Pet Birds for Seniors?
Is a bird a good pet for an older adult or senior citizen? It will of course depend on the individual senior, and the type of bird. For seniors and older adults that live in apartment buildings or condo's, a pet bird may be a good alternative if dogs or cats are not welcome.
Different bird types have different needs, and some require significantly more care than others. Birds are a long-term commitment; depending on the species, you can expect an average lifespan of between 5-25 years. Although you don't have to walk your bird like a dog, or clean kitty litter as you would with a cat, birds do need to have their cages cleaned, and they need to spend some time out of their cage each day as well.
Still thinking about getting bird as a companion in your retirement years? Consider this:
Pet Bird Types
According to the BC SPCA, there are two main types of pet birds, and each has their own benefits and drawbacks:
- Benefits - Can become very tame; many are good at talking.
- Drawbacks - Some, especially the larger birds like cockatiels and parrots, require more care and time than passerines; and there are ethical issues with birds such as parrots captured in the wild.
(Budgie/Parakeet Photo: Birds Gallery)
Parakeets or budgies might make a nice companion pet for an older adult or senior that wants a pet that they can hold, that talks back to them, and wants them to spend time with them every day.
According to Petsmart, Parakeets can live between 10-15 years. They have friendly, loving personalities and need at least one hour or more of daily interaction; they love to be stroked and held. Smart and easily trained, these birds can be taught basic commands and can be taught to say a variety of words. Budgies will be happy on their own with a human friend that spends a lot of time with them, or with another budgie when their owner's time is scarcer.
- Benefits - Many sing or chirp attractively. They are bred in captivity, and have moderate care requirements.
- Drawbacks - They do not talk (this could be a benefit, depending on your preferences).
(Finch Photo: Petsmart)
Finches or canaries might make an undemanding companion pet for an older adult or senior that wants a pet they can admire and listen to, when they have time.
According to Petsmart, finches and canaries love to have visual contact with people, but don't like to be handled. Talking and whistling to them provides the interaction and socialization they need. They like to fly and need enough cage space to do this. Red Factor Canaries can live from 15-25 years; the male canaries have a beautiful song and are happy on their own. Zebra Finches are best kept in pairs, live approximately 5 years, and the male birds have a soothing sound.
If you're considering a bird as a companion pet, here's what else you'll need to know/provide for their care over the next 5-25 years:
Pet Bird Care & Environment
- A roomy bird cage, preferably made of wire, with a removable metal tray at the bottom to allow for easier cleaning.
- Natural wooden perches offer the best footing and exercise; they need to be placed so droppings don't contaminate food or water, and must be cleaned regularly.
- Place the cage in a room with a window; you can take it outside when weather permits, but keep in a shaded area.
- Normal house temperatures 21-27° C (70-80° F) are fine for healthy birds; avoid sudden changes in temperature.
- A night cover for the bird cage to provide a feeling of security and prevent drafts.
- Fresh drinking water, and water to bathe in several times a week.
- Nail and beak trimming, and wing clipping .
Pet Bird Feeding
Pet birds require nutrients from five food groups, which may be provided through pellet diets, or through fresh foods:
- Up to 50% of their diet should come from grains, cereals & seeds (bread, pasta, rice, nuts). Avoid sunflower seeds due to high fat content.
- Up to 45% of their diet should come from fresh vegetables (spinach, carrots, parsley, squash, corn) in bite-sized pieces.
- Up to 5% of their diet should include a combination of (bite-sized pieces of):
- fresh fruit such as cantaloupe, apricots, apples, grapes, berries. NO avocados, they are poisonous to birds).
- protein - tofu, beef, chicken, fish, cooked eggs, peanuts, lima or kidney beans
- dairy - cottage cheese, hard cheeses, cuttlebone, oyster shell, mineral block; calcium supplements in crushed tablet or liquid form can be substituted.
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