It’s a question I hear often asked. Should I get one bird, or two?
I’ll say right up front, one – if you want your bird to unconditionally ‘love’ and interact with you.
One, if you purchase a canary.
One, if you already own a bird who is used to his or her own cage.
However – two (or more) if you’re looking into buying certain types of finches, or two – if you’re buying or adopting a bird who is used to avian companionship.
A single parrot is dependent on its owner for everything, especially socialisation, and it will be perfectly happy so long as you are able to give it the attention it needs. For most parrots, a companion is not necessary. When you’re away, you can provide toys and foraging opportunities for your bird that keep it busy and amused.
Canaries NEED to be kept separately. They will kill one another if you put two or more to a cage. For example, Pip would chase Charlie away from the food and water dishes. At first, it was just that, but then she would drive him down to the floor because by God, the perches were hers, too. We separated them quickly at that point. As a side note, this is a great site all about canaries: http://www.robirda.com.
Parrotlets, like canaries, are known to be aggressive, and are therefore best kept one to a cage.
With those who are used to having their own cages, you can’t simply ‘throw’ in another bird and expect everyone to get along. Let it suffice to say that that could be dangerous for both birds. You’ll need to properly introduce and socialise the pair before even considering putting them together. (They might not ever like one another!)
If you’re going to be away from the house all day, I don’t recommend owning a parrot. You can buy a pair of birds to keep one another company, but be aware that they will bond and they won’t need you as much. That’s not an exaggeration – that’s avian nature. You’ll still need to provide them both with foraging opportunities and toys – or nasty behavioural problems can, and will, arise (plucking, biting, screaming).
Birds kept in pairs may produce eggs – be prepared for health problems like egg binding in females, which is deadly, and the obvious result of baby birds. You’ll need to be extra careful about nutrition.
One bird in a mated pair will often pluck its partner.
Umbrella cockatoos are known to kill one another when paired in a cage – even long-time mates.
Lovebirds do not need to be kept in twos and do fine singly.
There is a ‘but,’ of course, to all this.
Not all birds who live in pairs or groups are completely involved with one another and therefore uninterested in humans. If you’d like to keep social birds, like budgies, in a cage together (once they’ve been properly socialised), it is definitely possible. A good example is Onesweetiepea’s blog, particularly this series of posts on introductions.
And so the answer to the question of when to purchase one bird or two – or more – is dependent on the kind you’re looking into, what you want out of a bird, and the specifics of your situation. Generally, however, one parrot is fine. Unless you want more, of course – and who doesn’t? 😉