What you need to know about Bird Ownership.

Last month my husband and I were in the beautiful city of Savannah, GA and attended the 17th Annual Doggie Carnival in Forsyth Park hosted by the Humane Society of Greater Savannah.  It was a gorgeous spring day and there were lots of puppies with their people. While this was a canine oriented event, we ended up chatting for quite a while with a fellow with a magnificent macaw on his shoulder.  I had never been around birds as pets until I was an adult and have since learned the basics, such as they live a LONG time, 50+ years; they create very close bonds and aren’t suited to families with small children.

When we got home, I started digging a little deeper and found out three more facts that I, at least, didn’t know.

  • According to Petfinder.com, “birds are very sensitive to air quality. Unlike humans, a bird replaces nearly all the air in its lungs with each breath. Because no residual air is left in the lungs during the ventilation cycle of birds, they transfer more oxygen and more pollutants during each breath. Birds should never be exposed to tobacco smoke, chemical fumes (hairspray, cleaners, etc.), or Teflon coated materials. Exposure to some toxic inhalants can cause immediate death; chronic exposure to other toxic can lead to premature death.”  I’ve heard the reference to Teflon should be applied to humans as well!

  • Birds need to be OUT of their cage EVERY day, for a minimum of a couple of hours.  Many bird owners leave the cage door open whenever they are at home. Some only close the bird in the cage at night.  This, of course, requires making sure the house is safe for the bird, no other pets that could harm it, no wires it could chew, and family members have to be aware of where they step and sit!

  • The wire chewing comment leads to the next bit of knowledge that was new to me – birds’ beaks grow all their lives and they have to continuously wear them down.  It makes sense, I just never thought about it. That said, according to thesprucepets.com, “In order to keep the beak maintained, as well as to exercise jaw muscles, birds need to chew. Because of this, bird owners must be diligent about supervising their pets so as to protect furniture and valuables from the beak's gnashing fury. If a bird is on your list of potential pets, be prepared to offer it a plethora of safe and fun toys to rip, shred, and destroy. This will help minimize the risk of your bird chewing on something that is not theirs, or worse, something dangerous or toxic.”  You can, of course, trim your bird’s beak and nails yourself or have it done professionally.

One last realization I gleaned from my research.  Unlike cats and dogs who have been domesticated for thousands of years, birds are wild animals and need to be handled and socialized every day to remain tame.  Never purchase a bird that has been caught in the wild. There are many, many birds that have been captive all their lives, could never survive in the wild and need a loving home.  That said, bird ownership is not to be entered into lightly.

Written By: Pam Feicht