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Ingredients to the Loving Love Bird:
1 Hand Raised Love bird--Preferably between 8 and 12
weeks. Sex or color do not make little difference.
1 Cage-- Metal, 1/2 inch spaced bars, no smaller than 11"x15"x15" but not too large. Powder coated cages are easy to clean. One bird per cage.
1 Playpen--I like the ones built on top the cage.
Food and Water--2 cups for food, 1 cup for water, 1 bowl for bath water.
Toys--Safe, non-toxic, clean, hanging and swing toys.
Perches--natural wood are best
Mineral block--beak conditioner
Things to Know About the New Baby
Baby love birds are ready to go to their new homes when they are six to ten weeks old and eating on their own. When you acquire your baby it will look much like a adult love bird, just a little smaller with softer colors. The color of the face will not appear until he goes throught his first molt at 3 or 4 months of age.
Your baby is a very young bird and needs special care and attention for a while. Baby love birds are not mean--rather they may be frightened. They use aggression as their defense. No handfed baby leaves me unless he is completely tame--this does not mean he is trained. We handle every baby individually four or five times a day. Each baby is cuddled, kissed, scratched, petted, and turned upside down. Every one sits on our shoulders and fingers everyday until he goes to his new home.
It is your responsibility to handle him everyday for at least 15 minutes until the baby is six months old. The more you handle him, the more he will want to be with you. Left alone in a cage even for a few days can cancel out all the work up to this point. After the bird is six months old he should remain tame without daily attention.
I will refer to all the birds as male because it is tedious to insert "he/she" into a script. There appears to be no difference between the males and females in their ability to be good pets. Females can be more aggressive but this is not a rule.
In the wild, the love birds "pair bond" for life. They will spend many years with one mate and only obtain a new mate if one of the birds dies. This is an disadvantage to breeders and pet owners. A breeder would like to switch pairs to produce the best color combinations. A lost mate is not easily replaced. For the pet owner the disadvantage is greater. Like Amazons and many other birds that mate for life, the love bird may pick out one person in the household and only be nice to that one person. It takes special attention from different members of the family to condition a love bird to be loving to everyone.
Love birds can enjoy being a pet for the whole family. He will go person to person seeking attention from everyone if he gets continuous socialization. After a few minutes the well raised love bird will usually accept new friends. Depending on the bird's personality there will be an occasional person the bird may not care for.
Two love birds together in a cage will bond with each other regardless of their sex. If you want your pet to be a buddy, keep him by himself and give him lots of attention.
Put your cage in a place where you can enjoy your new baby. He should not be in direct sun. The bird will over heat. Love birds are very hardy and tolerant of drafts (California weather) but extreme temperature changes are not good.
I keep a large towel or sheet of plexiglass under the cage. The towel collects anything that the bird throws out. Shake it out and throw it in the laundry. You may prefer to have newspaper or washable flooring under your cage. My cages are free standing. Put your cage where it is stable if it sits on a table or stand. If you have cats or dogs, be sure the cage is sturdy enough to thwart any attempts to break in.
My pets love to be out of their cages but still have access to go back in anytime. A cage with a playpen on top is ideal. They climb in and out (in and out of security). Occasionally baby will flutter down to the ground for various reasons (trying out its wings, spooked or likes to play on the ground). This is a very dangerous place to be.
A few of the hazards include:
getting stepped or sat upon,
We all like to think that our baby is 100% supervised while out of his cage. Let us be realistic. For the safety of the baby, offer him a way to return to his cage. I have a one inch rope tied from the perch on top of his cage to the ground. It winds around the outside of the cage and he uses it as a toy. It is also tied securely about six inches from the ground to prevent my playful puppy from inadvertently pulling the cage over.
When you receive your new baby he can flutter, climb, and perch. For your baby to have healthy feet and legs use natural wood perches. The uneven texture, diameter and contours help to exercise the bird's toes, feet and legs. The diameter of the perches should vary from 3/8 to 1 inch. I recommend eucalyptus or manzanita.
