Is bird ownership ethical?

I’m really not sure how I feel about this one.

I’m big on animal issues. I don’t eat them. I also love animals as pets and think that bonding with animals makes us better more empathetic humans. Birds as pets in smallish cages I’m not so sure about. I can’t claim to know whether or not being so unnaturally retrained is distressing to them, but it seems reasonable to assume they would much prefer to fly free. I feel I don’t have enough information on bird consciousness to weigh the issue of what they lose from this relationship versus what we gain from it.

I feel like most bird ownership is based more on them as trophies or something pretty to look at as opposed to the kind of companionship we get from dogs and cats. Now I know of course that there are people who feel real companionship and love with their birds and I don’t want to deny anyone of that, but I feel that more often they are kept more like fish, a sort of decoration. I’m not sure how I should feel about that as an animal lover.

Does anyone else wrestle with this question?

As long as the bird…or any pet for that matter…is not neglected or abused, I see no problem with ownership. The pet gets a safe place to live, plenty of food, and a more comfortable life than they’d have in the wild.

Look up youtube videos for the parrot Marnie and tell me some parrots don’t have a better life than you and I.

Not quite that dramatically, but yeah, I agree. I wouldn’t own a caged bird. Flight is the essence of bird-dom, and to take that away is cruel.



As a member of People Eating Tasty Animals, I have no issue or guilt.

But just because I eat chicken, fish, beef, pork, doesnt mean I abuse animals I have. I have 2 boys (I dont even refer to them as pets). They are my boys. I can make the distinction between food and family

It’s like any animal. We keep the dog in a crate at night and while traveling for his own safety and our sanity. But we make sure he gets out the rest of the time and gets stimulation. It is fine to keep a bird in a cage, but you should let them out to get enrichment, even if they can’t fly higher than your ceiling. A larger cage is also good.

Although I do kinda agree with the OP that some bird owners treat them as decorations rather than family pets, and therefore treat them less nicely than mammals.

I understand what you’re saying, and I wish I were rich enough to have an aviary with plenty of secure flying room and feathery companionship.

That said, my bird seems to enjoy doing the things he gets to do from his cage, playing with his toys, ringing his bell, and flirting with outside birds and the electric toothbrush.

He’s not a trophy. He’s a strange little being with a distinct (although not very bright) personality and I got him specifically for companionship.

I think, like any pet, some people have the resources to do it right, especially knowledge and time, and some people don’t. On average, pet parrots are rehomed seven times throughout their lives.

Some parrots have great coping skills to deal with imperfect care - I work at a zoo and we hear about cockatoos and macaws living for years in a dog crate in a garage, fed on leftover pizza and bird seed and given no enrichment (toys, human attention, time outside) - yet seem to be perfectly healthy. Some birds just don’t have the same skills, and resort to self-destructive behavior, like feather plucking. We have an eclectus parrot in our collection who has the best of everything - vet care, nutrition, training, housing, attention, love, enrichment - and he still chews his feathers, and has started pulling some out.

So, if the right bird gets the right care from the right owner, it’s great. If not, they’re all too often considered disposable, and passed on to the next shmoe.

Despite my profession, I much prefer to see wild birds. Even well kept captive birds aren’t the same.

I think it can be cruel.

I have 4 budgies. Two are in one large cage and two are in another large cage. Any time I’m home (evenings, weekends, holidays) the cage doors are open and they are all out, flying around and playing on their various play gyms.

One of the budgies I rescued was so severely depressed when I got him that all he did was sit in the middle of the cage, hardly moving. He didn’t understand toys or flying or playing. As the months went on, he started getting more lively and eventually blossomed into a healthy, happy, playful and awesome budgie.

So I think sitting alone in a small cage day after day is very cruel.

Spending some time in a large cage, with bird companions, and some time out of the cage (every day) flying around and playing with a small flock can be a good life for them.

That all sounds awesome and I totally support that sort bird ownership. Of course the money, time, and effort costs for that would be prohibitively high for most people, right?

In any event I wish that were the socially accepted norm for having birds, but it is far far from it.

It is a bit expensive at first. Each cage and all the toys inside the cages cost about $500. Then there are all the toys and gyms outside of the cage and they cost about $200. So about $1200 for the set up.

I just think that if they have to be in cages when I’m not home, the cages should be big enough for them to be able to have some sort of a life while they’re in them.

I actually think it’s cruel to keep any animal confined in a house. As one poster mentioned birds were meant to fly…and cats and dogs were meant to work and roam. People that keep pets do these animals a disservice in my opinion.

Isn’t the exact opposite true of domesticated species like dogs? My little Chihuahuas wouldn’t last very long in the wild compared to the long healthy life they get from living with me. Besides, they absolutely love me and always want to be with me. The little girl dog actually has separation anxiety when I’m not around.

While my dogs are strictly indoor and supervised outdoors, many pet dogs are free to roam wherever they please indoor or out. They are free to leave, but of course they so rarely do so since the pet dog gig is pretty mutually beneficial.

That much seems pretty obvious, unless that was meant as a sarcastic dig at my position on birds.

Man domesticated those miniature dogs and bred the hell out of them for their own pleasure. I got know problem with that if that’s what you want, but don’t act all noble that you’re doing it for them. Dog’s should be primarily working animals and weren’t meant to live in houses. Some time along the way some people humanized them and moved them inside, but their still working animals, just doing another job…making you happy.

If dogs weren’t meant to live in houses, why are so many perfectly happy to do so? This includes large dogs as well as small dogs. Assuming the dog has a large fenced yard to exercise in or gets taken for regular walks. My dog is perfectly fine surveying his domain from on top of my couch. He is quite adapted to living inside and seems perfectly happy with his living situation. I find your view of dog ownership to certainly be in the minority, if not a little outlandish. Dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years. Pet birds are not all that far removed from the wild. Even domestically-bred birds are only a few generations removed from having wild ancestors, as it was common to capture and import wild birds until laws were passed preventing people from doing so. And even now, large numbers of wild birds are still smuggled into countries that prohibit importation of wild birds.

We get it Omar. You don’t like pets. You never miss an opportunity to trot that fact out. NO ONE will ever convince me that my dogs are not happy and healthy and love their lives.

A dog who has a nice pack, a human one will do, somewhere safe to sleep, and plenty of food is a happy dog. That’s why wolves moved into human society. It’s win-win, except we don’t usually need the protection that a friendly wolf brings these days. Cats, I’ve never really understood cats, although I do like them.

I’m not acting noble for having dogs, I love them and want them to live with me. I assure you that both sides are happy with this arrangement. What makes you believe that dogs should be primarily working animals? That sounds sort of arbitrary if you ask me. And then you say my dogs make me happy like it’s a bad thing. I’m really trying to see where you are coming from here but you’re making it pretty difficult to figure out what your point is.

Yeah I can’t tell if he hates dogs or hates people who have dogs. Does he not want them in the house because animals belong outside? Working dogs were bred by people just as much as lap dogs were so I don’t know what his point is either. :confused:

Take it up with the cavemen who started breeding them.

I have 4 cats in my house. At least three spend hours looking outside, but only one has any actual interest in going outside. And he doesn’t go far, although I’m sure he would if we let him out all the time.