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Living with a Lovebird ... Talking Ability ... Housing ... Diet ... Potential Problems
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Living with a Lovebird (and other Pets):
Lovebirds have the fun personality of parrots, with the advantage of being more manageable due to their small, compact size.
They are mostly known for their affectionate behavior towards their "chosen mate." They love nothing more than "hanging out" with their bonded mate (which can be his or her owner, or another bird). These little birds are truly devoted to their owners. This, however, may cause problems of jealousy towards other birds and other pets (including cats and dogs). These brave little beings will not think twice about attacking other birds much larger than themselves, even cats and dogs -- anybody indeed whom they perceive as rivals for your attention.
Most of them are true clowns, playing for hours at a time. They love hanging from their toys, resting in their birdie tents, riding on their owner's shoulder. Their most favorite place of all is usually their owner's shoulder; snuggling up to his or her neck or hiding in their sweaters. When they get bored, they are likely to chew on clothing and jewelry, and pull off buttons. So it's best to protect your clothes when you have your pet with you.
- To save your necklaces / jewelry from being destroyed and to protect your lovebird from heavy-metal toxicities, I recommend against wearing any necklaces when your bird is with you. Instead, you may want to consider a "birdie necklace" made from bird-safe chains with small bird toys attached to the links - this will keep your pet's attention off your clothing and, instead, they will play with the "birdie necklace" that you can carry around your neck.
Lovebirds are "cuddly birds" and love to snuggle into their lovie-tent - that's where they usually like to sleep. Lovebirds, and other "cuddly" birds - such as conures -- just love these "retreats" ...
If you are "handy," it's easy enough to make your own "lovie-tent" -- I would probably use a thick and warm "arm" section from an old jacket or coat (fake fur interior would be ideal), and hang it up in his or her cage. This would make a natural "tunnel" for him or her to climb into when sleeping time comes around. Please make sure to finish it nicely, without hanging threads that he could entangle himself into and possibly get strangled - this actually happened with my lovebird's mate. Always look out for loose threads. I personally would put my life at risk handling a sowing needle ;-) and prefer to buy his tents. Each lasts a few years.
I would also recommend being creative in the way you furnish his cage. I have a coconut in Solei's cage -- with a couple of "lovebird-sized" holes in it for him to crawl into; and he loves that one too. You can also get baby toys at garage sales very cheaply. Many of them also make great bird toys!
Lovebirds as Pets:
Provided lovebirds are well socialized, they make wonderful pets. They do require just about daily socialization though. Don't continue to ignore a lovebird and expect it to stay tame. That won't happen. It's a great bird for someone who REALLY wants a cuddly bird and is willing to provide daily interaction to his / her pet. It is difficult to tame an adult lovebird though, but if you come across a "throw-away" lovebird, please give him or her a chance. I have seen them develop into loved pets. However, the easiest way is to get them young and handfed.
What Species of Lovebirds?
Well-socialized lovebirds generally make the best pets. In the past, I have bred and handfed both masked/eye-rings and peach-faces and my personal experience was that I had to spend MUCH more time with the eye-rings (which includes the masked and Fisher lovebirds) to get them tame - and after all that, they wouldn't STAY tame. As beautiful and cute as they were as babies, and notwithstanding the amount of time I spent with them -- I was not successful in keeping any eye-ring lovebirds tame. This being said, I have heard of several people with masked lovebirds as pets and they insist that their blackmasked or fisher's lovebirds are wonderful pets. So my disability to keep masked lovies tame may have been the specific family / genetic traits of the breeding pairs that I had at the time. The obvious dedication by masked lovebird owners seem to support that theory. In fact, one web visitor sent me the below photos of her beloved pet blue-masked lovebird "Taco" who, to our deepest regrets, passed on recently.
Lovebirds and Other Pets in the Household:
I have owned cats, dogs and birds concurrently. I now have one handicapped cockatiel, Charlie -- who lives on a tray and our cat has free access to him, and in many years has shown no aggression whatsoever towards him. In fact, Charlie aka Cuddles flies off his tray at least once a day (whenever he gets spooked), and we find him on the floor when we come home after work -- and have found that the cat would never hurt him. You can train cats and dogs to behave around birds.
