How to Care for Lovebirds
Caring for a Lovebird Parrot
People have kept parrots as pets for millenia, and lovebirds are no exception. Parrots' social and emotional needs, however, make these birds more demanding of time and resources than many other pets. Do you know how to care for a lovebird?
Lovebirds, called so because of their habits of preening one another and sitting close together as if cuddling, The birds are bred in dozens of colors and patterns, and were among the first types of bird established with American breeders (rather than taking captured wild birds from their homes). They have a hooked beak great for cracking seed shells, small bodies, and short tails. Adult lovebirds weigh 50 to 70 grams and grow to between 5 1/2 to 6 inches in length.
Lovies are full of character. These bold little birds when properly socialized can become quite cuddly, though their small size is sometimes forgotten and gets them into trouble. They love to jump and climb and appreciate a cage or gym suitable for doing so. They also love other birds, though an owner providing enough playtime can easily keep a solo lovebird. Lovies are among the better parrots for apartment dwellers; their calls may seem loud inside your home but they are unlikely to bother the neighbors. Supervised middle-age and older children can care for and play with pet lovebirds, too.
Photo used under Creative Commons from eeekkgirl
See and Hear a Pet Lovebird
Q. What species is the lovebird?
A. The three most common lovebird species include:
Peach Faced: Agapornis roseicollis;
Fischer: Agapornis fischeri;
Masked: Agapornis personata
Q. How long do lovebirds live?
A. 12-20 years
Q. How big is a lovebird?
A. Approximately 6" long
Habitat: A Good Cage
Your lovebird needs a quality safe and secure cage for calling home, sleeping, and playing, so don't skimp on cage spending. A good cage is large enough for lots of toys and dishes, wide enough for climbing and jumping, and made of powder-coated metal. Bigger is better, but a single lovebird needs at least a 36" x 20" x 20" space. Cage bars, preferably horizontal, should measure 3/8" to 1/2", Line the bottom of the cage with newspaper or paper towels. The best cages have lots of wide doors (preferably a non-guillotine-style door) which should always have a secure latch, a removable tray and grill, and at least some horizontal bars.
Once you've found the perfect cage, add perches of different sizes and textures (to keep your bird's feet dexterous and healthy; do not, however, use sandpaper-covered perches), multiple ceramic or stainless steel food and water cups, and lots of toys.
Though not completely necessary, you'll probably also want a cover or breathable dark blanket to cover the cage at night. Some bird owners choose to keep a second cage for sleeping.
You lovebird will feel safe and loved when you put his cage in a high-traffic room against at least one solid wall. Keep the cage off the floor; buy a cage with attached legs, use a birdcage stand, or place the cage on a table or dresser. Keep the cage away from windows where predatory birds may frighten him or drafts can chill him. Keep the cage out of bathrooms and kitchens, too, where fumes tend to be their strongest.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Peter BÃ©kÃ©si
Pick up debris and old fruit and vegetables each day, and replace papers every day or two as needed. Water dishes, however, and anything containing wet foods such as apples should be scrubbed and sanitized at least once a day, more often as needed. Clean and sanitize dry dishes every few days.
Cages, on the other hand, and all perches and surfaces should be thoroughly scrubbed and sanitized a minimum of once a week. A solution of vinegar water and a hefty dash of lemon juice naturally and safely disinfects as it breaks up stuck-on droppings.
Cage Essentials on Amazon - Perches and dishes
Bird Cages on Amazon
Q. Do lovebirds talk?
A. No, lovebirds do not mimic human speech nor do they whistle. Lovebirds have a somewhat loud, occasionally shrill chirp.
Q. Are lovebirds smart?
A. Yes. Lovebirds, like all parrots, learn quickly through training or observation. In fact, their boundless energy make them great students for learning tricks.
Lovebird Nutritional Needs
A balanced diet is extremely important for a bird, just as it is for humans. With birds, however, dietary deficiencies cause problems much sooner and more severely than in humans.
Lovebirds need all the same macro and micro nutrients and humans, just in different quantities: proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals. To make sure he has everything he needs, use a commercial pelleted bird diet (preferably organic) supplemented with organic fruits, veggies, greens, and seeds. Lovebirds do need a little more fat than other birds, so make sure to give him a few sunflower or other fatty seeds every other day or so.
