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The Bird Exchange

5355 Hall Road

Santa Rosa, CA 95401

What is the best first bird to buy?

    For a pet go with a hand-fed baby cockatiel.  If you can’t find a hand-fed baby, an extremely young cockatiel is also a great choice.  They come in a vast array of colors and are just sweet and adorable.  They live 15-20 years, they’re affordable, they can talk and also love to interact with their owners.

    For breeding my choice would be your common parakeets.  They are very affordable, come in many colors, it’s easy to identify their gender, they’re quite prolific and even have talking abilities.  I find these inexpensive little birds allow the future breeder to practice bird husbandry and also be successful at breeding.

Can I paint my cage?

    Yes you can.  Look on the back of the paint can and see if it is safe for a human baby.  There’s usually a picture of a mom holding a child’s hand and instructions for painting baby furniture.  You cannot use Rustoleum.

What are the main things that are poisonous to my bird?

We start out with alcohol, chocolate, avocado, poinsettia, mistletoe, and oleander.  In older homes there is a chance that you have lead paint, maybe on the window sill where your bird likes to sit in the sun and nibble the wood.  Lots of plants are toxic, so call your local nursery for a list.  Burning a Teflon pan can kill your bird too.  This is just a partial list of the most common toxins.

Do we have to cut his wings?  He just loves to fly around the house.

Yes, we recommend it.  There is hardly a day that goes by that we don’t get a frantic call that someone’s beloved pet just flew off.  Most of the time their bird was just sitting on their shoulder and they forgot and went outside.  Also, the house is full of dangers - the open toilet, open hot pants on the stove, and even the fireplace.  Sometimes you can get a modified clip where you get a glide, but no lift.  At a minimum you should do that.  We groom birds at the Bird Exchange and our standard is to clip only the outside flight feathers on both wings.  If you clip only one side the bird will fly in a circle and fall, so please be sure that both sides are trimmed.

What is the best talking bird?

A lot depends on who you talk to and what their personal experiences have been.  I would place the top 5 in this order:  Mynah, African Grey, Yellow-Nape, Mexican Double Yellow Head, and the Chaco Blue-Fronted Amazon.  In over 38 years of working with birds I have seen excellent talkers in each of these birds.  If you want a good talking bird, start with a very young baby.  The closer the bird bonds with you, the more it wants to talk and please you.  I have seen birds that are not tame also talk, but being tame sure helps.  It’s best not to teach your bird to whistle as whistling is easier than speaking.  We once had a little parakeet given to us because the little elderly lady told me talked too darned much.  This bird was really fun!  We put a tiny microphone next to his mirror and we could hear his little voice.  By the way, he was not tame.

Why do birds need toys?

In the wild birds fly several miles a day, chew on branches leaves, bark, edible things and even scrape their beaks on rough surfaces.  This activity burns off tremendous amounts of energy and satisfies a bird’s psychological needs.  These daily routines even keep beaks and nails the proper length.  In captivity we put birds in small cages with smooth surfaces, deterring their natural ability to satisfy their needs.  Hence come the need for lots of toys to play with; bells, beads, rope, rattan, lava stone...anything you can think of that is safe to chew on.  What birds do best is CHEW and try to dismantle whatever you’ve given them.  Sometimes toys are made to destroy because it’s fun.  These are very popular with birds.  Your cage should have a couple of permanent toys and several new lower priced toys to just tear apart.  Whenever I’m going to be gone I have a supply of these to put in my bird’s cage to keep him busy, occupied, and happy during my absence.