What’s it like to have lovebirds as pets?
That’s a question many prospective owners ask before they decide to take on one of these colorful, intriguing, and entertaining little birds as a family pet.
Lovebirds are a popular choice of pet with people who want an interesting companion, but perhaps rent a home where pets such as dogs and cats are not allowed.
In this article, we’ll answer the questions that are most often asked by people who are considering keeping peach faced lovebirds as pets, or other types of lovebirds, including:
- Do lovebirds make good pets?
- Are lovebirds friendly?
- What kind of cage does a lovebird need?
We’ll also talk about lovebird health and feeding. So, let’s dive right into the wonderful world of lovebirds!
Do lovebirds make good pets?
Many people who love the cocky, bold character of an Amazon parrot, but don’t think they can cope with a bird of that size, choose lovebirds as pets instead.
But, are lovebirds good pets?
Lovebirds certainly have lots of personality and can become very affectionate with people they form a bond with.
However, they can also be cantankerous, making them a better choice for someone who already has bird-keeping experience.
So, if you’re willing to learn how to look after pet lovebirds correctly, you may find that a lovebird makes an interesting and entertaining pet.
How long do lovebirds live for?
The average lifespan of a healthy pet lovebird that’s fed and cared for correctly is 15 to 20 years.
Now that’s some commitment!
Lovebirds are members of the parrot family.
They are native to the savannas and forests of Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar.
In fact, fossils have been found in South Africa of an ancient species of lovebirds, dating back some 1.9 million years!
If you live in the southwestern U.S., in San Francisco, or in some African cities, you may see flocks of feral lovebirds. These birds are probably escaped pets!
Lovebirds as pets live in cages or aviaries.
However, in the wild, lovebirds live in holes in trees, in dense shrubs, or in cavities in rocks. In cities, lovebirds will nest in crevices around buildings.
Wild peach-faced lovebirds in Phoenix, Arizona can often be seen nesting in giant desert cacti!
Lovebird personality is different from that of most other pet birds. It’s crucial that you understand their character before you decide to take one on as a pet.
Unlike cockatiels and parakeets, lovebirds can be aggressive and feisty. Many lovebirds won’t stay tame unless they’re handled every day.
The best thing to do is to begin with a hand-reared baby lovebird that’s fully weaned. Spend time each day handling your lovebird until he accepts you.
However, be aware that although tame lovebirds do love attention, they will quickly become biters if you don’t spend time maintaining your bond with them.
Should lovebirds be kept in pairs or groups?
All parrots, including lovebirds, are generally territorial and won’t tolerate birds of another species invading their space.
Even when kept with other lovebirds, cagemates can be very jealous, especially during the mating season.
Peach-faced lovebirds are the most notorious for angsty behavior.
While it’s true that a compatible pair of lovebirds will live happily together, a single lovebird can be happy alone, provided you dedicate lots of time and attention to him.
In fact, if you’re looking forward to building a bond with your lovebird, it’s best to keep a single bird. A pair of bonded lovebirds may not be as friendly towards you.
So, if you don’t want to handle your lovebirds, keep a pair. If you want to form a relationship with and handle your lovebird, keep just one.
Boy or girl?
When choosing lovebirds as pets, it’s well worth noting that males usually make better pets than females.
That’s because male birds tend to stay tamer than females.
Also, female lovebirds can become quite aggressive, especially when they reach sexual maturity.
Cages for lovebirds
Rectangular cages are generally better for lovebirds than cylindrical or square ones. That’s because a rectangular cage allows more space for flying.
As a general guideline, a cage for lovebirds should measure at least 30”Lx 18”W x by 18”H.
A larger cage is fine, but do check that the bar spacing is under ⅝” so that the birds can’t squeeze through and escape.
The cage should be covered at night to block out the light and allow the birds a good night’s rest.
Be sure to include several hardwood perches within the cage. Perches should be ¾”to 1 ½” in diameter to allow the birds to grip comfortably and securely.
You’ll also need to include one cement conditioning perch so that your lovebirds can keep their nails and beaks trimmed.
Do lovebirds need toys?
Lovebirds are intelligent and active birds.
As such, they need lots of toys to keep them amused or else they will resort to chewing other items within their cage, including food dishes, perches, and anything else within reach!
Lovebirds love to chew things!
For this reason, you’ll need to make sure that your pet lovebirds have plenty of hardwood toys to chew on.
Willow and manzanita toys provide a good challenge for lovebirds, but do be prepared to replace them frequently!
