The First Month – Acclimating Your Bird

Moving to a new home can be stressful for a bird, especially if the bird is a handfed baby. Luckily, if you spend some time setting everything up properly, it isn’t too hard to help your bird make the adjustment to a new home.

The first thing you should do for your new bird is to place his cage in an area that does not have too much traffic and confusion. However, although you don’t want him to feel like he is in the middle of everything, you also don’t want to put him in an unused room where he will be neglected. Pick a spot where he can interact with you, but won’t be constantly startled by loud noises and sudden movements.

If you already have another bird, you should quarantine the new arrival for 30 days. This way, if your new bird has an infectious disease, your original bird has a better chance of not catching the disease. To quarantine your bird, you should place him on another floor of the house and keep his food and water dishes separate from your original bird’s dishes. If you have central air, you may not be able to truly quarantine your bird, since air ducts carry the air from one room to the next. However, quarantining the new bird is still better than immediately putting them side by side.

Next, make sure your bird is healthy. Take him to your avian veterinarian for a well bird visit. Your vet can check to be sure your new pet doesn’t have contagious diseases, worms or bacterial infections. This is especially important if you have a newly weaned handfed baby bird because if the bird wasn’t handfed properly, he could have a bacterial infection.

You should also be sure that your bird is eating well. If he doesn’t seem to be eating during the first 24 hours, try offering him spray millet, which is basically dessert for birds. Whole grain cereal also can coax a frightened bird to eat. If you have a newly weaned baby bird that is not eating and he is making a squalling noise, he may have regressed and needs to be handfed a bit longer. Ask your breeder for assistance.

If you cannot reach your breeder, you can usually buy some hand feeding formula in pet stores. Simply mix up a very small quantity of hand feeding formula until it has the consistency of pudding and offer it to your bird on a plastic spoon. He should eat it right off the spoon.

Finally, don’t be afraid to interact with your bird, but don’t overdo it. You shouldn’t work with him for more than 10 minutes at a time. If he flies away several times and you have to chase him and catch him, you should put him away until he calms down, since chasing and catching birds is very stressful for them. If he isn’t flying away, you should still watch your bird closely for signs of stress as you work with him.

Stress – The Silent Killer

One of the worst things you can do to your pet bird is to subject him to stress. Stress can literally kill a bird that would otherwise live a long and healthy life. How can you avoid stressing your bird and what can you do for him if he does become stressed?

You should be sure that you recognize signs of stress in birds so that you can alleviate stressful situations immediately. Obviously, a bird that has his mouth open and seems to be struggling for breath is stressed. However, he can also show less obvious signs of stress, such as standing very tall and skinny on his perch or eating less than he normally would.

Since identifying signs of mild stress can be a bit challenging, you should look for things that could cause everyday stress and remove them from your bird’s environment. That cartoon where Tweetie is fluttering about his cage in alarm just because the cat has walked into the room is pretty accurate. Cats can stress caged birds to death by simply staring at them. Dogs barking constantly beside a bird’s cage or jumping at the cage and yapping can also be quite stressful.

Vermin, such as mice, are especially dangerous, since they cause stress by startling birds when they run across the room at night and can carry diseases. If your bird is a messy eater and drops food in the bottom of his tray, mice may actually climb into the cage. If you see signs of a rodent problem, you will need to eradicate it immediately. However, be sure your exterminator is aware of how to kill pests without killing your birds.

Sometimes the things you do for your bird can stress him. While you may think you are providing a wonderful new toy, your bird may be under the impression that you have placed a scary predator in his cage. Never place new toys in the cage immediately. Instead, let your bird become accustomed to the toy by hanging it outside the cage. When you notice him trying to play with the toy through the bars, it is time to move it into the cage.

Of course, it goes without saying that moving to a new cage can be stressful for a bird. After all, even people get stressed out by a move to a new home. Instead of putting your bird directly in his new cage, introduce him to it gradually. Place the new cage beside the old cage and let your bird out of his cage. Allow him to walk over to the new cage and explore the outside of it. If he doesn’t go to the cage, place his favorite treat on it to tempt him.

