Why Choose A Lovebird?
Depending on the species, owning a parrot is expensive and time consuming. However, it's also an investment in your well-being and usually results in a new, rewarding relationship between you and your bird. If you're afraid to dive into the world of birds like I was, a smaller species is much less intimidating. Cockatiels, green-cheek conures, lovebirds, and parakeets make for a pleasant, less demanding introduction to the hobby. These are also good choices for apartment living because they are not as noisy as larger birds and take up less space. My favorite happens to be lovebirds.
Hand Fed or Parent Raised
It's surprising how endearing lovebirds can be. These little guys are packed with as much personality as larger species. Both hand-fed and parent raised lovebirds are relentless in their quest for adventure. They are bold, playful, and willing to investigate everything in their world. Hand raised individuals trust people in general and are quick to form a lasting bond with new owners. Breeders are easier to locate than you think, and a well adjusted baby is often available at a nearby bird expo or specialty pet shop.
Parent raised lovebirds are sold at large, chain pet stores and some small shops. These birds can still make loveable pets, but require patience from their new owners. They need to be shown that people are worth trusting, a challenge for anyone who has never owned a bird before. It's difficult to draw these birds out of their shell, but just as rewarding when successful.
Choosing between the two depends on local availability and the amount of time you would like to spend taming an individual. Both hand fed and parent raised lovebirds can make excellent companion pets. Lovebirds crave social interaction and soon warm up to owners who show they are trustworthy.
Lovebirds adore conversation. While they don't have the vocal capacity of an Amazon parrot or African grey, they are adept at communicating with their owners. My own lovebird, Bonnie, has learned to bark, whistle, and growl in addition to her boisterous chirping. She barks when she wants to be petted or snuggled, she whistles to show she'd like to be involved in what I'm doing, and growls while fluffing her feathers when I am too close to her "nest" during a hormonal period. She asks to be let out by running her beak up and down the bars of her cage, and shouts an alarm call when the dog comes too close. She surprises me every day with her ability to communicate what she wants.
Lovebirds are extremely active. They constantly want to be in the middle of the action. Even parent raised birds seem to immediately enjoy being on a shoulder wandering around the house with their owner. Though they remain wary, a shoulder ride is far too interesting to resist and can help build trust.
Because of their small size, lovebirds make great pets if you're short on space. Your bird will require less food and smaller toys, and storing these items won't require large, bulky bins. Though lovebirds require a large cage, relative to their size, you're still only looking at a piece of furniture with a footprint of approximately 18 x 18 inches.These little guys also make smaller messes, which means cleaning up is a breeze.
This small parrot is quite affordable. Some breeders will sell a well adjusted lovebird for as little as $30, which is what I paid for Bonnie at a bird expo. Their price in pet stores ranges from $60 to $150 depending on species and coloration.
Lovebirds require all the care of their larger cousins. You'll be buying a quality food, a mineral supplement, several toys, cage litter, perches, and other miscellaneous items. A sturdy, quality birdcage is important part of lovebird safety. Every lovebird I've owned has figured out how to open the standard slide-up doors on low end cages. Be sure to get a home your bird can't escape unsupervised. I have lost many books to clever lovebirds looking for something to shred while I'm at the office. A good cage will cost between $100 and $250, but it will keep your bird (and possessions) intact.
Lovebirds are high energy birds. They need good nutrition to keep them active and healthy, however, they are known to be picky eaters. If not exposed to a variety of food during weaning, they will stick to what they are familiar with: seed. This makes it difficult to get parent raised lovebirds eating a decent pellet-based food. The ideal lovebird diet is a staple pellet, some seed, with fresh fruits and veggies varied from day to day. Pellets cost more than seed, but have a much higher nutritional value. Expect to pay between $11 and $18 for a bag of food marketed for cockatiels, conures, and other small hookbills. These small bags will last a few months.
A Bird Toybox
A variety of toys is important for your lovebird's well being. These birds are clever and get bored easily, which can contribute to behavior issues if they are left alone for too long. Because bird toys are somewhat expensive and lovebirds are determined to destroy whatever new thing comes into their cage, many owners end up making their own out of miscellaneous items from around the house. Paper towel tubes, scrap fabric, junk mail, twine, and keys are just a few things a lovebird enjoys tearing into that won't cost you anything.
Once you have acquired a small collection of durable toys, you should trade them in and out of your lovebird's cage to keep things interesting. Having the same old toy hanging in the cage year-round is almost as boring as no toy at all. Supplement these with toys that can be destroyed (handmade or store bought) regularly to keep your bird busy.
Cage Litter and Liners
Cage litter is an option. It does make weekly tray cleaning easier, but it's not a necessity. Low cost liners and litters can include newspaper, old magazines, phone books (you finally have a use for one), plain popcorn (popped), and vermiculite. Because I'm too lazy to pop popcorn each week, I buy a giant bag of vermiculite from a garden nursery store for $11 and it lasts through the year. Popcorn is a safer and cleaner option if your bird has direct access to their cage floor. You don't want her eating vermiculite!
Lovebirds require maintenance on their beak, nails, and feathers. Giving them access to good toys and a variety of perches should take care of most if it with little effort on your part. It's up to you about whether you'd like to keep your bird's wings clipped or left alone. Clipping a new bird's wings definitely assists in taming, but you can always let them grow out later. I keep my birds clipped because they tend to get big egos if left flighted. A lovebird with a big ego likes to assert ownership over much of the house, which leads to territorial biting and other issues.
The Choice Is Clear
Overall, lovebirds are a good introduction into the world of parrots. Their size, affordability, and personality makes them a great compromise for those of us without the space or finances for larger species. They can become entertaining companions and a treasured part of your family.