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The ultimate first-time bird owner’s checklist

Even if you’ve been a dog or cat lover your whole life, jumping into bird ownership means taking on new tasks and new responsibilities. Instead of thinking about litter, you’ll need to change his cage liner; instead of toy mice, you’ll have swings and ladders. Many of these necessary items seem obvious, but others don’t occur to first-time owners until the need arises. Get ahead of the game by stocking up on necessities before even bringing your pet home and stick with a good starter animal. Here are the best birds for beginners along with the requirements for taking care of them.

Boy looks at pet bird coming out of cage

What is the easiest pet bird to take care of?

If you haven’t had a bird before, you want to start with a parakeet (also known as a budgie). These little parrots don’t do much talking, but they more than make up for it with their big personalities. You don’t need too much specialty equipment or training for these little guys, and they can spend much of their time in a large cage (though you want to let them out sometimes). For best results, bring home a pair of budgies, so they can keep each other company at all times. Two males work better since the females can get pretty territorial, and a mixed pair will bring you more birds than you’re ready for. 

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What is the friendliest pet bird?

Budgies would certainly make the list, but canaries or cockatiels also make great friends while not requiring expertise. Known for their beautiful song, canaries provide accompaniment to your daily life. On the other hand, all finches (including canaries) need room to fly, plenty of exercise, and mental stimulation through toys. Cockatiels are inquisitive and friendly. This species takes more work and a little more knowledge than the others, so get a cockatiel only if you feel that you’re up to the challenge.

Blue budgie tilts his head sweetly

What do you need to take care of your bird?

Now that you’ve chosen your pet, you have to prepare for his arrival. Get everything on this list before you bring him home as you don’t want to be caught unawares and wind up lacking in the essentials. This is what owning a bird calls for.

  • Cage and accessories: Make sure it’s big enough for your animal — this will depend on his size and how many birds you have. In addition to the housing, include perches, ladders, swings, and toys. Design your cage with room to fly or hop around between “branches.” Bring in plenty of fun things as well to keep him mentally occupied. 
  • Food and storage: It’s best to buy your food in bulk, but you must find a way to keep it fresh while you work through the box. Some food comes in resealable bags, but we recommend buying storage containers to maintain freshness.
  • Auto-refill dishes: Most owners prefer these as they make it simple for your bird to be fed and happy at all times. Once he eats a little bit of seed, more drops down to fill its place. You still want to rinse out and refill the dishes regularly because they get dirty quickly. 
  • Grooming supplies: Your bird needs bathing and nail clipping from time to time. Buy a shower perch, spray bottle for cleaning, clippers, and styptic powder before you attempt a bath or trimming. You’ll also need the basics, like small towels, but you probably have some already.
  • Cleaning gear: Just like your home, his cage needs regular cleaning, top to bottom. The food and water dishes will be easy to wash, but the cage requires a proper scrubbing. Some come apart for easier cleaning; regardless, you’ll want a brush, pet-friendly cleanser, and replacement liners.
Two cockatiels sit on a log

What else should you do for your bird?

It doesn’t really count as an item, but you need to prepare a space in your home for the bird. If you have a larger variety, it’s essential that they have somewhere to fly around outside of their cage, daily. Your best bet will be to bird-proof a designated room where you let him have some degree of freedom but don’t leave him long without supervision if there’s anything he might get into or a way to escape. Remember that ceiling fans, radiators, and smoke all present a hazard to birds.

You may be tempted to go straight to a parrot for your first bird, but these larger animals require lots more space, time, and training, not to mention expense. By starting with the easier, yet lovable and interesting, avians, you’ll gain the experience needed to dive into the tricky aspects of bird ownership. Once you feel you have the basics down, move on to the macaws and eventually even an African gray. No matter which species you choose, you’ll have a close friend with you for years to come.

