Skip to main content

Do owls make good pets? Harry Potter got it wrong

Owls are a silent and majestic yet deadly and precise killer. These beings of legend have fascinated humans for thousands of years across the globe, sometimes as wise advisers and sometimes as terrifying harbingers. Unfortunately, that has caused many people to think they can own them as pets, helped along by popular culture in which they deliver mail or add snarky commentary to a wizard’s adventures. But before you go adopting a Hedwig or an Archimedes, you’ll need to know how to take care of an owl or if you should even try.

Owl flies through the sky during the day
danny moore/

Do owls make good pets?

In a word: no (sorry, we know you wanted a different answer). These wild animals do not make good pets in real life and shouldn’t live with humans except in rare circumstances. They belong free in the outdoors, where they can hunt and fly to their heart’s content. There are a few reasons that owls and other birds of prey don’t fit into your family. Consider these issues before trying to bring one home.

It’s illegal (mostly)

In the U.S., you can’t own many types of owls unless you have a license as an education or rehabilitation center or as a falconer. These all require a lot of training and, of course, the proper housing to keep owls or other raptors around safely. Specifically, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service make the rules about which birds you can own and what’s required for a license. Native owls are off-limits, so don’t take this bird in even if you find an injured one — a rehabilitation center can help you with that.

They love to hunt

If you’ve watched owls in nature shows or as pets in movies, you know that they mostly eat small creatures. While their diet varies greatly by species, they’re all carnivores or insectivores. Therefore, feeding an owl requires a lot of diligence and a strong stomach. They prefer to catch the prey, of course, and will also make quite the mess digging into the meal (which gets shredded first). It’s best to leave this to the professionals who know exactly what these birds like and how they like it.

Owl sits in his outdoor aviary
BA Arts/Shutterstock

There’s no space in your house

In the wild, owls have a territory of up to five square miles. We doubt you’ll find a cage that big, which is why only large operations can handle them. When owls are housed by professionals, they live in big outdoor aviaries most of the day. But that’s not enough, since these birds must exercise frequently to maintain their wings and muscles. They also need regular bathing to keep those beautiful feathers flight-ready.

You’ll never get to sleep

In their natural habitat, they fly silently with perfect night vision, searching for breakfast, and they’ll want to do the same in your house. Unlike some rodents such as hamsters, these majestic creatures won’t be content to get on your sleep schedule. An owl in captivity requires lots of care both during the day and at night. They will want to eat and fly after dark, which certainly makes it difficult for you to get any rest. The worst part: They make a racket. Even if you can get them a full square meal in the day, they won’t contentedly wait for you to get in your eight hours. 

If you’re dying for a pet bird, try out some more domesticated animals who love their humans, like budgies or certain species of parrots. These well-behaved avians make good companions because they’ve lived with people for a long time and they eat seeds instead of rabbits. You can also visit owls or see them online in their homes or at rescue and rehabilitation centers that take in animals. Some owls have been raised as hunters and have mastered the skill of taking down prey for their handlers, a sight well worth watching if you aren’t squeamish. Channel your love of owls by also donating to these centers,  many of which are local and small. Regardless, we recommend you think twice before adopting this bird as a pet.

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
Are ducks good pets? 8 things to consider when thinking of adopting these cute feathered friends
Cute duckling sits in the yard

Many have yearned for an ugly adorable duckling to call their own, but don't dive into this journey without some planning first. Under the right circumstances, ducks make great pets — they're cuddly, they're very intelligent, and they're social. These birds specifically love to be part of a group, sometimes called a raft, and will bond with both you and one another. As with many pets though, owning a duck comes with a list of good (and not-so-good) things to consider before you gather your flock.

