How to Keep a Lovebird As a Pet

Four Parts:Buying the LovebirdHousing the LovebirdFeeding the LovebirdGrooming and Training the Lovebird

Lovebirds are little parrots with colorful plumes and fun personalities. As pets, these little birds are devoted and playful with their owners. With the appropriate care and attention, a lovebird can live for 8 to 12 years, or longer.[1] One common myth surrounding keeping lovebirds as pets is that they need to be kept in pairs for their own wellbeing, otherwise they will suffer or die. In fact, most lovebird breeders argue for keeping lovebirds as single pets, with the owner acting as the lovebird’s flock.[2]

Part 1
Buying the Lovebird

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    Don’t worry about buying more than one lovebird or bonding your lovebird to another lovebird. Contrary to popular belief, keeping lovebirds as a single pet is not frowned upon by breeders and experts so don’t be too concerned about purchasing more than one lovebird at a time. In fact, introducing another lovebird to your lovebird at a later date can be dangerous, as the older lovebird may try to harm or kill the new bird. Another risk of keeping more than one lovebird is that the birds will want to bond with each other, rather than you, their owner.[3]
    • If you do want to keep more than one lovebird at a time, introduce the bird when they are both very young. Groups of lovebirds create social hierarchies, so there is one alpha bird and every bird follows the alpha.
    • Another common myth is that lovebirds can be mean or aggressive, especially female lovebirds who are marking their territory or their cage. Most breeders agree that male lovebirds make better pets, though males can also show territorial behavior and chirp at any fingers that enter their cage. Most lovebirds, male and female, have mild temperaments. To counteract any aggression from them, it’s important that you train your lovebird to prevent nipping.
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    Become familiar with the different lovebird breeds. There are many different breeds of lovebirds, but the three most popular breeds are:
    • Peach-faced lovebirds: These little birds are the most commonly kept breed. They stand at 5-inches tall, with green and blue plumes, and have a rosy colored face. Peach-faced lovebirds have been bred into hundreds of color mutations, from pure white albino birds to deep purple birds.
    • Masked lovebirds: This breed has eye-rings, a black mask, an orange beak, yellow chest feathers, and green wings. Some breeders consider masked lovebirds more aggressive than the two other more common breeds.
    • Fischer’s lovebirds: Also known as eye-ring lovebirds, as they have a white ring around their eyes. They are smaller than peach faced and masked lovebirds and have a distinct, high pitched chirp. Most breeders agree that Fischer’s are more aggressive than the peach-faced lovebirds or masked lovebirds.
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    Look for a lovebird at your local pet store. Most local pet stores have lovebirds for sale, likely peach faced and Fischer’s lovebirds. Before you buy the lovebird, check that:[4]
    • The bird looks healthy. The bird should be perky, active, and alert with bright clear eyes. They should also have a clear cere, or fleshy nose area, and nares, or nostrils.
    • Watch the bird eat and drink to make sure the bird has an appetite. The bird should also be well groomed with neat, bright feathers. The feathers should be mostly smoothed to the body, not fluffy or raised. The bird’s feet and legs should be smooth and free of lumps, scabs, and rough scales.
    • The bird should vocalize with you in chirps, clicks, and whistles. Most lovebirds are excited to communicate with new faces, though some bird can be shy or intimidated around new people. A healthy bird will be confident and inquisitive, but cautious and aware as well.
    • If possible, ask to hold or touch the bird. Make sure the bird is interested in interacting with you and does not peck or nip at you. This may be a sign the bird is aggressive.
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    Search online for lovebird breeders. There are several databases of lovebird breeders available online that you can search based on your state or area and your preferred breed.[5] Be wary of overpriced birds and always contact the breeders directly to establish a rapport before you buy a bird from them.[6]
    • Most reputable breeders hand-raise their birds. This means they are involved in every stage of breeding, from choosing the mates to creating a good breeding environment in a cage to maintaining the birds’ diet and nutrition.
    • Breeders will also carefully watch over the eggs and take care of the babies until they have found suitable homes. Some breeders will hand-feed the babies to tame them and wean them off of their parents. Hand-feeding and hand-taming the babies are also good ways to get the birds used to human interaction. This makes most hand-raised lovebirds very tame and loving pets.[7]
    • Hand-raised Lovebirds can range in price from $40 to $130 for the more common species and mutations. Parent-fed lovebirds from a pet store are generally less expensive. But the rarer species and mutations will be more expensive than the more common species.[8]
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    Take your new lovebird to the vet. Birds can pick up health problems that may not be obvious to you, so bring your new lovebird to a vet to confirm the bird is healthy.[9]
    • If you know you are going to be buying a lovebird in the near future, schedule a vet appointment for right after you pick up the bird from the store or the breeder.
    • For an additional fee, the vet can create a wellness plans to help your lovebird live a long, healthy life. These plans include annual health check ups and emergency medical care.[10]
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    Consider confirming the sex of the lovebird. Lovebirds are not sexually dimorphic, which means you generally cannot tell if a lovebird is a male (a cock) or a female (a hen) just by looking at the lovebird. The best way to confirm the sex of the lovebird is to have your vet do a DNA test, or to conduct one yourself with a DNA kit.[11]
    • A DNA kit usually costs between $15 and $22. You will need to clip one of your bird’s toenails a little higher than you normally would and send the sample to the lab.
    • The vet can also take the sample for you and send it to the lab for testing.
    • Some visual differences between the sexes exist, as hens tend to have a wider stance on the perch, they are a bit larger than cocks, and they have wider pelvic bones that you can check gently with your index finger.
    • Peach-colored hens will also tuck material under their wings to take them to the nesting box, while peach-colored cocks will try to do this but fail. However, there are exceptions to these general characteristics depending on the bird.