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Myth or fact: throwing uncooked rice will hurt birds (you might guess wrong)
Sparrows eat rice out of a man's hand

Everyone knows of a few things that pets can't eat: cats and lilies, dogs and chocolate, birds and rice. Or wait, is that actually a problem? Is rice bad for birds? While you may have been to a wedding where the classic tradition was replaced with a bag of Feathered Friend, that might in fact not be necessary. After all, our happy singers eat other seeds and grains with no problems all the time. So can birds eat rice and how would you feed it to them? Here's what you need to know about offering a snack to your little birds.

Can birds eat uncooked rice?
The myth goes that you can't feed birds uncooked rice because it will absorb all the water in their stomachs and kill them. Depending on who you heard it from, you may even get the version where it causes them to explode by cooking inside their stomachs. One minute, they're eating a grain of white rice and the next it has blown up to many times its size and taking the bird with it. It sounds a little out there, and it should give you pause cause it's not true. Remember that when you make rice on the stove you boil it at 212 degrees; if a bird's stomach was that hot, it would have much bigger problems. Plus, keep in mind that seeds and other grains like corn and grasses are all bird food. In the wild, many birds eat rice as well and they certainly don't blow up because of it. 
Can birds eat cooked rice?
Yup, just as with uncooked rice, cooked rice is also fine for our backyard visitors. Some species like pigeons and doves will enjoy it a lot and it works well for them in winter especially (when they want easy-access, filling food). It doesn't really matter what type you go for as birds won't notice the difference between short vs long grain. The one thing you need to consider closely is that the meal should be totally unseasoned. That means no salt or other spices, not even herbs. Lastly, don't give the birds warm food since you won't want them eating something fresh out of the pot, but otherwise, they'll certainly enjoy sharing your meal when you have stir fry for dinner. 

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Try these simple steps for cleaning a reptile carpet
Lizard on substrate in his cage

When we bring home pets, we sign up to take care of them for life, including the less pleasant aspects of that. Reptiles, rodents, and birds all bring another aspect that is not part of owning a dog or cat: cleaning their cages. One of the best ways to actually improve your cage cleaning is to invest in a reptile carpet, which allows you to skimp on another substrate. But this still needs a good washing. Here's how to clean a reptile carpet.

What is a reptile carpet?
All reptile tanks need something to go on the bottom. This serves as a substitute for the dirt, leaves, or sand that your pet would walk around on in the wild. You can choose a reptile carpet or another type of substrate, such as wood chips. Unlike those natural materials, the carpet does not need to be replaced frequently and instead should be cleaned. 
How often should you clean a reptile carpet?
With any animal, you need to regularly clean up after her — to remove waste, uneaten food, and shedded skin (or fur). For those who live in cages or tanks, that means keeping it very tidy. Just as you would scoop out a litter box every day or pick up after your dog when he uses the park as his bathroom, so too you should set aside five minutes daily to spot-clean your pet's home (we'll go through the process in a minute). On top of that, you need to do a full deep clean every week. 
How to spot-clean a reptile carpet
If you don't keep on top of your ritual cleaning, you will soon find yourself overwhelmed by lizard poop. That's why we recommend picking up a little bit each day. Your animal will leave a fair amount of droppings behind. When you go for your daily feeding, take a look around quickly and try to spot any poop or urine that you can see. You might want to throw on a pair of gloves and grab a rag to do the actual dirty work. Soak up any pee and pull out poop (you can use a little scooper if that works better). Then wipe down the spot with your wet rag. That's all you'll really need to do for your day-to-day treatment.

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The reason parrots and other birds bob their head
the reason parrots bob their head parrot bobbing

Parrots are hilarious and clever birds that make for a wonderful pet. They will fill your home with well-timed squaws and maybe some funny catchphrases. They also have one of the most incredible body languages in the animal kingdom and are often recognized for their peculiar head bobbing.

Bird owners spend hours observing the many messages these birds send with their movements. Actually, parrots are the only birds who have distinct body language patterns, including head bobbing. So, why do birds bob their heads? We'll explain why parrots head bob and also why other types of birds do it as well.

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