Managing A Multiple Bird Household

Managing A Multiple Bird Household

 September 26th, 2013
Posted By:
Mel
IMG_2136

Galahs/Rosebreasted Cockatoos Merlin and Nemo, frantically eating bits of food on the birdroom floor while I try to sweep…

 

I caved to MBS (multiple bird syndrome) a long time ago. When bird people find out how many parrots I have, they promptly ask how I find the time to manage so many? I have 9 permanent flock members here and 1 long term rehabilitation case. That makes 10 tame companion parrots vying for my attention daily and they’re not the only animals here. Do the math, how many hours are there in a day and then consider that parrots need 10-12 hours sleep per night as a minimum… It’s a fair question to wonder how I manage to spend time with them all?

 

The answer is twofold. One part is my lifestyle. I’m lucky, most of what I do can be done from home, so I’m home most of the time, which does give me more time for the animals here. Secondly, it comes down to the dynamics of my flock, which allows me to create a workable routine.

 

IMG_1844

Rainbow Lorikeets on a playstand. Despite both being female, these two are very much a bonded pair – joined at the hip, they prefer to do everything together.

 

What do I mean by dynamics? I am referring to the way my birds interact with each other, with me and with whatever happens to be in their environment. There is one golden rule with my birds. EVERY bird here knows that they are a bird. None of them spend their time sitting on a perch waiting for me to come and play with them. They’re all reliant on me to give them something to keep them busy, but they aren’t reliant on me to be there with them all of the time. Independent activity is essential in my household and plays a big part in preventing my birds from displaying psychotic behaviour.

 

My birds also aren’t reliant on me for company. They are a flock and they constantly interact with each other. That’s not to say they all get along – they don’t. They all need their own space and I have to be very careful of who is let with whom. That said, if the cat dares walk past the bird room, I know that they’ll warn each other if they consider it a threat. They look out for each other and they definitely call for each other when separated.

 

IMG_2073

Two galahs are out, two are locked up. These four actually get along really well and are often out together but it depends what activities are available outside of their cages. In this case my elderly disabled galah is destroying a wicker ball that the two caged galahs want badly (despite there being one in their cage). They’d beat him up in a heartbeat if they were loose and yet I can trust the single female to leave him alone.

 

In fact, many of the birds actively prefer each other’s company to mine. That’s not to say that they’re not happy to come to me and spend time with me; even get a good cuddle or scratch but if they’re not in the mood for me they’ll make it quite clear that they’ve got things to do in their respective cages and I’m interrupting them.

 

IMG_2095

We are busy being birds, come back later…

 

This makes it somewhat easier to interact with so many birds. I tend to interact with the birds that are bonded closely at the same time. So for example I have a pair of bonded galahs (but I don’t breed) who are inseparable. I always have them out at the same time. I might be doing a training session with one on a t-stand but the other will be close by on a playstand watching and waiting for their turn to practice the same trick. Likewise, neither of my female rainbow lorikeets are happy to be out individually, preferring instead to bounce on my head simultaneously.

 

IMG_2085

Fid peeking out from under his covers. I control sleeping patterns by covering cages.

 

Which brings me to my routine. I admit I cheat a little. I cover my birds at night. Even the big aviaries get massive quilts or blankets thrown over them, blocking out light. This means the birds wake up when I want them to and it isn’t necessarily at the crack of dawn. Consistent sleeping patterns are important but not all of my birds share the same bedtime. Some of the birds I keep up later but on the flip side, I wake them up later in the morning too. So even though their bedtimes don’t match, they all still get the same amount of sleep. This gives me some extra hours in the evening for interaction that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

 

IMG_1855

Friendly and curious one moment…

 

Living with this many tame birds is a balancing act and I have to be wary of allowing certain birds out together. When you have multiples, it pays to know your birds’ personalities and how they treat each other. For example, my rainbow lorikeets last about 10 minutes before they look for someone or something to challenge. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be a blowfly or another bird – if it moves they’ll say rude things in parrot to it and demand a fight. My other birds actually aren’t aggressive back but the lorikeets are so full-on that allowing them out with the others is a risk I’m not prepared to take.

 

IMG_1940

Up for a wrestle??? (Personality trait that may explain why she was missing a toe when I got her…)

 

Otto my little Musk Lorikeet is the smallest in my flock and he just adores the largest bird here – my Blue and Gold Macaw, Fid. This is a problem because Fid adores dog squeaky toys (you squeeze them and they squeak). Fid doesn’t actually eat or destroy these toys but carries them around, occasionally delightedly making them squeak. Otto the lorikeet imitates that squeak sound perfectly. This means that Fid adores Otto but has a tendency to try to pick him up in his foot and squeeze him to make him squeak. I discovered this when I accidentally placed their travel cages too closely together at a vet checkup. I looked up to find Fid’s foot was in Otto’s travel cage holding Otto. Otto was obligingly squeaking while nuzzling Fid’s foot. No aggression there, but again it’s a risk I’m wary of, so they’re not allowed to get too close.

