Birds are an incredibly common pet due to their colorful plumage, high intelligence, and adorable chirps. However, considering these animals are known to fly for miles in the wild, many have questioned whether it’s cruel to own them as pets where they are contained in cages for the majority of their lives.

It is not cruel to own a bird as long as it is provided with all the necessary resources for a fully enriched life of the highest quality. It’s also essential to acquire any bird from a reputable source rather than an animal trafficker or the wild.

There are certain circumstances where it can be cruel to own a bird as a pet, so it is important to know how to best create a cruelty-free environment for your future or current birds. Moreover, there is a solid argument that owning birds is not only unethical but it is also cruel. We will discuss all of this in detail for you here.

Is it Cruel to Own a Pet Bird?

The overarching answer to this question is no. While birds are not domesticated animals, humans have owned them as house or farm pets for centuries.

When done right, pet birds can have a life that is equally or closely fulling to that in the wild, as pet birds receive protection from predators and all the essential resources for their survival and contentment.

However, this is not to say that every pet bird lives a cruelty-free life. As an owner, you should certainly take measures to ensure your animal is living the best life possible while in your care. And these measures don’t just start when you first bring your new pet home.

Making a Cruelty-Free Bird Environment

Birds can make fantastic pets for enthusiastic owners as they are intelligent creatures with unique personalities and are capable of bonding profoundly with their flock members – including you.

Sadly, many people will purchase these exotic-looking animals and keep them in cages as some form of decoration rather than a pet. This is a quick way to subject your bird to a life of animal cruelty, in addition to other forms of neglect, whether they’re intentional or fueled by ignorance.

To ensure you don’t subject your bird to similar injustices, here are the crucial ways to ensure your bird is living a cruelty-free life as your pet.

Research Your Bird Beforehand

Before you even set foot into a store or shelter, you need to research what type of bird you want to own thoroughly. This will allow you to find the most reputable source to locate the species and have everything ready for your new pet when you bring them home.

How a Bird’s Care and Lifestyle Will Impact Your Life

In addition to being prepared and informed, another reason you want to research your bird ahead of time is to ensure its needs and lifestyle are a good fit with your own. Caring for a pet bird goes beyond buying a cage and bird food.

Many people are misinformed about the level of care any bird species requires. Even the smallest and most common choices need a vast number of toys, socialization, and exercise, along with a diverse and enriching diet.

This isn’t even considering the amount of noise these feisty and chatty creatures make. As a result, far too many owners decide they don’t actually want a bird after week two of bringing it home, and they choose to bring it to a Humane Society, or worse, release it into the wild.

Both of which are cruel as these are living beings, not toys you return when you no longer want them.

For this reason, we strongly urge you to research what it’s like to own a bird and which bird is best for you so you and your bird are set up for success.

Purchase Your Bird from a Reputable Source

You don’t want to purchase your bird from just anywhere as it can lead to you feeding into some substantially detrimental issues for and surrounding your bird.

There are three main concerns regarding where you purchase your pet bird. Does the source rely on or support any of these three cruel situations:

  • Animal trafficking
  • Breeding mills
  • Excessive confinement

Knowing where your bird comes from can help ensure it is a healthy animal that has been treated humanely throughout its life.

How to find a Reputable Source for Your Pet Bird

Some of the best places to find healthy birds that are treated with the proper love and care include:

  • Animal Shelters and Humane societies: rescued or surrendered birds are often found here. Bird rescue groups will offer lost pet birds or rescued birds that can’t return to the wild.
  • Certified Bird Breeders: always do your research to guarantee they are legitimate and safe.
  • Specialty Birds Stores: they’re more likely to take better care of the birds than the average pet store.
  • Pet Stores: be sure to ask for the bird’s history first and choose a store where the birds are handled frequently and permitted outside of their cages.

Consider these factors below when researching the location your wish to purchase your bird from to ensure they are humane and cruelty-free.

Dangers of Wild Caught Birds

It is cruel to keep a wild-caught bird in captivity since it has previously lived in a natural and wild environment. Purchasing wild-caught birds is bad practice because:

  • It’s damaging to the bird. The bird will find the transition to captivity extremely stressful to the point of it being mentally, emotionally, and physically damaging.
  • It encourages more capture. Buying a wild bird supports the industries that sell these animals and maintains the demand for this undesirable market.
  • It severely affects that species’ natural population. As these industries increasingly kidnap birds from the wild for public sale, it reduces their numbers in their nature.

