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Small Birds

The Martha Stewart Show, April 2009

When thinking of pets for the home, many people instantly picture dogs and cats. But small birds also make great family pets.

Small Bird Varieties
While big birds are indeed lovely, they are not the best pets for everyone due to their size and cost. Small birds can be an allergen- and stress-free pet for families -- and they'll provide lots of interaction for kids while teaching them about animals.

Budgie

  • Sometimes called the parakeet, budgies are simple to care for and affordable.
  • Native to Australia.
  • Ultra-brightly colored.
  • Needs only a small cage.
  • Can live about 3 to 4 years.

Cockatiel

  • Cockatiels make wonderful and affordable pets.
  • Native to Australia.
  • The males can whistle tunes, and they love to be petted and stroked.
  • Live very long lives, often well into their twenties.

Green Cheek Conure

  • These birds are more on the expensive side.
  • Native to South America.
  • Small and colorful.
  • Like to be handled.

Sun Conure

  • Native to South America.
  • Even more colorful than the green cheek conure and just as friendly.
  • Very noisy.

Senegal Parrot

  • Native to Africa.
  • Very tame and colorful.
  • Can learn to say a few words.
  • Very quiet.

White Dove

  • Native to Europe.
  • Very gentle and affordable.
  • Love to be touched and petted.

Caring for Small Birds
The bright colors of the bird varieties listed above give the impression that they're from exotic and tropical lands. However, all the birds on the show have been domesticated and were born and bred in the United States. Just as our great grandparents came here from other countries, the ancestors of these birds also came from lands all over the world, and their descendents have become these great pets.

As babies, you should trim the wing feathers of these birds so that they can't fly blindly around the house and hurt themselves accidentally. As they get older, the trimmed feathers fall out and new long feathers grow in to replace them; by then, the bird should be coordinated and mature enough to fly around your home. Just be sure to keep all the windows and doors closed when the bird is out of its cage.

These birds need a roomy cage that will allow them to flap their wings without touching the sides. On the bottom, put a sheet of newspaper with a sprinkle of absorbent bedding; change daily. Since many of these birds come from rainy areas of the world, you need to simulate that for them by misting their feathers with warm water daily from a clean spray bottle. Even though these rainy areas that the birds come from are very hot, none of these birds needs warm temperatures when kept as pets; whatever temperature your house is kept at will be just fine.

These birds definitely like to play. You'll want to get an assortment of toys to put in their cage to keep them busy while you're not at home. In nature, the birds would be looking for food all day, but since they are provided with all the food they need, they have lots of time, and toys will keep them busy and occupied. Plus, you can take them out of the cage and play with them on your shoulder, finger, and lap.

The diet for all these birds is all pretty much the same: fresh seeds and pellets mixed together in one dish, an assortment of fruits and vegetables in a second dish, and sparkling clean water in a third dish. Be sure that all the dishes in the bird's cage are washed out with soap and water; your pet's dishes should be as clean as your own.

If you have only one bird, don't worry -- the bird won't be lonely as long as you play with it every day. If you don't have a lot of time to play with it, you can get two birds. Unlike dogs and cats, birds don't need to be vaccinated, but it's still a good idea to take them to a vet who specializes in birds once a year just to be sure they're healthy.

It really only takes about 20 minutes or so every day to care for birds; most kids spend three times that amount after school playing computer games or texting their friends. Why not spend the time forming a relationship with an exotic looking and very friendly little bird?

Resources
Special thanks to petkeeper Marc Morrone for sharing this information.

Comments (1)

  • judyburris 15 Jul, 2011

    I have a 19 year old Nanday Conure. We were told awhile back that when he regurgitates his food we are to take away all protein foods like his millet and caramel popcorn for birds along with his pasta. Usually this helps but this time its going on forever. He yells alot if his seeds are out of there and won't touch his fruits. We take seeds out after he eats so he wont mess in the dish. Need help!