Once he is comfortable with the outside of the cage, place treats inside the cage to coax him in. Let him explore the inside of the cage for a few days before you finally switch him over to the new cage permanently.

Finally, don’t chase your bird and pick him up over and over if he flutters down from your arm. After you catch him two or three times, put him back in his cage. Being pursued and caught is very stressful for birds.

Teach Your Bird Simple Tricks

While most people think of pet birds as animals that just sit in the cage or perch on someone’s shoulder and say the occasional funny phrase, some birds can actually learn quite a few interesting and entertaining tricks. While not all birds are able to perform elaborate tricks, you should be able to teach your bird a few simple tricks.

One of the easiest tricks you can teach a young bird is to play dead. To teach this trick, you first need to accustom him to having his head and back touched. When he doesn’t mind being touched anymore, it is time for the next step.

Let him perch on one hand and cup your other hand around his back, gently cradling his head between your thumb and forefinger. Then, gently tilt him over onto his back. If he struggles, stand him back upright immediately. Gradually increase the amount of time you leave him on his back until he is willing to stay in that position for several seconds without being restrained.

While most birds can learn to play dead, conures excel at it because some of them lie on their backs naturally to sleep. In fact, teaching your bird to pretend he is tucking himself in for the night is a trick that can be learned quickly once he knows how to play dead. Gently cover his body with a small, light piece of cloth and say ‘Goodnight’. Some birds will grasp the cloth immediately and tug it higher with their beaks, as if they are tucking themselves in. Others need a bit of encouragement.

Another fun trick you can teach your bird is to play ring toss. Most birds naturally throw things around, so all you need to do is reinforce this behavior. Encourage him to throw the rings without aiming at a target at first. After he becomes accustomed to tossing the rings, you can begin working with him to toss the rings onto a short dowel screwed onto a base in an upside down ‘T’ shape.

If your bird picks up the ring toss trick readily, you can teach him to shoot hoops with a small, light ball and a ring fastened onto a dowel to form the basketball pole and hoop. Since the technique is so similar, most birds that have learned to play ring toss pick up basketball in a matter of days.

Finally, if your bird is a talker, you can teach him quite a few clever vocal tricks. One favorite is to teach him to respond to people who ask if he can talk with ‘I can talk. Can you fly?’ Another trick that astonishes people who aren’t used to the intelligence of birds is to teach your bird to request the treat he wants to eat by name. This trick can be taught by telling your bird the name of each treat as you offer it to him. He will quickly pick up the names of his favorite treats and begin to ask for them by name.

Is a Senegal Parrot Right for You?

If you want a bird that is playful, affectionate and colorful, you may want to take a close look at the Senegal parrot. Although the Senegal comes from Africa, this bird is not quite as vocal or as intelligent as the African grey. However, Senegals can easily learn to speak twenty to thirty phrases in their robotic little voices.

These birds are very playful, especially when handfed. If you want a bird you can cuddle, a Senegal is a pretty good choice. In fact, many Senegals are so people oriented that they will roll onto their backs and snuggle in the crook of your arm or ‘wrestle’ with your fingers by gently grasping them in their beaks. Your Senegal may also follow you in the house as if he is the family dog, hop up onto the coffee table to snatch popcorn from the bowl and beg for treats at the dinner table.

However, the same personality that makes a Senegal a fun and entertaining pet also makes this bird accident prone, so be careful not to step on your bird by accident or let him escape out the door. When you have company, you may want to shut him up in his cage so he doesn’t fly onto the hot stove or fall into the toilet because someone forgot to shut the lid.

While Senegals are not the quietest birds in the world, they are not as loud as many of the larger parrots and often make fairly good apartment pets. However, if your walls are thin, a Senegal may still disturb your neighbors when he decides to really sound off.

Senegals are great family pets and they usually bond well with several people. However, some female Senegals bond tightly with one person and are quite aggressive toward other members of the family. If your Senegal begins to act aggressive toward other family members, you will need to act quickly to stop this behavior. The person your Senegal is most attached to should stay in another room while other family members interact with the bird. Try having other people feed your bird and change his cage, as well. Eventually, your Senegal should tolerate the entire family.