Part 2
Housing the Lovebird

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    Look for a cage that is at least 18” long by 18” wide by 18” tall at your local pet store. Lovebirds are active, playful birds so they need a cage that will accommodate all the toys and perches they need to keep them busy. The larger the cage, the comfortable it will be for the bird.[12]
    • The cage should also have horizontal bars on at least two sides. The bar spacing should be no more than ¾” apart to prevent injury.
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    Use perches of different widths, diameters, and textures in the cage. The cage should have at least two or three perches of various sizes, shapes, and textures to help your bird’s feet stay healthy and strong. The perches should be thick enough for the bird to stand comfortably on them without losing her balance. The smallest perch should be about ½” in diameter.[13]
    • Look for perches made from wooden dowels, natural wood branches, bonded sand and concrete, and rope.[14]
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    Keep the bird’s cage off the floor and away from drafts, open windows, and the kitchen. Your bird’s cage should be raised and kept away from air vents and doorways. Some birds can catch a cold if exposed to a draft while they are wet, such as after a bath.[15]
    • Lovebirds can be sensitive to smoke and strong odors, as well as loud noise.[16] If you smoke, do not smoke in the room where your lovebird lives.
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    Place the cage in a quiet, well lit room. [17] A room that is too dark may cause your lovebird to behave oddly and develop health issues. But you should not place the cage near a window that gets full sun during the hottest months of the year as this may cause heat stroke or death for your little bird.[18]
    • Weak, unfiltered sunlight on the cage is ideal as this gives your bird vital ultraviolet-B light to keep her healthy. If your lovebird’s cage is near a window with weak light, you may want to consider investing in a special light bulb that emits safe levels of ultraviolet-B light to hang over your lovebird’s cage. You can turn on the light for 8 to 10 hours a day to make sure your bird gets enough light.[19]
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    Make sure your bird gets 10-12 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Sleep is important for lovebirds. If you are going to keep your lovebird in a cage indoors, you may want to get a cover for the cage to help your bird sleep at night.[20]
    • You can also get a smaller sleep cage for your bird if you don’t have enough space for a large cage indoors. Using a sleep cage will ensure your bird has a quiet, safe place to sleep.
    • You should put your lovebird to bed at the same time every night and bring her out of her sleep cage the same time every morning.[21]
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    Clean your bird’s cage once a week. The tray and dishes in your bird’s cage should be cleaned every day. But your bird’s cage is your bird’s home so it should also be cleaned once a week.[22][23]
    • Use warm water and soap. Remove your bird from the cage and wipe down the cage, the perches, and any toys in the cage.
    • You can also use a product called Cleansing Gel to do a deep clean of the cage. This cleaner contains stabilized chlorine dioxide and is safe for birds.[24]
    • Be careful when using a diluted bleach solution to disinfect the cage. Bleach is toxic to birds. So rinse the cage thoroughly after you use a bleach and water solution. Then, place the cage in the sun to air dry.[25]
    • Be certain the cage and bowls are free of any bleach smell before you place your bird back in the cage.

