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Please don't do what we did and haphazardly throw yourself into keeping birds! Do a little research, decide what your initial intentions are, and choose a location wisely. The information on this page will give you a little bit of help in making some of these decisions, and making sense of the whole birding process! You should carefully examine your intentions regarding your birds. Do you want to keep them as pets? Or do you want to breed them, show them, or sell them?
If you can make a decision early on, it will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run!
In our aviary, the average finch lives 10 to 12 years - sometimes, with the best of care, longer! Our oldest canary was almost 16, and our African Grey was 46 when she passed (which is young). You should seriously consider your commitment before buying a bird - or any pet for that matter! Read further about more things to consider...
Who are we trying to kid? Birds ARE messy!
Bird feathers create a LOT of dust. Birds preen almost constantly during the day and toss off bits of feather dander and dead skin in the process.
If you, your children, or anyone else in your household has dust allergies, birds might not be the best choice as household companions!
Boy oh boy can they be noisy! While a pair of Gouldians doesn't make much noise and aren't nearly as noisy as some other birds (we won't mention any names here!), they can still disrupt your Saturday sleep-ins! If you have more than just a few, they can be just as loud as some of those "other" species.
Birds wake early in the morning and begin to sing after they stretch and get their bearings. This is called the aviary period. They also sing at dusk.
Listen to the wild birds outside your home. If you pay close attention, you'll notice what sounds like hundreds of birds singing early in the morning just before the sun comes up. At dusk, those same birds say good night to each other with song.
When deciding on a location for them, think about whether they will interrupt your sleep or your daily life. If you don't mind noise, then the location won't really matter!
NOTE: When people come to our house to visit, they were always impressed by the amount of noise from our flock and always asked how we could stand it. We told them we have "mute buttons" and didn't even notice it anymore! Now that the birds have their own room, the noise is less obvious, but when the birds are feeling especially fine, we can still hear them quite clearly through the floorboards!
Do you have the time, and are you willing to give your birds the daily care they need?
While finches don't require the one-on-one attention of a parrot, they still need you to observe them daily, clean their cage, replace their food and water, and pay attention!
If you are a very busy person and rarely home, birds are probably not the right companion for you!
Just like any other pet, birds can be smelly for a variety of reasons.
In the normal course of keeping birds, cage papers should be changed regularly - weekly minimum, but more often if you don't like "smells". Sifting the bedding or changing the cage papers daily can help minimize smells from breeding birds, but until the chicks are nearly out of the nest, the smell will be there. It's a different smell from non-breeding birds, but it's still there! If cages are kept clean, there should be NO smell other than warm seed or the occasional dried supplement (herbs, egg food, etc.).
For instance, when we sell our birds, we often give the client a zipper bag full of the mixes our birds are accustomed to. We've had clients return their birds along with all of the seed and supplements, stating they just couldn't take the smell.
NOTE: In the case of our clients, you must understand that our MLFAS, Inc. Gouldian Pro-Mix™ contains ocean products to give the birds a high protein supplement without breaking the bank! Our MLFAS, Inc. Breed, Beak & Feather Tweak™ and MLFAS, Inc. Gould-Granules™ also contain ocean products - a lot of fish smell going on there! If you use our mixes, they will smell just a bit like fish - don't panic! We call that the smell of success!
Unlike a parrot, parakeet or the occasional canary, finches are not normally birds to be handled or finger trained. If you are looking for a bird that can be trained to interact with you, finches are probably not your best option!
If you are serious about keeping your birds happy and healthy, be sure there is a good Avian Veterinarian in your area, and keep the number in a handy spot! Many birds don't show illness until it is nearly too late to save them. You want to be able to get them to the Vet at the first signs of illness!
NOTE: There are many folks out on the Internet who will be more than willing to "help" you by suggesting possible illnesses and treatments, but DO NOT LISTEN TO THEM!
Unless they can physically take your bird in hand, get fresh dropping samples, and run lab tests to check for signs of illness, chances are they will give you information that could actually make your bird sicker! The wrong medication can mean the death of your bird. It is important to have your Avian Veterinarian take a look!