 

IMG_1975

Obsessed with my macaw, Otto breaks into Fid’s cage (fits through the bars) any chance he can get. Otto can’t be let out when Fid is in this particular cage.

 

Many would think that 10 parrots would be incredibly noisy. I’ve found the opposite to be true. I’ve actually found that as my flock increased in size, the screaming noises decreased but talking noises (both human talking and bird) increased. When I had fewer birds, they used to spend a lot of time screaming at the wild birds, trying to get them to come join them. Now, while they occasionally answer wild birdcalls, my guys no longer actively try to recruit wild birds to join them. Similarly, screaming for attention doesn’t tend to happen because they give each other attention. The lorikeets are the noisiest birds here; some of their play sounds are particularly piercing. If they get too loud, one of the other birds tends to crossly tell them to “Shutup” and surprisingly they seem to listen.

 

IMG_2119

Fid (still wet from a shower) is about to drop a bowl into the dishwasher – naturally it’s the one I just pulled out.

 

I incorporate the birds into my daily activities and chores. Every interaction is a training activity. Fid learned to play catch with food bowls because he has gotten into the habit of helping me stack/unstuck the dishwasher. Admittedly, this does make some chores take longer. (I remove a dish from the dishwasher, he snatches it and helpfully drops it back in…) I also usually have a bird around when I’m reading or working on the computer. Sometimes they’ll sit calmly on my shoulder, other times they’re trying to shove a foot toy in my nostril.

 

DSCF3777

i had coffee, my male eclectus Pepi had a foraging toy with almonds in it. They didn’t last long!

 

The biggest problem that I face as a multiple bird owner is finances. Feeding 10 birds is no easy feat. I buy in bulk and I get my vegetables direct from organic farmers, which means wholesale prices and some very scenic drives to get to different farms. One of the best things about the birdtricks diet is that it allows for you to make and freeze a decent sized batch of food. I also make a lot of my own bird toys, which is a great way of saving money. Vet bills are harder. My elderly galah in particular is expensive to keep – age related illnesses are unavoidable. I can and do take precautions to make sure my birds aren’t exposed to other birds, which at least reduces the risk of contagious disease. I’m meticulous about acting early when something does go wrong, so that it has less chance to spread.

 

IMG_2088

Renovating my birdstand so it is less slippery. I had “help” with this project.

 

Multiple birds aren’t something that is going to work for everyone. If you have too many birds to interact with, you will end up with aviary birds instead of tame ones. Sometimes I do look at people who only have one or two birds and feel some serious pangs of jealousy for all the extra time they must have. That said, I couldn’t imagine my life without every bird that is here. As long as I have a supply of chocolate in the house and remember the rule that when it comes to parrots, you get back what you put in – my household while completely insane, still remains fairly harmonious.

Facebook comments:

Add New Comment





10 Comments on “Managing A Multiple Bird Household”

Gaby van der Giessen  10/03/2013 11:30 am

Hi Mel, I love your posts; you make me laugh. Whenever I see a post from you, I drop everything and read it. Keep including the pictures of your birds; I love to see them and your captions are priceless. I have a green cheeked conure and love him. As a baby he was pretty nippy, but now that he is 6 years old, he is mellow. Occasionally he forgets himself and then he says, ‘No bite”.


karen Pettersen  10/03/2013 12:44 pm

i have 2 macaus, 1 cockato, 6 cockotiel, 3 parakeet, 5 doves, plus 4 dogs, ( 2 labs 1 yorkie and chihuahua) and all family helps and interacts with all of them, so none of them get bored


robin russak  10/03/2013 6:47 pm

hi there

yes, mine is a food escapee!
i have a galah which is 20 1/2 years old & also disabled! she plays so hard with her kong, she fell a few years ago & really hurt her ankle/foot. now she really does not know she is hurt but i have also changed/ raised the floor of her cage so she cant fall more than a few inches, but she only comes out of the food

i sooo want to know what fresh leaves & branches you have in their cages, i never thought of that & so welcome that idea

right now she has too many toys in her cage, & those branches would compensate for some of the toys which sometimes get in her way but shes very possessive of them
thanx for all your posts & expertise to all
robin, boo, & little pokey too!


Cynthia Nall  10/03/2013 6:55 pm

I have 11 birds. 2 big macaws, 1 mini macaw, 4 cockatoos(umbrella,citron,goffins,moluccan) Patagonian conure,2 double yellow-head amazons( 58 yrs old and both their legs and feet broken by abuse) and a hawkhead parrot.. They are all on their play perches, which I built myself, during the day with toys of course, which I also made, and in their bedroom at night for their 10-12 hrs. Yes, there is work and vet bills can reach the stratosphere but the joys are endless and there is so much more you have to think about than with dogs and cats but it is so much second nature now, its like “ok repairman you can do the repairs but you can’t grind,saw,sand or anything else in the house that will disturb my birds, and don’t look at me like I’m crazy”. The only people that understands a bird owner is another bird owner.


stacey  10/03/2013 7:29 pm

I have just one parrot, a Red Lored Amazon Parrot named Ginger. I would love to get another similar sized parrot, but I’m afraid they would make too much noise and we’d have to move. Is it true that teo birds of same speices (ex. Two Amazons) are noisier than say a ‘zon and an African Grey?