Senegals are fairly healthy, hardy little parrots and can easily live 30 years or more. Be sure to give your bird a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Bean mixes are also popular with these birds, but be sure to remove the mix after a few hours to prevent your Senegal from eating spoiled food.

Finally, even if your Senegal spends a lot of time out of the cage, you will still need to be sure that the cage you choose is adequate. It should be roomy enough for your bird to spread his wings and flap them up and down and tall enough allowing your bird to climb a few feet back and forth. Be sure the cage bars are nice and thick or your bird will bend them out of shape.

Quaker Parrots

If you live in a warm climate, you may have noticed a big flock of noisy gray and green parrots flying about. These birds are Quaker parrots, a popular pet for many bird lovers. Because Quakers are so hardy, they have colonized in quite a few spots, including Florida and California. These little guys can really do some damage to your local farm crops. Concerns about crop destruction and competition with native birds have caused lawmakers to ban ownership of Quakers in quite a few areas. Before you decide to buy a Quaker, make sure these birds are legal in your area.

The gregarious Quaker is a fairly good talker. While these birds do not have the mimicking ability of some of the large parrots, such as the African grey, they do develop large vocabularies fairly easily. One major drawback to the Quaker’s vocal nature is its noisy vocalization. Although quite a few people keep this bird in their apartments, it isn’t an ideal apartment pet because it will disturb your neighbors when it cheerfully greets each new day with a slightly raucous squawk.

Since the Quaker is actually a member of the conure family, it is no surprise that these birds are often cuddly and playful. They are an excellent choice for a family pet, since they rarely bond so strongly to one person that they refuse to allow anyone else to handle them. Quakers are usually quite happy to hang out on a favorite person’s shoulder and chatter away to themselves.

Since Quakers have been popular pets for many years, several color mutations have been developed. The normal gray and green Quaker is quite attractive, but you may prefer a blue, yellow, pied, albino, cinnamon or lutino bird instead. Most of these mutations are much more expensive than normal Quakers and are harder to find. Luckily, your bird’s color will not affect its ability to be a wonderful pet.

Your bird’s cage should be about two feet wide by three feet long. Be sure to shop for a cage made with heavy wire, since this parrot’s strong beak can easily bend cage bars that are made with the lightweight wire that is suitable for parakeets or cockatiels. Quakers aren’t tidy birds, so if you are concerned about keeping your floors clean, you should look for a cage with a metal apron that is designed to catch seeds and feathers or you should shop for an acrylic cage.

Quaker parrots like to chew, so you should plan to buy bird toys on a regular basis. If your bird doesn’t have enough toys and doesn’t get enough human interaction, he may start to pluck out his feathers. This behavior is common in Quakers, especially when they are bored.

If you want a bird that is cuddly, playful and talkative, then the Quaker parrot may be the ideal bird for you. Just keep in mind that this bird can be on the loud side, so you may want to meet a few Quakers and listen to their vocalizations before you decide to bring home a Quaker of your own.

About Pionus Parrots

So, you want a parrot, but you’re concerned about all of the stories you’ve heard about aggressive, moody birds. Isn’t there a mild mannered, quiet parrot out there? Well, while each bird is an individual, overall the Pionus parrot is a sweet natured bird. Some Pionus species are a bit loud, but even those birds are quieter than many other parrot species. Of course, since they are less vocal, Pionus parrots aren’t the best talkers. The Maximilian and blue headed Pionus species will be more likely to talk than other Pionus varieties.

Pionus parrots have several unusual traits. Unlike other parrots, they’re a bit ‘sloppy’ in their appearance. When your Pionus is feeling relaxed, he will let his fuzzy down feathers show through his sleek outer feathers. Pionus parrots also have a distinctive odor. It is not strong and few people find it unpleasant, but Pionus parrots definitely do not smell like other birds. Also, when they are scared, Pionus parrots make an odd wheezing noise. While it may sound like your bird is having difficulty breathing, he is just nervous. Remove whatever is scaring him and he will calm down and return to normal.

The white capped Pionus is probably the most commonly available. This mellow charmer is a petite 9 and 1/2 inches (24 cm) tall. This bird has muted green, blue, red and bronze coloring and a white cap. White caps are a bit on the shy side, but don’t let your bird’s shyness fool you into thinking it is a pushover. They tend to be quietly determined to get their way and a bit stubborn.