Cut fresh or dried branches to the desired size. Wash and bake them in the oven to kill any parasite or bacteria harmful to your birds. I use fresh eucalyptus for my personal pets and leave the stems and leaves on. I wash them well but I do not bake them. While I realize that I am taking a risk, my birds love to trim off the leaves and then shred the bark.
Place the perches so droppings will not fall on other perches, water, food or bath dishes. Because the baby cannot fly in the confines of the cage it is important that the perches be placed so that the bird can climb from perch to perch and over to water and food dishes. Watch to see if the baby can get everywhere he wants inside the cage, if not move the perch or supply a ladder.
Your new baby was weaned from hand feeding formula. He eats seeds, fruits, vegetables, and pellets. This is a well-balanced diet. Here is the recipe for the dry mix I feed my birds:
1 Part Large Hookbill Mix
3 Parts Small Hookbill Mix
1 Part pellets (any brand)
Offer fresh fruits and vegetables everyday. Corn is especially important in their diet. Your baby can eat almost anything you can EXCEPT CHOCOLATE, ALCOHOL, AVOCADO, CONCENTRATED SALT OR SUGAR. Feel free to offer him food from the table--but don't leave anything in his cage that can go sour, spoil, breed mold or bacteria. These could make him ill and possibly be life threatening. Bacteria and fungus are far more dangerous to birds than it is to people. Buy dried fruits and vegetables at bird specialty stores if you are concerned about leaving fresh foods in the cage during the day.
Favorite Fresh Food Include:
Apples - Oranges - Grapes - Mangos
Persimmon - Broccoli - Peas - Pasta
Corn - Beans - Plums
Always leave fresh water for your love bird. It only takes a second to change water.
Birds nibble on everything. Keep perches and dishes scrubbed clean. Be sure to rinse very well after using detergent or disinfectant. Never use Lysol, etc. It is difficult to get all the residue washed off. Bicarbonate of soda (20 Mule Borax) is an excellent occasional cleanser for bird dishes.
If you haven't purchased your water and feeding bowls yet, buy ceramic or the very hard composite dishes. Love birds love to chew!
Wings: Your baby's first flight feathers will already be clipped if requested. I do not clip wings until after the baby has his first flight and requested by the new home. The baby will know how to glide and maneuver in the air. Also, the feathers must have grown in enough that they will not bleed (blood feathers). These flight feathers will still continue to grow until the baby is three or four months old. Clip them again in about three to four weeks. Every time your bird molts he will need to have the flight feathers clipped. A pet love bird (not a showbird) should not have free flight.
Reasons for Wing Clipping:
The freedom of flight tends to negate the baby's dependence on you. This results in a less tame bird.
Love birds can't see windows. They fly at very high speeds and can kill themselves flying into the window.
A door or window left ajar for a moment allows the bird to escape.
The birds can fly to areas of the home that are dangerous. Who knows where all dangers lurk?
Even if all the flight feathers on a love bird are clipped he can still glide (my birds glide down to the first floor). When they are frightened, they can flutter upward. Don't depend upon any bird's wings even with full flight as defense against a cat, dog or rat. I have heard stories of pet birds being killed by other pets when allowed full flight. Keep your baby protected from other animals.
Do not take your bird outside on your shoulder!
Nails: Your baby's nails will be very sharp. They will leave little scratch marks on you and snags on your clothing. Do not clip the nails on a bird this young. Very carefully file them with the fine side of an emery board. You need only to dull the nails slightly. The vein is still very close to the tip. When he is six months old you can begin to clip the nails--very carefully. You may decide to file them instead of clip. My birds are so active that I have never felt it necessary to clip or file their nails.
If possible, do not expose your baby to other birds outside your home. He is still very young and susceptible to picking up bacteria, viruses, or parasites. If you are local, I will be happy to assist you in learning to clip wings or file nails.
