Public awareness continues to grow about shelter pets and what devoted pets they can be when given a second chance at a new home. What people may forget is that it is not only dogs and cats who need loving homes, but other pets as well, including birds, rabbits, ferrets and other pets. This month, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is celebrating Adopt-A-Rescued-Bird Month, meant to help abused and abandoned birds find new homes and help people learn how to be responsible bird owners.
A major reason that birds are so often forgotten is that shelters and other animal advocate organizations simply do not have the room to accommodate them in their facilities, forcing them to turn birds away. Because of this, many birds are euthanized when a suitable shelter can’t be found.
Too often, birds are bought on a whim. While the reasons for buying a bird vary, people believe that birds are less messy, easier to care for, and less expensive; but these are not true. When a bird is brought home, new bird owners will soon find that birds are messy, with feathers and seed joining their droppings on the floor of their cages (and sometimes outside), and require frequent cleaning. Their water also needs to be freshened at least once daily because of the contamination from seed, feathers and droppings.
Birds can sometimes be expensive pets. The cost of veterinary care for a bird may be another surprise for first-time bird owners when the bird gets sick or requires other veterinary assistance. Also, depending on the breed of bird, they may need frequent new toys to chew on, which are not inexpensive.
Many birds also need to be let out of their cages every day so they can spread their wings, similar to the responsibility of walking a dog.
If a bird’s owners don’t understand basic bird behavior, this can cause the bird to develop behavior problems, making it difficult for them to be adopted if they are surrendered. New bird owners need to understand that birds are social creatures that, in the wild, communicate by squawking or screaming during dawn and dusk--two times of the day that are especially stressful to have a squawking bird in the home if unprepared. A bird owner may only make the problem worse if they give the bird treats or attention to stop them from continuing, since this will reinforce the behavior. Some squawking is to be expected when you get a bird; but for more information on how to keep a bird from excessive screaming, go here.
Bird owners should also understand that, to move around in their cages, birds use their beaks to help them climb and play. It is important to know that just because a bird has its beak out of its cage, it doesn't mean that it will bite or that it is aggressive.
Some birds are highly intelligent and have great needs for interaction and stimulation. Be sure you can spend adequate time with your bird before you take any further steps. Some birds do best with other birds around. Be sure to research the breed of bird that you are interested in to make sure you can meet their needs. When their needs are not met, they can become depressed and act out behaviorally, by being noisy, destructive, or by engaging in self-harm behaviors such as plucking out their own feathers.
Lastly, even though the lifespan of a bird is the furthest thing from a person’s mind when they bring a bird home, they need to have a plan. Specific breeds of birds, particularly parrots, have an average life span of up to 75 years. Will they still want to care for the bird after their children have gone to college? Will an assisted living facility allow senior citizens to bring their bird with them? Who will care for the bird if a couple gets divorced? These are all questions that need to be answered before a bird is brought into a home. By not taking into consideration the future, the outlook can be bleak for birds that are either left in a shelter or euthanized if they aren’t adopted.
Although it is important to know the facts before adding a new addition, birds are loving, caring, and intelligent animals. By researching and planning ahead, interested bird owners will be able to bond with their new pet without any surprises. Along the way, they can pass their knowledge on to others. If you decide a bird isn’t for you, you can still help needy birds by making a donation to a recognized bird shelter or rescue group.