Are ducks good pets? Here's what you need to know
As with all pets, it depends on what you're looking for. Be mindful of their need for space, water, outdoors, companionship, and protection. Ducks are not for everyone but will add a spunky sense of fun to the right home. Think about these eight things before getting ducks.
They live outdoors
Rule number one: Your pet duckling must live outside. They just can't be happy in any type of fully indoor enclosure, though you will want to provide some respite from the elements. Only dabble with ducks if you can secure sufficient outdoor space for them — free from predators, including dogs and cats who might mistake your cute and snuggly pet for a meal.
They need a house with a pool
Many folks keep their pet ducks in a shed or doghouse to provide a perfect cozy spot for them. Include a comfy straw bed and protection from wind. Of course, ducks need a pool for swimming, too. A pond or kiddie pool will do well, depending on how big your flock is. Ducklings can't fly, so you don't have to worry about them escaping, but they won't thrive unless they have ample space. Fencing around your yard will help keep pets in and predators out.

Read more
Determined to raise backyard chickens? 6 essential things to do before you set up your coop
Three chickens eat while outside in their backyard

Urban chicken coops are trendy and rightfully so. With a group of hens you get fun pets plus eggs — how often does the family dog contribute after all? But you can't dive in on every Instagram trend, and this one, in particular, requires a pretty big upfront commitment mixed with a reasonable amount of upkeep, especially for beginners who have never owned so much as a parakeet. Just because it seems like a lot to handle, that doesn't mean you aren't cut out for poultry farming; many find it fun and rewarding. Before jumping into backyard chickens, think through these six things and determine if a flock of birds is really the right fit for you.

Look up local laws
Even if you see chickens roaming nearby, you'll want to thoroughly check up on the laws of your area, as well as any HOA regulations. You'd be surprised how many very specific rules might apply to setting up your little farm. Think about the coop itself, the rules for owning fowl, and the noise ordinances. Specifically, if you intend to have a rooster heading up your group as they can crow at decibels you wouldn't imagine and at hours you don't usually see.
Find your perfect spot
Next, scope out your yard and start planning. You need a large space for the coop itself (more on that in a minute) but that's not the whole picture. Since you started with a relatively small space to begin with (remember chickens often roam over many acres in a more rural habitat), you want both an indoor structure and an outdoor run. Altogether, you might need a sizable portion of the yard to accommodate them. If you plan to add other birds like ducks, you must calculate too where the pool will go and how they will access it.
Design your urban chicken coop
There are probably a few laws governing how big this can be, and you might need to apply for a permit, so you'll spend a decent amount of time in the design phase. Decide if you want to buy something pre-made or build a structure that perfectly fits into your yard. Either way, you should allocate about three square feet per chicken, so your building will get big quick, even if you want to start small. And that's just indoors. They need to be able to come out sometimes but still stay safely nearby.
Research breeds
Think all chickens are the same? Think again. Get ready to narrow it down from the 500 chicken breeds out there. The local climate will slim that as well as the available space, but you still have a bit of your own studying to do. And it's not just breed, you can impact what types of eggs you get based on what chicks you get (along with the food and environment).

Read more
Do turtles make good pets? This one fact may make you reconsider
Person strokes their pet turtle

Some like dogs and some like cats, but there's a whole other category of people who enjoy a different kind of pet. Sometimes it's not a furry animal that completes your home, but a little something else. Birds, lizards, turtles, and snakes all can make perfect companions for the right person with the right setup. But don't jump into reptile ownership without giving it a thorough examination first — there's a lot that is tricky about taking care of these creatures. As always, you need to research "turtles as pets" carefully, including the downsides, before you decide to become a Testudine parent.

What types of turtles make for good pets?
In order to choose the right little guy, you first need to make a big decision: land or sea? Of course, all turtles need some amount of water, but aquatic species live almost entirely in rivers or ponds while terrestrial species spend most of their time on the ground. From there you can narrow it down depending on the size of animal you want to keep and the conditions you feel able to maintain. Two common varieties that we recommend are the red-eared slider and the box turtle. You'll still have choices to make as you'll find variety when you go to the breeder or pet store to find your new shell-friend.
What does your pet turtle need to stay healthy?
Before you even bring your pet home, you'll have to get a new enclosure ready for him. Exact needs vary by animal, but you'll want a body of water, adequate substrate, a UV lamp, and a basking area. For an aquatic turtle, your tank will look more like an aquarium with a few good pieces of land that enable them to climb out and warm up in the artificial sun. Lastly, don't make the mistake of getting a tiny tank just because your baby turtle looks small now. An adult needs 10 gallons for every inch of their shell.

Read more