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WELCOMING YOUR NEW BIRD HOME

Imagine moving into a new house with a new family without warning. That's how your pet feels the first time you bring him home. Picking a pet is fun and exciting for you, but it can be a scary process for your new bird. Make the transition as smooth as possible by preparing for his arrival.

Preparing for the Big Day

Once you decide what kind of bird you'll adopt, pick out a comfy home for your feathered friend, including a roomy cage and plenty of toys.

Birds love to be near the action, so set up his home in a quiet place near a family area, but make sure it's not close to the bathroom or kitchen. These areas often harbor dangerous fumes from household cleaners or nonstick cookware. Place the cage away from heating or cooling vents, radiators, fireplaces, or windows - rapid temperature and humidity changes will stress your pet.

The First Few Days

Bring your bird home on a quiet day when you aren't expecting company. He's not ready to meet the in-laws - or even you - so let him enjoy his own company and his new surroundings for a few days. Feed him regularly, and don't forget to cover his cage - he needs at least 10 hours of darkness to sleep.

Your bird enjoys quiet companionship, so talk softly, read to him, and watch television nearby. Let him get used to your presence before you handle him.

During turbulent times, many of us turn to comfort foods - and birds are no exception. So feed your pal his normal chow for the first week. If you want to change his diet, do so gradually. And keep the area around your bird's cage quiet. You can sweep up the litter beneath his cage, but resist the urge to run the vacuum.

Making Introductions

Don't just throw your pet into the fray. He needs several days to explore his new environment without the stress of meeting new friends, so keep children, company and other pets away.

When your bird seems at ease in his new home, allow children to move quietly around the cage, talk softly, sing, and tell stories - they can learn to handle your bird later. Slowly introduce other pets, and never leave your bird alone or unsupervised with a dog or cat.

Before your pet meets the rest of your feathered family, he needs a visit to the veterinarian. Even healthy-looking birds can carry deadly diseases, so isolate your bird for a minimum of 30 days or according to your vet's advice, wash your hands after handling him, and store his cage supplies separately.

Introductions can be awkward for new roommates, so take it slow. For small birds, offer adjoining rooms - place their cages side by side for about a month so they can chat each other up. If they get along, try placing them in one cage for a few hours with supervision. As long as they don't squabble over food or who gets the biggest perch, you can leave them in the same cage. However, this may take some time. You may have to put them in one cage for a few hours at a time for several days or longer, with your supervision, before the birds can share a cage full-time. Patience on your part is very important; this is not a process to be rushed. Rushing the integration of two or more birds can result in injury to one or all the birds due to fighting.

Proceed more slowly when introducing larger birds. After a month in the same room, with the cages side-by-side, open the cage doors and let them gossip in the doorways or on top of the cages. If this works, place them together in a neutral play area under close supervision. Large birds can injure each other quickly, so if one of your feathered friends acts out, place him back in his own cage immediately.

Pets who get along can move in together as long as they don't act territorial - you still need to watch them closely, though, the first few weeks. If your pets can't play together nicely, don't force them to be friends.

With or without a roommate, your bird will settle right in and become a vocal member of the family.