Maximilian Pionus parrots are a bit larger than white caps, measuring 11 and 3/4 inches (30 cm) long. These birds are mostly in a dull green color, with a bluish green throat. Many people overlook these wonderful birds because of their dull appearance, but they make great pets. Maxis are loyal, playful and affectionate companions and love to hang out with their families. Of course, since they are shy around strangers and in new situations, your bird may not be very active or personable for the first few days.

If having a colorful bird is important to you, you may want to take a close look at the blue headed Pionus. This striking bird has a bright blue head and a green body and is 11 inches (28 cm) long. Because of its beauty, this bird is the most expensive Pionus, often costing a thousand dollars or more. The blue head makes a sweet and loving family pet, although some of these birds can become a bit demanding and obnoxious if they are spoiled rotten when they are young.

Dusky and bronze wing Pionus parrots are the other two Pionus species available as pet birds. Dusky parrots have an attractive gray blue color with a pinkish chest. These little parrots are 9 and 3/4 inches (24 cm) long. This parrot is known for its intelligence and its curious nature.

Bronze wing Pionus parrots have a bluish body and bronze colored wings. If you are looking at a bronze wing in dim lighting, you may think that the bird isn’t very attractive. However, if you take it into a well lit area, you will see that the bronze wing is actually quite striking. These birds are 11 inches (28 cm) long and are very sweet natured. Bronze wings tend to be shyer than other Pionus parrots, but they still make wonderful pets.

If you want a sweet parrot and are not overly concerned with talking ability, the Pionus parrot may be the perfect choice for you.

Is a Parakeet Right For You?

If you have never owned a bird before, you may want to take a look at the parakeet. This little bird can be found in almost any pet store at a very reasonable price, which makes it a great choice for someone with a tight budget who is looking for a pet. Cages and toys are also much more economical for parakeets than they are for larger birds.

Despite its small size, the parakeet can make a wonderful, entertaining pet. Although it does not have the ability to mimic voices like an African grey, this little bird is an exceptional talker and has an excellent memory. There have been reports of parakeets with vocabularies of over 400 words and phrases.

The parakeet’s playful nature makes it an ideal companion for someone who is homebound. These birds are almost constantly in motion when they are awake and will chatter most of that time.

There are actually two different types of parakeets. The American parakeet is much more active and is smaller than its cousin, the English Budgerigar. American parakeets also are much more prolific, so are easier to find. However, English budgies can still be wonderful pets, especially if you can find a young bird. Just be aware that these birds are more prone to health problems than American budgies, because they have really been inbred over the years as breeders tried to develop an overstuffed look in their show birds.

Since the parakeet has been domesticated for over 150 years, it is no surprise that there are quite a few different colors and patterns to choose from. You can find yellow, lutino, green, blue, violet, white and albino budgies. You can also find pied or spangled birds. Crested parakeets are definitely a conversation starter, since the long, shaggy feathers growing around their heads are definitely unusual looking.

While parakeet seed is certainly popular with these little birds, you’ll need to feed your bird a varied diet to keep it happy and healthy. Pellets, fruits and vegetables are all good additions to your bird’s food bowl. Whole grain cereal or pieces of whole grain bread are also a good choice.

However, even a healthy, well cared for parakeet with a varied diet does not live as long as many of the larger parrots. Parakeets usually live for eight to ten years, although some of them have been known to live into their teens.

Pet stores often sell extremely small parakeet cages and several supplies as a kit for first time parakeet owners. If you can afford to shop for a larger cage, your active little bird will be much more content. Since parakeets are so curious and energetic, you’ll need to be sure you provide plenty of toys for your bird. Parakeets are especially fond of swings, Olympic rings and balls. Although they like mirrors, it isn’t a good idea to provide one for your bird, because it will bond to its reflection instead of becoming attached to you.

So, if you want a colorful, playful little bird, then the parakeet may be the perfect pet for you. Just don’t be surprised if you have such a hard time choosing one color that you end up with three or four of these little charmers instead.

