How To Safely Introduce A New Bird To Your Flock
You might be planning to introduce a new bird to your home in hopes of giving your current bird a feathered friend. In many cases, this desire comes from the guilt of not being able to provide your bird with enough attention, and now you want another bird to help fill that “void”.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but things might not work out like that.
In fact, your current bird could perceive any new birds as intruders!
I believe BirdTricks said it best in their podcast episode on this topic:
“You can’t buy your kid a best friend anymore than you can buy your bird a best buddy”– BirdTricks
However, with enough time and patience, two well-behaved, sociable, and friendly birds of the same species have a good chance of eventually getting along…
Or at least tolerate each other’s existence in the same household.
But before you can introduce a new bird to your bird, they must go through a vital quarantine period.
How To Effectively Quarantine Your New Bird
By 2023, I’m sure most of us are aware of how quarantines work.
Luckily, it’s not as bad for our birds as it was for us humans.
Isolating a new bird from the rest of the flock is absolutely critical to preventing your birds from catching diseases. Pet stores, breeders, rescue birds and even birds from other homes can easily bring a foreign illness into your home and spread it to your flock.
To properly quarantine a new bird, you must ensure:
- They can’t have physical contact with your flock
- None of their dander, feces, or feathers can reach your birds
- They aren’t breathing the same air as the rest of your flock
That last one might seem a bit extreme, but plenty of avian illnesses spread through the air.
If you have a two-story house, keep the new bird and your existing bird(s) on different floors for an effective quarantine. If this isn’t possible, the next best thing is to keep them on opposite ends of the house.
The main idea is to keep them as far away from each other as possible during the isolation period.
Quick Tip: Feathers, dander, and poop particles can attach to you after handling your new bird. To help prevent your birds from getting sick, interact with the new bird last or change your clothes before handling your other birds.
How Long Should You Quarantine A New Bird?
An avian vet article on PetMd.com suggests that newly adopted birds should be quarantined for at least 1 month before being introduced to the flock.
1 month of isolation is the minimum, but the vet continues and says an ideal quarantine period for new birds is actually 3 months.
It’s certainly a long time…
But you can use that time for taming, training, and building a bond away from your other birds.
There’s also plenty of time for that crucial first vet appointment.
The bird must still complete the full quarantine period even after they’ve been checked and cleared by the vet as some diseases have long incubation periods, according to that same PetMD article.
How To Introduce A New Bird To Your Flock (6-Step Guide)
After the extensive quarantine period, it’ll finally be time to introduce the newly adopted bird to your other bird(s). Due to how emotional birds are, the introduction process must be done carefully and strategically to help prevent behavioural problems from both birds.
By following this 6-step guide, you’ll be setting your birds up for a positive relationship with each other!
Step 1: Set Up Your New Bird’s Cage (Before You Adopt The Bird)
Setting up a new cage with perches, toys and feeding dishes can tell your bird to expect a newcomer.
To help send this message to your bird, you should set the cage up in their view while also restricting their access to the cage. Don’t let your current bird use a cage intended for your future bird as they will claim ownership of the space before the newcomer even arrives.
Birds, especially parrots, get very territorial and defensive over spaces they’ve claimed.
When the new bird arrives, it won’t be allowed to go inside your bird’s cage, and vice versa.
Having a fun-looking cage near your bird prior to adopting the new one can prepare them for this important “rule”.
Step 2: The Very First Caged Introduction
A proper introduction is not just shoving the new bird into your bird’s cage and hoping for the best, that would just be uncomfortable for both birds. Instead, both birds must be in their own cages during the initial introduction so you have as much control over the interaction as possible.
Here’s what to do:
- Cage both the new bird and the original bird separately
- Bring both cages into a neutral space (a space that you don’t believe has been claimed by your bird)
- Allow them some time to observe each other
- Keep the first meeting brief
Try to keep the cages at a comfortable distance from each other as you’re not trying to provoke or aggravate your bird.
If either bird seems uncomfortable with the interaction, spread the cages apart even further or end the interaction.
First interactions should be relatively short anyways (5 – 10 minutes).
This is plenty of time for them to see and make first impressions of each other.
Just to clarify, step 2 is done after adopting the new bird and after the quarantine period has ended. You can also have as many caged meetings as you need before moving on to step 3.
Step 3: Release Your Original Bird For Inspection
Taking your original bird out of the cage to inspect the new bird can be done during the first caged meeting, second meeting, or whenever you feel comfortable doing so. If things didn’t go too well during the initial caged introduction, you may wish to wait until next time before bringing out your bird.
It’s important that your original bird comes out first and not the other way around.
Bringing the new bird to your original bird’s cage can prompt territorial and aggressive behaviour toward the newcomer…
Which is definitely NOT a great way to begin the relationship.
Your original bird should be brought to the new bird’s cage so they can check each other out.
After all, it was their home first, so they’ll naturally be much more curious about the new houseguest.
This step will help prepare both birds for the eventual out-of-cage meeting.
Step 4: Allow Time For Both Birds To Observe Each Other
If things are going well up to this point, you can try giving both birds more time to observe each other in neutral territory. This can be done either with both birds caged or with your original bird outside the cage, inspecting the caged new bird.
(Letting them both out is step 6)
Giving them time to observe each other can help get them comfortable with each other’s presence.
While they’re watching each other, you should be monitoring them for any signs of stress or comfort.
