May 1998 Magazine
Even though parrots have their own unique personalities and individual preferences, they are still flock creatures. In their natural habitats they interact with other flock members forming social bonds. When you purchase a pet parrot, you become a part of his/her flock.
The addition of a new member to the flock means change, and mostly likely, an adjustment period. Some pet birds may readily accept a new member into the flock, while others may become a little stressed or jealous. During the adjustment period the new bird will find his/her nitch within the established pecking order.
With most species of birds, I have found that the individual sexes or ages of the birds is not as important as the temperment and personality of the individual birds. So choose a species of bird that will fit easily into your family's lifestyle.
Some birds may form strong bonds, while other birds may dislike each other. If it is important to you that the birds like each other, then choose birds with similar personality traits. They may get along better. A shy bird and an aggressive bird may not be an ideal choice. But, it is impossible to tell if the birds will bond or not. I have seen some strong bonds form with birds of different species and size. I know of a Cherry Headed Conure and a Peach-Face Lovebird that are inseparable. Extreme caution must be used with birds of different size and/or strength. The larger stronger bird could accidentally or intentionally inflict injury or death to the smaller bird. Bonding between the birds is not as important as bonding is between the birds and the owners.
Our pet birds of the same species, like each other and spend time outside of the cage together. They will visit each others cages, preen each other, beak each other, and play inside and on top of each other's cages for a few hours each day.
We also have group play time with the birds as often as our busy schedules will accommodate. We get all of the birds (except for the fearless Lovebirds) out of their cages, then, we (myself, husband, and son) play with the birds, on the family room floor. We put old sheets down to protect the carpet and we get the birdie toy box out and let the birds choose which toys they want to play with. The birds tend to flock together by species, although we have a few birds that like to socialize with particular birds of different species. The birds are always supervised by us during group play time to prevent any discord or injuries.
When allowing your birds to socialize together, you need to be aware of another drawback in addition to accidental injuries. The birds could transmit diseases and/or illness to each other. To reduce the risk of transmission of disease, monitor all birds individually. On a daily basis, weight each bird, inspect droppings, monitor food consumption, and observe behavior looking for anything out of the ordinary. At the first sign of anything suspicious, follow strict quarantine rules, separate the bird from the other birds and then call your avian vet.
The majority of my pet birds do not get along with the pet birds of different species. And I suspect the reason is because I have at least two pet birds of same species, that include: 4 African Greys, 2 Goffin Cockatoos, 2 Blue & Gold Macaws, and 3 Lovebirds. My one exception is Phoebe, my one and only Greenwing Macaw. Although, Phoebe is willing to physically interact with some of the other birds, especially the Blue & Golds, they won't allow it. Please don't feel sorry for her, she is dearly loved and spoiled beyond belief.
But, on an interesting note, all of the birds will verbally interact with each other. They know each other's names and they will call to each other. Surprisingly and amazingly, they answer each other. There are times when it sounds like they are having a party. Red, an African Grey, who considers himself the alpha bird, who will also comfort the other birds by repeating phrases in my voice such as: "It's okay", "Don't be scared", and "I love you". He also tattles on the other birds by disciplining them using my voice. He will say their name, then repeat the appropriate phrase "Step up", "Come here", "No biting", "Be quiet", etc. I have found that my birds also learn new words and phrases from each other more quickly than they learn them from us. Once one of the birds learns a new phrase, the other birds will begin repeating that phrase soon after.
I would like to emphasis that I have NOT seen a difference in my pet bird's attitude or behavior towards myself or other members of my family, with the introduction of another same species pet bird. All of our pet birds have individual cages, and they each get equal daily one on one attention, which, I believe contributes to maintaining the strong bonds with us.
But, I have noted some jealous issues between the birds. One of my female greys, Gracie, who is a feather plucker, will begin to pluck her feathers when I take a bird of a different species out of the bird room and leave her behind. She doesn't mind if I take another Grey out of the room. To solve this problem, my husband will take the other birds out of the cage.
Before you decide to add another pet bird to your household you need to consider several other factors, including your budget. After the initial expense of the purchase of the bird, and the initial vet check, perches, and dishes, the daily care costs for seed, pellets, fresh food, and toys, etc. will most likely double. Be sure that the additional expenses will not be a burden to you and your family.
In addition, you have to look at whether you have enough space to adequately accommodate another bird, and where you will house the new bird. Questions that need to be answered are: Will you put the birds in the same room? Will the birds be able to see each other? Will their cages be side by side? Will there be adequate lighting? Where will you quarantine? I recommend a minimum 90 day quarantine period.
Adding an additional bird will most likely increase the noise level in your home too. Make sure that the extra chattering, screaming, and talking, will not be a disturbance to your family and neighbors.
Time commitment is the most important factor. The life expectancy of parrots can be quite long and should be a life long commitment. And, adding another pet bird will mean increased demands on your time. Making extra food won't take up much more of your time, but cage cleaning, grooming, and daily interaction with the birds will. One important aspect is make sure that the new bird receives equal individual time, without reducing the amount of time spent with your present pet bird. Also, you don't want to lavish too much attention on the new bird, if you won't be able to keep up spending that much time with him/her. Reducing the amount of attention that birds are used to receiving can cause birds to become frustrated. A frustrated bird can develop behavior problems such as biting, screaming, and feather plucking. Consistency is the key to raising well adjusted birds.
The addition of another bird can help satisfy flocking instincts. The birds can also keep each other company and entertain each other while human members of the family are away or busy.
After the decision has been made to add another bird to the family you need to slowly introduce the birds to each other. Once the quarantine period is over and the new bird has had a complete vet check up, pick a neutral area for the initial introduction and place the birds cages in a location where they can see each other. In all probability, they have heard the new bird chattering and talking while in quarantine, and are curious about the new addition to the family. When the birds are sitting as close to each other as possible, you can allow a supervised introduction out side of the cage. At the first signs of aggression, separate the birds immediately. Some birds may take an instant like for each other, while others may need time to develop a social bond with the bird. Others may never accept the new bird on a physical level, but will learn to tolerate the presence of another bird.
For birds who develop strong bonds you may decide to cage the birds together. Make sure that the birds are compatible in temperment, personality, size, and strength. Caging birds together has a few drawbacks. It makes it difficult to monitor the birds on an individual basis, so weigh the birds daily and record the weights. Consult with your vet at the first sign of weight loss, and be sure to inform the vet that the bird has a cage mate, in case a transmittable illness is present. Also, housing birds together can bring on breeding instincts, even with same sexed birds. To minimize this, don't offer items that can stimulate breeding behavior such as: cardboard boxes, sleep boxes, etc. Some of the advantages of caging birds together are that the birds can physically interact all day. They can mutually preen each other, play together, and keep each other company. There are time savings for the owner too, having one less cage to clean.
Having multiple pet birds can be a rewarding experience for you and your birds. They can be of comfort to each other and keep each other company. But a singly kept pet bird can be just as happy and well-adjusted, so be sure that you are making the best decision for you and the birds before you purchase or adopt another bird.
Winged Wisdom Note:Anne Johnson has been a companion bird owner for 12 years and has been breeding birds for the past 6 years. Anne is the owner and creator of Avian Antics Bird Toys, a well known manufacturer of bird toys.
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