Don’t support a source that promotes the capture of wild birds.

Luckily, if you’re based in Europe, there are quite a few regulations in place to protect animal health, including the welfare of imported birds. So, you’re quite lucky if you live within one of the EU countries.

Dangers of Bird Mills

If you’ve heard of puppy mills before, you already know what bird mills entail. Many people don’t realize that bird mills even exist, let alone that the pet they currently have could be from one.

Bird breeding mills are extremely cruel locations where hundreds of birds are excessively bred and kept in poor conditions so companies can maximize the profit of their sale.

Not only are the birds treated terribly, but they are often so horribly and excessively bred that they’re overtly unhealthy from disease and poor genetics. This could cause lifelong problems or a significantly reduced lifespan.

Dangers of Excessive Containment

Another common issue, particularly with some pet stores, is that the birds you see in cages on display are solely taken out, and therefore, excessively confined.

Birds are volant creatures that need to fly for the sake of their physical and mental health. Keeping them confined to a cage, particularly one that is too small, is cruel.

So, if you’re buying a new bird, make sure to ask the owners how frequently they allow their birds to fly outside their cages. If the answer is “never” or “rarely,” – this isn’t the place for you.

The issues that come along with excessive containment is something that many types of birds have to face – not just the ones we keep place in a pretty cage.

Ducks and geese that are reared for live feather plucking endure some of the worst living conditions there are. So if you’re considering making a hefty investment in a down product anytime soon – please read this first: How to Tell if Feathers are Cruelty-Free?

Give Your Bird the Resources it Needs

This is probably the most critical element of whether your bird is living a cruelty-free life or not. Once you know what bird is right for you and you have a reputable and safe location picked out to purchase your bird from, you want to have all the resources that the bird needs to live a fully enriched life before bringing it home.

Essentials for a bird include:

  • An appropriately sized cage: should be at least one and a half times the width of its wingspan.
  • A complete and diverse diet: 50-70% bird pellets, 30-50% fresh foods (mostly vegetables), 10-20% fruits, nuts, and seeds.
  • A variety of toys: provide a significant number of foraging and shredding toys for stimulation.
  • A companion: birds are flock animals, and so, socialization with another bird is key to mental and emotional health.

These are the basics of what any pet bird needs. But there are other elements you need to consider – such as cage placement, human interaction, and extensive flying time outside their cage.

Researching bird enrichment is a great place to start when ensuring you have everything your bird needs and are providing them the highest quality of life.

Ethics of Owning a Bird

We support the idea that it is not cruel to own a bird – given you acquired it from a cruelty-free source and:

  • It was not wild-caught or bred from a mill; and
  • It is given all the appropriate resources and elements of bird enrichment to ensure it is cared for properly.

As we mentioned previously, birds are not domesticated animals, and therefore, not suited to living in confined spaces as pets. You could allow your bird to fly around your home 24/7, and it still wouldn’t match the amount of enrichment and exercise it would receive in the wild.

Captive birds certainly receive perks, such as safety from predators, easily provided resources, and, in the proper care, a longer lifespan. However, nothing provided in the best aviary in creation can genuinely match the experience of living in the wild.

Captive birds often need intensive care, attention, and resources to be kept content as their intelligence and need for socialization easily results in cases of depression, anxiety, and stress when these needs aren’t met.

Most people who believe owning a pet bird is cruel and unethical suggest that just because we have the ability to keep an animal captive – does not mean we should.

However, not all practices involving birds are as cruel as you might think. Take falconry, for example. In most cases, this sport is not only ethical, but it also helps falcons improve their hunting skills once they are released back into the wild.

If you want to learn more about this, read on here: Is Falconry Cruel?

Final Thoughts

Keeping birds as pets can be mutually beneficial for both parties. The owner has an incredible pet to interact with and love, while the bird is given a safe environment filled with enrichment for a long and healthy life.

While one could argue it is unethical to own a pet bird, it certainly is not cruel as long as they are acquired safely and given the proper care. Always research what these animals need before being a pet owner. You need to do everything you can to guarantee your beloved pet is living a cruelty-free life.

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