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Small Squawk: Lovebirds—Big Personalities Need Big Cages! by Lisa Bolstad

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Anyone who is owned by a lovebird can tell you that these pint-sized birds have enormous personalities, personalities that require large amounts of enrichment and space. Most people are aware that the medium to large parrots need sizeable accommodations, but many bird owners don’t realize that small parrots, such as lovebirds, budgies and parrotlets, need the same consideration, perhaps more so.

Small birds love to fly. My macaws would walk a mile before it would even occur to them that they might fly the distance. They can fly. They just don’t. They will sit on their play stands and flap like they’re going to South America, but if they want to come see me in the next room, they climb down and waddle across the floor. My Cape parrot, Oshie, loves to hang upside down, flap, twirl, peck and shred. He’s a strong flyer, but he flies only to get to another location. There is a purpose to his flying, usually involving the torture of another bird.

My lovebirds, on the other hand, fly not just to get somewhere, but for the sheer joy of it. I have watched them stand on a railing one floor up, step off the edge and drop several feet before catching themselves halfway down and soaring through the house. Then they’ll do it all over again. They are good fliers; they can stop on a dime, turn, drop and maneuver like fighter jets. It’s a joy to watch them. They live in a double-sized flight cage and zip back and forth like torpedoes through water. The thought of them stuck in one of those tiny parakeet cages (that should be outlawed except as travel-carriers) makes me feel sick.

For what they lack in size, small parrots make up for in personality and confidence. The goings on in Lovebird Manor (our family nickname for the lovebird flight) are more shocking and enthralling than anything the Kardashians have to offer. There is love, infidelity, thievery, arguments, mad partying, mass destruction and an abundance of heart-melting cuteness. Twinkie, the oldest, has one foot and can beat the snot out of anyone in the flight. Fergus used to live with Twinkie, but now loves Jelly Bean, the home-wrecker (though occasionally he still visits Twinkie). Newton and Mya were slumming it in a Guinness box on the bottom of the flight until Mya started laying eggs. No chance the eggs would hatch as Newton promptly ate them, but the slum-box had to go as we didn’t want Mya getting egg-bound. Ollie, the baby of the flock and her sister, Rigby, live in the penthouse – a hanging wicker basket full of foot toys. Sherbet, second to the youngest, has recently started an affair with Twinkie, the one-footed cougar bird. Sometimes I will sit in a chair with a cup of coffee and just watch the shenanigans.

When I’m feeling especially brave, I will bring all eight of the Lovebird Manor residents out at once. Our enormous American bulldog runs for cover. He’s not as open to being ridden as was our sweet old boxer, Inga. We lost Inga a couple of years ago. She laid down and died in front of Lovebird Manor. We are certain the inhabitants greatly mourned the loss of their horse.

When the lovies are all out as a group, they zip around the room, darting here and there, stopping only for brief rests on a curtain rod or someone’s head. Occasionally, they will also pause long enough to punch holes in a paperback book, or try to sneak a sip of human beverage (soda, wine, beer, black coffee) which is strictly prohibited. They don’t want water. They want what they aren’t supposed to have. They are renegades, explorers and adventurers. They need time and room to express themselves. They also need to be closely monitored because they are more full of themselves than Kanye West and often need to be protected from harm. There isn’t a lovebird out there who doesn’t think he or she can take on a green-winged macaw.

Remember that as much as a larger parrot needs room to play, flap and do gymnastics, the little birds have as great a need to fly. A wider cage is a must for them and, as with all parrots, time out of cage is essential. If you must have your little bird wing-trimmed for safety reasons, do the most conservative trim possible. A properly done wing trim will slow them down a bit, but still allow them to do some lateral flying at furniture height.

Take some time to evaluate how you house your small birds. Do you currently keep them in a cage that looks something like this?

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If the answer is yes, please buy your mini-parrots something more like this:

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or this:

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You can use your old, small cage as a carrier, or you can take it out in the backyard and smash it with a hammer. Either way, your little guys will thank you!

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