Your bird should not need additional vitamin and mineral supplementation, but it's a good idea to give sick birds or birds moving to a new home a powder supplement sprinkled on their food. Don't put powdered vitamins in water; parrots don't like their water tasting like anything besides what they're used to. Parrots, unlike other animals, have starved or dehydrated themselves rather than eating a food or water they didn't like. For the same reason, make any dietary changes very slowly; speak with your veterinarian about how to do this.
Sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, apples, peas, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, eggs, 100% whole wheat crackers, millet, carrots, spray-free dandelion greens, wheat grass, puffed millet, plain popcorn. Make everything organic, as pesticide buildup in the body affects lovebirds much more quickly than it does humans.
Do NOT feed your bird:
Alcohol, avocado, sugary snack including candy and chocolate, mushrooms, rhubarb, salty foods such as potato chips, fruit seeds or pits, anything you wouldn't eat such as moldy fruit.
Learn more about feeding a pet bird, including healthy and unhealthy treats and practices.
Social and Activity Needs
Your lovebird needs lots of toys to stay entertained and needs attention from you! Play with your lovebird a few times a day for a total of an hour or so.
Different toys allow your lovebird to exercise differently. Buy a range of toys that allow your bird to destroy (i.e. bird pinatas), preen (loose rope ends), climb (ropes and ladders), forage (toys with holes or doors and filled with treats), and use their critical thinking capabilities (small puzzle toys).
TRAIN YOUR LOVEBIRD!
It's essential to train your bird basic commands such as "step up" to tame him. Buy a book or DVD about bird training or ask your avian vet if they offer bird training classes. Meanwhile, start figuring out which treats your ird loves most; use these later for positive reinforcement.
If you want to go further, try teaching your bird tricks. Lovebirds learn quickly and have lots of energy, so learning tricks is often a cinch. Keep training sessions short, though, and train often.
You must also learn the body language of a lovebird when he's happy, aggressive, excited, feeling threatened, and more. Lovebirds, like all birds, bite, and you should begin assuming that if your bird bites there is something you should have done differently and can therefore learn in order to avoid the scenario in the future. If you start by learning to recognize the different, though sometimes subtle, behaviors of your bird and their meanings you will raise a well-behaved bird.
Photo used under Creative Commons from Peter BÃ©kÃ©si
Have you ever played with a lovebird?
Humans may respond to spankings but birds do not.
yell at, hit, throw, or throw things at your lovebird, spray it with water, or banish it to a dark or isolated room.
Activities such as these promote negative behavior and distrust. Physical negative reinforcement can hurt or kill your fragile pet.
Lovebird Bathing, Beaks, and Nails
Lovebirds need access to water in which to bathe. Luckily, lovebirds tend to love water. Place a bowl of water in the bottom of their cage, attach a bird bath made to hang on cage walls, or put a pool of water on the floor during playtime. Use your fingers to splash the water a bit to show him what it is and your bird will probably dive right in.
If your bird does not like baths, like mine, put some water in a spray bottle and mist above the bird's head so the water falls like rain. If your bird doesn't like this either, as occasionally happens, leave a bowl of water in the cage in a place in which droppings won't fall. Still, my birds prefer to use their water dish; you can't win them all.
Healthy birds wear away their beak and nails, which both grow like human finger nails, with normal chewing and walking. If your bird's nails or beak grow unusually long, which more often occurs with nails, ask your vet to show you how to trim the nails with a baby clippers or grind the beak with a dremel.
Small/Medium Bird Toys on Amazon
Teflon, Candles, & Air Fresheners, Oh, My!
Stop using nonstick pans and trays immediately. PTFE, commonly known by brand name Teflon, in the coating is harmful when ingested and emits PFOA when heated. The seriousness of PFOA and the temperature at which PTFE becomes unsafe is debated. However, birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems and are known to die from nonstick surfaces heated to even low temperatures.
Similarly, stop using petroleum-based candles and synthetic air fresheners, and don't burn anything in the same room.
Many would-be pet owners with dander allergies do well with birds.
Spend time with a bird before taking it home, and consider taking a scratch test for bird allergies (doctors can also test for specific bird danders such as that of lovebirds).