Part 3
Feeding the Lovebird

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    Give your bird high quality bird food. The right food size for your lovebird will be indicated by the image on the label of these bird foods. Look for bird food that has high quality seeds that are hulled and bound together with supplements that contain vitamins and minerals, such as pellet foods. The average lovebird should have 2-3 teaspoons of pellet or seed based bird food a day.[26]
    • You can also give your bird seed mixes. But keep in mind loose seed mix allows your lovebird to pick and choose what seeds it eats. Nutri-berries, Avi-cakes, and Pellet-berries require your lovebird to work to pry off a piece, so your bird is more likely to get a variety of seeds.[27]
    • Look for seed mixes from your local pet store that contain canary seed, millet, rice, oats, safflower and a small amount of sunflower seeds. Corn is often a big hit with lovebirds, as well as sprouted seed.[28]
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    Integrate fresh fruit and vegetables in your bird’s diet. Pellet foods and seed mixes should be given to your bird on a daily basis, but should not be the only food you give your bird as they do not provide proper nutrition. About 5-10% of your bird’s diet should be bite-sized fruits and vegetables.[29]
    • Give your bird healthy fruits like apples, grapes, berries, papaya, and mango. You should also feed your bird vegetables like carrots, broccoli, zucchini, squash, cooked sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens like kale and romaine.[30]
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    Feed your bird healthy treat foods. These include cooked whole grains, like brown rice, whole grain pasta, multigrain breads, and sugar free cereals. When you feed your bird fresh foods, make sure you remove anything in their cage that is uneaten so the food does not spoil. You should also wash the bowls in their cage before using them again.[31]
    • It’s fine if your lovebird shares many of the foods you eat. But limit her consumption of fried, greasy, sugary, and salty foods so she stays healthy.
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    Make sure your bird has access to clean, fresh water throughout the day. Do not give your bird tap water or unfiltered water. Most cages come with a water attachment so your bird has access to water all the time.[32]
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    Never give your bird alcohol, chocolate, or caffeinated beverages. These substances can kill your lovebird, even in small amounts.[33]
    • You should also avoid giving your bird avocados, rhubarb, asparagus, onions, raw legumes like beans and peas, and dairy products.