About Macaws

One of the biggest and brightest parrots is the macaw. The largest macaws are so big that their beaks are longer than a man’s hand. These vibrant, powerful birds are not a good choice for the beginning bird fancier. However, if you are a new bird owner and really want to own a macaw, there are some smaller varieties, such as the Hahn’s macaw, that are a good choice for less experienced bird lovers.

If someone asks you to describe a macaw, you probably think of the popular blue and gold. This striking bird has beautiful blue and yellow feathers and is surprisingly inexpensive compared to most other macaw varieties. The blue and gold is almost three feet (91 cm) long from head to tail.

While these birds are usually fairly laid back and gentle, they will often go through a nippy, moody stage in their adolescence. In addition, a mature blue and gold macaw that has gone to nest can be extremely dangerous. Birds that were once sweet and affectionate to their owners will not hesitate to attack and can literally bite right through a person’s hand. For this reason, people with young children may want to think twice about buying one of these large macaws.

Another macaw that is a popular pet is the Green Wing. This bird is actually one of the largest macaws and has vibrant green, blue and red coloring. Green Wings are known for their steady, gentle nature, but adolescent birds may go through a shy, nippy stage. You will need to be careful not to stress your bird with sudden changes during this time. If talking ability is important to you, you will want to choose a Green Wing, since this macaw is more likely to talk than other varieties.

The Scarlet macaw is probably the perfect pet for people who love colorful birds. This vibrant bird has bright red, yellow and blue feathers. However, despite its beauty, the Scarlet macaw is not a popular pet bird, because it is prone to being a nippy, moody parrot.

The Hyacinth macaw, the largest parrot in the world, is a beautiful blue bird with yellow accents. Mature birds are 42 inches (106 cm) long and are so powerful that they can literally take any bird cage that is welded together apart with their beaks. Despite its strength and size, this breathtaking macaw is quite good natured and would make an excellent pet. However, because this macaw is on the endangered list, a baby Hyacinth is a bit hard to find and quite expensive.

Finally, if you would love to own a macaw, but are concerned about owning such a large bird, you may want to consider one of the mini macaws. The Hahn’s macaw is a petite twelve inch (30 cm) bird with a mostly green body. There are some touches of red, blue and yellow color, but the Hahn’s is not very colorful. However, it is an intelligent, playful bird and acts much like the larger macaws do. Other mini macaws that are readily available as pets are the noble, severe and yellow collared macaws.

About Lovebirds

If you’ve seen lovebirds in a pet store, you may have been told that these birds must be sold in pairs and don’t actually make good pets. However, while it isn’t a good idea to split up a pair of bonded lovebirds, a single handfed baby can be kept alone and will be quite content to be a family pet. You will need to be sure to handle your bird daily to keep it sweet and tame. If you neglect to handle it for a few days, it may become skittish and nippy.

There are nine lovebird species available, including the peachfaced, Fischer’s, masked, Abyssinian, Nyasa, black-cheeked, redfaced, black-collared and Madagascar lovebird. With the exception of the Madagascar lovebird, these birds are native to Africa. The only lovebirds readily available as pets are the peachfaced, Fischer’s and masked varieties.

However, since there are so many different color mutations in these lovebird species, deciding which lovebird you want can almost be overwhelming. For instance, there are actually seventeen different color mutations for peachfaced lovebirds, but the mutations have been bred together to create thousands of additional colors. Interestingly enough, the sweetest pets are those peachfaced lovebirds with a peach cap. The normal and lutino mutations, which have red faces, are often a bit more aggressive and are usually louder.

Since lovebirds are so small, many people use parakeet cages for their birds. However, these birds are so playful and active that a slightly larger cage is really a better fit. This way, they can have a set of rings, a swing and a few other toys in the cage without being crowded. Of course, a smaller cage makes it easier for lovebirds to play with several toys at once, which is a favorite occupation for these high energy little guys.

Lovebirds do well on a varied diet, including cockatiel seed mix, cockatiel pellets, vegetables, bean mix and whole grain cereal. An occasional orange slice is also a good idea. Your lovebird should also have a cuttlebone or calcium block to chew on.

