Lovebirds as Pets

Kelly Roper
Peachface lovebird

If you love the bold personality of an Amazon parrot, but you're not sure you can deal with a bigger bird, a lovebird just might be the pet for you. Lovebirds have tons of personality, and they can be extremely affectionate with the people they bond with. They can also be rather cantankerous, so they're a better choice for someone who already has some experience keeping birds. If you're willing to learn how to care for them and don't mind the occasional nip to remind you that you might not be quite as in charge as you think you are, a lovebird makes an endlessly intriguing, albeit challenging, pet.

Lovebird Personality

Lovebirds are a little different from most pet birds, so it's important to understand their typical personality before you decide if they're the right species for you.

General Temperament

Lovebirds can make wonderful pets, but they tend to be more feisty/aggressive than a parakeet or cockatiel. Most of these birds won't remain tame unless you spend time handling them each day. It's usually best to start out with a hand-fed baby lovebird that is fully weaned, and spend some time talking to it and holding it while you gently stroke its feathers. Tame birds adore attention, but if you fail to make time for them, they can become nippy and may eventually refuse to let you handle them at all.

Singles or Pairs

The traditional perception of lovebirds is that they have to live in pairs, primarily because two bonded birds will sit close and preen each other. However, a single lovebird can live happily on its own if it has the opportunity to bond with its owner.

Pair of Fisher lovebirds

As a rule of thumb, two lovebirds that bond to each other may not be as friendly toward their human companion. If you want a lovebird to bond closely with you, it's usually better to keep one as a single pet. If you don't feel the need to handle your lovebird, consider keeping two together to prevent loneliness.

Aggression Can Be an Issue

Lovebirds are sometimes prone to aggression, so they shouldn't be housed with other species. They will often attack new lovebirds introduced to their cage as well, so it's best to let potential cage mates get used to each other in side-by-side cages before you try keeping them together.

Males Generally Make Better Pets

Although there are always exceptions, males tend to stay tamer than females. Females are the more aggressive sex of the species, and they often become quite nippy when they reach sexual maturity.

Housing a Lovebird

Every lovebird needs a safe, spacious home. The following guidelines will give a better idea of what your new pet needs.

Cage

According to Becker Animal Hospital, rectangular cages are best because they offer space for a lovebird to fly back and forth as it would naturally do if it lived out in the wild. A cage that measures 30" L x 18" W x 18" H is a good minimum size for one or two lovebirds, but you can go with a larger cage as long as the bar spacing is no wider than five-eighths of an inch.

Lovebirds need a good night's rest of about 10 to 12 hours, so cover the cage at night to block out light.

Perches

Peachface lovebird on a perch

The ideal size range for a lovebird's perch is three-fourths to one and one-half inches. It's best to use several hardwood perches that aren't easily chewed, as well as one cement conditioning perch to keep the nails and beak trimmed.

Toys

Lovebirds have quick little minds, and they're very active. They need a lot of toys to keep them busy, or they'll chew up inappropriate items like plastic food dishes and perches, and anything else they can reach.

  • Wooden toys: Lovebirds are voracious chewers, so always make sure they have plenty of wooden toys. Manzanita and willow toys offer these birds a good challenge.
  • Shredding toys: Toys made from yucca, coconut shell, and palm leaves are big favorites with lovebirds. A breeding pair will even use the shreds as nesting material for their nest box.
  • Swings: Lovebirds enjoy spending time swinging, and it's not unusual for bonded birds to share a swing.
  • Acrylic toys: Acrylic is very difficult for a lovebird to chew, so it's good to have at least one bird toy made from this material in your bird's cage so he'll always have something to play with when he shreds his other toys to pieces.

A Healthy Diet

According to the Lafeber Vets, lovebirds can eat the same seed mix as cockatiels, but seed should be a small portion of their diet. Fresh foods and pellet food provide better nutrition than seed, and should be the mainstay of a healthy diet.

Daily Portions

Offer your pet about two tablespoons of lovebird or cockatiel pellets, and one to two teaspoons of seed mix each day.

Feed approximately one-fourth cup of freshly chopped organic vegetables and a little fruit each day. Feed these foods first thing in the morning when your lovebird is most hungry, and discard any leftovers in the afternoon.

Safe foods include, but are not limited to:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Papaya
  • Peas
  • Sprouts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Swiss chard

You can also feed a little cooked egg a couple of times a week for additional protein.

Grooming

A lovebird's grooming needs are fairly simple.

Bathing and Routine Trimming

Lovebirds love to bathe and will often take a dip in their water dishes right after you give them fresh water. You can give your pet a separate bowl of water to bathe in if you want to try to save his drinking water. You may also need to have your avian vet trim your pet's toenails and beak occasionally unless you equip the cage with a cement perch.

Wing Trimming

Wing trimming is a bit controversial, but it can lessen the chance of your pet escaping if you give him time out of his cage. There's a delicate balance between trimming just enough flight feathers to hamper full flight, and trimming too many and causing your pet to crash and injure himself. For this reason, it's usually best to let your vet take care of trimming so it's done correctly.

Health Care

Three healthy masked lovebirds; © Farinoza | Dreamstime.com

Hopefully your pet will never have any serious health issues, but some routine veterinary care can keep things on the right track.

Veterinary Exams

Lafeber Vet recommends a complete work up on newly acquired lovebirds, followed up by yearly check ups. Birds that show signs of illness, such as staying on the bottom of the cage, not eating, acting lethargic, or any other abnormal behavior should be examined by an avian veterinarian immediately.

Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease

According to Avian Biotech, lovebirds are especially susceptible to Psittacine Beak and Feather disease (PBFD). This contagious, often fatal viral infection causes feather abnormalities and abnormal beak growth, but the disease can also affect the brain and liver, as well as suppress the immune system. Many birds often die from secondary infections before the primary disease runs its course.

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the disease, but scientists are trying to develop a vaccine. Testing for PBFD should be part of a lovebird's initial veterinary work up.

It's a Real Commitment

Spend time talking to breeders and getting to know their lovebirds before you decide whether to bring one home. These little parrots can potentially live 15 to 20 years if you take good care of them, so be sure you can provide everything your little pet will need to live a long and healthy life.

Lovebirds as Pets