J.G. asks from Plaistow, NH on December 15, 2010
Having a Pet Bird
I have two girls, 4 and 6, who would love to have a pet, however, I do not want the responsibility of a larg animal like a cat or a dog. Instead I ws thinking about something smaller like a bird. Is this a good choice? My inlaws have big fish tank so my girls see fish on a regular basis and I'm not really into hampsters or gerbils. (too much like a rodent!) So for those of you who have pet birds, what am I looking at as far as maintaining and caring for it? Also, what provisions do you make for a bird in the colder months? My house can be cool in the winter.
So What Happened?™
Thanks Mama's for all your stories and advice. I will be waiting on the pet thing for now. I do realize that pets are work no matter what kind they are, and I know that I would be doing most of the care for them. I could do it but I need to give some more thought as to what kind of pet we want. Thanks again!!
R.. answers from Chattanooga on December 15, 2010
Birds are a LOT of work, and once the novelty wears off, not much fun for kids. I would recommend a chinchilla if you want something fairly low-maintenance and kid friendly. They are technically rodents, but they are really cute! They are super soft, and fun to watch. They do need a 'dust bath' every day, but that's part of the fun! (I used to get vanilla-scented dust for mine, which was nice!) The best part is that you can put them in those big roller-balls, and have fun with them outside.
M.L. answers from Houston on December 15, 2010
In my experience pet birds are harder than small dogs or cats!
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J.E. answers from Los Angeles on December 15, 2010
Birds are messy. They throw seed casing everywhere. They can really bite, especially budgies. Love birds are sweet, but if you plan to handle it, keep it as a lone pet, no mirror, they fall in love and will not allow you near them. (even with their own reflection in the mirror!) They are prone to getting sick if the air is cold. They like tropical enviroments for the most part.
Ive kept all sorts of pets. Hamsters are very sweet. Teddybear ones look less rodent (rat) like. They too can bite, keep one alone, handle it gently and often. Bunnies are lovely, quiet, sweet, and will devour your veggie peelings etc. You can get cute dwarves.
Fish are nice, fairly simple once your up and running properly, and there are little crabs and frogs that live in freshwater aquariums (the easiest to look after)
Then theres always sea monkeys! LOL
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S.B. answers from Dallas on December 15, 2010
I have had cockatiels for years. The great thing about birds? They can be great companion animals. They are somewhat novel. They are less expensive than many other pets. They have a long life span (some live 15+ years, so it's definitely a commitment). Care for them is relatively easy. Some drawbacks?? One thing many people don't know about birds is that they can be a little messy...even smaller varieties. If you feed them seeds, the shells get knocked around. Pellet food is a little less messy and healthier for the birds, but it's pricier and still makes a bit of a mess around the cage. Plus when they molt (a birds version of shedding), there are feathers to deal with. They can be noisy and unlike a dog, you can't call them off when they get worked up. If not watched carefully, they can be destructive. We once had to replace a ceiling fan because a male I had chewed the edge of the blade - destruction can be easily handled if you watch the bird and offer lots of toys and attention.
As far as care daily it's food and water. Pellet food is healthier, but it costs more. On average a bag for my cockatiel costs $16 and it usually lasts about a month and a half. Birds need baths. Some will actually go in the shower...they make perches for this. I had one who would bath in the sink with a trickle of water. My bird now prefers to be sprayed with water from a spray bottle. We do this once a week or so unless it is cold. They need a clean environment, so the paper or litter needs to be changed regularly. I layer newspaper, and remove the top layer to make this chore easier. Many people choose to have their birds wings clipped. They can still fly, but they can't fly as high or as long. Some say that clipping wings makes the bird bond better with humans. I don't clip my birds wings. Toys are important, but they don't have to be fancy toys from the store...it can be bottle caps, soda bottles, mirrors.
Our house can get chilly too. When it's really cold out I move the bird cage to the middle of the room, away from the windows. That is usually enough. We have had a few cold snaps where I worried, so I have a heating lamp I can use on those nights. I live in Texas, so we rarely use it.
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J.T. answers from New York on December 15, 2010
Birds are messy... think feathers all over and cleaning the cage. Also they are not a toy and a 4 and 6 year old could easily hurt them accidentally. They need to be handled daily to ensure that they are used to people and don't start pecking little fingers.
A smaller animal is not necessarily a smaller responsibilty, they often require more work. Having had birds, buninies, mice, rats, cats and dogs over the years, I would actually say that a cat was the easiest of the lot, followed by my rat (he was trained to do his business in one spot for easy clean up). Fresh food and water in the morning and evening and scoop the pan once a day. The 4 could do the food, the 6 the water, and you do the pan. Once a week / or every other week depending on how messy the cat is dump and clean the pan.
Seriously though, all animals are a large responsibility, unless YOU have the time to take care of all the animals needs I would not do it. At 4 and 6 your girls are old enough to start to learn responsibility, but not old enough to be relied upon for it.
