Written by Nikki, NeapolitanSixth
The ticking of the biological bird-clock
There is that famous slogan that Lay's Potato Chips used to use: You can't eat just one! Parrots can be the same way (well, without the eating part) and most of us have been bitten by MBS (Multiple Bird Syndrome) as some like to call it. Managing such a household can be difficult though, both in giving each and every bird substantial amounts of personal time every day, and in caring for their general well-being.
Are you ready for a multiple bird home?
If you are considering adding another bird to your home, ask yourself these questions:
- How much time do I have for my current bird?
- How clean is my bird cage?
- Do I have enough money to pay for double the toys, food, cage, and veterinary bill?
- How much room do I have, and how close are my neighbors?
- How do/does my parents/spouse/roommate feel about adding a new bird?
When I had just one bird, she was out every time I was home and able to supervise her in a safe play situation. She had 5-8 hours of outside cage time a day, and about 2.5-3 hours of personal attention. She was, and still is a pretty spoiled bird. I also cleaned her cage every day, and really sterilized it once a week. This one cage alone took about half an hour to wash, and was quite taxing. If you can barely eek out the time to spend with your bird and your cage is always bordering on cluttered, you may want to wait until your schedule slows down.
Sometimes even when you have the time, your money situation is too tight to let you take care of a new bird. A bird doesn't just entail the price of the bird. Remember that it comes with a hefty well-bird vet visit bill, needs more food, requires a sizable cage, plenty of toys that will be destroyed fairly quickly, and is another living thing that can get sick in between those pricey well-bird visits.
Your living situation also weighs greatly on this decision. First, you need an extra room for the quarantine period, which needs to last at least 30 days. That is the least of your worries. Most parrots are loud creatures by nature, and not everyone appreciates their boisterous personality and love to vocalize. Some rented living spaces also have rules on how many pets you can have so make sure you check on that before acquiring a new bird.
Once you've cleared all of that, you still have to see if your parents/spouse/roommate agree with your decision to adopt a new friend. They live with you too, and deserve to take part in this decision. Living space is shared space, and there needs to be a respect for that as well.
Management and scheduling
If you're still reading, you probably already have multiple birds or are 100% positive that you will be able to. When I brought my second bird home, I remember being scared to death wondering how I would fit all my time in. Now, I have four birds and while it does take up a lot of time, I run a pretty smooth routine that has everyone happy and well-loved. I am a college student, and the typical overall schedule in my home goes like this:
9:00 am Breakfast time: Everyone eats on their cages while I get ready for school
2:00 pm Afternoon out of cage time: I have a few hours to spend at home, so I let everyone out to play on their gyms or cage tops while I do my work.
5:00 pm Dinner: Everyone gets veggies and other good-for-you stuff to eat while I eat, and they get to eat at the table with me. It ends up looking like some bizarre tea-party, but it gives me more face-to-face time with all the birds, and they love it.
9:00 pm Bedtime
Having a steady routine on which the birds can rely not only calms them, but helped them adjust to each other when each one was brought out of quarantine.
More specifically though, I incorporate my birds into my daily routine to give them extra one-on-one time. I have a unique activity I do every day with each and every one of my birds, and that makes them all feel special and loved. For example, I shower with my pionus in the morning because he loves showers. looks forward to this time and visibly gets excited when I turn on the water. My conure loves noise, so we watch TV or listen to music together. He'll sit with me and sing and dance, and I can cuddle with him. My lovebird on the other hand is a great fan of burrowing, so while I do my work, I let him sit with me in my shirt. It's a great way to give myself small breaks to give him scritches. My cockatiel also enjoys quiet snuggle time, so she is my reading buddy. I read every day, and whenever I do that, she gets to participate. Of course, I do all sorts of different things in my day with a bird buddy, but those are our main staples.
One thing I underestimated was the value of trying to introduce your birds to each other. Be aware that they may not always get along, and MUST be supervised, but some of my birds have developed a great rapport with each other. Watching their dynamic is a wonderful experience, and they in turn entertain each other. The introduction process can be tricky and takes patience, but it is worth it in the end.
Aside from how to keep your birds in order and how to spend time with all of them, chores like cage cleaning can put a damper on things. The most logical thing to do is have a big cage cleaning day, but I find that doing that takes up more time in one day than I have. The play gyms and cage floors get changed every day, but when I do a deep, thorough clean, I do two on one day of the week, and the other two on another. This way I don't feel overwhelmed.
For toys, you can clean the toys often and rotate them accordingly. Make sure that the toys are a proper size for the bird as a bird can hurt itself when a toy is too easily crunched in the beak.
You and your flock
Once you've settled yourself into a steady routine with your birds, having more than one parrot will not be as hectic. Living in a multiple bird home can be a lot of fun, but it takes work. Your effort will be well worth it!