If you are considering a mixed household, please visit this website for information on how to do that. I have trained quite a few cats (including feral cats). It is surprisingly easy. By the way, our cat is SCARED of our lovebird. Don't tell anybody!
Lovebirds and Other Birds in the Household:
Many people believe lovebirds must be kept in pairs; however, I found this not to be true - provided you have time to spend with your pet. A single lovebird tends to be a better pet because it is bonded with you rather than to another lovebird. However, if you have little time to spend with your lovebird, you may want to consider getting him or her a mate. They are social birds and need interaction with another being. I found that they stay tame with you (provided you spend SOME time with him or her), if you manage to pair him or her up with another species. I successfully paired my lovebird up with a cockatiel. It took some time of keeping them in adjoining cages and slowly allowing them to interact outside the cage. But within a couple of months, they were a bonded pair -- and BOTH remained tame and friendly with me!
Lovebirds rarely talk, but there is a chance they may learn to mimic human speech if taught to at a young age.
Lovebirds are very active and require an appropriately sized cage. They require lots of toys and things to chew on and play with.
Lovebirds are extremely social birds, and there is debate on whether they should be kept individually. However, the consensus seems to be that they need social interaction, be it with their own species or a human companion, for their emotional as well as physical well-being. Without this interaction, daily exercise, a roomy cage, and many toys to play with, they may resort to feather-plucking or other behavioral problems. They love to take baths almost every day and may sun themselves after bathing in order to dry.
Potential Problems / Training and Behavioral Guidance:
Lovebirds are pretty easy to manage for most people. They are not as destructive and noisy as their larger cousins. If not properly socialized, however, they will discover their beaks as method of "disciplining us".
It really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established. There are few things to consider ...
- Biting: If not properly socialized, however, they will discover their beaks as method of "disciplining us". They can be very aggressive towards other animals (including birds), if they don't know them or are jealous of the attention they are getting from their favorite human.
- Noise: Lovebirds are very vocal birds, making loud, high-pitched noises that can be a nuisance. They make noise all day, but especially at certain times of day.
- Chewing: As stated above, lovebirds are also very active, and love to chew things. When they are let out of their cage, it would be wise to watch them carefully, and protect any furniture, electrical wiring or anything else that they could possibly chew on. They are not big chewers - as their preferred medium is "paper."
- Paper: They love to tear up paper -- especially when they are in the "mating" spirit -- which is all-year-round for birds kept indoors (not exposed to the seasons). I have learned not to keep important papers laying around - and even use it as a way to keep my lovebird busy.
Training and behavioral guidance is recommended ...
- AvianWeb Resources: I put together web resources for you to help you understand your pet bird and properly direct him. Please visit the following website to learn more about parrot behavior and training. If you found a way to resolve a "parrot behavioral issue" please share it with others.
Lovebirds can start breeding when they are as young as ten months of age and may continue until they are five to six years. They are very prolific and may produce several egg clutches within a single year. Due to this, they are usually readily available on the pet market.
During breeding season the behavior between partners will change: the male displays a more aggressive behavior, while the female begins preparing the nest. There are specific nesting boxes for lovebird-size birds, but if not available a cockatiel nesting box will do just fine. Samples of available nest boxes.
The female builds the nest and lays three to six eggs, which are incubated for about twenty-three days. The nestlings are cared for by the female until they leave the nest at about six weeks of age. The father then takes over the feeding of the young for another two weeks or so until they are weaned.
Lovebirds require a variety of food, such as high-quality pellets*, fruits, seeds, and vegetables. Birds cannot stay healthy on seeds alone. Mine eats with me (from my plate - I do eat a healthy diet), as well has being served a good quality seed mix. I also buy an organic unfortified seed/nut mix for variety. Better bird stores may also have high-quality bird mixes - similar to Dr. Harvey's - so it's a good idea to look around.
They also love millets and other healthy treats. Sprouts and fresh greens, such as spinach, are also extremely beneficial if not essential. *Please note: When feeding pellets to your pet, please be aware of the fact that overly feeding citrus fruits (including oranges) to your birds can lead to "Iron Overload Disease."
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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