Part 4
Grooming and Training the Lovebird

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    Give your bird a bath once a week. Regular bathing is important for keeping your bird healthy and free of disease. If lovebirds are not bathed, their feathers can get ragged or dirty.[34]
    • Use a fine mist sprayer filled with water to shower your lovebird. Spray lightly a foot or two above your bird so the water droplets drift down like rain.
    • Do this a few times so your lovebird gets used to the “rain” and starts to preen and groom herself.
    • Some birds love to bathe and will happily hop into a small ceramic dish filled with water. Your bird may also splash around in the water for several minutes.
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    Dry off your bird well and keep her in a warm room. After each bath, make sure you give your bird a quick dry with a small towel and keep her in a warm room so she doesn’t get chilled or catch a cold.[35]
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    Decide whether to trim her wings every few weeks. This is not a required part of grooming your bird but will help to tame her. Wing-trims will also keep your bird from flying into ceiling fans, windows, and other potential hazards. Wing clipping is controversial, because clipping the wings alters the bird's flight which leads to "crash landings" and damage to the brisket area. It has largely gone out of vogue now, in favor of making rooms bird-safe and training the bird to come when called.
    • If you are uncomfortable clipping your bird’s wings yourself, you can talk to your vet about getting your bird’s wings clipped by a qualified professional.[36]
    • If you opt to do it yourself, you should have a trained professional clip your lovebird's wings for the first time so you can observe her as she trims. She should hold your bird in one hand while trimming with the other hand.[37]
    • She should only trim the first five to six primary flight feathers first. No cuts should be made high up on these long feathers. There are two layers of short feather that lay on top of your bird's longer flight feathers. The short feathers should not be cut during the trim. Instead, the professional groomer should trim about a quarter inch below them, only cutting the primaries. She should follow the angle of the upper, overlaying feathers so the trimmed wings rest nicely against your bird's body and do not irritate your bird by poking into her skin.[38]
    • You should also trim your bird's toenails to keep her feet normally shaped. This will help her grip on the perches in her cage and reduces the chance of her toenails snagged on clothing or fabric. If you are uncomfortable with trimming her nails on your own, let a qualified professional give her a nail trim.
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    Use bird-safe toys or create home-made toys. You can get bird-safe toys at your local pet store. You can also make simple toys with the plastic tops of pill bottles or soda bottles, wads of clean toilet tissue stuffed in a small box, or leaves and branches from safe plants like rose bushes, hibiscus bushes, and mulberry trees.[39]
    • Do not place a mirror in your bird’s cage as lovebirds will treat its reflection as a mate.[40]
    • Rotate the toys in your bird’s cage on a constant basis so your bird does not get bored of them. Replace any toys that are worn or damaged, as they can injure your bird.
    • Always introduce a new toy to your bird in a neutral location before you place the toy in her cage so she can get used to it.
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    Wash your hands before and after you handle your bird. Germs that your bird carries can be transmitted to humans, and vice versa, and this can cause serious illnesses for you or for your bird.
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    Take your bird out of her cage for play on a daily basis. Do this in increments of 30 minutes throughout the day to keep your bird well-socialized. Most birds enjoy hanging out on their owner’s shoulder, snuggling up to their necks, or hiding clothing like sweaters or scarves.[41]
    • When lovebirds get bored, they tend to chew on clothing and jewelry and pull off buttons. Protect your clothes when your bird is out of her cage by wearing clothing that do not pull. You should also avoid wearing any necklaces when your bird is with you.
    • There are “birdie necklaces” available made from bird-safe chain with small bird toys attached to the links that you can wear so your bird has something safe to play with.[42]
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    Train your bird to “step up” onto a perch in her cage or a toy. Do this by tapping on the toy and gently instructing her to step up. This training will help to control any territorial behavior, which usually occurs when your bird reaches sexual maturity. During this time, your bird may bite any object that comes near her nest area or the cage.[43]
    • Teaching her to step up will help her move away from her territory without biting and help her to calm down.
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    Speak softly and move slowly around your bird. Lovebirds are intelligent and sweet birds and tend to get along well with people. They can “talk” like other parrots, though they do not have extensive vocabularies. Engage your lovebird by talking in low tones and encouraging your bird to respond to you or repeat your words.
    • Birds can be scared to death. Frightening your bird can cause enough stress to harm and possibly kill her. Avoid making quick movements or loud noise around your lovebird.
    • Predatory animals such as cats, dogs, and ferrets should never have direct contact with your bird.
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    Take your bird to the vet on a consistent basis. Most birds will hide their illness until it is in an advanced stage. So it’s best to take your bird to your vet often so she can check for any early signs of illness or potential medical issues.[44]

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