Birds can bleed to death very easily. Take your baby to the vet at once if it breaks a feather and you cannot stop the bleeding. A broken blood feather needs to be removed. This assures that no infection will set in.
Bathing: It is not necessary to wash your baby. Give him a bowl of fresh water each day and he will bath himself. If he is not bathing, turn on the vacuum cleaner. The noise of the vacuum stimulates most birds to hop into their bath water. My love birds cannot resist hopping onto my hand when the faucet is running and diving in and out of the running water.
Molting: Your bird will molt once a year. Babies will molt twice their first year. With proper diet, light and exercise your bird should look in good condition even during the molt. You will notice an abundance of soft feathers around the cage. This usually occurs in the summer. Continue to feed him well and he will look as good as new in about four weeks. His flight feathers will change at this time. Be sure to have his wings clipped!
If your bird looses feathers continuously during the year, have him checked by an avian vet. This is not a common occurrence for love birds.
Behavior and Discipline
Your new bird may be frightened of you or of his new cage. The new smells, food, lights and sounds can confuse and distress him. Give him a day or two to adjust to his surroundings. Don't put any toys in the cage for the first few days. New toys can make the baby frightened and aggressive. Add one toy at a time later. Too many toys will confuse and frighten him.
The beak is a third hand to any parrot. He will use his beak to climb, grab and reach. When he steps onto your hand or arm he will use his beak first to steady himself. Do not be alarmed. He is not biting. Imagine climbing over steep, uneven terrain without holding on to anything.
Love birds recognize color. Beware, they may be terrified of RED, especially as a baby. Do not try to handle them while wearing red nail polish. The bird's eyes will flash and he will lunge and bite at your nails. Don't hang red toys in or near the cage. Avoid wearing red when handling your baby. As your bird matures he should slowly learn to tolerate red. By a year old my own pets no longer reacted to the color red.
Somewhere between the ages of five and six months your bird might go through a "creepy" stage. I think of it as their adolescent time. He may be nippy, demanding, and messy. With consistent training, his behavior will pass quickly.
Your bird is intelligent--as intelligent and bright as a two-year-old--forever and ever. His understanding will most likely never exceed a two-year-old (each bird is an individual, yours may or may not be brighter). Like a two-year-old, he will test you and his boundaries constantly. Firm rules and consistency are all important in training and disciplining your baby.
Never, never hit your bird in any way--not so much as a tap on the beak. This can hurt or even kill your pet. (One man insisted on flicking his finger against the bird's beak to discipline him. He eventually broke the bird's neck.) Do not wave your finger at the bird. Waving can entice the bird to strike at your fingers. If your bird nips your ear too hard, tell him firmly "no!". If nipping persists, pick up the baby with both hands--don't play chase--and return him to the inside of its cage. Then ignore him completely for a time. This passive correction is the most effective way to discipline negative behavior. Enforce positive behavior with various rewards: edibles, toys, verbal praise.
Hands and fingers: Some babies do not associate a finger or a hand as part of a person. At first they want to taste a finger. Sometimes they are fearful of a finger. Teach your baby to step up on your hand first. Later you can teach him to step on fingers. I have tried to teach each baby this before they leave me.
Keep your hand closed and flat. Gently press your hand against the bird's breast. Say "up." The pressure of your hand encourages the bird to step up.
Shoulders: Your baby already likes to sit on shoulders. He is curious and has not been fully trained not to nibble on ears. He also does not know how hard he is nibbling. You must teach him what is acceptable.
Usually the baby will behave excellently on your shoulder for a while and then for no apparent reason become very bad. He is tired and wants to be returned to the security and comfort of his cage. Try to learn his tolerance and return him to his cage before he is tired. Remember he is a baby. If you only return him to his cage when he is demonstrating negative behavior, you may be reinforcing that behavior. Look for a positive type behavior associated with his desire to go to his cage and reinforce this with praising the bird and returning him to his cage with a treat.
