Raising Children and Pet Birds in the Same Household

Are birds good pets with children? Can kids and pet birds get along?

We hear questions like these all the time. The short answer is “Sometimes.” Dr. Laurie and her caique, Elmo, talks about how she raised her kids with pet birds in the video below. Follow along for tips including…

  • Introducing your pet bird to a new baby
  • The types of birds that are best (and not recommended) for different aged kids.
  • How to get a pet bird to connect with children.

Video Transcript

Hi, I’m Dr. Laurie Hess, and I’m here with my pet parrot, Elmo. He is a caique. And I’m here to talk to you a little bit about having birds in the same household with children. I raised my children with numerous birds, including Elmo, and I definitely think that birds can be a wonderful thing for children to be around. They teach children empathy, respect and responsibility, and when done the right way, pet birds and children can be terrific in the same house. You have to do it the right way, though.

So whether you have a pet bird and you’re bringing a new baby in, which is something I’m asked about quite often, if you have that situation, you want to make sure that you make the pet bird, the existing bird, very comfortable when they see that new baby. So when the baby comes into the room, you want to teach that bird that that baby is something to be happy about and not something to be afraid of. So you compare the sight of that new baby with treats that the bird likes, something that the bird likes to chew on – a toy, for example – but make sure that in the presence of the baby, the bird is happy and excited about something, whether it’s food or toy.

Now, if you have children in your home and you’re thinking of getting a pet bird, that’s a very tricky situation in that you want to pick the right kind of bird. If you have very small children, I don’t like big birds as pets. As much as I like big birds in general, I don’t think they’re appropriate for households with small children because big birds have big beaks and they have long nails and they can inflict damage on tiny little fingers that reach into cages or they can cause scratches that can be quite painful and harmful. 

So I think if you’re thinking of getting a pet bird for a household with young children, say kids who are elementary school age or older, I don’t think I recommend pet birds for children who are younger than, say, young elementary school age. If you’re thinking of getting a pet bird for that age child, you want to think about getting something small, like a budgie, a parakeet or a cockatiel, and they’re great and they’re handleable. They can nibble like you see my pet bird here – Elmo’s nibbling my fingers – but they don’t really inflict damage. If you have an older child in your family, you can get a slightly bigger bird, and I do recommend caiques as my favorite kind of bird for families with slightly older aged children, maybe junior high school or above or even a later in elementary school an above, because they’re really fun, they’re gentle, they’re curious, they’re playful. These guys are known to be the clowns of the parrot family in that I could flip Elmo over and roll him around. He’s kind of behaving nicely now so I’m not going to upset him, but I do think that they can be a lot of fun.

Again, the thing is to try to raise the bird and the children together and always supervise their interaction, you can give the child the responsibility of providing the bird the bird’s food, providing parrot food and making sure that child knows that that’s his or her job. And you always want to make sure that you make the interaction between the child and the birds something pleasant. So allow the bird to be around the child in the presence of an adult at all times, but let the child take responsibility and provide the bird treats or bird food, something, or a toy, something that the bird is really going to enjoy and feel positive about. And of course, teach your children to be calm. Little children run around and they’re loud and they don’t mean to be scary, but they can be scary to a bird who’s not used to all that noise.

So when done the right way, I think parrots and children of all ages, if they’re supervised properly, can live very, very happily and have a lot of fun together.

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