What Should a 1st Time Bird Owner Know Before They Buy?
Father helping daughter choose among pet birds

What Should a 1st Time Bird Owner Know Before They Buy?

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

To start with, begin understanding the scope for your choice of pet birds. Here is a list of more than 500 species you can choose from each having its own nuances.


I stress making this distinction because so many people talk about things like “make sure you don’t get a bird larger than a conure or a parakeet”.


If you break down that statement it’s really nonsensical because conures range from 64 grams (green cheeks) to 280 g (Patagonians) the size of a Timneh African Grey.


All conures are parakeets but not all parakeets are conures. There are actually close to 400 species of parakeets. Most people refer to budgies as parakeets so I want to be as clear as I can in directing you to a possible relationship with a new bird.


Indian ringneck parakeets can be great talkers. Australian Grass parakeets like Blue-winged parakeets, Elegant parakeets, Orange-bellied parakeets, Rock parakeets, Scarlet-chested parakeets, and Turquoise parakeets are quiet little chirpers not known for their ability to talk. There’s also the Bourke’s parakeet having its own subspecies.


You’ll want to understand how unique a bird’s respiratory system is. Why you can’t burn candles in your home, it’s not just the smoke and oxygen depletion, birds don’t know what “hot” or a “flame” is.



Speaking of candles, let’s take a little side trip.

There are no safe candles for birds scented or not. Why humans insist on burning them indoors is beyond me except perhaps in an emergency.


I see scenes in movies and TV shows where romantic settings in bathrooms or bedrooms are based on dozens of candles lit in and around the bath or the bed.


Does anybody wonder besides me where they are storing all these candles?


Once the decision is made by at least one of the two team members that “tonight’s” THE night, how much time needs to be allotted to put them in place, light them, then remember to extinguish them before falling asleep so the house doesn’t burn down.


Finally, placing them back in that mysterious storage area?


Have you thought of revisiting those LED party bulbs at Menards? At least if the night goes south, then it’s just a switch or two:-)


Anyway, it’s important to understand that some candles are made of paraffin wax. Benzene and toluene (“one’s” like gasoline”) are created when the paraffin wax burns.


And wouldn’t you know it? The very same toxins emitted from paraffin wax candles are identical to diesel fuel fumes.


Why am I not feeling romantic?


You can’t use nonstick cookware like Teflon which has PTFE’s.

A heated Teflon pan has the ability to kill a bird in minutes. Teflon is also found in waffle irons, hairdryers, humidifiers, and dozens of other household items.


You’ll want to learn about bird nutrition. Even a small bird, a 25-gram budgie has 2000 to 4000 feathers. Feathers require amino acids for growth and amino acids come from protein.


The internet is awash with the many recipes captive bird keepers provide for their birds. Vegetables (chop) and perhaps some rice and/or beans.


My experience after interacting with tens of thousands of bird companions over the last 15 years is that malnutrition is one of the most preventable maladies found in pet birds but unfortunately is quite prevalent.


Don’t take my word for it. I’m sure anyone reading this will agree that Harrison’s bird food is one of the finest bird food pellets made today. So I quote:


“Finally, the poor health resulting from feeding seeds and table food, still being promoted by well-meaning but misinformed bird owners, is and always has been the most dangerous preventable cause of suffering in birds”.


Dr. Gregory Harrison, founder – Harrison’s bird food.


It’s best to have your birds on a well-rounded commercial bird food diet.


If the majority of the diet is seeds you can add supplements like Prime from HARI (Hagen Avicultural Research Institute) which will introduce the necessary proteins, amino acids, and other vitamins required for raising a healthy bird.


Adding fresh veggies and some fruits will round things out quite nicely.


What makes birds truly unique pets is that they are “three-dimensional” animals. They can fly. This is a two-edged sword. A nervous flighted bird can easily fly into a window or mirror sustaining injury or death.