While lovebirds are not known for their talking ability, these little birds can actually learn a few words. Their little voices are not very clear, but they can readily learn to say ‘hello’ and their names. Lovebirds excel in learning simple tricks, such as playing dead.

This bird’s spunky, playful personality and active nature makes it the ideal companion for someone who is wheelchair bound, as long as someone else is nearby to help return the bird to its cage if it gets tired of hanging out and hops down. In fact, the lovebird is often found in retirement and nursing home communities because it is so amusing to watch.

So, if you are looking for a clownish, but cuddly, pet that is small enough to ride around in your shirt pocket, then you may want to take a close look at the lovebird. These birds may be small in size, but they have a big personality.

Handfeeding Unweaned Birds

If you think that handfeeding means holding some seeds or pellets in your hand and convincing your bird to eat them, you are not alone. Quite a few other people think the same thing. However, handfeeding actually involves feeding a baby bird that is not yet able to eat on its own a soft diet. Most bird breeders use a specially designed formula for baby birds, but some breeders prefer to make their own handfeeding formula.

A handfed baby bird is usually a much better pet than a parent raised bird. However, most people don’t realize exactly how hard and time consuming it is to handfeed birds. If you have ever raised a child, think back to the first few weeks of your baby’s life. Remember feeling as though you’d never be able to sleep again? What about those 3 am feedings? You probably felt overwhelmed by the responsibility of keeping that tiny, fragile being alive and healthy.

Bird breeders face many of the same challenges new parents face, except they are responsible for a baby that can be as small as a thumbnail. In addition, breeders rarely have a break from raising miniscule newborns. Another pair of birds is always going to nest and not all of them are good parents. To keep a day old baby bird from dying when it is abandoned, most breeders will pull out their alarm clocks so they will wake up in time for feedings every two hours until the baby is a week old.

When most people handfeed a bird for the first time, they are either finishing the handfeeding of their six to eight week old baby bird or they are trying to save their first clutch of baby birds after the parents abandoned them. They probably have never seen a bird being handfed or have only had one quick lesson from a pet store employee or bird breeder and they don’t even know what equipment they need.

Fortunately, getting the supplies to handfeed baby birds is usually fairly simple. You will need a brooder, a handfeeding syringe, handfeeding formula, a cooking thermometer, bedding material and a way to mix and heat the formula. Few people have a brooder sitting around the house, but it is simple to make your own brooder in an emergency. You will need an aquarium or plastic pet habitat and a heating pad with a low setting.

Place the heating pad in a draft free location and plug it in on the low setting. Check it after about 15 minutes to be sure it has not gotten too hot. Once you are sure the low setting is working properly, place the aquarium or pet habitat on top of the heating pad, leaving a few inches off of the pad so the baby bird can move away if he gets too hot. Line the container with paper towels or a cloth baby diaper. Your brooder is ready to go.

Now that your baby bird can stay warm and safe, it is time to try handfeeding. There are two things you must remember:

1. Never squirt food into the wrong side of the bird’s mouth. You could get food into his lungs. His esophagus is on his right side, which means that when he is facing you, the food goes from your right to your left.

2. Never let the food get too cold or too hot. It should stay between 102 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Mix the handfeeding formula according to the manufacturer directions. Basically, you want it to be as thick as a slightly watery pudding. Heat the formula and test the temperature. If it is too hot, you can injure your baby bird. Place the baby bird on a paper towel on your table facing you. Fill the syringe, being careful not to suck up air instead of formula. Grasp the syringe in your right hand and gently place the tip in your bird’s mouth so that it is aimed from right to left.

Slowly squeeze the syringe so that a bit of food goes into his mouth. Wait for him to swallow before giving him more food. Do not overfeed him. Older babies will usually back away when they are full, but newly hatched babies will not be able to do so. You can gently feel the crop to see if it is beginning to feel slightly firm, like a stress ball. If it is too firm, you are overfeeding your baby.

Once your bird is fed, tuck him back into his brooder. He will need to eat again in two hours if he is under a week. Two week old babies need four feedings a day and at four weeks you can drop to three feedings a day. Don’t be in a hurry to wean your babies. They may need to be handfed for as long as twelve weeks, especially if they are one of the larger parrot species.