Is there someone you trust to care for your birds if you are away from home for an extended period of time?
It is often impractical to take your birds with you, so be sure you have a caretaker who is capable of handling care and emergency situations while you are away!
You can now figure out exactly what you have in mind for your fine feathered friends!
Decide the purpose of your birds - will they be household pets? If so, move on to the next step - choosing a location.
If you are considering selling or showing them, please consider the following... Breeding birds for sale - there are many items you will need to purchase including additional cages and accessories. You may need a heater or a humidifier and thermometer/hygrometer. You may choose to purchase a brooder and hand feeding equipment or any number of items to aid you in successfully breeding and raising your birds.
Showing your birds - you will want to join a bird club in your area, or a National bird club that deals in the species you will show.
We highly recommend joining the National Finch and Softbill Society. They have chapters or affiliated clubs all over the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia. There are many reputable and experienced folks within the organization who are more than willing to help you! Once you become familiar with what makes a show bird, head to our Show tab in the navigation bar and view the articles to see what needs to be done.
Do you want them to be with your family in the main part of your home? Or will you set up a room specifically for your birds. Will you keep a single pair, or multiple pairs? Will you be breeding them? What size cage will you need?
All of these questions may help you decide on where to keep your birds.
Before you get too carried away, head over to the "Cage Type & Size" article to help you decide what size cage you'll need for your new feathered friend. Once you know what size you'll need, you can then choose the perfect location!
No matter what your intentions, your birds will need to be housed safely away from your other critters such as cats, dogs, and children (yes, we called children critters - we have 4 of our own so we can do that!).
You'll want the location to be as draft free as possible. Birds are highly susceptible to sudden drops in temperature and can get sick from frequent drafts. A common cold, if not caught early, can kill your precious babies quickly. Keep 'em warm! If you are comfortable, chances are your birds will be too (as long as you aren't bundled in your heaviest sweater!).
Be careful not to place the cage near a register or radiator. Hot air from the furnace or cold from the central air conditioning can make them ill quickly. It also dries their skin out quickly making more dust and causing skin and feather problems!
If you are concerned about mess, there are cage wraps that will contain most of the seed and hulls.
To minimize fluffed hulls I have placed my food dishes in the center of the cage and clipped them together with a clothespin to keep them in place. This is particularly effective in keeping a goodly portion of the seed and hulls in the cage as long as the birds aren't startled and start flopping about! There are also long feeders with “dividers” that prevent the birds from scattering the seed, but these much be checked daily and hulls removed. The dividers prevent the hulls from being fluffed off as easily. A feeder that may “look” full, may actually be full of nothing but hulls!
Depending on the season, your birds will need between 12 and 15 hours of sunlight or appropriate lighting per day. They rely heavily on the sun to direct their breeding and molting efforts - light drives their internal clocks! When the sun is high for long hours, it is time to make a family. When there is less sun, the birds stop breeding and begin their molt. Proper lighting will give you the ability to control when your birds breed and when they don't.
If you place your birds near a sunny window, be sure to cover a portion of the cage for shade. Birds overheat quickly and can die from heat exhaustion if left in the sun for too long. They will drop from the perch after panting and hanging their wings. Heat stroke can be deadly. Don't let this happen to your birds!
There are many dangers in your household that you may not even be aware of!
We have read and have had many experienced bird folks tell us that placing a cage so that the birds can see the television is a no-no. In our home there is very little room for being choosy about where one sits, even if you are a bird! We have never personally had any problems with our birds being able to see or hear the television. In fact, if there is music playing or birds singing on the screen, the birds will begin to sing along! We don't know what else to say except to keep it in mind!
By now you should be able to decide if owning a bird is for you. If it is, you'll have decided whether your new feathered friend will be a family pet, a breeder bird or a show bird, and where you'll house them. You're all set up, and now you're ready to rock n' roll!
It's time to choose a healthy new forever friend!
Next step, head over to the Bird Purchase Tips article to find out how to choose the perfect bird for you!
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