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September 2022

First Pet Bird Guide


Getting a pet bird soon? To enjoy all the benefits of owning a bird, it is vital you take these steps to ensure they have a great home life with you. From what to feed your bird, to types of bird cages and bird toys – PetSmarts has the answers.

Should I Get A Pet Bird?

Birds make for entertaining and engaging pets – they’re smart, social and tend to have an array of charming quirks and kinks – but before you bring one home you need to consider if it’s the right pet for your household.

Things to Consider Before Getting a Pet Bird

1. Birds Represent a Significant Time Commitment

There are parrots that live for over 60 years! Even birds that are considered ‘easier’ to care for like finches and canaries can live for 10+ years. While this is a benefit as birds become valuable companions, they’re not a short-term responsibility. They’ll also need daily interaction and socialisation to keep them mentally stimulated, so ensure you’re ready for the challenge.

2. Different Species of Birds Require Different Levels of Care

Many prospective bird owners are drawn to exotic parrots for their impressive plumage and keen intelligence – but parrots require more time spent with them. This may be overwhelming for first-time bird owners or for families with young children. If you don’t have endless hours to devote to your new pet, consider choosing an easier species of bird – read more on this below.

3. You Will Need to ‘Bird Proof’ Your Home

Many average household items pose a serious health risk to birds as they have sensitive respiratory systems. For example, non-stick cookware produces odorless fumes which are toxic to birds. Unfortunately, bird proofing is not as simple as swapping Teflon products for stainless steel. Fumes from candles, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, oils, cigarette smoke or other chemicals could kill your bird. Many common houseplants are also toxic to birds. If you’re planning on bringing a bird home, you’ll need to remove all these products from your home and cease using them in the future.

4. Your Bird Will Be an Early Riser…and They’ll Expect You to Be Too!

Birds wake with the sun – even if you cover their cage at bedtime to try and trick them into sleeping later, they’ll still wake when they hear other birds chirping in the morning. Once they’re awake, they’ll let you know about it (see point six) so expect to get up early. Each morning they’ll need food and fresh water, as well as some play and socialisation. If you’re not an early riser, consider adjusting your schedule or choose a different pet!

5. They Require Cleaning. A Lot of It.

Birds have a habit of scattering food and feathers all over the place – so expect to be vacuuming daily to keep the mess under control or consider investing in a wireless robotic vacuum. Your bird’s cage will also require regularly cleaning. Another thing to consider is the larger the bird, the more mess they’ll produce so take this into account when choosing what species of bird is right for your household.

6. They’re Noisy.

Whether they’re talkers or tweeters, screechers or squawkers you’re guaranteed one thing: your bird will be noisy. Some birds talk, some birds squawk – but all birds have a habit of emitting a somewhat constant chatter. This is part of the fun of bird ownership as they’re interactive pets, but if you don’t cope well with noise a bird may not be right for you.

Hot Tip

If only one person in the household cares for the bird, your new pet may play favourites or become possessive of this person. If you want a family pet, it’s important every family member participates in your bird’s care.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t get a bird! They make for wonderful pets and are a fun addition to the household. But don’t assume that a bird will be easier to care for than a dog or a cat just because they’re smaller, as bird ownership can be just as demanding.

Benefits To Owning A Pet Bird

1. Long Lifespan

Many species of bird can live more than 10 years if they’re properly cared for, and some can even outlive you!

2. Companion Animals

From greeting you in the morning to spending time together training, birds are incredibly satisfying companion pets that will reward the energy you invest in them.

3. Interactive Pets – They Can Even Talk!

Ok, not all birds talk – but many parrots do! Whether it’s just the odd word or full phrases, teaching birds’ greetings or hearing them randomly pick up expressions is a fun and rewarding aspect of bird ownership. Even birds that don’t talk cheep and chatter, injecting energy into the household.

4. Encourages Children to Be Responsible

Introducing a pet into the family is a great way to teach children responsibility. Whether it’s time-intensive activities like cleaning the bird’s cage or taking some time daily to stimulate the bird mentally through socialisation, the admin side of pet care teaches important life skills.

Types Of Pet Birds

There are thousands of species of birds out there – which can be daunting when you’re trying to choose just one. Here is a rundown of popular pet birds.

Birds for Beginners and Families


  • Small, playful birds with a cheery disposition.
  • Known for their brightly coloured plumage.
  • Smart considering their size – they can be trained to say words though they’re more likely to sing cheerfully to themselves.
  • Good choice for first-time bird owners.
  • Average life expectancy of 12-14 years.
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  • Medium-sized birds with a cheeky disposition. A well-socialised cockatiel will happily sit on your shoulder and may even snuggle into you.
  • Typically yellow or grey with cute circular markings on their face.
  • Though intelligent, cockatiels are unlikely to repeat words – however, they’re known mimics and have been reported to copy all sorts of household noises.
  • Easy, sociable family pets that are generally quiet enough for apartment living.
  • Typically live for 15-20 years.


  • Very small, energetic birds. They differ greatly in appearance depending on the subspecies. Common choices include the yellow canary or the tabby-coloured zebra finch.
  • Advisable to keep more than one – they do best in small groups or at least pairs.
  • Despite their size, finches should be kept in aviaries rather than small cages as they need space to exercise.
  • They pay little attention to humans and don’t require socialisation and interaction – they prefer the companionship of other birds and don’t enjoy being handled by humans. This makes them a better fit for busier households as they’re able to entertain themselves.
  • Typically live for 5-10 years.