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L.O. answers from Boston on December 16, 2010
With any pet you choose - especially when it is really for your children and not you - I recommend you look into the life expectancy. Some birds can live for close to 20 years - do you really think your children will be interested for whatever period your pet might live for. In my experience, I have had all sorts of pets - birds are the one thing I would never get again. They are the most work of all - they are very messy - and very poopy. And the messy kind of poops- not like neat little rabbit pellets, but runny goopy stuff. While they are fun in many ways - you need to be more gentle with them than a 4 year old is likely to be. And you can't really cuddle them. Hamsters really are a very easy first pet - they only live 1 to 2 years - so you can get a feel for your child's ability to take care of something without being burdened forever. They're entertaining for children - you can make mazes with old boxes and paper towel tubes and watch them have fun, or put them in balls and let them roam about the house. They don't have that long rat-like tail either. And we even lucked out and got a hamster that toilet trained herself - literally - we just had to empty a tiny little litter box to keep her cage tidy - although the toilet training is not guaranteed. And their cage requirements are not much. Another wonderful pet is a guinea pig. They are big enough for a child to really hold and cuddle. But they do live 5-6 years - I would suggest getting an older one from a shelter as a first pet - that way they'd probably only live 2 years and you'd see how things go without committing to many years. Cons are that they do require a large cage - you should research online first because cages they sell at the pet stores are not big enough for these animals - and they are social animals so are much happier if you get 2 than one - generally they are paired up in the shelters. Finally, I just have to say, of all the animals you mentioned - a cat is by far the easiest. No special cages, etc.. You do need a litter box - but you can generally leave them alone for a few days with extra food and water and they'll be just fine. No walking. And they are quite cuddly and loveable. Again, they live a very long time - so maybe adopting an older one at a shelter would be the way to go. I applaud you for wanting to expose your children to the J. and wonder of pets. I think they also teach many important life lessons about caring for God's creatures and what it does mean to die. And the J. of loving a creature and caring for it. It's good that you are asking these questions so you make an informed decision and don't regret the animal you've chosen. Personally I would stay away from birds. Maybe tour an animal shelter to see some options you haven't thought about - the people at the shelters (I see you are from Plaistow so I would suggest you go to the MSPCA in Methuen - they are quite friendly and knowledgeable) will fill you in on all the care requirements so you make an informed decision. Good luck.
D.B. answers from Boston on December 16, 2010
They can be entertaining but they don't live a really long time. Birds are cold-blooded so they need to have plenty of seed for constant nourishment to keep their body heat up. Cleaning the cage isn't fun but it's no fun for any other animal either. Be aware that you cannot use cookware with a non-stick coating at high heat - like cookie sheets or cooking with a non-stick fry pan. The non-stick coating gets into the air and is toxic to birds, who are sensitive to various gasses. That's why you always heard about canaries in the mines in prior generations - when the bird died, the miners knew gasses were building up. (Kind of makes you wonder how good those non-stick coatings are for US, too, huh???)
If you do get a bird, I would consult with a really good pet store - preferably one that is independently owned rather than one of the big chains. At the chains, you don't know if the person working there is just a clerk or if they really know anything about birds. At a smaller store, be sure you talk to the owner, not just a clerk. Also consult with any vets or veterinary techs that you know, or a veterinary college - find out what they see a lot of or what they recommend. You'll need a vet anyway, most likely, so it's a good time to find one in advance and get some advice about what treatments are necessary to keep a bird healthy, what breed is recommended, what breed is inbred or overpriced, and so on, where to keep them in a room (distance from radiators and windows, for example, and so on. Also be sure you have a cage your girls cannot open. Trying to catch a parakeet flying around the kitchen is no fun!
Hamsters and gerbils ARE rodents, you are right. They can be fun to watch though if you have those tubes they run through. They can be hard for a young child to handle without hurting them. Guinea pigs are bigger and possibly more interesting. FYI Do not get a ferret - they are adorable but they are up all night and do nothing all day.
Remember that, no matter what type of pet you get (fish, bird, mammal), there is care and upkeep involved, and no matter what your children promise you, they will NOT do the work after the first 15 minutes, and it will be entirely your responsibility.
Good luck with whatever you choose. Another fun thing might be to get a membership to a museum that has animal exhibits and special shows featuring a particular animal. See if they are really interested or just talking about it now.
K.F. answers from New York on December 15, 2010
If you don't mind cleaning the mess or are a morning person then a bird may be for you. We had parakeets growing up. They are very loud with the first ray of sunlight that hits the cage.
While you may not like hampsters or gerbils, consider a slightly larger rodent which doesn't really look like a rodent at all, a guinea pig. They are less maintenance than birds, they are smart and soft to touch and live for about 5-6 years.
Good luck on your choice. Growing up I had, cats, birds, turtles, fish, and hampsters. My grandmother inherited a guinea pig which she taught to whistle. She loved him and he loved her.
T.S. answers from Boston on December 16, 2010
First the scientist in me has to tell you hamsters and gerbils are like rodents because they are rodents! :) sorry.
Birds are a LOT of work. They make huge messes and need to be cleaned up after almost every day. They toss seeds out of the cage, and the dust from the feathers can aggravate allergies and asthmas.
Honestly I've had a lot of pets, all the regular household suspects except for reptiles and rabbits, so I can't speak for those. But from cats, dogs, fish, birds, and rodents I think the best easy care pets are cats.
They clean themselves, they don't mind being left alone, and the chores to maintain them are pretty easy. Scoop out the box (we use a scoopable litter that can go right in the toilet), feed them, take them for shots/vet visits. Cats care not easily trained to do tricks, but with proper behavior training, most discipline problems can be solved quickly (scratching furniture, inappropriate elimination)
Rodents are also pretty easy, but I find cleaning the cage more annoying than scooping a cat box, and you didn't seem too fond of rodents in the first place.
hope that helps!