By Diane Burroughs
Birds are the possibly the most underestimated pet that people get. Not just from the point of view of how friendly, affectionate, clever, funny and surprising they can be, but also because of the "hidden" issues of pet bird care that just doesn't seem to register on most people's radar before they bring a bird home. Having a bird as a pet requires that you do your homework before bringing "Polly" home.
Not "doing your homework" results in a failed experiment where the bird is given back to the pet shop, or worse the bird is kept in substandard condition or possibly even re-homed.
In my years of sharing my house with many birds of various species and sizes of birds and in talking with fellow bird owners, it often comes as surprise just how much a bird can cost when you sit down and work it all out!
As a final note, cost alone shouldn't dissuade you from taking in one of these lovable creatures, as the joy that you can get from co-habitating with a bird cannot be overstated. It is best though to make sure that you enter into bird ownership with your eyes open.
This is something I hear more than anything else so I'm going to squash it straight away. Yes a little budgie will cost you next to nothing to buy. But then you'll need to purchase a decent cage, toys, perches, a table top play stand, food etc, and that's before you've taken account of how much time you'll need to devote to your bird to make sure that it is mentally stimulated.
It's easy for a $15 bird to incur $200 worth of setup expenses, so take your time, and don't pick your bird because he or she is cheap, but rather by figuring out what you're looking for in a bird and which breeds will cater best to those goals.
Bird costs vary wildly, but a good rule of thumb is that the bigger the bird, the bigger the cost to buy AND the more it costs to care for. That goes out the window when we're looking at very rare or difficult to obtain birds, but in general that's a good rule.
A smaller bird can cost as little as $15 - $100 and a large parrot can cost anywhere from $1000 and the sky is the limit for very rare birds.
This is where most people come unstuck. To get you bird set up and happy in his or her new home you are going to need (at a minimum).
Cage:Must be of a decent size for you bird, and a good rule of thumb is that your bird should be able to easily climb about in several areas of the cage and spread its wings without getting its feathers caught in the bars. It's better to error on a larger cage than a cheap, small cage.
Accessories: Play stands, perches, toys to keep them entertained, an initial supply of food and treats, cups, cage cleaning sprays and wipes and an avian first aid kit are in order for good bird-keeping.
You'll also need to factor in an initial visit to the vet to make sure that everything is going well for your bird.
For a bird that costs less than $200 (so for example a $10 budgie) you should just expect to pay a minimum of $200 to get fully set up. For anything above $200 you should expect to pay whatever your bird is worth again in set up costs. So if you're purchasing a parrot for $500 expect to pay another $500 getting everything set up.
**Note** These are just the direct costs for when you purchase your bird. If your bird will be anywhere near your kitchen at all, then you'll need to get rid of all of your non stick pans and replace them with stainless steel. I cover this more in detail in How Air Quality Affects Birds.
In addition to your initial set up costs, you also need to factor in regular costs that you are going to incur such as bird safe cleaning agents, cage upkeep, the regular purchase of toys to keep your bird entertained when you're not around and veterinarian fees.
Again, depending on the size of your bird this can really add up. Also, your bird won't (or really shouldn't) be spending all of his or her time inside the cage, so a playstand is in order. And, you'll also want a Dustbuster or lightweight vacuum cleaner to pick up the feathers and dust that will be left on a daily basis.
It's really important that you don't just feed your bird cheap fatty seeds and nuts, as not only will you potentially ruin their temperament by you also run the risk of making your bird obese.
Ideally you will be buying your bird lots of live foods like fruits and vegetables, sprouting seeds or whole food bird pellets which can be used for when there is no fresh food available. So not only will you need to factor pellet costs, but also "live" foods as well, and depending on the size of your bird, this can amount to anywhere from $10 per week up to $50 per week which is not insignificant!
And all we've covered here are the financial costs! In a future post we'll also go through the time and space that you'll need to devote to your bird to make sure that they're happy and well-adjusted and that you truly get to enjoy all that owning a bird has to offer!
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