birds, so it is advisable to buy them in pairs or multiples.
To care for your pet bird, you will need to:
- change food and water daily
- keep cage clean
- keep cage free of mites (sprays or hanging containers can be used)
- give vitamins (can be sprinkled in food or water)
- train bird if desired
- cover at night
- take to an exotic vet if it gets sick
- give love and attention
Introducing a New Bird: How to Add a Second Bird to the Cage
If you already have a bird and are thinking of adopting a new one, here are some things to consider.
- If you plan to keep the birds together, you will probably need a larger cage.
- Male + female = baby birds.
- You may need a second set of food and water bowls, though some birds will share.
- You will go through more food.
- Another bird means more noise and mess!
When we brought Marshmallow home, we kept her in a smaller cage right next to Lemon's large cage so that they would get used to each other. Our plan was to give them a week and see how they did together. But, after three days, they were practically begging to get closer to each other. We let Marshmallow in, and they have been best buddies ever since.
At first, there was a toy that Lemon would not allow Marshmallow to chew on, but they have resolved that problem. Lemon clearly is the more dominant bird and demands several head scratches per day from Marshmallow.
Some birds are territorial and will not be as accepting as Lemon. You should keep them in separate cages side by side for a week and then try to introduce the new bird into the big cage. If there seem to be any problems, you can separate them at night until they get used to each other.
Bringing a Pet Bird Home
Once you bring your bird home, don't be surprised if it is very quiet and inactive the first couple of days. It will need a little time to get used to its new surroundings. You may consider covering a portion of the cage to give it a place to hide and feel secure.
It took Lemon three days to warm up and we were so happy and surprised to hear her loud chirp. She has a variety of noises that she makes, and she especially likes to sing to Katy Perry songs. It only took Marshmallow one day to get comfortable in her new home. Though her bird noises are similar, we can always tell who is "talking." They are a joy to have around.
bookpaw on March 07, 2018:
my parakeet is doing good
bookpaw on February 20, 2018:
i have a bird she looks like lemon
Dianna Mendez on September 01, 2012:
Great tips for those who are thinking of getting a pet bird. We used to have a cockatil and it was such a good pet.
Sarah Johnson (author) from Charleston, South Carolina on August 31, 2012:
Hi, aviannovice. They are cuties and we love them. Keep up the good work with bird rescues!
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 31, 2012:
What a great story. Glad to hear that your birds are doing well together.
We recommend that you don't immediately expose your existing pets to a new one. Consider how you'll manage an isolation period and be sure all existing pets are up-to-date on vaccinations and other routine health care before bringing a new pet home.
Facilitating positive pet-to-pet introductions will require some management on your part too. Not all pets are instant friends and may require temporary or intermittent separation to ensure a smooth transition. Some pets are happy to share their home within a week or two, others may take a month or longer to adjust. Our adoption staff will be happy to review steps to properly introduce your new pet to your resident pets.
There are a lot of things to consider before making the decision to adopt a pet — added responsibility, expenses, time commitment, and proper care, just to name a few. Before you adopt a new pet, please consider all the aspects of pet ownership and use the tips below to ensure you are truly ready.
Be a responsible pet owner. Careful research and planning are essential, since being a responsible pet owner requires more than just providing adequate food, water, and shelter. Potential pet owners should agree with these points before bringing an animal home.
Animals are not disposable! Animals are not articles of clothing to be thrown out once they are no longer in style. They are capable of bonding deeply with their families. Adopting a pet means making a life-long commitment, which can be up to 20 years.
Protect your pet's health and safety. Owning a pet costs more than the adoption fee. Remember to include basic and emergency veterinary care, toys, supplies, and food. Spaying and neutering is also essential for the animal's long-term health and happiness, while providing the animal with proper identification will ensure his or her safety.
Let's face it, you're probably going to run into a few challenges during those first few weeks — or months — with a new pet. Whether you're dealing with a cat who won't stop scratching furniture or a parrot who won't stop chirping at night, it's bound to happen.
"No matter where they live, where they come from, or where you find them, all animals — even animals within a specific breed — have individual personalities and dispositions," DiCicco said. "Just like people, they need time to adjust to new surroundings and environments."
The key to moving past those hurdles is to understand that developing good habits doesn't habit overnight. The best thing you can do is display a consistent attitude so your pet understands that you want what's best for them, no matter how frustrating it is.
"You can help your pet adjust by being patient and giving them time to get acquainted with their new home," DiCicco said."If your new pet is hiding or seems fearful at first, don't fret! Most animals adjust to new environments after varying amounts of time, so your new dog or cat may not act the same in the first few days as they will once they feel comfortable later down the line."
