A Home for You and Bird

By Susan C

Sharing a home with pet birds is more than a hobby—it is a lifestyle choice! As people move from home to home, they will look for features that would make la vida avian easier and more pleasurable for all: a cathedral ceiling to give a macaw more headroom, tile, or laminate floors for ease of cleaning and perhaps a separate room altogether for the birds.

How is the house situated? Look for southern exposure in northern climates, as the sun will help keep your home warm during the winter. In warmer areas, northern or eastern exposure is beneficial during the summer when the hottest rays come from the south and west. Have trees been planted to provide shade during the summer? These things make a big difference in terms of heating and cooling costs.

Is there room for your birds? It is easy to become enamored of a new model home or condo but take a moment and look at it from a birdkeeper’s point of view. Is there space for your pets in the living area, or will they be remanded to a spare bedroom where interaction with the family will be nonexistent? Is there a den, family room or enclosed porch or sunroom that can be used as a bird room? Take measurements of doorways and room dimensions and calculate how your bird furniture will fit inside. Does the potential bird room have a view of outdoors? Most pet birds love to observe the activity outside.

Is the dwelling ‘for the birds’? Tile, laminate, or hardwood floors are a plus, especially in the area where you are planning to house your birds. Hookbills have a penchant for stripping wallpaper from the walls. Opt for painted surfaces instead. Is the kitchen convenient to the bird area? Is there a pantry, closet, or enough cabinet space for bird supplies? Does the range hood over the oven vent to outdoors or does it simply blow cooking fumes back into the room? What kind of heating system is in place? Forced hot air can be dry (install a humidifier) and the heat dissipates quickly. Does the home have central air conditioning? If not, is there adequate wiring to support window air conditioners?

How does sound travel in the structure? Whenever I have moved, my birds spend the first few days in the new home vocalizing and becoming accustomed to the new acoustics.

Add a sound check to your house hunting checklist. Have your spouse or companion go into another room and talk in a normal voice, then go upstairs and talk and walk across the floor so you can see how easily the sound is transmitted. Curtains, area rugs and other soft surfaces can help muffle sound. If you are planning to remodel, you can add soundproofing materials or additional insulation to interior walls to further reduce noise levels.

High ceilings, skylights that can be opened for ventilation and plenty of screened windows are all nice to have when you share your home with birds. Give homes with central vacuum systems a second look. The benefits include less noise and no blowback of tiny particles as dust is contained in a canister in the garage or basement.

Is the building safe? Home inspections are the norm when applying for a mortgage but be careful to ask the engineer to check for problems that may affect your birds, such as mold and radon. If you are looking at apartments, are there businesses in the building? You may want to avoid buildings housing restaurants, dry cleaners, Laundromats, and pest control establishments due to increased risk of fire and exposure to chemicals. Avoid single family homes located adjacent to auto body shops (possible toxic vapors), restaurants (cooking fumes), nightclubs (noise at night) and other businesses that may produce noxious fumes or excessive noise.

Check local ordinances and condominium or homeowner’s association rules!  Ordinances governing noise and the number and size of pets permitted may be in place. Ask about them before you even look at homes or apartments in such communities. A friend who moved into a condominium in Florida told me that a neighbor was forced to rehome her African grey parrot because another neighbor complained that the bird ‘talked too much’ when it was out on the lanai! Imagine the reaction to a noisy Amazon parrot!

A friend on Long Island was forced to spend thousands of dollars on soundproofing when a neighbor complained about her macaw’s vocalizations, and another is at the mercy of a neighbor who regularly reports her to the authorities when he imagines she is added another bird to her flock.

Visit your future neighbors. Once you have found the near-perfect house, STOP! Before you sign any contracts, visit some of the residents in your future neighborhood. Introduce yourself, tell them you are thinking of moving into the area and ask if they have any objections to having pet birds nearby. Ask if there is anyone in their household who would be disturbed by occasional chirping, squawking, and whistling. Inquire about possible cranky neighbors. When you move in, introduce your closest neighbors to your birds. Hopefully, they will be captivated, and you will never have a problem. A friend who lives in a condo did such a good job that most of the people on her floor eventually got birds too!

Ask about other pets in the area. Pet friendly neighborhoods tend to be more tolerant of noise. I do not complain about my neighbors’ barking dogs and they do not complain about my birds. Before it was general knowledge that I had birds, a neighbor thought a child was lost in the woods behind his house because Cracker was hollering “Maaaaa! Maaaa!” at the top of her voice!

How is the security? Many thieves perceive exotic birds as valuable. Does the apartment building you are considering have a doorman or video security system? A gated community offers some additional security, but you will likely be subject to some strict homeowner’s association rules regarding noise. A monitored alarm system is a good method of protection and an experienced installer can calibrate it so that squawking birds will not set it off. In any case, choose a home where your birds will not be visible to passersby. Look for a house or apartment where you can locate the bird room at the back of the dwelling.

Is there a bird store in the area? Is there an avian veterinarian nearby? A great bird store less than half a mile away was an unexpected bonus when I purchased my home, and an avian veterinarian was located about two miles away. These benefits were pure luck, but in subsequent years, online sources became important for food and supplies.  Check local phone and Internet directories for services in the neighborhood you are considering, and check to see if there is a bird club in the area as well.

Moving day does not have to be traumatic. Arrange for your birds to stay with a friend if possible, until the move is complete. They can then come into the new home when the hubbub is finished, and their cages are all set up. If your birds will be present during the transition, place them in a room where activity will be at a minimum. Expect some posturing and vocalizing at first, as the birds become accustomed to the new environment and acoustics. Different traffic patterns and noises at night may trigger night frights in some species, so be sure to install a night light in the new bird area. Be cognizant that the sights and sounds of new wildlife may be unsettling at first. Kelly, my orange-winged Amazon freaked out when a small lizard got into the house in Florida…so much for being a rainforest species! Spend a little extra time with your pets following the move to reassure them that life has not really changed that much!

Building or Remodeling?

Specify that plywood or particleboard be sealed with paint or enclosed in Formica® or a similar product to reduce risk of formaldehyde fumes.

Use wall-to-wall carpeting only in bedrooms or in rooms where birds will not be present.

Choose a formaldehyde-free carpet or ask that the carpet and pad be unrolled and aired at the store for several days before installation. If this is not possible, have the carpeting installed prior to moving in, and arrange for the house to be aired out for a few days.

New tile floor? Consider installing radiant heating beneath the floor.