Signs of stress can include:
- Aggressive feather picking
- Excessive screaming or squawking
- Crests shooting straight upwards (cockatiels & cockatoos only)
- Wing flapping aggressively
- Unusual pacing back and forth
- Hissing (an indicator of fear in cockatiels)
Signs of comfort:
- Playing with toys (foraging or shredding)
- Singing or vocalising positively
If you notice signs of stress while they’re observing each other, even at a long distance, it’s best to end the interaction. But if both birds are showing signs of comfort, it’s a good sign that neither feels uncomfortable or intimidated by the other’s presence.
Step 5: Give Plenty Of Attention To Your Original Bird(s)
While you have both birds nearby, the WORST thing you could do is give more attention to the new bird.
Your original bird likely has expectations of you, one of those being that you treat them like the number one bird as they always have been.
Being highly emotional animals, birds can get jealous when their favourite human gives attention to another bird.
As a result, they may begin to show jealous or even aggressive behaviour toward you and the new bird.
They’ll see that the new bird has stolen your attention from them and they’ll act accordingly.
Instead, you need to give tons of attention, praise and treats to your original bird in front of the newcomer to show that they’re not being replaced. Yes, birds are seriously this emotionally intelligent and you need to act with the possibility of jealousy in mind.
Step 6: Eventually… Let Them Out Together!
Now… you really need to use your own judgement before letting both birds out of their cages.
Remember that there’s no need to rush this step if you don’t have confidence in your birds.
When both the new and original birds are outside their cages, you have a lot less control over the situation. In other words, you must be certain that your bird will not try to attack or act aggressively toward the new bird.
Letting both birds out of the cage isn’t a good idea if:
- Your birds showed signs of stress during their caged introduction and meetings
- Your original bird has been acting aggressively toward the new bird
- The new bird has clipped wings (they can’t fly away if needed)
You can let both birds out of the cage if:
- Both birds were showing signs of comfort during their caged meetings
- They’re currently in neutral space (not claimed by your original bird)
- They can both get away from each other when needed
Rules & Tips For Introducing A New Bird To Your Birds
Of course, introducing a new bird to another bird requires strategic thinking and good judgement, but there are also some rules.
Following these 3 rules will help prevent your birds from acting territorial or aggressively toward the newcomer.
Rule 1: All Meetings & Interactions Must Be On Neutral Territory
Neutral territory can sometimes be difficult to identify.
If you’ve had your original bird for years, they may think of most rooms or household areas as their territory. Especially if they’ve grown accustomed to hanging out in all parts of the house for a bit of time every day.
The trick is to find the area/room they’ve used the least or has shown the least interest in!
You could use the new bird’s former quarantine room since your bird didn’t have access to that room for some time and likely won’t see it as their territory.
Interacting in a neutral environment is super important for preventing territorial behaviour.
Birds, and especially parrots, are naturally defensive over their space, items, and flock members.
If you were to encourage the new bird to go inside your original bird’s cage, perch on their favourite perch, or play with their favourite toy, you would get an aggressive or undesirable response from your first bird.
Again, this is no way to start a good relationship.
Rule 2: Both Birds Must Have The Chance To Get Away
You should NEVER put two stranger birds in a situation where they can’t get away from each other.
Primarily, this means you can’t put them in the same cage with the door closed.
Just imagine how you would feel being put into a room with someone you don’t know.
It’s a very uncomfortable feeling for both birds.
When birds feel uncomfortable, threatened, and can’t fly away, they could also feel pressured to attack the other one. You might be able to cage both birds together in the future after they’ve grown accustomed to each other, but not now.
Following the same rule, you should also be cautious if one bird has clipped wings.
In most cases, it’ll be the new bird with clipped wings while the original bird is fully flighted.
If this is the situation, I wouldn’t put both birds on a training stand or cage top as there is nowhere for the clipped bird to run away if it gets bullied. Your original bird may try to dominate more aggressively once they notice the newcomer’s disadvantage.
Instead of placing both birds on the same perch, have one perched on your hand.
To prevent jealousy, your original bird should be the one perching on you.
You’ll have more control over the situation with this setup and the new bird will be able to perch comfortably without the fear of getting relentlessly bullied due to being clipped.
Rule 3: Each Bird Must Have Their Own Feeding Dishes
As mentioned countless times, birds are territorial over their personal space and their items.
These items can include the cage, toys, perches, and the food and water dishes. For this reason, the new bird and your birds must have access to separate food and water bowls in their own cages.
You CANNOT expect your birds to share anything, especially their food and water with a stranger!
Birds WILL fight over food and water, even if there is plenty to share in a single bowl.
Luckily, all you need to do is keep a food and water dish in each bird’s cage and you won’t need to deal with this issue.
Before Getting A Second Bird, Read This…
Adopting a second bird in hopes of them becoming friends with your current bird is pretty common.
It’s especially common with owners of single birds who have school, work, or another occupation that takes up a lot of time. The main thought is that their single bird isn’t getting enough attention anymore and a second bird is needed to fill the void.
While a second bird can help prevent your bird from feeling lonely, there are things to keep in mind:
- There’s a good chance that the birds won’t get along
- The two birds could bond so much that your original bird will no longer want your companionship
- Getting a second bird = double the investment (time, money, household space, food)
If the birds don’t get along, then you haven’t given your bird a friend, you’ve just adopted another bird that you must take care of.
You’ll need to maintain and clean a second cage, spend more time training each bird, give more attention to each bird, and essentially double the cost of toys and perches.
Are you prepared for all that?
Adopting a second bird is not a good idea if it was already difficult for you to manage a single bird.
That’s my advice on the subject…
For more info on getting a second bird, I highly recommend watching the BirdTricks video linked below.
Thank you for reading 🙂