Which Bird is Right for Me?
So you've thought it through and you are sure that you want to and can care for a little bird. Now you have to decide which kind of small bird you want. It's an important choice, since different species vary a lot in their behavior characteristics and their needs. Our species profiles provide information on some of the more popular pet birds.
Should I Get a Male or Female Bird?
This issue of male vs females is only relevant if you decide that you want mulitple birds. If you just want one bird, the sex of that particular bird should not matter. All birds are affectionate in their own way, regardless of sex. It is a myth, and one that is in dire need of correction among bird owners, that in such instances, males should be preferred over females. Why? Lamely because females birds are "evil" because they bite more, don't bond or can't be tamed as easily, and are always more aggressive in nature than males. Wrong!! This is not an absolute, 100% guarantee analysis on behavior. Each and every bird has his or her own distinct personality. Some are more shy than others (in which case they will require more time to trust and bond to their human companions) while others are bolder and let their curiosities reign over their fear of humans (these types of birds tend to trust and form bonds much more rapidly). Females are stereotypically seen as the former and males as the latter (note however that there is a vast spectrum of behavior types not just constrained to the two mentioned above). Her shyness, or perhaps her nervousness towards humans will require that she be handled more gently and cautiously. Can you really blame her for acthing this way? Just think about the respective size difference between humans and our small feathered companions - they all probably view us as "scary giant monsters" until they are shown over and over again that we are merely "nice giant monsters" and mean them no harm. If she is not treated with respect, then obviously she will not bond with you and will bite more to defend heself and hence become aggressive towards you. In which case, it is not her fault, but rather it is yours. if you are persistent and patient enough with her, she will become just as rewarding as any male.
However, if you plan on buying two birds, it is advised that you do not buy two females. It is generally a rule of thumb that two females cannot be housed together because they tend to fight each other, even to the death, over a nonexistent male. Females are also known to be more territorial than males and will defend their properties and/or territories by any means possible. A better combination to consider is to buy two males. Males are less territorial and when confronted with a fight, one will usually back down when he realizes it is not a winning battle for him. Females, on the other hand, usually engage in aggressive fighting which may end up with one dead - they do not back down as easily as males do. Another acceptable combination is to buy a male and a female. The only issue with the male/female situation is that of potential breeding issues. If you are absolutely sure that you do not wish to have eggs/chicks, it is better to get two males. However, if you think that breeding is a possiblity for you in the near or far future, there are tricks of the trade that can be applied to help prevent or postpone breeding until you want them to breed. Read about these tricks in our breeding section.
If you decide to buy three birds, combinations to avoid are two females and a male, or three females. The females will fight over a potential mate or battle each other out over territorty. You should go for either three males, or two males and a female. In this combination, even if the males decide to fight over the female in, one male will usually back down. It should be noted here that birds are very social creatures and tend to pair up. Hence, anothe rule of thumb is to avoid owning odd numbers of birds to avoid the "third wheel" situation - that is, a situation in which one bird does not get a pair and becomes an outcast.
If you decide on four birds, buy either four males, or two males and two females. Have you noticed the general trend yet? Regardless if it is just 2 or 200 birds, remember to provide at least the same number of males or one more male than there are females, or simply get all male birds.
How Many Birds Should I Get?
Many bird owners have trouble deciding how many birds they should own as pets. There is no such thing as a solitude answer to this question. It mainly depends on your personal lifestyle.
One bird may be good for you if you are someone that can spend most of your day at home and plenty of time with your bird. The biggest advantage to owning just one bird is that s/he will more likely bond with you. Depending on the species, there is also a greater chance that the bird will learn to talk over the years. Birds are very social creatures and require daily interactions with another being, regardless if it is with a human or another bird. Because of this, many single birds that are not given enough attention on a daily basis will start to think that s/he is being punished and can become depressed or develop personality problems (such as constant screaming). Even if you provide your bird with lots of toys, toys can only substitute for attention only so much. The bird will still require at least 2 hours of attention and interactions with you daily.
A common issue on this topic is whether getting one bird is "cruel." This site tries to take a neutral stand to issues concerning bird keeping, but this particular question begs for personal input. Before this input is given, keep in mind that this is anecdotal evidence and others may or may not agree with this view. I personally think that no matter how much toys and attention you offer the bird, s/he will not be truly as happy as s/he is with another bird. There are just some things that humans cannot do or do as well as another bird. For instance, two birds will often engage in mutual preening and feed each other (signs of love). You can try to toy around with his feathers and scratch his head to compensate for the mutual preening, but it is often done clumsily by the human fingers and does not come close to what preening really is (neatly “zipping up” and arranging feathers). Similarly to feeding – I am sure that not many people out there are willing to eat the food their loving bird has regurgitated. It is harmful to the bird if we eat food and pretend to reguritate it to our birds because human saliva contain bacteria that is harmful to our feathered companions. As quoted from what a friend had said to me “the best toy for a bird is another bird.”
If you are busy, and other obligations will come first to spending time with your bird, then two birds or more are best for you. They can be tamed just as one bird, but will require more effort and patience on your part. They will be able to keep each other company as you are gone for work or errands. Even though they have each other, it is still highly recommended that you give them attention daily, although not to the same extent as a single bird (half an hour to one hour).
You should never get three birds together. Two will be bond, while the third bird is left out. The outcast usually stirrs up problems so it's best to keep an even number of birds.
If you really are a busy person, it's ideal you get only two birds and no more. Consider this: the more birds you get, the more mess they make, the more time you have to spend making sure they have sanitary living conditions. If you're so busy that you can't spend much time interacting with your birds, then you probably won't have much time to clean after them as well. When getting one or more birds always remember that you should never get more than you can handle whether it be taming, feeding or cleaning cages.
What Age Should My Bird Be When I Get Him/Her?
Many people believe that you shouldn't get an untamed adult bird (~1 year of age or older) because you cannot tame him/her. This, untrue for most cases. Taming an adult bird is merely more challanging but not impossible. How long it takes for the adult to be tamed will depend largely on his impression of humans during his previous years of life. If the bird had been owned by an abusive human or had been neglected, you can bet that it will take much longer to reverse his views on humans. Sadly, it is true that in some instances were the bird has been treated horribly for years, the effect may not be reversible. Should you come upon such a bird, you should still try to tame him but be much more gentle and be more patient. Read up on tips on how to tame a bird in our "taming" page.
Having said that, it is recommended that the bird be around 4 months of age upon purchase. At a young age, the bird can lose his fear of humans easier (and hence form stronger bond with you) and can be more easily tamed. However, do not get a bird that is younger than 1-2 months old because they are essentially still chicks and should not be pulled away from their mothers; some cannot eat without help or guidance from their parents. Do NOT get a chick that is not yet weaned. If you do not know how to properly feed the chick you can kill him. There is a new law that is reinforced in some of the States that forbids stores or breeders from selling unweaned birds for this very reason.
Know that getting a young bird does not guarantee that the bird will be tamed. It still requires effort on yoru part. You must be consistent with taming otherwise it will not work.