Every pet bird is different, some are more affectionate than others and they might be making you wonder if they like being pet. Our Santa Cruz vets explain how you can pet a bird, and answer other common questions.
Do Birds Like Being Pet?
Unfortunately, there isn't a simple yes or no. Some birds don't like being handled and would rather play games or just hang out. Whereas other birds want nothing more than to sit on your lap and be gently scratched on the head. This is why it's important to get to know and understand your bird and the type of attention they want.
When petting your bird be careful not to rub or pet under their neck because this is a mating ritual and they could begin to mistake you for a potential mate, or it could make them sexually frustrated, especially during their hormonal season. This is because many birds have their sexual organs located in their back and under their wings. If your bird starts seeing you as their mate they can become hostile and aggressive to you and the others in your home by regurgitating food at you, plucking their feathers, and screaming loudly. If your bird is exhibiting these signs contact your veterinarian.
It's also important not to spend too much time with your bird or handle them too much in the beginning because it could establish unrealistic expectations. Instead, when you first get your bird only spend as much personal one-on-one time with them as you plan to after you and your bird have gotten used to each other. As an example, if you will only be able to spend an hour a day with your bird when you get home from work, start this schedule from when you first adopt your new friend.
How to Pet a Bird
Here are the steps to properly and safely petting your pet bird:
- Don't pet your bird anywhere below their neck, and only pet them gently on their head. Even if a bird's sexual organs aren't located in the areas of their back and beneath their wings, most birds still prefer being pet on the head and neck.
- Start petting your bird gently at their beak so they can get to know you and start trusting you. Especially in the beginning, do this very gently because they probably aren't used to being handled yet.
- Pet them towards their beak, not their tail. Most birds (unlike other pets) prefer being petted against their feathers.
- If your bird is getting relaxed and comfortable with you touching them, you can gradually start rubbing the sides of their head gently, including the skin just behind their beak and around their ears (but be careful around the eyes).
- As your bird gets more comfortable, you can start petting them on the back of their head and scratching them gently under their beak (if they like it). But, as stated above do not go beneath their neck.
- Be patient and gentle with your bird. It can take time for birds to start trusting you and get used to being touched and handled. However, once they are used to you and you have gained their trust, your bird can be a loyal and loving pet who enjoys spending time with you.
Do Birds Love Their Owners?
While not all birds will form a close emotional bond with humans, some do, and they can be very loyal and affectionate pets. While it hasn't been scientifically proven if birds can love or not, bird observes can see a bird's affections through their personality and behavior.
Some birds will form attachments to humans over other birds if they have been raised away from their flocks. And these attachments aren't transactional for their advantage, such as when it's time for their dinner. These are actual bonds between a bird and their human.
Are Birds Happy in Cages?
While birds appreciate being given a cage that has enough food, water, toys, and a perch, they don't always like being kept in a cage. You should be providing your bird with enough time outside of their cage for their mental and physical development (at least a few hours a day).
If you are consistent with when you let them out and the amount of time they are out, your bird will thrive even more when not in their cage.
Letting your bird out of their cage for extended periods of time allows them to be exploratory and get used to their surroundings. If you don't give your bird enough time out of their cage or if you divide their free time into smaller increments, they could become apprehensive.
You also need to make sure that part of your bird's time outside of their cage includes interactive time with you, so they can meet their physical, mental, and social needs. However, you don't need to be with your bird the entire time they are allowed to wander around.
How to Bird Proof Your Home
When letting your bird out of their cage, be sure the room you are letting them out in is safe and birdproof. Here is how you can bird proof a room in your home:
- Be sure they can't escape from the room you let them out in
- Ensure all doors and windows are closed when you let them out
- Make sure all sharp objects and points are covered
- Close all cabinets or cupboards they can get stuck in
- Secure or remove any blinds or curtains your bird could get tangled in
- Remove any toxic or poisonous plants they could ingest
- Include toys such as perches, mirrors, ladders, and swings for them to play on, so they can play outside the cage
- Keep all cleaning products and chemicals hidden out of sight and reach
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.