by Heike Ewing Ott
Another question that comes up a lot is should you add a second bird, and if you do, how will that affect your relationship with the first bird. This article details the different types of bonds that can occur in a multiple bird/multiple person household.
Having two pet birds can be a wonderful, fun experience – or it can be your worst nightmare. The difference lies in how they are bonded. The bond of pet bird to owner is a permutation of the natural mate bond, a bond so strong that it overrides even the bond of hen to chick. Wild parrots also bond, to varying degrees, to their chicks, parents, “buddies,” and flock. I call the mate bond the “tight” bond, and the others loose bonds. When there are two pet birds, the bonding can go any of a few different ways:
1) The two birds are tight bonded to each other and loosely bonded to the owner(s).
2) Both birds are tightly bonded to the same person.
3) Each bird is tightly bonded to a different person and they are not bonded to each other
4) Same as 3, but they are loosely bonded to each other.
5) One of the birds is tight bonded to the other, but that bird is tight bonded to the owner.
In the case of #1, you will have two very independent birds who tolerate you and may accept some handling, but are far more interested in each other than in you. If you work long hours and/or don’t care to spend a great deal of time interacting with the birds, this may work reasonably well.
#3 is a workable situation. The two birds must be kept separated. They may simply ignore rather than attack each other, but if either feels threatened there is the potential for attack. The two may or may not accept each other’s humans, depending on how strong the bonds are.
If either #2 or #5 develops, you have a love triangle on your hands – and LOTS of problems. You will see aggressiveness, jealousy, and attacks on either the other bird or the owner(s) that are really intended to injure. This is NOT a good situation, and if it happens to you, you will probably have to get rid of one of the birds. Even if the two are totally separated, you still face the possibility of “jealousy” attacks on YOU that could actually hurt you.
#4 is the ideal situation, in my opinion, and is what John and I have managed to achieve with Bear and Beaker. Bear is tightly bonded to John, but likes me as well and is friendly to other people. Beaker is not as tightly bonded to me, but doesn’t like other people as much either, not even John. Bear and Beaker are pretty good buddies, but neither will tolerate other birds, and Bear much prefer’s John’s company to Beaker’s if she has a choice. Beaker seems a little ambivalent – sometimes he seems to prefer me to Bear and other times he seems to prefer Bear. In any case, both of us are able to handle both birds, and they get along well with each other. They have separate cages and are allowed to be together only when someone is home to keep an eye on them and we are busy doing other things.
Ok. So – you have one bird now, and you want to get another, and you’re wondering if you should. The big question is, WHY do you want another bird? If your present bird is YOUR pet, and another family member wants a pet bird, you’re probably ok. The birds should have separate cages, should both be socialized to the other members of the family, and should be introduced to each other carefully and with close supervision. You’ll probably end up with either a #3 or #4.
If you think that your bird is bored or lonely because you are away from home a lot, and a companion would help – be very careful! You will most likely end up with either a #1, #2, or #5 situation. Unless the #1 is what you want, you’re likely to create more problems than you solve. You are probably better off devising ways to occupy your bird’s time when you aren’t home with toys, TV, radio, or some other “distraction,” such as placing him near a window that has a wild bird feeder just outside of it.
If you are wanting another pet bird for yourself, and are quite sure you have adequate time to give both birds all the attention and affection that they need, it is possible. Just expect from the start that you most likely will NEVER be able to put these birds together, and you’ll need to be VERY careful to avoid jealousy between them. Ideally, they should be housed in separate rooms, and neither bird should see you handling the other. Remeber that tight bonding is essentially a mate bond – if you had two “lovers,” would you smooch with one in front of the other?
A couple more things –
In general, Quakers are aggressive birds. I would suggest that a second bird be as big or bigger than your QP, not smaller!
In general, birds of different species are less likely to bond to each other. Look over the scenarios and take that into consideration when making your choice.
Now, before you start bombarding me with them, let me say that there will be exceptions. I’m talking in generalities and probabilities, which is the only way I know of to try to give you an idea of what to expect if you get a second bird. I hope I’ve answered your questions!