MARK. Mueller6666  10/03/2013 9:34 pm

Thanks for a great and informative advice on looking after my birds I have two masked love birds which are so easy to look after. I also have a 4-5 year old Alexandrian (female) parrot she brings me joy that money could never buy. 3 years ago I was sitting on my balcony when I heard a loud racket as I turned to look what the noise was about as I turned around this great big Alexandrian parrot had sat itself on my shoulder ive had her ever since nothing could seperate us now. I love her so so much. Mark. …


Susie West  10/03/2013 9:37 pm

Hello, I have 12 parrots, a B&G Macaw Female, (Jasmine) Greenwing Macaw Male,(Indy) 2 Solomon Island Eclectus, Male (Hemmingway) Female (Olivia) African Grey Female,(Corkie), Blue Headed Pionus, Male (Gizmo), 2 Female Lovebirds (Sweetpea & Pebbles) 2 Parrolets, Male (BooBoo )& Female (Buttons) 2 Tiels Male & Female (Wilbur & Wilma). I Have 2 parrot rooms, one for the big parrots & one for the small parrots. They all have play centers on top of their cages & next to their cages along with boings hanging from the ceiling next to their play centers. They all get to come out in the mornings & play for several hours & play with me, they go back in their cages early afternoon & I let them back out about 5ish for several more hours of fun time, they all go nite, nite about 9ish.
I love every one so much, I spend a good hour every day cleaning, I don’t think of this as work, I really enjoy doing this especially when Gizmo goes & gets his pellets & puts them in my hair laughing the whole time. Jasmine & Indy love riding on my back as I clean their cages popping my Bra & laughing! Sweet Pea & Pebbles look forward to hiding in my shirt everyday! My adorable Corkie loves sitting in the kitchen with me while I cook their Bean Cusine, cutting up Fruits & Veggies. Hemmingway & Olivia enjoy sitting on me while I’m working on my computer. The Tiels love watching TV with me, as well as the Parrolets.
About half are rescued from horrible conditions and are loving a wonderful life now. We truly are a very happy Family, I cannot imagine my life without them ;)


Gina  10/03/2013 10:25 pm

Part of me didn’t want to post this and the other did lol. I started out with one cockatiel and my dad decided he needed a friend. I now have a total of 30 tiels, 5 of which were bought but two were bought for my sister and her husband had me take them. “Birds are dirty” ok I admit they can cause a mess but that doesn’t give the right to kick them out. Anyway… they’re happy and content in my flock. The rest of the birds are from my original two plus another couple and grandchicks. I also have two lovebirds, two ringneck doves, a mookee pigeon, two parakeets and a green cheek conure. Yes they are a handful, but I let them out two to three times a week (or try to) for 5- 6 hrs. They seem fine with it. Because of my work schedule they can’t be out any more frequently then that. Also when I do let them out they just socialize in my room lol. I don’t ever plan to add any more birds, but sometimes some of the girls are just INSISTANT, even without boxes, on being moms. I don’t have the heart to take their eggs unless they get damaged. Those eggs rarely survive, but when they do I somehow find time to hand feed the chick and take care of it. I’ve tried leaving them alone but with no box and new moms the babies won’t survive. Found one that fell through the grate of the cage once and was sitting in the tray half dead. Was able to rescue her.


Barbara Shelton  10/04/2013 3:31 am

I didn’t set out to get a bunch of birds but but for various reasons that\’s the way it turned out. Because I’m in my 80′s now I don’t add any and I’m down to five. Twenty years ago it was about 30 but many were small and short lived. I don’t have to turn on the TV to keep them from getting bored. The male macaw is the self appointed policeman. He informs me if someone is out of their cage or a light is left on or he thinks it’s feeding time. They have come from different backgrounds and have different words which they teach to each other. Recently I took out a pool table and added some patio type furniture, a few fish bowls, fresh plants, a water fall and classical music. It just doesn’t get any better. I have a builder and a painter working on the other side of a glass door for two weeks and it doesn’t bother them at all. Twice I mistakenly locked a cage door with the chihuahua in there looking for a grape or piece of apple. They are so used to being in the same large room they entertain themselves and each other I don’t think any of the would be happy being the only bird. They are like a big family with many kids who don’t mind waiting in line for food or a bath. I used to have five who sang and danced together but over the years they are down to three.


Marilyn Hoyt  12/30/2013 9:59 pm

Wow, Barbara! I am 80 and I can’t imagine caring for all those birds. I would love to help you cuddle them tho. I just have 2 Sun Conures, that I love so much.