Why Birds Make Good Pets

January 17, 2012 | By | Comments (9)

Cats and dogs steal the spotlight most of the time, but Petfinder.com is branching out in January with Adopt-a-Rescued-Bird Month, a campaign originally conceived with the ASPCA. Appropriately, my interview with Petfinder.com co-founder Betsy Banks Saul needed to be rescheduled as Saul scrambled to deal with an unexpected chicken rescue nearby. Let me tell you, those are two words I don’t hear often, or in truth, ever. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

Saul told me she had been alerted about the presence of three roosters at the county park by a couple in their 70’s who were out jogging. The birds had been in the same spot for two days. They were shivering with cold, and one was wheezing. Fast forward…Saul and her team scooped them up, held them in their arms, cared for them, and put them in her outdoor enclosure by day and warmer garage by night. Turns out they are actually hens, not roosters, and are back to “acting like chickens” and building nests and laying eggs.

Three chickens rescued by Betsy Banks Saul of Petfinder.com

Three chickens rescued by Betsy Banks Saul of Petfinder.com

The nearly 2,000 rescued birds up for adoption on Petfinder.com got there through similar stories of good samaritans across the country doing their part to help out or as a result of people’s life changes such as moving, divorce, kids growing up, someone going into a nursing home or passing away. Other times there is a disconnect between what a person thinks they are signing up for versus what it means to care for a pet bird. “Some of the birds are really challenging,” Saul says. “People don’t always know what they’re getting into.” She suggests volunteering with a bird rescue group or fostering a bird to gain a better sense of whether you have what it takes or if you have the right house for a bird.

cockatiels ralphie and trixie on petfinder.com

Adoptable Cockatiels Ralphie (who mimics kissing sounds) and Trixie (who’s a bit of a diva). Courtesy: Petfinder.com.

These words of caution are not to discourage people from adopting birds as pets, but instead to suggest choosing the right type of bird for one’s lifestyle. All birds are actually not of a feather. In general, the larger the bird, the louder, messier, and more demanding it can be. Because finches and canaries are social with their kind and don’t interact that much with humans, they’re ideal for people who like to watch birds versus interacting with them. Typical choices for beginners or for a child can include Parakeets and Cockatiels. Note that the latter whistle, sing, can learn to talk, and are likely to imitate unusual sounds such as the phone ringing! Check out Petfinder.com’s more complete tips on choosing the right companion bird for you. The ASPCA also provides information on general bird care.

Other interesting tidbits about birds, from Petfinder.com:

  • Birds need a minimum of 10 hours of sleep at night. (People who get far less than this tend to place a sheet over their bird’s cage to simulate night.)
  • Light exposure is important for birds. They need at least 4 hours of exposure to UVA and UVB rays.
  • Birds need a varied diet. This means going beyond seeds or pellets to include grains, beans, fruits and vegetables.
  • Due to birds’ sensitivity to air quality and how their lungs function, they should never be exposed to tobacco smoke, chemical fumes (hairspray, cleaners, etc.), or Teflon coated materials. (Air issues can be a two-way street, with people finding they are allergic to feather dust and bird dander. An air filter may solve the problem.)
  • Depending on the species of bird, they can live 20-50 years or more. (This is why caring for a bird can be a life-long responsibility). Parrots usually have long life spans. Macaws can live 65 years or more!
  • Read the full article: 10 Things You Need to Know Before Adopting a Bird
macaw gabriella bird up for adoption at Petfinder.com

Gabriella says hello. Literally. This adoptable Macaw Mix has a high energy level. Caring for these large birds can be a tall order. Courtesy: Petfinder.com.

The merits of birds and the reasons people enjoy them as pets are as varied as their number of species. “Some people really dig a smart conversation,” says Saul. “Others appreciate a companion with a song in their heart.” She explains that for people who aren’t that ambulatory , birds can be a perfect companion. The more you interact and engage with them, the deeper the bond that will develop, the fewer the behavioral issues, and the more you’ll understand their needs. “There’s no end to tricks and games that you can play with a bird,” she says. She cites as an example her friend, whose Macaw joins him on the floor of his shower to take a bird bath each day. “It’s their morning routine. They just have a ball,” she says.

Have you ever had birds as pets? What has been the most rewarding aspect?

Put your hunting-and-pecking skills to good use by visiting Petfinder.com:

  • Animal: Search for “bird”
  • Location: Enter your zip code
  • Distance: Select how far you’re prepared to travel

Don’t forget — “the early bird gets the worm!”