Ironically as it sounds teaching your bird how to fly and more importantly where the land in the house is essential for a flighted pet bird.


If you start with a larger bird say an African grey, be aware of their potential for destruction. They don’t know the difference between your $250 dining room chair and the bird play stand you bought for them.


The usual naysayers will advise “Don’t get an African Grey if you have no experience with birds!”


Our friend Kim just got a 3-year-old female Timneh African grey as her first bird. We spoke about it for weeks. Finally, she turned to me and said “look” I’ve been running a daycare for 25 years. Who better to care for a 3-year-old, whether covered in flesh or feathers?”


Amen to that – Zoe the new grey has been a hit with Kim and the family for the past few months.


3 Bird-Safe No-Stick Cookware Alternatives – Video


We introduced Peaches to Zoe a couple of weeks ago. Both birds stayed in their cages but it was fun to watch the expressions and actions of the two parrot species.


Moving on –


Birds are amoral, they don’t know the difference between right and wrong so telling them “no” or “bad bird” has absolutely zero impact on the parrot other than this person is not letting me have whatever.


All behavior must be treated with positive recognition. The only time I veer off of that is occasionally when I get Peaches out of her cage in the morning she may try to bite me. Then I ignore her. She loses her morning face-time with me.


mitchr and Peaches the Senegal Parrot









Her attitude usually changes when I come back in 10 minutes. She’s more than happy to get her morning scritches.


People will cry out with warnings about how messy birds are. I don’t disagree with that but there are ways to keep the mess in check. That said if you aren’t up to tidying up around a bird’s cage almost every day the mess can accumulate pretty rapidly.


Don’t be scared off if you don’t have an Avian Veterinarian in your area. Perhaps you can find an Exotic vet. Avian Vets have to learn almost the entire range of 10000 species of birds. Some vets choose not to spend their time learning about chickens and waterfowl but may be good with exotic pets.


We have been using Dr Byron de la Navarre an exotic vet here in Chicago for 15 years and although not a certified avian vet he performs (and teaches) surgery on geckos and snakes. He also collaborates with other avian veterinarians like Dr. Ted Lafeber on commercial foods to help sick birds and reptiles as well.


Besides Peaches our Senegal parrot which is a very quiet parrot weighing in about 110 grams (a fat cockatiel is about 110 grams), we have 4 budgies that keep themselves entertained day in and day out.


We started with a single budgie we named Bacon. It was clear that she had been an escapee from somewhere, quite wild and very unhappy in captivity. Fast forward and she now has three companions two other females and a male all rescued.


Aside from cleaning up after the breakfast club (4 budgies named Bacon, Eggs, Toast and Jam) and they really like millet, they keep each other great company and breathe an enormous level of life into the house. Chattering from first light till the last light at night.


They’re really fun to watch. They share a millet spray every other day. I keep a compact canister vacuum under their cage shelf and spend 2 minutes vacuuming almost every weekday.


The plan this fall is that we are going to clip all four of their wings and get them to socialize outside of the cage. Stay tuned.


Pay your due diligence to understand the personalities of the species that you are considering. Our Senegal predictably is a one-person bird, mine. She hates Catherine (my wife below with the magenta hair) and dislikes all other humans as much as I try to socialize her but we will continue to press on with human interactions.

Thus if you live alone, a Senegal this a great parrot to have. If there are other family members you may consider an Eclectus parrot who tends to be more social with multiple family members as an example.


If you would like additional guidance just look at my profile so you know where you can find me. I’m always willing to help on a more granular level.


Lastly, you mentioned the word “buy”. We strongly encourage Adoption. All 5 of our birds are rescues. They all literally found us. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Buying one doesn’t change the odds.


Knowing more before you began reading this, I’m certain you now have a clear path to follow in your quest to find the perfect pet bird.


Written by Mitch Rezman and Catherine Tobsing

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Off-topic, but LOVE Catherine’s magenta hair! :0)

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