Chase: Chase is a great game that the birds catch onto at once. It is most undesirable to develop this habit when you want to put your new buddy away. What happens is this: baby knows you want to remove him from your shoulder--probably to be place on his perch or in his cage. Baby really prefers to be on your shoulder. You place your hand next to the bird and he runs to the other side of you. You follow with your hand. The bird lunges and nips and you pull away frustrated. He won! What Fun! Never let this happen.
Here's what to do:
System 1: The easiest way to avoid developing this game is to have a second person present. Coordinate together. It is important that the person who has the bird on their shoulder be the one to say "up" and place their hand (not just a finger) at the bird's chest. The second person will use their hands cupped around the baby to keep him from retreating. The baby will not really "bite" he just threatens. Be firm and he will step up. He has no choice. Praise and pet him, give him a kiss and put him on his perch or cage. Practice this. After a few times, over a few days, he will remember.
System 2: When no one is around to help with training, use an obstacle. Stand next to a wall so that the bird cannot run to the other side of your shoulder. Sweep your hand from your opposite shoulder towards the bird. He has nowhere to go but onto your hand. You will need a little practice with this method.
Lunging or snapping: Never move away from your baby when he lunges at you or threatens you. This only reinforces the negative trait. You will find that if you do not back away, the bird may but will learn that it cannot intimidate you, he will cease nipping. I cannot emphasize this enough.
The cage is his territory. Even the tamest babies do not like their security invaded. I teach that it is OK for my hand to come into his cage. It is important from day one to make him comfortable with your hand in his cage. Offer him goodies from your hand in the cage.
Never pull away if he lunges, strikes, or nips. Remove your hand if he nudges it with his beak. This teaches and reinforces a positive way of communicating. I have even trained older love birds to accept my hand in their cage and to step up on command. You can't give an inch or they will take a mile--just like a two-year-old!
Love birds are chatty little birds. It is debatable whether they can talk or not. They are not known for their talking. They can mimic whistles. Mine have picked up the singing of a canary.
Here's my trick: Birds imitate what they hear. I play pleasant music for the bird during the day. Love birds will develop a soft voice by trying to imitate the music. If your bird does not hear anything all day long, you can expect him to develop a wild voice.
Talk to your bird when you are with him. Repeat words that you would like him to learn. Whistle short tunes for him to repeat. He is likely to repeat kissing sounds first. Be patient. Do not be disappointed if your love bird does not whistle or talk. Enjoy him for the bird he is.
AFTER SIX MONTHS
Your baby has begun to develop the personality that will carry through his long life. He should be gentle and quiet. Now you can leave him with a house sitter, go on vacation, and know he will be tame and loving when you return. But you will miss him.
In the morning and late afternoon you can expect him to sing and chatter.
Your buddy is content in his cage all day while you're away. He enjoys the time you have to give him but will not demand it. During the day he plays with his toys and tears up any wood you leave him.
All is not lost if you neglected him in his first six months. Give him more time and be patient. It would have been better for both of you if you spent the time with him in the first six months!
Safety Tips To Remember
Keeping Wings Clipped
Don't Take Outside on Your Shoulder
Keep Away From Other Pets While Unsupervised
Supervise With Small Children
Keep Food and Water Clean
Keep Out of Hot Sun
Use Safe Toys
Lead is Deadly, Burning Teflon Will Kill
Chocolate could be his last food
Do not use walnut shells in the cage!
The fumes from burning Teflon and other non-stick surfaces will kill any bird very quickly. You may choose not to keep Teflon in the house.
Since birds like to chew, lead poisoning is common. Be sure to know what your bird is chewing on or eating. While just playing on a Tiffany or Stained Glass a bird can ingest enough lead to kill him. Rush him to the vet if you suspect lead poisoning. There is hope.
A tame love bird will not hurt a child. A child can easily inflict mortal damage to a curious bird. Supervision is important.
Bird Talk has wonderful reports on safe toys. Bird specialty stores have a myriad of toys at reasonable prices. Know what you are putting in his cage.