Toys to shred
Lovebirds enjoy shredding things. Breeding pairs will often use the shreds they create as nesting material to line their nest box.
Lovebirds love to sit on a swing, especially if they’re in a bonded pair.
Supply your lovebirds’ cage with a swing that’s wide enough to accommodate two birds so that they can cozy-up and preen each other while enjoying a swing … aww, cute!
To provide your lovebirds with something to chew that can’t be easily destroyed, it’s a good idea to buy them at least one bird toy that’s made from acrylic.
Acrylic is harder than wood and will last longer.
What’s a good diet for lovebirds?
Lovebirds can eat the same seed mix as cockatiels. However, seeds are like candy for lovebirds and should only be fed as a very small part of their diet.
Pellet foods and fresh foods offer better all-round nutrition than seed, and should form the main part of a healthy diet for your lovebirds.
It’s best to feed your lovebirds first thing in the morning when they’re hungry. Take out and discard any leftover, stale food in the afternoon.
Fresh foods that are safe and healthy for lovebirds include:
- Swiss chard
- Sweet potatoes
- Green beans
Lovebirds also enjoy cooked egg, and a little of this once or twice a week can provide useful additional protein.
Grooming and general care of your lovebirds
Although your lovebirds will preen and groom themselves (and each other if they are a bonded pair), there are a few care needs that you will need to provide for your pets.
Lovebirds do enjoy bathing! Provide your pets with a shallow bowl of fresh water (in addition to their drinking water) so that they can bathe when they want to.
Equipping your pets’ cage with a cement perch will help to keep their claws and beak from becoming too long. However, you may need to ask an experienced avian vet to trim them occasionally.
If you intend to allow your lovebirds out of their cage to fly free around your home, you may want to discuss wing-trimming with your vet.
Wing-trimming involves removing a tiny fraction of the bird’s flight feathers, preventing him from flying any great distance and lessening the chance that he might escape through an open window!
Lovebirds are generally pretty healthy. However, there are a few health issues that you should be aware of that can affect lovebirds.
If your notice your pet exhibiting any of the following signs, consult your vet right away:
- Poor appetite or not eating at all
- Depressed and sitting at the bottom of the cage
One condition that lovebirds are especially susceptible to is Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD).
PBFD is a highly contagious, viral infection that causes abnormal beak growth and feather abnormalities, as well as affecting the liver, brain, and immune system.
The disease is frequently fatal, and many birds succumb to the effects of secondary infections before the primary disease has run its course.
There is currently no cure for PBFD. For this reason, it’s essential that you have your lovebirds tested by a vet for the disease before you part with your cash and take your new pet home.
Polyomavirus is a viral infection of pet birds that affects many species, including pet parrots, finches, canaries, and chickens.
Lovebirds, especially young ones, are highly susceptible to infection. Adult birds can be carriers of polyomavirus without showing any symptoms of the disease.
The most common signs of polyomavirus are:
- Poor appetite
- Slow crop emptying
- Hemorrhage under the skin
Young lovebirds that are affected by these symptoms often die within 24-48 hours.
There’s also a second form of the disease where birds have poor appetite, become underweight and have poor feather condition.
Although there’s no known cure for the disease, it can be prevented through annual vaccination.
Lovebirds as pets – pros and cons
Lovebirds can live for up to 20 years so it’s essential that you make the right decision when opting to take on one or a pair of these charming little parrots.
Although lovebirds need less attention than a dog or even a cat, they still need daily handling if you want them to stay tame.
Even well-handled lovebirds are feisty characters! They can be inclined to nip so they may not make the best pets for children.
You’ll need a large cage or aviary to house your lovebirds, and that could be an issue if you live in a small apartment.
If you already have birds such as budgies or parrots, you won’t be able to house them with lovebirds. Lovebirds are highly territorial and won’t tolerate birds of a different species in their space.
Do love birds make good pets?
Lovebirds can make great pets, provided you know what you’re taking on!
Do you have lovebirds as pets?
We’d love to know more about your lovebirds, as well as any tips you have for living in harmony with these entertaining and characterful little parrots!
Tell us your story in the comments section below!
References and Further Reading
- Thompson, H. (2014). 14 Fun Facts About Lovebirds. Smithsonian Magazine.
- African Love Bird Society
- The Parrot Society UK
- Boseret, G. et al (2013). Zoonoses in Pet Birds: review and perspectives. Veterinary Research, 44.
- Avian Biotech, Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease.
- Avian and Exotic Animal Care, Polymarvirus Vaccination for Birds.