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Why You Shouldn't Buy 'Pet' Birds

Profile photo of Whitney-C

Posted January 7, 2014 by Whitney Calk

When I was 9 years old, my parents bought me a cockatiel for Christmas from a local pet store. I named him Bubba, and like any young kid would be, I was excited for him to become my new best friend.

cockatiel bird

After a few weeks, though, his newness wore off. He needed attention, he needed to stretch his wings, and he needed someone to clean his cage way more than I ever felt like cleaning it.

It’s no big surprise that, being a kid, I was NOT prepared for the huge responsibility of taking care of Bubba and, well, neither were my parents. Because of this, Bubba was condemned to live his entire life in a small, dirty cage in my room, neglected and bored out of his mind, until he passed away years before he would have in the wild.

Unfortunately, Bubba’s story is all too common.

No bird was born to live in a cage. But still, an estimated 40 million birds in the U.S. are kept caged and are often improperly cared for—bored, lonely, and a long way from their natural homes.

Where do they come from?

All caged birds were either captured or bred in captivity. Just as there are puppy mills, there are now enormous bird factories, in which breeders warehouse thousands of parrots and other exotic birds, who are frequently confined to dirty, dimly lit cages, unable even to stretch their wings fully (sound familiar?).

Wild-caught parrots are also a large part of the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade. While many smugglers are caught illegally importing these birds, most aren’t caught, so thousands of sick and terrified birds enter the companion bird trade each year.

When the novelty wears off …

Many people buy birds on impulse, as my family did, and then don’t have a clue how much time, money, and energy are needed to care for them. When the birds who seemed so cute and lovable in pet stores turn out to be noisy and messy, many are abandoned, and few live out their natural life spans. (Some birds can live for more than 100 years.)

Driven mad by boredom and loneliness, caged birds often become aggressive, neurotic, and self-destructive. They pull out their own feathers, mutilate their skin, incessantly bob their heads, pace back and forth, peck over and over again at cage bars, and shake or even collapse from anxiety.

How can you help?

It’s very simple:

Just in case it didn’t sink in the first time: No bird was born to live in a cage. Please never buy a bird—or any animal—from a pet store or breeder, and don’t support any businesses that keep caged birds as “decorations,” like Splash Lagoon, an indoor water park in Erie, Pennsylvania.

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  • Profile photo of cupcat1234

    61 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    Companion birds are in a state of over-population just like dogs and cats. However, it’s not a matter of how many there are; no, in this case, it’s more about how many homes are actually qualified to care for them. If someone feels they can take on this enormous responsibility, I suggest they adopt a bird from a sanctuary or rescue foundation, rather than a breeder or pet shop.

  • Profile photo of kkhavok

    487 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I think birds are lovely, intelligent animals but I agree that they are often not cared for very well or at all for that matter. But I’d like to mention that I think it’s okay to take on a bird that would otherwise be put in an unsafe environment, so long as you are up for the challenge and responsibility of taking care of them. I don’t know that I would be able to make accommodations for a bird for too long, but if I knew someone were going to get rid of theirs and let them go to whoever showed up first, I’d likely take them in for a while until they can be put in a safe facility like a rescue. And as always, if you are going to get a bird anyway, please take it from a rescue or rehabilitation center instead of a breeder or pet store.

  • Profile photo of ClaraMay

    524 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    Thank you for writing about “pet” birds. No bird should be in captivity, and when you’re talking about the numerous parrot species, these are all still wild animals. People do not realize this and get upset when their bird behaves in ways that are not only customary but necessary in the wild: Screaming, chewing, biting, nesting, territoriality, etc. are all natural traits that humans consider problems and want to eliminate. I began adopting unwanted birds about 10 years ago, and I wish I had not. I was not prepared for the enormous responsibility. One good thing that came out of it was that I now have 100% empathy for birds – including chickens – which I’m not sure I had before. It’s shaming that it took a personal relationship with a bird to make an avowed animal rights activist more sensitive to birds.

  • Profile photo of jeaneen

    525 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    since it is your Grandparents bird, you can buy t a really large cage so it can at least fly around in it or at least spread its wings and jump around. I would suggest if you can afford it get a cage twice the size of the one he is in now.

  • 525 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    We have two cockatiels, both rescued. I do agree that they do not belong in a cage, but I opted to have the responsibility of caring for them for the rest of their natural lives. They can freely walk around in the house (yes, it’s not outside, but they are free to walk and fly). They also sleep inside the house at nights, but during the day they spend their time in a very spacious aviary in the garden – again, not free, but better than they would have been.
    They have good food (seed & pellets), fresh water, veggies daily and access to an brilliant avian vet when needed. They are tame (yes, I know, they’re supposed to be wild, but they came to us already bought), and very happy. They take showers with me every day, sit on our shoulders, and have never displayed any anxiety & stress (except for just after they arrived).
    They have natural perches, and I scatter their food at the bottom of their aviary so they can forage among herbs and bird-safe plants. They also have a shallow “pond” to have a little bath. They have lots of toys.
    As far as I can, they live a normal life, and much better than the lives they had when we rescued them.
    They are my angels, and I love them to bits!!

  • 525 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    0

    I got a small parrot as a child and as described above, I wasn’t ready for that commitment. My brother also wanted one and my parents had the two of them in a large cage. So I guess with each other and their pretty large, clean case they got a better destiny than many. My in-laws have a large amazon, and that is an entirely different matter. It cannot even strech its wings inside its cage, it is to big to bathe in any kind of birdbath that would fit in the cage and it’s alone. And they wonder why he is cranky. I think they and the parrot would have wished that he had rather been in the wild.

  • Profile photo of dizzyabby

    535 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    2

    My aunt got my grandparents a cockatiel, and I had no control over the situation. I do not like to see him in his cage but have no idea how I can help him. I can’t just let him free in the garden as it’s the wrong climate and he would just die. Noone else is my family sees any problem. I have tried to put lots of exciting things in his cage and keep him clean and get him out when I can for a fly around. I don’t know what else I can do to help him and it bothers me.

  • 537 days ago

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    I don’t think not getting the animal is the answer for everyone. Especially if you are committed to giving that animal a great life and decide to get it, which is much better than leaving that poor animal in a pet store or a breeders place. If I had the money and space, I would buy as many animals as I could from those places so that I can ensure them a wonderful life.

    • Profile photo of Whitney-C

      534 days ago

      VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

      2

      Buying birds (or any animal) from pet stores really only perpetuates the idea that animals are nothing more than products with a price tag on them. Not to mention that each time you purchase a bird, you’re telling the pet store that it’s OK to breed another bird in a filthy warehouse or capture him/her from the wild to fill the purchased bird’s place.

      I know it’s hard to see animals in pet stores, but remember that the best thing you can do is NOT to purchase them and to spread the word to everyone you know that animals should only be adopted from shelters, never purchased from a pet store or breeder. It comes down to supply and demand. When people stop buying animals from pet stores (and they will, eventually), animals will stop being bred or captured for the purpose of being sold.

  • Profile photo of jeaneen

    541 days ago

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]

    1

    I knew people who had parrots and they cuts their wings so they would not cause to much noise in their cage. I talked them into giving it to the Humane Society. Birds will actually attack them selves pulling out their feathers from frustration and loneliness . Cats and Dogs make much better pets, ask my cat Yardley, she was a feral cat 91/2 years ago, she has been a happy, loved indoor cats for 9 years.

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