All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can pet birds live with working adults who are not home during the day?

Are there any bird species that will be contented if their keeper isn't home most of the time? I live alone and have a full-time job, but otherwise I am at home a fair amount of time, which includes being home on most weekday evenings. What would be enough? Many years ago, I took in a parakeet that I found and I thought it was too lonely so I got a second parakeet. After I got two, I couldn't take the noise (I don't remember the sexes) so I had to give both of them away.

Dear Gary,
Most birds are very social and don’t do well if left alone all day. They are true companion animals and not only desire, but NEED daily interaction with their people in order to thrive. The uninformed public considers birds to be nothing more than pretty little things to look at. But in reality, many birds are as intelligent as young children and crave activities and attention – and lots of both! Without this type of mental stimulation, birds will become destructive, noisy, may even begin to pluck out their own feathers, or worse.

There are a couple of bird species that don’t seem to be bothered by not having a lot of human contact. The first is the canary. Canaries can even be happy without having other canaries around. I would recommend getting a male because they have a beautiful little song that isn’t too noisy. Females will sometimes sing, but not as well.

Finches are very fun little birds too. However, finches do need to have a little buddy around. I recommend getting finches in pairs. They are perfectly happy to live without a lot of human contact. What chirping they do participate in is hardly noticeable. This makes them great pets if you have neighbors that are just a wall away.

Both species need large flight cages and natural perches. Steer clear of the machined, perfectly straight, sanded wood, or plastic perches. Most pet supply stores sell perches that look more like branches; they are uneven and rough in some spots. This type of perch is good for a bird’s feet.

Be sure to purchase a cage with bars that are spaced no more than half an inch apart. For exceptionally small finches, quarter inch spacing may be necessary.

Canaries and finches should have a natural diet with fresh fruit, sprouted seeds and veggies offered every day. High quality pellets are a good addition too. You can also include seeds in the daily diet, but try not to let this become their main source of food. Encourage them, as much as possible, to eat their fruits and vegetables. Seeds are generally the “junk food” of the bird diet. Of course, fresh water must be provided daily.

All pet birds need plenty of rest. Once it gets dark and you are done enjoying them for the evening, be sure to cover them up and keep them in a quiet place. Without a good sleep cycle, they may become stressed.

When you get up in the morning, assuming that is after the sun rises, uncover them and let them begin to enjoy their day.

Canaries live to be about 10 years, though my nieces had one that lived to be 17! Finches live anywhere from 5-15 years. For someone in your position, either species will be perfect for you.

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