  • Small birds with big personalities.
  • Lovebirds typically have brightly coloured bodies, with alternative colour markings on their face.Very social birds which are required to be kept in pairs.
  • Fairly quiet as far as birds go – this makes them better suited to apartments than most other parrots.
  • Typically live for 15-25 years.

Companion Birds for Devoted Handlers

African Grey Parrot

  • Large, highly intelligent birds.
  • They’re largely grey with a striking red tail.
  • Known for developing extensive vocabularies and even speaking with their owners (as in talking – not just repeating words!) Due to their intelligence, African Greys make for demanding pets as they require a lot of attention (at least five hours daily) – otherwise they will get depressed.
  • Excellent companion birds for those that have the time to spend with them.
  • Their average lifespan is 40-60 years, though they have been known to live past 60.


  • Large and affectionate birds with a mischievous nature.
  • Appearance differs greatly depending on the subspecies. Common choices included the white and yellow sulphur-crested cockatoo or the pink and grey galah.
  • Extremely intelligent birds. Studies have found them to be smarter than toddlers – they also have a toddler-like penchant for naughtiness!
  • Excellent companion birds who want to be with their owners as often as possible (they’ve even earned the nickname ‘Velcro birds’). They get distressed and destructive if their social needs are not met so they’re best suited to owners who will be home most of the time.
  • They’re loud! Cockatoos are not recommended for those that live in apartments.
  • Their average lifespan is 20-60 years, depending on the species.


  • Large, clownish birds with big personalities.
  • Incredibly beautiful – macaws feature brightly-coloured plumage and impressive hooked beaks.
  • One of the most intelligent species of birds – they’re capable of thinking logically and are even sensitive to human emotions.
  • Very vocal – they can be trained to repeat words and will squawk (and scream) throughout the day. They’re therefore not suitable for apartments or small homes.
  • Require a lot of attention – someone will need to be with them on a semi-permanent basis.
  • Their average lifespan is 30-50 years.
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What Do I Need For A Pet Bird?

Before you get a pet bird, you’re going to need to make sure your home ready for them. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll need.

Bird Cages and Perches

Birds are housed in aviaries or cages. Aviaries are larger and are better for your bird’s health and mental stimulation as they allow them to get more exercise.

Smaller cages are acceptable (depending on the type of bird you choose) but should be big enough for your bird to stretch their wings and fly fully extended from one side of the cage to the other.

Hot Tip

Just because a cage is suitable for one bird doesn’t mean it will work for another. A cocky will easily chew through the bars of a budgie cage!

You’ll also need to equip your bird cage with a perch that allows your bird to rest and relax. Branches work best for this. Don't place food or water containers underneath the perch, as they will become contaminated with droppings.

Cover the floor of the cage with sand grit, newspaper, or anything that is solid and can be removed for regular cleaning. You should clean the cage once a week with a pet-safe disinfectant.

Discover more about bird cages and how to choose the right cage for your bird here.

Bird Baths

We all need to bathe, and birds are no exception! Provide a bird bath with fresh, clean water or keep a water spray bottle handy and spray your bird down regularly. This will reduce feather dust and keep your bird’s plumage healthy.

Bird Toys

It’s important to keep your bird mentally stimulated. Regular exercise, toys and social interaction are key for the this. Give your bird zinc-free toys to alleviate boredom – shiny toys capture their imagination and toys that can be shredded are beneficial too. Mirrors in the cage are a good idea, as your bird will think it has a friend.

Tamed cage birds should also be let out of their cage regularly, to maintain fitness and avoid becoming overweight.

Only add one or two toys at a time as your bird will grow bored of the same ones. Change toys regularly to keep your bird engaged.

Pet Bird Food

Petstock offers a great range of quality seed. Ensure you provide fresh water and change your bird’s seed daily. All birds should be offered fresh fruit and vegetables as well.

Cuttlefish should be available as this is a great source of calcium and it’s also important for beak health and shape. Grit is also essential for aiding the breakdown of seed in the gut. Avian vitamin supplements are important, and these are available in block or spray form.

In the wild birds spend most of their time foraging. Place food items in foraging toys to help alleviate boredom and increase fitness.

Pet Bird Check List

Now you know all the basics for caring for your pet bird, you’re ready to get the supplies! Follow our checklist below to make sure you’re not missing anything.

✓ Cage

✓ Seed mix or quality pellets

✓ Cuttlefish

✓ Other treats

✓ Floor covering

✓ Vitamin & mineral supplement

✓ Grit

✓ Bath

✓ Toys

✓ Millet

✓ Water and seed bowls

FAQs for First-Time Bird Owners

Should I get two birds rather than one – will my bird need a friend?

Birds enjoy the company of other birds. For some species, like lovebirds and finches, it’s essential for their health that you get more than one. In other instances, a single bird will be just fine – though they’ll need care and attention from their human.

My bird cage comes with a perch – will this suffice?

Probably not – most cages feature wooden or plastic dowel perches but they’re generally too smooth and predispose your bird to overgrown nails and skin lesions. Rough branches work best.

How do I choose which bird species to get?

There are thousands of bird species – many with different care requirements. Assess the amount of time and care you can devote to your bird and choose based on what fits your lifestyle.

Do I need a license to keep a pet bird?

For the most part, you don’t need a license. All the birds listed in this article can be kept without a permit (though in some instances it depends on the subspecies) and there are some species of birds which require a license to be kept as pets.

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Check List

Bird Check List

Download a printable check list to make sure you have everything you need for your first pet bird!

Download Check List