Pet birds range from tiny little finches to the huge hyacinth macaw. They range in price from about $10 to tens of thousands of dollars. The care for all of them is generally the same. They require a cage, toys, food and water. The larger the bird, the larger the cage it needs.

Hyancinth MacawSome birds require additional items, such as play gyms or “trees.” Some birds do better living in pairs or small flocks; others are better solo. Many birds can be very expensive to purchase and also to maintain; however, you can get a bird for not a lot of money. So let's talk about a few of the lower-priced birds for now.

Parakeets, or budgies, finches, parrotlets, cockatiels, canaries and lovebirds are probably the lower-priced birds. Some canaries can be rather expensive, but you can also get a female for substantially less. (Males are the ones that sing so beautifully, though.) Parakeets can sometimes talk. Finches and parakeets are generally the least expensive. Finches are best when kept in pairs or, if you have a large enough cage, in a small flock. Finches, parakeets and parrotlets will often breed easily if nesting areas are provided for them.

Food for all of these birds should consist of plenty of fresh food daily, a high-quality pelleted food designed for their specific breed and small amounts of seed, also designed for the specific breed. Plenty of fresh water should be provided daily. Cages should be cleaned, at a minimum, every other day. Cages should be completely broken down and thoroughly cleaned at least monthly, but preferably every other week.

All of these birds should be provided with several different styles of perches. They also need a variety of toys to keep them healthy, happy and entertained. Toys can be both homemade and store-bought.

There are hundreds of cage choices. Always buy the largest cage you can afford, but also make sure that the cage is made for the type of bird you have. Cage bar spacing and the diameter of the bars are all different, depending on the type of bird. Ideally, the cage should have both horizontal- and vertical-style bars. This allows the birds to climb around on the inside of the cage.

If you want to get your bird out of its cage and play with it, you will want a bird that lives alone. Generally, birds will bond with others of the same species over bonding with the human. So, finches are generally not the type of bird that you will hold and interact with, but all of the other birds mentioned earlier can be, if living alone in their cage. However, if you want breeders, then you will need to give up the human-bird bonding.

Definitely make sure that you get plenty of toys for your bird. Birds that become bored will sometimes start self-destructive behavior, such as feather plucking. Toys need to be designed for the size of bird that you have. Everyday household items can be used as toys. Things like wooden clothespins, Popsicle sticks, new toothbrushes, cotton swabs, chopsticks, baby blocks and similar types of items can all be toys for your pet birds.

Other things you can do to entertain your bird are to wrap little treats into little scraps of paper and leave them for your bird to find. There are toys out there that are designed to hide treats in. Go look at the toys in the stores, and then go to a craft store and see what you can come up with on your own. Make sure, however, that the supplies you use are safe for birds. If they are child-safe, they are most likely safe for your bird.

Also rotate your bird's toys. Rearrange them in the cage, move them in and out, and vary their placements. Birds bore easily and the changes keep them entertained.

Before you rush out and buy that bird though, do some more research. Learn as much as possible about the individual type of bird you choose. Search the Internet, read books, go to bird stores and ask questions — learn, learn, learn. Then price everything and buy the best cage you can, and then go buy a bird.

Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with two bloodhounds, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training her male bloodhound for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.