How to Prepare Your Home for a Foster Pet
Preparing your pets
Congratulations on bringing home a foster pet! Fostering a homeless pet is both rewarding and important work. When bringing a foster pet into your home, there are a few things you’ll want to consider. If you have current pets at home, you’ll want to make sure that they’re prepared just like any other member of your family. While shelters and rescue groups are full of healthy, happy adoptable pets, keep in mind that some adoptable animals can end up in shelters and rescue groups with little available background information, or some may have health conditions which require a little extra love and care. In these cases, it is especially important that you protect your currently family pets throughout the foster process. If you choose to foster puppies or kittens, keep in mind that they often require some extra considerations, too. You’ll want to be sure to keep them separated from any current family pets to avoid potential exposure to common health issues like upper respiratory infections and worms or parasites.
Before bringing home your first foster pet, make sure that any of your current pets are up to date with their vaccinations. Talk to your veterinarian about fostering and follow their recommendations about any precautions you should take. Your veterinarian may suggest additional vaccinations/immunizations to help best protect your current family member. As with any regular veterinary care, you will most likely be responsible for any treatments and costs related to your own pets.
Preparing your home
To protect a foster pet in a new environment (and to safeguard your belongings!) it is important to pet-proof your home. Doing so will help set you both up for foster success.
Once you have chosen an area where you will care for your foster guests, you should “pet-proof” the area. Pay attention to any small or potentially harmful objects, such as pins, needles, paper clips, nails, staples, thread, string, rubber bands, caustic/toxic chemicals, moth balls, plants and any other items that are potentially dangerous. Some animals may also be attracted to electrical cords. These items should all be blocked so they can’t get at them. Also, to ensure nothing is missed, get down at an animal’s eye-level. Look closely for any small holes or dangerous items that may have been missed at your first pass of pet-proofing
Precautions to take by room: Kitchens/Bathrooms/Utility Rooms
- Use childproof latches to keep little paws from prying open cabinets. Be sure to keep all cabinet doors closed.
- Keep medications, cleaners, chemicals and laundry supplies on high shelves or in childproofed cabinets.
- Keep trashcans covered or inside a latched cabinet.
- Check for and block any small spaces, nooks or holes inside cabinetry, furniture, floors, appliances, etc. where your foster pets may hide. Also make certain that spaces behind washer/dryer units are closed off so your foster animals can’t get in there either.
- Always keep your dryer and washer units closed and check them before use.
- Keep all foods out of reach and/or in cabinets. Even if the food isn’t harmful to pets, the wrapper could be.
- Keep toilet lids closed
Precautions to take by room: Living/Family Room
- Place dangling wires from lamps,TVs, etc. out of reach. You can place the cords through PVC pipes if you’re concerned a pet might try to chew them.
- Keep children’s toys put away.
- Put away knickknacks that are valuable to you or could easily be knocked over. If it is important to you, don’t leave it out.
- Pick up any items like strings, pins, yarn, etc.
- Move houseplants — many of which can be poisonous — out of reach. This includes hanging plants that can be jumped onto from other nearby surfaces.
- Secure aquariums and cages that house small animals, such as hamsters or fish, to keep them safe from curious paws.
Precautions to take by room: Garage/Basement
- Most garages contain too many dangerous chemicals and unsafe items to be an acceptable foster site. Foster animals should never be housed in a garage.
- Move all chemicals to high shelves or behind secure doors.
- Clean up any and all antifreeze from the floor and driveway. Even a very small amount can be lethal to an animal.
Precautions to take by room: Bedrooms
- Bedrooms may not ideal situations for some foster animals. If scared of their new environment, some animals can hide under beds and may be hard to coax out.
- Keep laundry and shoes behind closed doors
- Keep any medications, lotions or cosmetics off accessible surfaces (like the bedside table.)
- Move cords out of reach of chewing.
Whatever room you choose to make your foster pet’s new home, make sure that it is easily cleaned. You should be able to disinfect it between foster pets. Carpet and other soft surfaces can harbor disease hosts from pet to pet. It is also difficult to clean up accidents on carpet, especially when they seep into the carpet pad. Areas with tile, hardwood or other impermeable surfaces are ideal places to house your foster animals.
Preparing your yard
If you have a fenced in backyard, check that there aren’t holes in the fence or any other escape route. Remember, never leave your foster dog in the backyard without your supervision. Never leave a foster dog unattended or unwatched outside. Always keep your foster dog on a leash when walking outside.